While it's been a great year for concerts in the 'hood, it'd be too easy to simply list my favorite concerts of 2011 (Bon Iver/Kathleen Edwards at the Winspear Opera House in September edges out the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Granada that same month). Instead, let's focus on the top non-musical moments.
Sharing margaritas and tacos with the Mekons and Wilco OK, this isn't the complete truth, but in March at SXSW, I did find myself enjoying some of Guero's finer fare while Jon Langford and Sally Timms of legendary pub-rockers the Mekons sat at the table next to me. Yes, my awkward inner music-nerd insisted upon speaking to them when their food was cleared from the table. A few moments later, Wilco's bassist John Stirratt and I literally bumped into each other between the cramped tables of the restaurant, where yet another awkward exchange ensued. These moments are really what still make SXSW a very big deal.
Fat Tuesday flash in Plano As Bonnie Whitmore was wowing a packed Last Chance Saloon in downtown Plano this past March, the even more soused patrons on the patio were finding ways to wow the revelers inside. An on-the-prowl cougar was quite literally pressing the flesh as she bared her bead-magnets for all indoor drinkers to see against the window. Laissez les bon temps roulez!
There's no baseball cheering in music! At the end of an exuberant opening set by the Sons of Bill at The Loft in June, a crowd of 150 or so broke out into whoops, hollers and high-fives when the venue's televisions displayed Josh Hamilton hitting a game-winning home run for the hometown team. The celebratory noise came as the band was in the middle of their signature and most somber song, "Joey's Arm." Deciding he wasn't cool with the slap-in-the-face, lead Son James Wilson stopped the song and let the onlookers have it, reminding them he "only makes $14,000 a year to do this."
Vintage hipster chic goes Uptown The people-watching at September's Bon Iver show was worth the price of admission itself. While the band's performance of "Blood Bank" is my favorite musical moment all year, the thrift-store clad youngsters and rock-loving fist-pumpers never quite figured out how to comfortably settle in and still have fun inside a venue that sees more tuxedos than needlessly massive beards. Oddly timed shouts and attendees not knowing when to stand or sit provided more than a few chuckles and headaches.
Sunday afternoon at Canton Co-op With free Bloody Marys being handed out with fresh-made pancakes, the spacious Deep Ellum loft once occupied by One Ton Records was perhaps the single most unexpected and laid back rock venue all year. The naturally lit, hardwood-floored art space proved to be a worthy container for the violent rock stylings of RTB2 and Descender, who both played plugged-in sets on a sweltering Sunday afternoon. Who needs late-night jam sessions that keep us up way too late with alcohol we're forced to pay for, right?
Honroable mentions Seeing Reggie Watts riding in a pedi-cab on Barton Springs Rd. in Austin at November's Fun Fun Fun Fest.
The pound of crawfish at Adair's Annual Crawfish Boil in March.