Houstonians may scoff at Austin's claim to be the "Live Music Capital of the World." Almost any big city could make the same claim; even Branson, Missouri, uses the slogan as a tourist come-on. But twice a year, at least, you can believe the hype: during South By Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Like the long-running PBS live music show of the same name, the bill features quality artists (though with less emphasis on country singers). Touted as "15 acres of music," the show has a jam-packed roster (see www.aclfest.com for a full schedule); its wide swath of star attractions includes R.E.M., Robert Earl Keen, Al Green, Lucinda Williams, Ween and Pat Green.
Austin City Limits' 100-plus acts may draw the crowds, but it's the setting that makes this new event an immediate classic. Zilker Park is a lovely, bucolic spot -- even if hikes between stages mean comfortable shoes with arch supports are a must, and last year's blazing heat turned the shade-deprived site into a griddle.
Austin City Limits is a lawn party par excellence that winds down early, so music fans can catch some of the acts in late-night club gigs, too. And the fest's something-for-almost-everyone roster and reasonable ticket prices ($75 for the weekend; $35 for a single day) make the drive to Austin well worth it. 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, September 19, through Sunday, September 21. Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Road. For information, visit www.aclfest.com. -- Rob Patterson
STIRRED AND SHAKEN
RIVER OAKS GRILL'S RUSTY NAIL
After watching an old episode of Friends in which Phoebe's younger brother Frank wants to marry an older woman, I figured I'd try my luck at finding a willing divorcée at the River Oaks Grill (2630 Westheimer, 713-520-1738). Unfortunately, it was already past the witching hour, and I arrived just in time for last call. The first drink that came to my mind was a rusty nail, a drink I hadn't touched since the previous Thanksgiving, when I consumed six of them with my dad into the wee hours of the morning. I sat alone at the bar, annoyed with myself for getting there so late. The only other people in the place were two couples sitting together, dressed in appropriate River Oaks fashion. Dockers and Polo shirts never looked so good, and the amount of money spent on the women's hair alone probably exceeded my rent. As the scotch and Drambuie in my glass diminished, the antics of these overserved aristocrats got funnier and funnier. Before I had the next sip in my mouth, the drunkest one of the bunch was trying to jump behind the bar to show the bartender the proper way to make a drink. As the other guy cheered him on and the women complained that it was time to go home, the poor guy fell off the bar and then staggered back to his table. I finished my drink and made a promise to myself never to get tangled up with a bored housewife from River Oaks.
1-3/4 ounces Dewar's scotch
1-3/4 ounces Drambuie
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Measure out equal parts scotch and Drambuie and serve. A classic nightcap if ever there was one. -- J.W. Crooker
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Improvisation is a way of life for Dutch anarcho-punks the Ex. Legend has it that founding members Sok and Terrie flipped a coin to determine who was going to play what in their inchoate squatter enterprise. Destiny gave Sok the vocals, even though his school choir had recently rejected him, so Terrie picked up a guitar for the first time in his life. Their raw, politically charged wall of noise soon lit up squats and youth clubs throughout Holland, establishing them as pioneers of the Dutch punk scene in the late '70s. 8 p.m. Friday, September 19. MECA, 1900 Kane. For information, call 713-928-5653. $10. -- Keith Plocek
Galveston is a laid-back town, even when it comes to art exhibitions. At the island city's Art Walk events, held every six weeks or so, art lovers stroll around a four-block area of downtown galleries, lofts and other venues -- glass of wine in hand -- and check out local artists and national touring exhibitions. Dress is casual, and to this crowd, people-watching seems just as important as the artwork. This week's schedule includes landscapes by New York's Michelle Gagliano at Buchanan Gallery (2120 Postoffice, 409-763-8683); works by ten Texas women photographers at Galveston Arts Center (2127 Postoffice, 409-763-2403); and canvas, glass, ceramic and bronze nudes at Sable V (2211 Strand, 409-750-8975). 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 20. For information, call 409-763-2403. Free. -- Greg Barr