We left Geoff and Sally’s tranquil riverside estate almost too late to make it to our noon downbeat at KUT radio. We struggled to pack the Yukon in the rising heat but we did it quickly and got on the road. The winding hill country roads now familiar, we sped towards the station. Geoff’s directions were true and we arrived at the station in time. A formal and elegant man in his mid-fifties, John Aielli is a vocal and singing coach at UT who has been hosting Eklektikos for the last 25 years. Hearing stories of his sometimes curt treatment of bands, we were a bit nervous. Rob was bound and determined to sing every note dead on.
We set up quickly in the station studio and as the clock hit noon we were ready. John walked in, sat down at a table with microphone in front of us, and went through the pronounciations of each Hawks name, saying each syllable slowly and looking to us for acknowledgement that he was saying it correctly. When he got to Shawn he said, “How do you say your name, Shawn?” Shawn replied, drummerlike, “Shawn.” We were all laughing heartily as the red light came on. It was a good start to the show and things only got better. During each song John closed his eyes and listened closely to the words (and pitch of our singing). It felt like we were performing for a jury of one to grant us our Master’s in music. RW was concentrating so hard on pitch perfection he forgot a line in “Byrd from West Virginia.” Luckily, the words returned quickly, and only Kip Boardman noticed out in radioland. You can listen to this moment and the rest of the interview here. John didn’t seem to mind and politely and professionally neglected acknowledging the blip. Overall, it was a great time and a fun performance. From the station we fought our way though the heat to our cheap south Austin motel on the Interstate. Trouble arose when only one room was available. We walked next door to an even more derelict under construction motel. Broken windows and a poorly lit parking lot almost didn’t scare us off. At the last minute we reconsidered and headed for the Clarion across the highway. It was twice as expensive but didn’t possess the air of potential danger and confrontation. The four of us camped out in the good room killing the afternoon before our late gig at the historic Cactus Café on UT’s campus. We watched cooking shows, emailed friends and family, sat in front of air conditioner, swam in the over chlorinated pool, slept.
At 9 PM we start the process of dressing for showtime. On the way to the gig we stop for the first of five meals at the Magnolia Café. It’s an Austin institution. Almost always packed, we’ve hit them at a slow time after the dinner rush and before the late night post-bar crowd rolls in. The Magnolia is open 24 hours. The Magnolia has a menu of southwestern favorites and good old hippie food. It gets a solid ***Four Chilies Hawks Texas*** rating. We order squash and brown rice and tofu and stir fried vegetables and pasta. Full and happy and momentarily feeling like we are treating our bodies with care and respect, we head to the Cactus. Cactus Cafe is located in the Texas Union on campus. Parking is tricky. We opt to drive up on the sidewalk as close to the door as possible. We carry our guitars down the hall lined with posters of all the greats who’ve played the Cactus before us. Townes Van Zandt, Ralph Stanley, Bob Dylan, Guy Clark, and on and on. It’s got some of the same ghosts that live at McCabe’s. Despite some sound difficulties at first, the show turned out grand. The dark room of friends and fans came along on our ride, welcoming solos and silly lines with warm hollers. Folks came out who’d heard us on the radio, which continues to surprise and thrill us. After a couple encores, we packed up, threw away the parking ticket beneath the wipers, and headed to the Magnolia for a late night desert of cherry pie and penaut butter pie and ice cream. PM like his pie cold. PL likes it hot, although it melts the ice cream rapidly. There’s lively debate on whether or not the ice cream should touch the pie. Sleep comes quickly to the Hawks who arrive at their cross-highway motels around 3 AM.
Another day of motel time-killing arrives. PM takes the car out to the hills to visit his gold record winning producer and pedal steel playing friend Tommy Spurlock at his hilltop compound. It’s motel pool swimming time for the other Hawks. A few even venture to the workout room and overdo it on the stairmaster, driven hard to combat the deep sense of lethargy that can only come from riding in a car for 2500 miles and sleeping until noon. PM calls in the late afternon to report his flat tire on the outskirts of Austin. He heroically changes the tire by himself at the hottest time of the day. Drenched in sweat he makes it home as the Yukon air conditioner stuggles to cool him off. He comes through the motel room door looking weary but victorious and heads straight for the bourbon. After cleaning up and cooling down we head to the late night gig at the Continental Club. This is the gig that got the nice writeup in the Austin Chronicle and we’re excited to be doing a good night at a great club in the big music town. Tommy Spurlock joins the Hawks and adds his Sneaky Pete-ish tuned pedal steel to the mix, like he was born to the band. Hire this man. It’s a rocking night at the Continental. We take the stage to a full room at midnight and people are still coming through the door. We open boldly with Humboldt and rock out. PL takes an epic outro (term coined by Paul Marshall) solo and actually levitates nearly six inches off the stage. It’s just that kind of night. Getting on stage at the Continental is like getting on a roller coaster rider. It’s as if the stage possesses a musical momentum of it’s own and you just have to hold on and try to match its energy as best you can.
People want to dance so we play our danciest songs. Pretty Texas girls in flowy sun dresses spin around the floor with their well-trained cowboy partners. It’s fun to watch from the stage and we stretch out solos and let the couples shuffle and two-step and sway. Our good friend Johnny Fargo is with us. The X-Taix lounge booker has wisely relocated to the best of Texas cities. We drink shots of Jagermeister at the bar and reminisce. We miss you Johnny. Back to the Magnolia for one last late night dessert. We get it right this time. Brownie Ala Mode. Damn it’s good. Austin treated us well.