November, fall, winter…..my favorite time of the year; the only few months that I get a break from the ridiculous weather that is Texas heat. So it’s no wonder that my November consisted of a ton of blog activity. My most active month as of late for sure saw me visiting three new places that I hadn’t yet been to yet: First John Mueller Meat Company, then Iron Works Barbecue and finally The Blue Ox BBQ and Pancake House. John Mueller Meat Company is located way east on 6ixth Street, and was a great experience. An outside trailer, not too far removed from his previous effort, JMueller BBQ, offered me some mouthwatering brisket and some amazingly crafted sausage alongside the signature Central Texas Market style necessity; a hunk of cheese. Definitely some good eats out here, put together by The BBQ Master John Mueller and carried out with his trademark snark. Next was Iron Works Barbecue in downtown Austin, which left me far from impressed. I won’t rag on this place any more than I already have; I’ll just say that this place carries some significant Austin history along with it, and that’s likely all that you pay for in their prices. Finally I made it to Blue Ox BBQ, another trailer out on East Riverside. I had two failed attempts at lunching here in the past, but on this day, I was able to get the full experience and I left convinced that these guys put out some quality smoked meats. All three places I visited were all within the city limits, but I had never been to any of them before, so it was good to get to try each one out. For music, I attended the annual FunFunFun Fest…..well, just two out of the three days of the festival. I got to see a ton of punk, rock, comedy and other good stuff from the start at the festival grounds and way into the night during the Nites club shows. Some highlights were Judge (twice), Quicksand, (members of Black) Flag, Television and Patton Oswalt just to name a few. The weather was perfect, much nicer than I could ever recall in all of the years that I’ve attended and no need for the obligatory bandana to shield all of the dust from my face (thanks to the last two years’droughts). I won’t go into too much detail about any of these mentioned events, because all of my posts are still available below for you to read or my photosets for you to see. In some long overdue bigfoot posts, I uploaded a Thanksgiving image with a sasquatch that seemed to get lots of likes and reposts (probably the most reposted or most liked thing I’ve ever had on my site). But no specific bigfoot posts in November; and even no entries into my mini-series Hear! Hear! Root Beer! Yeah, I know, pretty shocking, but like I said before, November was a really active month for me that barely left me with any open time for blogging. December will likely have a big lack in activity too because I picked up a second job for the holidays, so free time is insanely hard to come by now. I have a few BBQ trips planned out, and likely a “best of 2013” music list, but don’t expect too much out of me in the coming month. Also, I’m planning to reformat my BBQ posts for 2014. Less writing, more emphasis on ratings and picture sets. In the almost 2 years that I’ve been blogging on this thing, I am getting no indication that anyone is really reading my reviews, so I’m going to try and keep it shorter, sweeter and to the point. That should open up the ability for me to visit more places more often, covering more ground more often. So there you go guys, November in a nutshell. John Mueller Meat Company, Iron Works Barbecue and The Blue Ox BBQ & Pancake House plus two days’ worth of Fun Fun Fun Fest; now go and check out my archives, drink some root beer, eat some cue, and until next time, happy moshing!
Day 37 – Thursday 11/20/2013: East Austin
To keep the momentum of discovery going and to make up for the terrible ‘cue that I had the week before, I took my final destination for the month to Blue Ox BBQ. Let me just give a little bit of background experience here, because I have made attempts to eat here in the past. I came here a few months ago with the intention of eating lunch, but upon my arrival, they had everything on the menu except for brisket. That was enough to drive me away, because BBQ without brisket isn’t really BBQ. So, I made yet another attempt to eat here shortly after to be told that only brisket was available and that nothing else was ready. Well brisket is great, but not even a side? So, on that day in particular, I just had a little sample of brisket, and it was pretty good but not enough to make a fair assessment. But being given an honorable mention in Texas Monthly, I was bound and determined to eat here on a day when the full menu was available, so a friend and I headed out to East Riverside during lunch hour and I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t be met with the same fate as before.
East Riverside isn’t exactly a place that someone would want to find themselves at, but I’m willing to go where others won’t if it means I can get some quality smoked meat. Right across the street sits the newish Emo’s, and a lot of development has been hitting the area, but whether for better or worse, I cannot say. This place was nestled in a parking lot in between a gas station and a Dairy Queen, with parking being almost impossible given the abundance of cracks on the ground. Blue Ox BBQ is a part of The Buzz Mill, a bigger food trailer park complete with a stage that hosts live music. The Buzz Mill is actually pretty cool, and once inside, you forget completely that you are literally on a gas station parking lot. There’s picnic tables, big umbrellas and music playing over a speaker system, with all wooden décor and a few games here and there to keep people entertained. The location was pretty depressing, but the actual facility was really neat. I already knew what I wanted, so with no line to wait in, I put in my order of ½ lb. of brisket and a sausage link. The guy taking my order was friendly and attentive, and sliced my brisket quite expertly. Trimmings of bread, pickles and onions along with two types of sauce completed my order, and all were served on butcher paper. My only complaint was that the only soft drink available here was Coke in a glass bottle. Luckily, there was a gas station nearby, so after I paid, I walked right over and got myself a Pepsi.
