A Casual Evening of Badasses on Stage Together: Checking Out The Bluegrass Outfit at Radio

When Flipnotics Coffee closed their doors on Barton Springs, I did not lament the loss of the coffee shop, but wept tears of white privilege at the thought of never again experiencing the intimate setting in which Bluegrass Night took place each Monday. If Bill Monroe were still among us, there’s no doubt he would pour one out for the loss of this jewel of a tradition. Woe was me.

This was an event to behold: world class string players assembling in random rotation to play old bluegrass standards – none of those newfangled modern originals. But like all great things, they end and then come back into style later on when the cool kids decide. Such was the case with Bluegrass Night, the P.F. Flyers of music events, when Jack Wilson opened Radio Coffee and the event was to be housed on the front porch of the shop.

This last Monday’s ensemble of The Bluegrass Outfit was spectacular. When I heard the line-up for the evening I realized that I’d never been so happy to head directly into the gaping concrete hole in our city along the 290/71 cutaway. I was happy because I knew the kind of magic that could occur even here and likely would on a balmy early October evening in Austin. Even though overalls and moonshine were outlawed here years ago, the concrete jungle isn’t so far from the Appalachian holler of yore on nights like this.

The porch was littered with the likes of Grammy-nominated mandolin player Kym Warner of The Greencards who was, lucky for me, accompanied by his father Trev (the man largely responsible for the dissemination and popularization of bluegrass music in Australia). Joining them were long-time veterans of the Austin roots scene Jesse Dalton (formerly of Green Mountain Grass and currently with MilkDrive), a man called Bluegrass Dave (formerly of Green Mountain Grass), Trevor Smith and Tony Kamel (both of Wood & Wire), and lastly Andy Lentz. You know, just a casual evening of badasses on stage together shredding acoustic instruments to pieces.


This crew of musicians isn’t out for the money either. This gig is a tip-jar situation and these fine folks aren’t showcasing their own tunes. They are a group of studied and travelled players on a porch working on their chops by keeping alive the sung and played traditions of American storytelling. They love doing it so much that they even travel down the road every Wednesday night for round two at Tantra Coffee House in San Marcos. I don’t know about you, but I’ll throw my hat in any day with the guys who love their craft so much that they’ll shred just about anywhere for tips.

Some of you may have reached this point in the article and may think that all of this is well and good, but still don’t jive with bluegrass because it’s just not your thing. That’s fine. I’m not trying to convince you to go to Bluegrass Night. My only goal here is to call attention to the fact that you’re missing out on cool autumn evenings filled with delicious local beers, sitting atop blankets with your dearest and nearest, and participating in a tradition that is uniquely American – the kind of cultural patriotism that doesn’t make you cringe.

Austin has a beautiful and blooming roots music community and it’s only getting better as more people tune into it. It’s the kind of thing that people will long for when it’s gone (see The Armadillo). If you’re at all inclined, take your crew out for a great evening of conversation and music. Keep alive that which keeps Austin just special enough to keep the unsustainable growth and rapid urban growth at bay.

Michael R. Walker hales from the flatlands of a wind-bleached Amarillo, TX. After departing this desolate place, traveling the world, and surviving a bout with amoebic dysentery he matriculated at Texas State University, obtaining approximately 2 degrees – respectively in Archaeological Iconography and Creative Writing. He loves bluegrass, whiskey, and would gladly sacrifice his friendship with you for a desperate love-spiral of pizza consumption. Michael currently works as a freelance web designer, plays guitar for the Austin band Ghostbunny, is a contributing author for Ovrld, and a poet/essayist for Velvet Dust Magazine.