Day 2 of South By Southwest 2011 was also St. Patrick’s Day, which made everything all the more crowded, as well as a sea of green. I started the day at the 24 Diner, which is sort of a crossroads in Austin during the conference. Nearly everybody ends up there at some point, since the place never closes and the food is good. It’s also in the same building with Waterloo Records, the city’s best record store. To eat there during SXSW requires getting up early, because eventually the parking lot will be closed for Waterloo Records’ performance stages. On this particular grey morning, which seemed to be threatening rain, they were setting up the stage while I enjoyed my breakfast.
The problem during South By Southwest is not finding something to do; rather, it is deciding which of the hundreds of options you want to do. On this particular day, a Treme day party at The Ghost Room caught my eye, primarily because of the great New Orleans musicians who were scheduled to play, including the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I really was not all that familiar with Treme, the television series. I didn’t have HBO at home; if I had known that the series was made by the same folks who had done The Wire I likely would have been more aware and more interested. As it was, I found a huge crowd out in the street in front of the venue, snapping photos of some of the actors in the series. Inside, a group I wasn’t familiar with was on stage, but the music was good. Unfortunately, a call from the home office of the music distributor I worked for took up thirty minutes as I sat out on the deck, and I missed some performers I had wanted to see. All the same, it was enjoyable, and as we left, we were given DVDs that had the first episode of the series on them.
Elsewhere downtown, St. Patrick’s Day was in full swing. Not the least pleasure of Austin during SXSW is the warm, almost-summer weather, while Memphis and points east and north are still shivering in winter cold. Rooftop bars were full, and many venues had lines of people waiting to get in. Not far from the CNN Grill was a parking lot that had been repurposed into the Pepsi Max Lot. Here people were enjoying table tennis, Mexican street corn, and, of course, cups of Pepsi Max. After spending some time there, I decided that I would leave downtown for dinner and head out to Lake Austin.
Lake Austin, the city’s primary water reservoir is located west of downtown. It has a couple of restaurants on it, included Abel’s on the Lake and Chuy’s Hula Hut. Chuy’s, despite the Hula Hut name, is primarily a Mexican restaurant, so I chose Abel’s and had a delicious hamburger there, although the lake view was blocked by heavy shades that had been pulled down across the windows. Out on the deck, however, it was a different story. There I was able to photograph some beautiful views of the lake, boats and restaurant decks, including the quaint Hula Hut next door, complete with its tiki statues and palms. Next door, Mozart’s Coffee Roasters made a good place for an after-dinner coffee.
Back downtown, I briefly ran into the Texas reggae/singer/rapper Papa Reu, who was chilling outside his van at the Four Seasons Hotel, before I headed over to a club near Sixth Street called Fuze, where a Texas rap showcase was taking place.