Finally sitting down, I went for the brisket first. Tender and moist was my initial reaction. Slightly salty because of the perfectly rendered fat and a thick, crispy and slightly peppery crust was my second reaction. A mild oak flavor followed, and the ends of my cuts were chock full of tougher but flavorful parts of the meat, where all of the juices coalesced into one delicious flavor high note. The cuts of meat were thick and plentiful, with a thick red smoke ring beautifully lining each cut. I tasted just exactly why this place has gotten some buzz over at Texas Monthly; they know how to pull off quality brisket. I used some of the BBQ sauce and it was thick and sweet. Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of barbecue places using thin vinegar based sauces, so it was good to get something thicker and tomato based, however, there was still a fair amount of tang hanging around in the background. I was given both normal and spicy, but in all honesty, I really couldn’t taste a difference between the two. I could tell that the spicy sauce was supposed to be spicy, but it just wasn’t strong enough. But that’s fine by me because I’m not a big fan of spicy foods. Next was the sausage, and it had a crispy snap to it that popped easily, quite loudly in fact within each bite. It was a heavy sausage though, and pretty greasy but still flavorful. Maybe a little too greasy, so I had to make it into a sausage wrap with a piece of bread and covered it with sauce and pickles to try and hide all of the heartburn inducing grease. Don’t get me wrong, this stuff is tasty, it’s just a lot to take in one sitting. Maybe if I only had a half link, it would have been more tolerable but this sausage is still better than average. My lunch here was a simple one, just consisting of meat and a few trimmings, but the brisket is what I’m ultimately after and Blue Ox BBQ has their method down solid. The brisket was easily my lunch winner, but the sausage had some really good qualities too.
All in all, Blue Ox BBQ gets my full vote. I had some setbacks in getting the real experience here before but today was a success. While I don’t much care for the location, the actual facility is awesome. It’s also pretty kid friendly in the daytime, with lots of open spaces and not a lot of congestion. The staff here is friendly and attentive, and the brisket is well worth the price and the drive out to the east side. The only real complaint, an artificial one at that, was the lack of soft drink selection. A minor one for sure, but definitely not enough to warrant staying away from this BBQ trailer. These guys close after lunch but reopen for dinner, which is even better. Obviously based on my past experiences, they run out of food quick, so you may want to keep that in mind if you have any one particular meat in mind. For quality brisket in Austin, Blue Ox BBQ is a must visit and I’m glad that I wasn’t discouraged in the past and made it a point to lunch here because I left convinced.
Now for the score ranked from 1 (Poor) – 5 (Best)
Location/Facility – 3
Service/Staff – 3
Food – 4
Drink – 0
Day 36 – Thursday 11/14/2013: Downtown Austin
So after my last entry, a new visit for me to John Mueller Meat Company, I was feeling inspired and proud. Proud of my state and the amazing beef BBQ that we’re known for, and proud of Austin for getting Central Texas BBQ right. So, I decided to keep the discovery going, and with Austin pride being my main drive, I opted to go to an Austin institution that I haven’t been to yet, Iron Works Barbecue. It was a chilly Thursday afternoon, and me and two buddies took off and headed downtown to Red River/Cesar Chavez for some lunch at this renowned Austin staple.
The thing about downtown is that it’s impossible to find parking, and when you do, you have to pay for it. So naturally at lunch time, the parking lot at Iron Works was full (all 8 spaces) so I parked close to the interstate at a meter and put in one dollar for one hour. We headed just about two blocks to the unassuming restaurant. Unassuming indeed, as this place actually used to be an iron works shop before turning into a ‘cue dive, and is obvious given the decorative iron exterior and interior. This little humble tin shack is located right on Waller Creek, and is just a bit away from the Austin Convention Center; but judging from the framed pictures lining this joint, lots of celebrities, athletes and politicians have set foot into Iron Works to take a stab at Texas Barbecue. The building is actually even registered as a historical site by the State Historical Commission, so a lot of eyes are on Iron Works, and needless to say, my expectations of it were pretty high. Given the downtown location and the tenure that Iron Works has here in Austin, I’d have to say that even though the location can be a pain to get to considering the time of day that you head down here, it’s held its ground through the years and managed to survive the ever evolving landscape of downtown Austin, so I can only commend them on this. Now entering the restaurant, I had to wait in a line, but not that long as it seemed to move pretty fast. Looking around was the typical country BBQ setting that one would come to expect, with a combination of tables/chairs and booths, and an abundance of random “junk on the wall”. Separating the interior from other places though is the influx of autographed and framed pictures of the different famous folks that have eaten here, from local and national politicians like Rick Perry and George W. Bush to entertainers like Jay Leno. Also, since this place used to be an iron works shop, it’s only natural that its roots be reflected in the design, so you have various iron décor lining the walls, hanging from the ceiling, and even a mini-museum of sorts detailing some of the work and history of the Heigl family that founded the restaurant. Much to my approval, the setup was not cafeteria style, but instead, a walk up set up, which offered both plate and by the pound options. I already knew what I was getting before I walked in though, a half-pound of brisket and a half link of sausage with all the standard BBQ trimmings. Off to the distance, I saw a cooler which contained different bottled drinks, the root beer selection being A&W. That was pretty cool, because I rarely come across a place that offers A&W in a glass bottle. The fountain had some standard soft drinks, and the fountain root beer selection was IBC. Things seemed to be on the “up and up” until I saw that they charged individually for bread, pickles and onions. This was a little discouraging, but whatever, right? I mean, I come for the meat, so let’s see what the meat has to offer.
