I've taken some teasing this week for getting my taxes done at the last minute. I never intended to take tax filing down to the wire, but life kept getting in the way.
And then on that final weekend, we did make a conscious decision to take a tax-filing break. Actually, I took the break, but since hubby has to listen to my curses as I work through the tax morass, he deserved a break, too.
So on what is usually the traditional tax-filing deadline, April 15, we headed into Austin for a concert by Bruce Robison, sometimes known as "the other Robison."
Now Charlie is older and, according to Bruce's song "Valentine," big brother has been the next big thing since he was two. But Bruce hasn't done too badly for a boy from Bandera.
Bruce's songs have been recorded by such big names in the mainstream country music world as Lee Ann Womack, Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. In fact, Bruce mentioned that fellow Texan George Strait had just recorded "Wrapped," a song Bruce wrote a few years ago and one that he said he always thought would be a good fit for George.
Bruce performed "Wrapped" last weekend (hence the Strait mention), but the main reason for the show was the release of Bruce's first CD in four years. It's called "Eleven Stories," and we heard 'em all, and more, on Saturday.
The CD title is especially fitting since Bruce is a Texas troubadour, a musical mantle he and many of his fellow Lone Star singer/songwriters wear quite comfortably. I love this style, and could listen all day to their melodic narratives about life, love and just about anything else that catches their fancy.
Maybe it's because I write, too, and I so envy how they're able to weave words and music. And maybe it's because so much of what they sing about is rooted here. The road Bruce is traveling and writing about might be in Central Texas, but similar dust covers the asphalt routes in and out of my West Texas hometown, too.
So we went to listen to the 11-plus tales Bruce was offering that night. We'd never seen him perform before and thought that since his style, at least via CD, tends to be a bit more ruminative, it might be a pleasant, but low-key, event.
It was flat out fun!
The venue wasn't a classic Texas dance hall, our previous visits to which I've chronicled previously here, here and here. But it was an Austin site with a long history: Threadgill's, with ties to the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters.
Adjacent to the restaurant, where we stopped first for the requisite chicken fried steak dinner, is a small amphitheater that holds, I'm guessing, about 300. You can check out the stage's Web cam here.
By the time we strolled over from the eatery, it was ¾ full and the opening act was finishing its set. Rather than climb over fans already settled in the rows of chairs fanning out from the stage, we opted to sit on a low stone fence about halfway back as you entered the amphitheater. It turned out to be a particularly fortuitous choice.
Not only was it a great viewing spot, but as we sat, drinking in the pleasant spring night air, up walks Bruce. No, he wasn't coming to visit with us, but he did stop about four feet away to talk with some friends who were standing under a nearby oak tree.
Bruce's presence was truly imposing, not only because the man is a giant in the country and Austin music world, but he's a literal giant by most standards. He's 6' 7", which explained why the crew guy who was testing the mike and helping position the lights kept jumping up instead of just cranking the microphone stand down a foot or so.
We tried not to be gawking fans, but it was hard. Here was the night's star just a few feet away, shooting the breeze like a normal person. No one else seemed to think anything about it, so we tried to act cool. Good luck!
Thankfully, before we could embarrass ourselves (and by we, I mean me), Bruce headed to the stage, where he treated us to two-plus hours of songs sprinkled with tales of their origins. He also took requests from the audience, and shared insights on friends, family, Texas and himself.
By the time Bruce was wrapping up, a full moon was rising behind the stage and we felt as if we'd spent a wonderful evening with a friend. Maybe next time we'll go join the pre-show chat!
Heard it on the XM: Bruce's show was recorded for broadcast later on XM satellite radio. No one involved with the event seemed to know when it will be aired, but if you're a subscriber, keep your ears open for the Armadillo Hour.
The local NPR station (KUT FM) was there, too, as was a video crew from ME-TV, Austin's version of MTV. I'm not sure if we're in any of the crowd shots, but I know I'll be checking that channel out a little more frequently for a while!
Bringing the "Soldier" home: I was thrilled that Bruce performed "Travelin' Soldier." It probably shouldn't have been a surprise, since the the Dixie Chicks' version was a number one radio hit. Bruce mentioned the experience of listening to the trio perform it in an arena jammed with 15,000 fans.
Unfortunately, shortly after the song made it to the top of the charts, it became collateral damage when lead singer Natalie exercised her first amendment right to speak her mind. In the wake of the fallout, I exercised my right to quit listening to country radio. Thank goodness I'm now here in Austin, where I can here good music without having to deal with Clear Channel politics, but I digress.
"Travelin' Solder" is a beautiful song, both lyrically and musically, about how each loss of life during any war touches someone personally. The first time I heard it, I sobbed. I cried again a bit Saturday night.
Any song that can bring me to tears immediately goes on my best ever list.
It's too bad airplay of "Travelin' Solder" was cut short. Regardless of your political position, the song is damn near perfect.
Here's a thought. Get radical! If you're not lucky enough to live in Austin, call up your local country radio station and ask them to start playing it again!
Best tax reference in a Bruce song: You've got to love a song that tweaks the piety of WWJD. And Bruce tweaks a lot more than that in "What Would Willie Do?" In this cut from his "Country Sunshine" album, Bruce asks what Texas icon Willie Nelson does when life gets hard. Among the difficulties Willie must deal with are are a broomstick beating while sewed in a bed sheet and an even worse beating at the hands of the IRS.
Taxes for the troubadour: Bruce isn't going to have to pay many taxes if he keeps playing venues like this. The cover charge, which got you Bruce's show and an opening act featuring fiddler Warren Hood and his band: $10.
That's right. Ten simoleans.
Maybe we just lived in overpriced urban (Washington, D.C.) and resort (Palm Beach County, Fla.) areas too long. But, c'mon. $10. Bruce is a star!
Then again, that's part of Austin's considerable charm. All these musicians who are bona fide stars are just residents of the city or nearby. Just regular folk.
Witness Bruce sauntering into the amphitheater and casually chatting with folks before taking the stage. No big deal. And you never know who might be in the audience and join a friend on stage.
Also, there are so many places offering performances here in the Live Music Capital of the World that the competition probably helps keep the prices down.
Whatever the reason, we're thrilled to be here. And now that tax season is over, we plan to spend much more, in these $10 or so increments, taking advantage of it!