Austin, Texas: One of the coolest, hippest cities in America (Guest Blog by my friend Laura Valtorta)

The Purgatory Players by Laura P. Valtorta, Guest Blogger


Austin, Texas. This town is fueled by music and camaraderie. Also money, and a weird sense of freedom. Two years ago we went to hear a Texas swing band at the Blue Cactus, featuring Bill from Lubbock and his son-in-law, Rajiv, on the sitar.  Everyone sang along to the armadillo song. They called the act “Cowboys and Indians.”

May 2013. My daughter, Clara, suggested we walk from her house in South Austin to Strange Brew – a café/music place she favors because the stage is small and the acoustics are excellent.

“Beer served between 10 and 2 on Sundays, with food, ” the waitress announced.

“And you don’t have to eat the food!” shouted one gentleman in the audience.

The concert was free. We ordered iced tea and bagels and found a table in the darkened room filled with hippies, hipsters, and sandal-clad music lovers all bopping and swaying in their seats. Most of the men over 60 had butt-length hair.  A man in a cowboy hat walked in with his wife, probably named  “Marge” or “Tangerine.” Two hipsters stood up to dance. They were pretty good. Clara said she had seen them at other concerts, dancing for the benefit of themselves and others.

The Purgatory Players were Darwin Smith, Seela (I bought her album), and a brassy black-haired guy with a big voice. They played guitar and mandolin with a two-man rhythm section. For two hours we heard traditional gospel, R&B, Stevie Wonder songs, Crosby Stills & Nash, and songs composed by the singers.

The waitress passed around a pickle jar for the musicians. I put in a couple of dollars. We ordered two pig-shaped gingerbread cookies. Out in the parking lot, some hipsters had formed a circle and were smoking weed. They bowed their heads.

Ross, my son-in-law bicycled over. We left the café for South Congress, more music, shops, and Guero’s Mexican food.

Sunday in Austin.


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