Finally up to the counter, I gave the guy my order of a half-pound of brisket and a half link of sausage, to which he sliced my brisket and diced my sausage. “Anything else?” he asked. “Bread, pickles and onions” I replied back, short and simple as that. All of it was served on a plastic tray lined with the prized brown butcher paper that I favor in Central Texas Market Style BBQ, but staring back at me were some sad looking cuts of brisket that didn’t look close to what I wanted it to look like. I reluctantly took my plate to pay as I grabbed an A&W root beer along the way and paid about $13.00 for my lunch. The staff seemed okay, although the guy that originally took my order gave me a sideways glance when I took a picture of a little miniature BBQ pit decoration that was adorning the order counter. I took my plate to the outer deck, closest to Waller Creek and lined with a plastic cover, which was good given the chilly weather outside. My friend Jon showed up with his plate of food, which was pretty much identical to mine, but my friend Jayce showed up with nothing. “You didn’t get anything?” I asked. “I’m tired of wasting my money on BBQ that I know isn’t going to be good” he replied. Fair enough. After all, I had similar reservations whenever I first laid eyes on my cuts of brisket. Now let me describe to you just exactly what it is that I was presented with. Generally, a good brisket has a nice black crust, which doesn’t mean that it was burned, it’s just how the meat reacts to the smoke after being smoked for a couple of hours. This brisket’s exterior was red, odd, but plain and simple; red. Next, bark and burnt ends are like gold, but common gold in the area of good BBQ. This was non-existent here. Next, let me talk about the fat. Now I didn’t specify whether I wanted fatty or lean brisket, but judging squarely on looks, it seemed to be an honest stab at both. The only thing is that with the fatty cuts, you could see the thick white fat holding the meat together like Elmer’s glue instead of the desired method of slowly smoking the meat until the fat becomes a clear gelatinous like substance that still barely holds the meat together while seamlessly becoming part of the meat itself. The “pull test” proved not to the point of rubber consistency but also not up to par with where a good brisket should pull at. The lean was choppy and broke apart in dicey little pieces. From a taste perspective, I really didn’t pick up much of a difference between the lean and the fatty cuts, they both tasted the same. The cut job was clean, but a little too clean. The brisket is obviously sliced from top to bottom, but then sliced horizontally to give you even almost machine like precision cuts. While this method of cutting is do-able, it only leads me to believe that the fat cap running through the middle of the point was still tough, and as a result, cut out (and is likely the operating method here). Furthermore, the slices were thin, obviously an attempt to mask a dry hunk of meat. Finally, let’s talk about taste. I could pick up an obvious hickory smoke as the smoke source, which tends to give off an acrid taste but they actually pulled this wood off fairly well as its flavor was faint and not overpowering. However, it seemed as if it was seasoned with salt post-cook, and as a result, I was left with a salty greeting and a mediocre dry brisket aftertaste. It tasted enough like brisket, but far from $18 per pound brisket. I tried the sauce, and it was generically sweet and thick, not much different from what you get out of a Sweet Baby Rays bottle at your grocery store. The only difference is that it was more on the spicy side which I don’t like, and the bottles were pre-warmed which I do like. I believe there was non-spicy BBQ sauce available, I just couldn’t find it, but based on the spicy one, I don’t think I was missing much. Next I tried the sausage, which looked okay. It was stylistically cut in a manner which diced the link but left it still hanging onto the casing. I can understand this from a style perspective; it was just annoying having your sausage not sliced all the way. Actually, trying it was really no different in taste as the store bought sausage that I get at the grocery store. An overly thick filling of mean all stuffed inside of a casing that has no snap and requires lots of teeth pulling conjured nostalgia of direct heat barbeques in the park as a kid where I was often found playing tug of war as I tried to eat through a sausage wrap. The filling was fused together as if manufactured at a processing site, and overall, the link didn’t really offer up anything original that stood out. It was passable sausage, I just really don’t like to eat a sausage that is so heavy that you’re already stuffed within the first two diced cuts; but more importantly, I need a magic snap to the casing, which this one lacked. I finished my meal, with the root beer being the only positive takeaway as I sadly looked over at the view of the trash littered Waller Creek, virtually a mini city dump at this point.
I was let down, turned off and likely won’t come back to Iron Works Barbecue. I likely wouldn’t have had such a sour experience here had I paid at least $5 less than I did. The prices here are what you pay for some top of the line BBQ like Franklin Barbecue or Louie Mueller Barbecue. The quality here is more along the lines of Bill Miller BBQ and should be reflected in the price. In all honesty, you’re paying for the history of the place, which I understand but the food far from delivers. For people that have eaten here for years, keep eating here because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But for those that have actually had real quality brisket, don’t waste your time. Maybe stop in one day just to say that you’ve been but just order some pie and save your hard earned cash for real Texas ‘cue. Charming place, but ultimately, no sell. Sorry guys.
Now for the score ranked from 1 (Poor) – 5 (Best)
Location/Facility – 4
Service/Staff – 2.5
Food – 1
Drink – 3
Day 2 – Saturday 11/9/2013
I’ve been going to this festival for a number of years now, and there’s always something great to take away from the whole event every year I attend. I remember going to FFF when it was held in front of the capitol at Waterloo Park, and where bands like Bad Brains or Cro-Mags were the big draws. Back then, FFF was mostly centered around punk rock and hardcore, but the festival is gaining a lot of traction each year, and subsequently has to draw bigger and bigger names to meet the growing demands of attendees. While the festival is turning into a massive beast, I still go because they still manage to bring in lots of amazing bands, and I always end up having a blast regardless of my initial reservations. This year, the big draws for me were Judge and Quicksand, but I left with my expectations being exceeded. Below is my lengthy recap of Day 2 of the festival.
