Austin: Weird in a Good Way

You've heard the popular refrain, "Only in (city)...", usually spoken in tones of exasperation. Well, in Austin, people mean it in a good way.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MoDean on November 9, 2006

The Alamo Drafthouse has got to be one of the coolest places on earth. A movie theater, bar, and restaurant rolled into one, it highlights off-beat, campy, anything-goes film media, often punched up with an element of live entertainment. In short, you can sit down, order a pitcher of a beer and dinner, and watch a tribute to B horror movies… or participate in a Beastie Boys rap-along… or settle in for a marathon of cult Canadian film favorites, with a special menu of Canadian beers… or see a special screening of Trainspotting in the company of the book’s author. You get the picture.

We were there for one of the Alamo’s most popular shows: The Sinus Show. Formerly known as Mr. Sinus Theater 3000, The Sinus Show is a riff on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (the name change was, in fact, a result of trademark-lawsuit threats from the producers of the classic show). Jerm, Owen, and John (the Sinus Three) provide irreverent commentary on a popular (and delightfully bad) movie, including a stop-the-movie skit about halfway through and a custom drinking game in which the entire audience drinks every time a certain word or action occurs on-screen. I’ve seen The Lost Boys and the Christmas Variety Show in the past; this time, we saw Footloose (take a look at their website archives for a taste of the other gems they’ve featured).

When we arrived, we ordered beers—I couldn’t resist going with the Rogue Dead Guy Ale, a hearty Maibock brew from Oregon, worth it for the name alone; I then moved onto a local brew, the Live Oak HefeWeizen, a lighter and sweeter beer. The list of beers and wines on the menu is pretty impressive, and they all include brief descriptions, so you know what you’re getting (and what to order!).

Since no one had eaten dinner yet, we opted for food here, and we all ended up choosing the gourmet pizza. I went for the "Wild at Artichoke Hearts," with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and goat cheese; Kristina made an equally good choice with the "Moonstruck"—a simple, delicious combination of basil, fresh tomatoes, and cheese. Obviously, vegetarian (even vegan) options are many, but there were plenty of meaty choices on the menu as well. You can keep ordering more until the checks are brought around by the discreet and efficient waitstaff, about 30 minutes before the end of the show.

The combination of great food, great beer, and two-and-a-half hours of complete hilarity was my welcome back to Austin, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. It would be a sin not to remember the Alamo (sorry) while you’re here, and if The Sinus Show is playing, buy tickets in advance and arrive early; the show always sells out, and the line to get in stretches around the block—for good reason.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
409 Colorado St
Austin, Texas, 78701
(512) 476-1320


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MoDean on November 9, 2006

Ever seen an episode of A&E’s Rollergirls? The (now off-air) reality series spotlighted the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls roller derby-league in Austin, following the players through a whole season. The few episodes I saw were riveting, so when my friend mentioned that the Texas Rollergirls (another Austin league) were playing, I jumped at the chance to go.

The Rock-n-Rollerderby (a two-match, four-team event) was held at Playland Skate Center, a giant barn that houses a skating rink, an antiques market, and who knows what else at various points during the week. We arrived to find a surprising number of cars jamming the streets and surrounding lots, but luckily, there was ample parking to be had.

The adventure started in the ticket line—a long line, but the people-watching was superb. We saw the emcee, bedecked in Colonel Sanders’ hand-me-downs, emerge from the most beat-up, dented pickup I’ve ever seen. We saw rollergirls from other teams, scantily clad and showing off legs mottled with bruises. The line itself was a hodgepodge of young and old, punks and Texas rednecks (simmer down—I’m from Texas). The wait went by in no time.

After paying our $15 entrance fee and venturing into the concession area for $3 Lone Stars (Shiner Bock was $4), we squeezed our way into the crowd surrounding the rink. The games began with a spirited welcome from the announcers, who gleefully chastised anyone who spilled a beer throughout the rest of the evening—a roller derby tradition. At first, it was difficult to get into the raucous spirit of the arena. I finally found a program, however, and skimmed through the basics of the game:

Each play is referred to as a "jam." As both teams skate around the rink, each team’s "jammer" tries to skate through the pack while a "pivot" and blockers from each team try to block the other jammer and facilitate their jammer’s passage. The first jammer to break through the pack is dubbed the "lead jammer" and earns the right to "call the jam" at any point. The jammers then skate all the way back around and through the pack again, earning a point for each member of the opposing team that they pass. Of course, this all happens with tons of pushing, shoving, hard falls (sometimes into the surrounding crowd) and, occasionally, fights. These girls could hold their own with the ice hockey crowd.

Once I got the hang of it, it was a blast to watch—loud, aggressive, and really exciting. The players’ roller-derby names only added to the entertainment value of the announcers’ play-by-play: my favorites were Lucille Brawl and Tinkerhell of the Hotrod Honeys and Misty Meaner and Bunny Rabid of the Hell Marys. Between halves, there was live music from the totally weird, cool, up-and-coming Ghostland Observatory. In all, it was the most memorable night of my trip. Turns out you can’t judge a book—or a barn—by its cover.

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