Friday was the grand opening of the Moody Center in Austin, on the University of Texas campus. The facility is pretty typical of a basketball arena with a capacity of 15,000. The Moody Center is not next to either the Moody Theater or the Moody Amphitheater, so it might get a bit confusing if you’re unfamiliar with Austin. These three venues all carry the name of the Moody Foundation of Galveston, which donates generously all over Texas.
Friday’s show featured George Strait, Willie Nelson, and Randy Rogers. Getting there was a nightmare! I live 30 miles away and left at 4:30. I finally got to my seat at 7:28, just before the show began at 7:30. I got to downtown Austin fairly quickly, but the exit that I planned to take was blocked, so I took the next one and tried to loop back. Well, that road was also blocked, so I took the detour. The road from there to the arena was also blocked, so I continued to work my way around on the detour. The way back up was also blocked, then I couldn’t get over a lane when needed, and ended up wandering east of the interstate until I could get turned around at a gas station. I stopped long enough to check the map on my phone again, and it looked like all I needed to do was cross back over the interstate and turn right. Well, guess what? After I crossed the interstate, the road to the right was also blocked. I started back up the same detour as before, but from this direction, I found a cut through (after yet another was blocked).
I finally saw an intersection with traffic cops and tell them we’re looking for the ADA access. Well, they pointed us to what turned out to be a “drop off” lane. We had to get turned around from that and finally spotted the Manor Garage, where my brother had pre-bought a parking place for an exorbitant $65. He did that because our wheelchair van is over seven feet tall and the stated clearance was sufficient to accommodate us. Well, imagine our surprise when we get there and see a posted clearance of 6’11” on the entrance on the second level. They had BLOCKED THE OVERSIZED VEHICLE PARKING entrance on the first level. We had to drive around until we could find a paid surface lot blocks away, then called the parking service to get a refund for the $65 prepaid place that we couldn’t use. The company refunded most of it, but kept a few dollars as a service fee, which is disgusting.
Then, the sidewalks between where we parked and the Moody Center were blocked, and my brother had to maneuver his chair briefly through vehicular traffic to get into the parking garage that we couldn’t use that was between us and the Moody Center. Guess what? There is no level that you can access by elevator that gets you to anything but stairs. We ended up going back to the entrance of the parking deck where a helpful worker told us what we needed to do was take the elevator down to the second level, then maneuver our way down the vehicle ramp to the first floor, where we could exit at ground level. Why doesn’t the elevator go to the first floor? This is a brand new, high dollar facility. It is a laughably stupid design to have the elevator not go to ground level. Keep in mind that this was the parking deck entrance that was blocked off that was supposed to be where vehicles over seven feet could park. What about potential ADA liability of a parking deck with an elevator that not go down to the level that doesn’t have stairs? Come on, folks! This should be common sense.
So, after all of that, we were finally in line outside Moody Center. Bonnie Montgomery played a free show on the plaza stage. We finally got through security. I brought up the tickets on my phone, which I had purchased directly from Ticketmaster when they first went on sale. Imagine my surprise when the ticket scanner didn’t accept that. The arena employee kept saying we couldn’t get in because they don’t accept screenshots. It wasn’t a damn screenshot. It was on the Ticketmaster app where I had paid a hell of a lot for those tickets on the first day they went on sale. They told us we had to go to the box office to get it straightened out, so we had to go through that line. The worker there was helpful. When we tried to go back, it looked like we’d have to go to the back of the line to go through security again, which at that point probably would have been another hour. Thankfully, the security worker remembered us who let us out to get to the box office had mercy on us. My nerves had just about had it. This was the most expensive ticket I had ever bought for a single event (even though it’s for the nosebleed section), but I did it because I wanted to do something special with my brother. Thankfully, the ticket scanner worked correctly this time. We were finally in the building!
We got situated just in time to see Randy Rogers’ set. A lot of fans weren’t so lucky. The lines were so long that many missed all or part of his set. Randy’s set was pretty short, but enjoyable. The Randy Rogers Band has been one of the most consistent acts in the Texas scene for over two decades.
Next up was the inimitable Willie Nelson on his 89th birthday. Willie is Willie. I mean, what else can anyone really say about such a legend? He played many familiar songs, but also some of his new material. He mentioned that one of the new songs was written by Rodney Crowell and Chris Stapleton.
George Strait has more number ones than anyone in history, and he gave us a full two and a half hours. The stage was shaped like a diamond in the middle of the arena floor. He played a couple of songs at each corner, then change to the next corner, and so on. A particularly rare moment was when Willie Nelson joined George Strait for a pair of songs, “Sing One With Willie” and “Pancho and Lefty.” This was only the second time for these two enormous Texas legends to share a stage. I did take a blurry phone video of Pancho and Lefty. I know that a lot of people don’t like phone videos, but there was literally nobody behind us, so we weren’t bothering anyone or blocking anyone’s view by capturing this special experience. For George’s encore, he did a song for each corner of the four-sided stage.
Despite all of the issues we had getting into the arena, we really enjoyed the music. I’m writing about my experience in hopes that this brand new venue can learn from and correct issues in the future. At the very least, do not sell tickets to those parking spaces for oversized vehicle parking when you know you are going to block off that entrance.
On Saturday night, I saw Doug Kershaw and Jesse Daniel at the Devil’s Backbone Tavern. Traffic was very light, so we got there early. Robyn Ludwick, one of the venue owners, found us a nice place to sit. This venue works well for us. We’ve seen several shows there. Jesse Daniel played for the first hour and Doug Kershaw for the second hour.
Jesse Daniel is in the traditional country lane. In addition to the honky tonk style, he introduced a cowboy song and a trucker song and a bluegrass-inspired song. Country music has always come in a lot of forms, and it’s good to see a young artist recognize that and draw inspiration from the varieties. The California native is now based in San Marcos, Texas, which is also where I live, where some of George Strait’s band members live, and where Cheatham Street Warehouse is, which Randy Rogers owns. A trivia bit that might be less familiar is that Willie Nelson used to own a home in San Marcos. It was auctioned off as part of his IRS settlement many years ago.
Doug Kershaw is one of the all-time legends of Cajun country music. He’s 86 now, but still full of life and humor. He very recently played Jazzfest in New Orleans, and the last time I saw him was a few years ago at Red Rocks as a surprise guest of Old Crow Medicine Show. One amazing fact is that Doug Kershaw became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1957! He stayed a member for just a few years, but has made Opry appearances as a guest since, including earlier this year. The Ragin’ Cajun played fiddle, guitar, and accordion during his set. The fiddle was a bit ornery, but he still had fun with it. Here’s my phone video of Cajun Stripper.
As always, enjoy the music!