My second day of the festival got off to a slow start, but that was okay since there wasn’t much at the beginning of the day that I was dying to see. The first item on my schedule was Jenny Slate at the JASH Yellow Stage, and I had arrived there just as she had begun her stand up. She was pretty funny and had some good material, but the main reason I was here was for Craig Robinson, so I sat through 1 or 2 more comedians before he came on. Now, Tenacious D were supposed to come on after Craig, so the closer it got to Craig’s set, the tighter the crowd got. Add that in with the drastic temperature increase from the day prior’s chilly weather and I was sweating hard, to the point of using my band schedule as a makeshift fan. To make the wait even more painful, Craig was performing comedy/music with a live band, and it took them forever to set up all of the sound equipment and instruments. They were almost 30 minutes over the scheduled start time, but finally Craig came out and his band was playing some catchy funk/Motown numbers. Sadly, his set was now conflicting with Subhumans on the Black Stage, so I only watched about 3 songs of his, had a few chuckles, and then took off through an endless sea of people and darted off to see Subhumans. Now at the Black Stage, I managed to walk in to the tail end of Forget, the second song from their Fun Fun Fun Fest exclusive performance of From the Cradle to The Grave in its entirety. I own this album, and it’s good, and has some really genius moments in it, but like most other fans of old British punk, I prefer The Day the Country Died. Still, they managed to serve up a big beautiful heaping mess of classic anarcho-punk, and did so albeit a terrible sound set up by the festival. Shame on you Fun Fun Fun Fest, these guys are punk legends and deserve more than muddy sound quality backing their live performance. Subhumans were great, but it was a shame to see so much space between the audience; just illustrating how a festival that was once rooted in the Black Stage acts is now slowly driving that core audience away with their “bigger” name Orange Stage draws. In either case, I was now off to the Orange Stage to see the not so mainstream but immensely influential band Television. These guys were in the original New York punk era, and oft times lumped in with the other bands of the time. But Television were crafting something uniquely different at the time, and their masterpiece Marquee Moon seemed to be the focal point of the set list tonight. Elevation, Friction and the title track were some of what I got to see, and only extended further with flawlessly performed solos. These guys really have a higher level of musicianship as the songs were crafted in such a way that you could have sworn that you were hearing a studio performance. This band is definitely one of those that pays meticulous detail to every subtle nuance in their songs, and it was an absolute honor to be able to watch these guys now easily in their 60’s, performing songs off on an album that has been cited by many to be one of the greatest rock albums ever produced, and easily a personal favorite of mine. A drastic shift now that Television was over, I went back to the Black Stage to catch the crossover thrash and Ice-T fronted band Body Count. Now, I got into music as a little kid like most other little kids, radio pop music. Then through other friends, I discovered rap music, and Ice-T was of course one of the bigger names that I was into. I was never a huge Ice-T fan though, but I loved his song 6:00 AM In The Morning (I know there’s a stylized way that the title of the song is spelled), his album O.G. and some of Home Invasion to a degree. But Body Count had Cop Killer on it, and Cop Killer was so threatening to America that it even had reactions from the president at the time, George Bush Sr., and had Tipper Gore’s head spinning in circles. Body Count had all the best parts of gangsta rap, thrash and a solid nihilist punk rock attitude backing the whole thing. It was fun watching Ice-T pushing people into the crowd, sometimes genuine, sometimes egged on by stage diving fans; their cover of Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized” was pretty cool, and even cooler was when Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys came out at the end and helped close the set. Body Count was really good, but even better was getting to see Judge for the second time. And it started in no time, this time with a Judge hammer logo banner hanging up, and hundreds more people crowded in to watch. I was a little nervous being so close to the front of the stage because the stage was pretty high up, and there was bound to be an endless frenzy of stage dives. But once they started playing, my safety was the last thing on my mind and I pushed up as close as I could for tons of sing alongs and even a couple of instances where the mic was put in front of me as I screamed lyrics into it. About 3 or 4 songs in though, the inevitable stage diver went from the stage to my head and caused a trauma to my skull so rough that my head felt like a frozen block of ice for a few seconds. I was still able to process the discomfort, so I wasn’t worried about blacking out; I was more so upset that this schmuck ruined my groove, and I now had to stand a little further back to avoid any further potential accidents. It was a buzzkill for sure, but I still enjoyed Judge’s set from a safe distance, away from the chaos but still close enough to partake in the beauty that is hardcore. I believe Judge played almost their entire catalog, save for “I’ve Lost” and maybe a couple of other songs. Overall, their performance was equally as energetic as it was the night before, but the small venue setting that I experienced made this day pale in comparison. Hardcore was meant for intimate small stages, and I’m still blown away that I got that experience with this legendary straight edge band. I just wonder if I will get another chance to see these guys play in Texas again, I guess time will tell. During the set, my friend Jayce stage dived, but nobody caught him and he ended up falling on his ankle. I met up with him afterwards, sitting against a fence where he told me what happened, and while my injury wasn’t nearly as bad, I still had a pretty sore neck and head, so we were going to just sit down and watch Descendents play from the distance. His ankle was pretty swollen, and I was pretty hungry, so in addition to the “Descendents” hot dog that I ate earlier this day at Frank, I got dessert at Bananarchy, which was just opposite where we were sitting on the fence line, and was intended for VIP only badge holders, but the girl didn’t care and sold me a frozen banana. Now that Descendents were starting, I couldn’t hold back my love of their songs and got my tired fat body off the ground to watch a few songs. Songs like Suburban Home, Silly Girl, Everything Sux and I’m the One were good to hear and fun to watch, but I saw Descendents a few years ago at this very same festival, and I’m no spring chicken; so after a