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Austin , TX

Abilene Through Shattered Glass

Abilene Through Shattered Glass

Abilene's a nice place, but I'm pushing this poor city to its limits into what looks like a six or seven day visit. The original plan was to meet friends here for my birthday (saving them the trip to El Paso, a courtesy I didn't extend to my girlfriend Marie) and then head west again. Unfortunately, I had a traffic accident on I-20 that could only be described as “country”: a water trough flew off a truck's trailer that was rumbling in front of me, resulting in temporary blindness – or rather, a 360 degree view of blue plastic – and a smashed windshield. Though the farmer from Sylvester, Texas whose trough momentarily got away from him was nice enough, I winced a little when I saw him strap the thing back in with that same loosey-goosey knot. I think they were close to home, at least.


So I'm in Abilene with the van all screwed up and a long weekend ahead of me. After an enjoyable evening at the local watering hole The Firehouse, I was primed for what I hoped was a weekend full of nice surprises – however, I did go back to that same bar three nights in a row. In a town this size, you find something you like and you kind of stick to it. My second night started out with my friend and I enjoying “calf fries” at said bar (that's code for BOVINE TESTICALES) and then decided to check out the Play Faire golf course based on a friend's recommendation.


Apparently this mini-golf course [“Established in 1947, Play Faire Park, the Family Fun Center and Miniature Golf Course, is one of the oldest, continuously operated miniature golf courses in Texas] is where a number of local bands perform, and my friend and I stood in the heat and putted through windmills and through the moving obstacles of hyperactive children as the Dave Hobbs Band performed covers that sounded both wanky and somehow small (the result of running through Lynyrd Skynyrd songs as a trio, I guess). After getting over the strange sensation of playing through a rock show, we hit up what was left of the bar scene, and were chased out of a bar called Strawberry's by a very loud duo (acoustic guitar and bongos).


We began the next day by catching a performance of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone at the Paramount Theater, a revamped, historic venue in the center of town. A 1998 production, this (relatively) newer musical number was interpreted by a surprising mix of locals – some of whom were students or simply amateurs to the stage. This production had a vibrancy, passion, and looseness that translated into a very surprising, very excellent experience. The audience was quiet in all the right parts and exuberant in turn, while the cast impressed us with their range (dancing, singing, comedy, pathos, etc.). Upon leaving the theater in the warm light of the mid-afternoon I asked aloud if the show was really as good as I imagined – the chorus from my friends was that it certainly was.


Again that night to the Firehouse after watching a bout featuring the Abilene rollerderby team stomp their opponents from San Angelo. The supposed afterparty had few rollergirls but did feature the the band Santa Fe, who were soaring through the last night of a weekend residency. Notable details: lead guitarist with a music note-decorated strap, lead singer who would occasionally leave the stage and wirelessly jam out with audience members (not us), the second performance of “Sweet Home Alabama” in as many days (what state IS THIS?) and, finally, a rollicking cover of John Anderson's “Seminole Wind” that somehow segued into part of “Freebird.” Phew!

Last on my list to report was a Sunday night “show” at the Abilene Seafood Tavern, where, “[a]fter the dining hour, we let loose and ROCK with the finest live entertainment in the Abilene area.” In theory, anyway. We caught the beginning of their Sunday night show, which was something akin to a closed open-mic night. Local cowboy Jackie Johnson started the set, and was briefly saddled with a drummer as rhythmically challenged as a Sugarland bat mitzvah party attempting the Electric Slide.

Fortunately said drummer soon disappeared, letting us better appreciate Johnson's songs about, you know, bein' a cowboy and lovin' a woman and mesquite trees and whatnot. It struck me as well-paved territory but at least it was unpretentious – in the way a Sunday night show in a smallish town at a seafood restaurant has to be.


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