The Broken Spoke

I spent the Thanksgiving break with my girlfriend’s family in Austin, and finally made it out to The Broken Spoke, a country venue known for some of the best honky tonk in the area. We had tried to go almost a year ago, after it was recommended to me by a friend who lived in Austin for a number of years, only to find out it was closed the day after Christmas. We went back this time and made it in. It’s a pretty interesting place, that from my limited experience, at least appears to capture the Austin country scene well.

Inside there are a number of tables surrounding a large dance floor, with a stage in the far back. On stage was Gary P. Nunn, an apparently well known Texas country musician, who started out in the 60’s and was big through the 80’s. He played with a simple band — just a drummer, an upwright bassist, and a pedal steel guitar player — and Gary sang and played the guitar. I wasn’t blown away. They were good, but I’ve enjoyed even some of the countryesque bands at Toad, or even some of the music we saw at White Horse in Austin a year ago, much more. But it was fun, and the atmosphere was unique.

The best part was the people watching. The crowd varied from young people in their 20’s to some who seemed as though they’d been coming for 40+ years. Many on the dance floor killed it — showing off some impressive swing on other something-step dance skills that I struggled to fake. I definitely recommend checking it out, although if I were to go back, I’d make sure to look up the band in advance.

Here’s the place from the outside:

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And here’s my girlfriend and her brother showing off their moves:

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Meadhall

I went to the grand opening of Meadhall last night. It’s a great new restaurant and bar in Kendall square, with an unbelievable draft selection of 110 beers.

I tried two new beers that I highly recommend. The first was the McChouffe Brown Ale by d’Achouffe out of Belgium. It was strong with some maple overtones, but wasn’t too sweet. One of the better browns I’ve had in a while. Oddly, I can’t find it on BeerAdvocate.

The second was the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale from the Lexington Brewing Company in Kentucky. It was beer, but it tasted like whiskey. Absolutely delicious.

Judging by Meadhall’s impressive tap selection, I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

And the food was great too. I had the lamb, and it fell apart on the fork.

Here’s the draft beer menu:

And here’s a small portion of the very impressive bar:

This is a welcome addition to the otherwise lonely bar scene in Kendall Square.

Free Beer!

Gotcha, but it’s very close to free. A few classmates and I have been working on the board of a local non-profit organization, Somerville Local First (SLF). SLF helps to build “a sustainable Local First economy by supporting and promoting locally owned and independent businesses, artists and nonprofits” in Somerville.

They’re hosting a fundraiser at the Foundry On Elm, a new restaurant and pub in Davis Square, on Wednesday, April 6th from 6:00-8:00pm. Tickets are only $20, and include a beer and wine tasting from 6:00-7:00pm and appetizers from 6:00-8:00pm.

Here are a few reasons you should buy a ticket soon:

1. 100% of the money goes to SLF, so you’d be supporting a good cause.

2. The beer is all from Pretty Things, a great new local craft “brewery” that I’ve previously written about. If you consider the ticket price to be a donation, then it’s free beer.

3. The Foundry On Elm’s gotten good reviews. Here’s an excuse to check it out.

4. Davis Square is a great area, and you probably don’t get out there often enough.

5. If you eat enough of the appetizers, it’s really dinner.

6. You’ll meet lots of interesting people from the community.

7. It’s probably going to sell out quickly.

Here’s the facebook event page, and you can buy tickets here.

The Zeppelin Café

Over the past few weeks, I found what I would consider to be the perfect hang-out bar: The Zeppelin Café in Phnom Penh. I heard about it from my guide book, which says this: “Who says vinyl is dead? It lives on here in Phnom Penh, thanks to the owner of this old-skool rock bar, who mans the turntables every night. Fun.”

It did sound fun. But I decided to do a little more research before heading over.

Lonely Planet ranks it #115 of #117 things to do in Phnom Penh and #558 of #579 things in do in Cambodia. Ouch. Of all the potential things to do in the entire country of Cambodia, apparently only 21 of them are worse than going to the Zeppelin Café. Now I was really intrigued. So a few of us decided to head over our second night in town, and well?

Well the place absolutely rocks. So we just kept going back.

You walk in, and the first thing you notice is the music playing out of some vintage speakers in the back. Anything ranging from classic rock, blues, jazz, metal, and a bit of punk. I don’t even listen to much metal or punk, but the selections were great, and fit the mood of the place perfectly.

Here’s a terrible photo:

It’s a small and narrow bar, with guitars hanging on the wall, Led Zeppelin pictures and posters everywhere, and whiskey shots sitting on shelves as tributes to fallen rock legends (e.g., Bonham). In the far back, June, the Taiwanese owner and DJ, chain smokes cigarettes in front of an entire wall of vinyl records. He sits behind a 3 foot brick wall, making it clear that he runs the DJ booth. He’s got two turntables (and a microphone) and a computer in front of him, and every day of the week he spends the entire night in his chair, carefully selecting the music. And he’s always open to requests as long as the requester puts a little thought into it (June’s face was priceless when a Finnish customer requested some disco).

This guy’s really into rock music. He even named his three kids after his favorite guitarists: Lemmy (Motorhead), Jimmy Page (Zeppelin), and Johnny Winter.

I’d like to be able to say I put in the effort to properly explore Phnom Penh’s nightlife. I didn’t. I checked out a couple other bars that were supposed to be good (they weren’t), and then spent every other free night at the Zeppelin Café. Usually I’d go with some members from my team here, but I was just as happy going alone and talking music with June.

He turned me onto Rory Gallagher and Heavy Trash, both of which I recommend:

Why isn’t there a single place like this in all of Boston?