few more songs (probably a total of 20 - 25 minutes standing and watching them play from a distance), I went back to sit on the ground with my tired feet and my head trauma and sang along quietly to the songs that I knew with my head back and my eyes closed. About 15 minutes before they were done playing, we headed out a little early to try and beat the rush at curfew, and I glanced at some of MIA’s performance on the way out. The goal was to go to the Holy Mountain on Red River and catch Narrows and Cro-Mags, but on bicycle with my friends swollen painful ankle was to prove quite a challenge. He managed to limp his way up to the Holy Mountain, with both of us just walking our bikes. Finally at the venue, we locked up our bikes and waited in line for a bit before getting in and finding a spot to sit. We sat out as some other band played. I know I missed Ceremony but I’ve seen them so many times now that it really wasn’t a big deal. I saw Justin Pearson from the Locust/Swing Kids/Some Girls, etc. etc. etc. hanging out as we patiently waited for Narrows to come on. I saw Narrows play either this year or last year during SXSW, and they’re a solid metal influenced hardcore band whose members are all so geographically separated that you have to see them if you have the chance just solely based on the unlikely chances of getting to see them often. But also, they’re amazing live, and they have Rob Moran from Unbroken (and everything he does is 100% brilliant), so when they came on, we watched about 3 or 4 songs before my friend realized that it wasn’t possible for him to stand. We called it early tonight and headed out, walked our bikes as far as to where The Mohawk was (and where Tenacious D was playing their Nites show). I told Jayce I would walk the bikes back to the car and he could just sit and wait for me; and then some random guy saw me struggling with both bikes and offered to ride one to my destination. He seemed like a legit dude, but his name was Bobby Hill so I was a little skeptical of his honesty. I trusted him nonetheless, not being one to pass up free help, and he followed me out on the second bike to my car with no issues. I thanked him, loaded my bikes onto my car, and went to go pick up my injured pal. The night was done, and although I was missing Cro-Mags, I’ve seen them a handful of times the last few years so it’s not like I’m missing a whole lot. Today was a really good day, and I would say that overall, the entire festival this year proved much more eventful for me than years past. Lots of surprises, an even better lineup of Nites after-parties, and so many bands that I had to hold in my #1 just so that I wouldn’t miss anything. I was skeptical going in this year just because this festival seems to be getting larger and larger as the years pass. But, I’ll continue to go as long as amazing things like Judge reunions continue to happen. 2013 was pretty memorable, so check out my attached photo sets and let’s see what next year’s festival brings!
Day 1 – Friday 11/8/2013
I’ve been going to this festival for a number of years now, and there’s always something great to take away from the whole event every year I attend. I remember going to FFF when it was held in front of the capitol at Waterloo Park, and where bands like Bad Brains or Cro-Mags were the big draws. Back then, FFF was mostly centered around punk rock and hardcore, but the festival is gaining a lot of traction each year, and subsequently has to draw bigger and bigger names to meet the growing demands of attendees. While the festival is turning into a massive beast, I still go because they still manage to bring in lots of amazing bands, and I always end up having a blast regardless of my initial reservations. This year, the big draws for me were Judge and Quicksand, but I left with my expectations being exceeded. Below is my lengthy recap of Day 1 of the festival.
I started the day out as I normally do when I venture downtown, and parked on the Eastside with a bike in tow. Then I strolled all the way down to Auditorium Shores along with my pal Jayce and picked up my wristbands at the will call table. I went to the Black Stage, which realistically is the stage that I would spend 90% of my time at the festival at, and got to see Deathwish Records’ Code Orange Kids. Some brutal moshy breakdowns dominated their set mixed in with doomy breaks, frenetic dissonant hardcore punk not far removed from the likes of Converge and plenty of feedback. Next, I watched Title Fight, whose set consisted primarily of newer “skramz” like material while the last handful of songs consisted of their older but faster more straight forward material. It was time for a late lunch/early dinner, so I stopped by the Grilled Cheese Truck for what else but a grilled cheese sandwich coupled with an order of tater tots. Once replenished, I headed back to the Black Stage in time for Ceremony. I’ve seen “Rohnert Park and onward” era Ceremony quite a few times, more than I can remember and they’re always fun to watch. This time was no different. They started out mostly with Zoo material and worked their way backwards into their earlier songs. The singer was bizarre as usual, and the band played a full onslaught of hardcore meets post-punk fury. I watched our city’s own The Impossibles next, which was a light and refreshing change from the usual Black Stage. This was a band I would listen to in the 90’s when ska-punk was on everyone’s menu, and although the band has focused less on ska and more on indie/alternative rock since their regrouping, it was nice to hear some familiar tunes with that irresistible skanky upstroke. These guys have had a ten year break from playing, save for a few performances last year, and I’m glad that they’re still going and possibly recording in the future. Next was a departure from music, and I headed to the JASH Yellow Stage, with the goal of watching Patton Oswalt. To eventually get there, I sat through 2 or 3 other comedians’ sets until Patton Oswalt finally came on. During the other sets, Ex-Smith Johnny Marr was playing at the Orange Stage closest to us, and all I could hear was him playing Smiths songs while each comic commented on it and me wishing I was there instead. While it was pretty brutal having to hear but not see this happen, it was well worth it considering how close I was able to inch to the stage when Patton took the stage. And he was so funny, like “my ribs hurt from laughing so hard” funny. The Yellow Stage was like a sweat shop as everyone was crammed into one enclosed area to shield from the outside noise, so the outside cold was a nice welcome once he was done. I had a hankering for dessert, so I stopped at Tiff’s Treats and got one of their ridiculously oversized brownies, before taking a seat to let my feet rest for a bit. Big Freedia was playing at the Blue Stage, and I went to watch a handful of songs from her set but then went back to sitting until Quicksand came on. Quicksand was really the big highlight of the day portion of the festival because they, along with other bands like Texas