A gray drizzle permeated the day and carried over to evening as I watched import cars skittering and dodging each other like mindless waterbugs with no sense of direction outside the club in downtown Austin. I was standing exactly where Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones stood, hailing a cab, unsuccessfully trying to avoid the press only days before.
Named after its founder, the late great Clifford Antone, the man who gave Austin the blues, Antone's has become a cultural landmark and more than a mere historical footnote in Austin's music history since it opened in 1975. Though its physical location may have changed from the old Guadalupe building, nothing else really has. Antone's attracts visitors, and musicians from around the world, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous, or near famous, or just hoping to absorb the aura of a venue that's had such artists as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and B.B King grace it's stage. The seminal club in launching Stevie Ray Vaughn's career and Austin's cultural equivalent to L.A.'s Whiskey A Go Go, or New Yorks C.B.G.B.'s, Antone's enjoy's a cachet reserved for few other bars.
It was with this in mind that I went to see another 'Austin institution, Ray Wylie Hubbard, perform. I first saw Ray play back at the Armadillo World Headquarters in the 70s, and over the years have seen him play around town three or four times. We had a great chat about the old days in his dressing room before the show, telling old war stories about Kinky and Willie and laughing, both of us agreeing that you could tell an old schooler in town by how they gave directions to friends. "Go three blocks from where the Dillo used to be and turn left." Its great to reminisce about the good old days with someone else with the same experiences.
Ray's set was heavy on his classics like "Screw You We're From Texas," but he also took time to cover a lot of the material from his new disc, like "Snake Farm" and one of my favorites, "Rabbit." Hearing Ray live is just like listening to his CDs when he gets a good mix, and he sounded just great at Antone's. Opening the night on a dual headline bill, he played what must have been an hour and a half set, and, with a warm and appreciiative audience, seemed like he could play all night. He let the next generation of Hubbards, his 13-year-old son Lucas, take the stage and play guitar on the last couple of songs. That must be a real feather for Lucas: very few 13-year-old blues guitarists can add playing Antone's to their resume, and he has a great future as a musician should he choose that path.
One musician's child who has chosen that path was the other headliner, Paula Nelson, daughter of Texas music legend and red-headed stranger, Willie Nelson. I had been bumping into her all night without realizing who she was. With a tight band consisting of longtime Austin music veterans, Paula has a voice that is smooth and smokey, or sharp and bright depending on the material. I watched her cover a Billy Joe Shaver song and a couple of others like a consummate profesional. Country, blues, and rock alike, she has a voice that can cover them all, from Patsy Cline to Janis Joplin. Unfortunately I hadn't planned on covering her whole set and had to leave early to begin my long trek home. I am sure that I will get the opportunity to see a full set from her in the near future. Heading out of Antone's door into the drizzle, I joined the other waterbugs playing bumper cars on the rain slicked streets.
Thanks to the Hubbards for inviting me to the show, to Paula for letting me take a few pics of her and her band, and to the Antone's staff for putting up with my seeming endless questions.