is the Reason, Antioch Arrow and At The Drive In were really the first post-hardcore bands that I was exposed to as a teenager. While I was still too young to be privy to late 80’s New York hardcore bands, I was old enough to know Quicksand, who themselves did time in Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today and Bold. Their performance was one of a quiet, mysterious presence, relying heavily on atmosphere; ambience and sustained moments of silence sprinkled throughout their songs to make their songs climactic impacts that much more abrasive. Wally nailed every song and the whole band played as if they’ve been touring as a unit since the 90’s up to now. Finally for the day portion of the fest for me, I watched Flag, which is a celebration of all the good things about classic Black Flag led by Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson, Dez Cadena and featuring Stephen Egerton. Keith reminded the crowd that they are not Black Flag, but instead, just Flag (thanks to Greg Ginn and his failed infringement lawsuit) and started tearing into the short loud bursts that pioneered hardcore punk and could arguably be called crucial to the survival of punk rock. I could only hang out for about half an hour because I wanted to make sure that I could get into the Mohawk to see Judge for the Nites installment of the festival, but 30 minutes was plenty of time to cover such influential songs like My War, Nervous Breakdown, Wasted, Spray Paint, Gimme Gimme Gimme and the list goes on. Was it Black Flag? Not officially. Was it a celebration of the songs that made Black Flag so great? Absolutely, and played by dudes that all were in Black Flag (except for Egerton) at some point in their existence. Sure, it wasn’t the magic and danger that others got to witness in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but I wasn’t even alive back then and this is the closest thing that I could get to seeing the era of the band that mattered the most. All the guys were having fun, and with Chuck being easily in his 60’s, I never saw a grandpa rock a bass so hard. Bill was all smiles through the set and Keith kept his banter to a minimum, although he made a confusing statement about not being lumped in with the conservative leanings of modern America, met with applause but then taking an odd turn with a statement about supporting a football team but not buying the products advertised in the commercials. Yeah, I scratched my head but kept rocking out. This performance was indeed a celebration, and was easily on target, but most importantly, it was all fun for the entire portion that I watched. Punk is most certainly not dead, it’s just old, like, really really old but still 100% relevant and I’m glad that the dudes in Flag paid homage to their past and the subculture they helped shape. 30-40 minutes in, I headed away from Auditorium Shores on my bike and pedaled all the way to Red River, arriving at The Mohawk around 10:00 PM and oddly enough, not being met to an insane long line. Maybe I showed up at the right time, maybe others passed on this show that had Subhumans on the big stage and Judge on the small stage, choosing instead to go see the Misfits, but I wanted to ensure that I would be watching Judge so I worked my way into the small stage and hung out at the very back for about 2 ½ hours. I sat through Breakout and Back to Back, sleepy and barely paying attention although what I saw of Back to Back was pretty good. My friend Jayce had been awake for 24+ hours, so he was passed out during these two bands, and as much as I had wanted to see Subhumans on the big stage, I wanted a guarantee that I would be seeing Judge tonight, so impatiently waiting for them to take the tiny stage was my only option. Finally, at I think 12:30 AM, Judge came on. Yes, late 80’s New York straight edge hardcore heroes Judge, playing in a venue with just a little over 100 people capacity right before my eyes. A big deal indeed because although I’ve been straight edge my whole life, this is one of the many bands that I heard as a kid that led me to discovering and subsequently identifying with the straight edge lifestyle, and has been a part of my core being ever since. To make it even more important, Judge has always been a band that has said that they would never reunite, which has decreased the chances of me seeing them live. Add in the fact that singer and co-founder Mike Judge pretty much disappeared from the hardcore scene and virtually vanished from the planet only made tonight that much more special. Now here I was, a 32 year old man who first claimed straight edge half his life ago and still has the bands’ only full length Bringin’ it Down from back then and lyrics still stuck in his memory, about to get as close to a feel as I can to being at legendary clubs like The Anthrax back in the Youth Crew heyday or to a Sunday Matinee at the beloved CBGB’s. I was still squished in the back when they launched into the opening instrumental part of Take Me Away, and while I couldn’t argue with the performance, I couldn’t be in the back any longer; so I signaled my friend Jayce who was now fully awake, to the front, pushed myself all the way up and went bananas once they started to play their full length’s title track. Song after song, lyric after lyric, the magic felt for an aging straight edge dude couldn’t have been any stronger. This was the same magic that I got when I saw Gorilla Biscuits or Youth of Today for the first time, only that much more raw since it was in a tiny club with solid fans and the band. I belted every lyric out until I knew I was going to be hoarse, and once they were done playing, I instantly ran out to the cold as I was now aware of my surroundings and could sense the overpowering stink of 100+ people crammed in side by side and the body heat that was taking its toll on me. I waited outside for a bit for my friend to come out, and we turned the corner of the club to see Mike Judge fixing to get into his vehicle. I managed to get a quick picture with him, and he said, “thanks a lot brothers” and shook my hand. Mike Judge and Porcell are basically the brains behind Judge, and I got to meet Porcell about two years ago at Chaos in Tejas, and he was a standup guy. But for tonight, these are the kinds of shows that make a lasting impression on kids just getting into music, and although I’m far from a kid at this point, I definitely felt like one during this show. While it was over now, I still had the next day of the festival to get another round of Judge before seeing them God knows when. Day 1 of Fun Fun Fun Fest was exhausting, but couldn’t have gone anymore perfect. Aside from all of the bands that I saw and just wrote about, I got to have an endless supply of Twinkies and even got my picture with Twinkie the Kid, snuck a peek at some wrestling from Anarchy Championship Wrestling, glanced over at the Evel Knievel Museum and got to meet two hardcore punk legends Keith Morris and Mike Judge. I got home and in bed around 3:00 AM, and I had another long day ahead of me later on.
Day 35 – Thursday 11/7/2013: East Austin
Where does the time go? Looking through my blog, it’s hard to believe that it’s been 3 months since I’ve visited a new barbecue joint! 3 months people! That’s a quarter of a year for crying out loud. Now to be fair, I have been to a handful of ‘cue joints since, but most are places that I’ve already reviewed, while I’ve also had a fair amount of my own backyard BBQ experiences in that amount of time. Needless to say, I was long overdue for a new place, and what better way to make a comeback of sorts than to go straight to the BBQ comeback king himself, John Mueller. Thursday found me at John Mueller Meat Company, meeting up with two of my best friends on a nice chilly afternoon for what was (quite embarrassingly) my first visit here. Earlier this year, this place made it onto the list of Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas Monthly, so a visit here is almost mandatory.
Now I should mention, I’ve eaten at the previous John Mueller food truck, then known as JMueller BBQ and located at the current location of La Barbecue over on South 1st St. As a matter of fact, JMueller was one of the first placed I reviewed on this here blog of mine, and if my memory serves me well, was quite a delicious lunch. Fast forward almost two years from now and I can say that I was anticipating what today had in store for me. John Mueller is a bit of a barbeque legend around here, with this being his third establishment and coming from a respected lineage of BBQ greats, this man serves his Mueller last name well. Now to get here, you have to get on Sixth Street, only head east; I’m talking waaaaay east, like, to 6th & Pedernales, where 6th Street pretty much comes to an end. Getting here isn’t taxing, but parking can be. Luckily, it was a pretty steady afternoon though, and parking didn’t pose a problem for me. I picked up on the mouthwatering smell of smoking meat, and followed my nose just around the corner where I met up with my friends, and painfully guided them onto the curb on the side of the street, to where apparently we gave the staff quite a chuckle. Walking into the food trailer area, it almost had a restaurant feel to it, with broad canopy’s covering multiple picnic tables, a metal sign of a cow with the name of the food truck carved into it and an oversized Texas flag serving as the backdrop (perfect for taking pictures), the massive BBQ pit inside of a trailer where John Mueller was taking briskets out with his bare hands and taking them to the serving truck, and the serving truck itself with a simple Central Texas market style menu and a guy ready to take our orders. I wanted to do the standard Texas Trinity, but succumbing to pressure, I went for mostly brisket (a half pound) and a half link of sausage. They didn’t have root beer which I was craving pretty bad, and I settled for bottled water, although they do have Big Red in a glass bottle, so kudos go there. I made out with a “Texas plate” with brisket, sausage, a hunk of sharp cheddar cheese, pickles, onions, bread and crackers. No sides for me today, the meat is the only thing I was looking for, although the menu does include some of the old favorites from the JMueller BBQ days. I was really digging the seating arrangement, with plenty of canopy coverage to give a real restaurant feel, but still retaining the outdoor qualities of a food truck.
Now that we all had our seats, I snapped a few pictures and went in for the taste test. The brisket was first, and this was definitely the work of a Mueller. You get tender brisket (mine was from the fatty end), perfectly rendered fat, a deep smoke ring, and a crispy exterior with the right amount of caramelized stickiness to it. Sporadic areas of the brisket had some oily, greasy goodness that didn’t overpower the entire cuts of meat, but instead converged at the right crevices of each slice. The cuts of brisket were thick, and full, consisting of the entire brisket and not opting for the “slice it through the fat band” that less experienced BBQ places go with. The sauce was okay, a sweet and tangy little mixture with lots of diced onions and other spices floating around in it but with a heavy burn to it. As is the case with all good BBQ though, this brisket didn’t warrant the use of sauce and ate just fine on its own. For those fans of all things hot, the sauce here is likely right up your alley, especially as it draws from both worlds of sweet and tangy. Next, I tried the all-beef sausage, and this place hits it right on the nail. A casing that snaps with ease, an all-beef filling that isn’t overly greasy and has a heavy pepper presence, and a smoke job done with precision while still adding in a bit of char to give a classic backyard feel. Cheese, pickles and onions found their way throughout the whole thing, but these meats needed no extra pep. The brisket and sausage was some of the best that you’ll come across here in Austin, if not the entire Central Texas area, and you can thank the lineage of Mueller greats for that. So with that said, I set off to meet the man behind the meat, John Mueller himself. Now I’m pretty familiar with the stories behind his sense of humor, the “twitter wars” that he’s been involved in and the snark that comes along, so I was a little intimidated in trying to approach the guy. He was still taking briskets off of his pit when I went over to toss my trash in the trash cans closest to the massive BBQ pit when I started taking pics of it. I heard him mutter out to me in the back, “I don’t come in your backyard and start taking pictures, do I?” “No sir” I replied, to which he replied back, “Well now I’m gonna start”. I gave a nervous chuckle and asked him if I could take a picture with him. “Hell no, when have you ever seen me take a picture with any of my fans?” he replied back. I gave an unsure “well, thank you” and he came back with, “naw, I’m kidding, where do you want it? In front of the cow?” Now we’re talking. John was a solid stand up dude, took a pic with me and shook my hand, and I can scratch getting the business from John Mueller off of my bucket list.
In short, John Mueller Meat Company is true BBQ done Central Texas market style. You don’t get 1, 2, or 3 meat plates; you get it by the pound. You don’t get an actual plate; you get it served on butcher paper. The meat is cooked low & slow, and beef reigns supreme. This is how real BBQ is served and how it’s done and this man has the craft imbedded in his DNA. If there was any complaint about this place, it’s only that I couldn’t get a root beer, but ultimately, you don’t go to a ‘cue joint for a soft drink so there’s not a whole lot of negative anything that you can throw at this place. If you care at all about the history of Central Texas BBQ and some quality grub, you have to come out to 6th and Pedernales for what is guaranteed to be some amazing smoked meats.
Now for the score ranked from 1 (Poor) – 5 (Best)
Location/Facility – 4
Service/Staff – 3.5
Food – 4.5
Drink – 3
October Summary –
Let’s talk about October, yes? It was somewhat productive for my blog, with two ‘cue joints logged but no new ones for me. First was a celebration of National Edge Day, which warranted a six pack of root beer and a trip back to Taylor, TX with two of my closest ‘cue hounds for the infamous Louie Mueller Barbecue. Having already reviewed the renowned institution twice, I didn’t feel it necessary to review it again, especially since the food here is consistently amazing. If you even remotely enjoy BBQ and live in Central Texas but haven’t been out here, you must pay this place a visit, a holy site of BBQ for sure. Next, I went back to Micklethwait Craft Meats in East Austin for a spooky Halloween celebration of smoked meats. Again, no review, but this time, it was because I couldn’t possibly write up a review on the last day of the month. Excuses, excuses eh? Sure, why not, but both of these places are solid and require your immediate attention. As far as root beer, I covered the forgettable Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer in a plastic bottle, which failed to live up to the hype and cult surrounding it. Next was Triple XXX Root Beer that more than made up for the awful Dad’s soft drink, but it’s a shame that Triple XXX is nearly impossible to come across around here now that Dublin Bottling Works stopped bottling it. Should you come across Triple XXX, consider yourself lucky, unless I just haven’t tried hard enough to find some around town. In the area of music, I got to see AFI perform live after a lengthy break from touring. The show was followed up with a new album just a few days later. Both the live show and the new album were about as good as you can get AFI in 2013. Certainly far from the magic that they were crafting in the late 90’s/early 00’s, they still pulled off some memorable material in October. That’s really the extent of my blog activity, so I can’t say I was ultra-productive, but productive enough. I saw the new Alfonso Cuaron film Gravity in 3D which was just as psychologically challenging as everyone had said. Definitely one of his best, but I still prize his film Children of Men as his greatest accomplishment. Halloween obviously happened, a beloved holiday of mine which I ironically never dress up for. I did however, dress up this year. Well, just my face, painted as Frankenstein’s monster, and painted my face yet again on November 1st for a Dia De Los Muertos celebration. Check it out in the images attached, and be sure to read my visits and see my pictures about Louie Mueller Barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meats or my bubbly take on Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer and Triple XXX Root Beer. Also my photoset of AFI with one of my modern favorite melodic hardcore bands Touche Amore as the supporting act. I don’t have many plans for November, so it may or may not be a slim month of activity for me. Regardless and as always, until next time, happy moshing!
Micklethwait Craft Meats - East Austin: 10/31/2013 HALLOWEEN!
No review this time around. Why? Well, it’s the last day of the month and there’s realistically no way I can write a full length review in just a few hours, especially considering how sleepy I am from an eventful day of Halloween trick or treating with my little one. Luckily, I have already reviewed Micklethwait Craft Meats earlier this year, so if you’re interested in what I’ve said about them before, check out my review here:
The quality and consistency of the food was about the same as my last visit, with subtle marks of improvement on the brisket. This place is pretty great and they deserve every bit of praise they get. Enjoy the pics, and hopefully November will see me back to exploring new ‘cue.
Hear, Hear! Root Beer! - Post XV
Triple XXX Root Beer
Packaging: 12 oz. Glass Bottles
So I’m not going to go into the history behind Triple XXX Root Beer because frankly, it’s the most extensive history behind a root beer that I have ever come across. Instead, I’ll provide the following link, which will take you to the history page:
Sadly, Dublin Bottling Works in Dublin, TX used to bottle Triple XXX here in Texas, but have since stopped, and consequently, has become increasingly difficult for me to find this brand of root beer in Central Texas. I used to be able to purchase Triple XXX in Central Market, Home Slice Pizza, and a select few other restaurants. Since Dublin Bottling Works stopped bottling for Triple XXX, the only place I can order it from is online. In either case, when I was able to find the root beer, it was generally in a slim glass 12 oz. bottle, with a simple yellow label and the motto “Makes Thirst a Joy” written on it. The real catch here is the simplicity of the whole package, which is appealing in its humility.
As far as the actual drink, it’s more in line with the mainstream formulas used by the bigger soft drink companies, with high fructose corn syrup being the sweetener and “artificial & natural flavors” being the flavor base. This statement normally indicates lots of imitation flavors, with the standard licorice and vanilla flavors being the dominant ones that you can immediately pick up on. The head is thick, but the carbonation is fairly mild. It’s caffeine free, which is always a plus, but in all actuality, this root beer drinks like an average one, with nothing really striking me as unique or memorable.
It’s not an awful root beer, but it doesn’t really offer much to set it apart from the pack. It’s a very average one for sure, but that doesn’t make it terrible, it just makes it safe. Truthfully, this is a root beer that if still available in my area, I would probably still drink regularly as opposed to the dreadful selection of canned or fountain Barq’s Root Beer that you find virtually everywhere you look. I don’t mind Triple XXX Root Beer, I actually miss it, and I think that anyone, whether versed in root beer or just a casual drinker would likely enjoy this soft drink served ice cold.