Have you ever seen a musician create lightning on the guitar? Fingers flying across the chords with speed that doesn’t seem humanly possible? Inventing a sound that is so revolutionary is resonates for days after? While I have seen many artists create magic with the touch of a piano key and strum of a steel string, the musicians playing at the Live at the Driskill are far and away sheer fun and excitement. The combination of enigmatic artists on stage, the Driskill’s own mixology masters concocting Tito’s Vodka creations and the backdrop of the infamous Driskill Hotel has proven once again to be a happy hour unlike any other in the River City.
While the Driskill Hotel hosts many notable artists, MilkDrive is certainly a group to write home about. This quartet of musicians (including Noah Jeffries, Dennis Ludiker, Brian Beken and Matt Mefford) have combined forces to create a fervent fury of chords and melodies that is unlike any progressive folk I have ever heard. With fingertips gliding across their instruments faster than my eyes could keep up and sounds that are both universal and beautifully haunting, it’s no wonder this band had the entire room captivated. While the group has only been together since 2007, their sublime musical mélange of instrumental sound peppered with great lyrics (and a fiddle or two) makes it evident why they are soaring to success. Currently on the road promoting their new studio album, Road From Home, the boys are spreading their folk-tinged sounds everywhere from Colorado to Montana. While they will be back to Austin in time for the 2011 ACL Festival, I feel like one lucky girl to have listened to them up close and personal at Live at the Driskill.
Likewise, Daniel Stokes proved to be another incredible live act who has created a promising career touring all over Austin. Opening for MilkDrive, Stokes provided a completely different sound, a sound for the songwriter and audience alike. Writing tunes like “15 Beans” and “Harmony,” he delves into the ins-and-outs of life that any listener could relate to, yet elevates them to a level of bluesy acoustic bliss. Stokes’ quiet confidence behind the mic and slightly raspy voice (reminiscent of Ryan Bingham) truly connected with the sweet simplicity of his sole guitar to produce a stage presence that was humble yet utterly commanding. While this talented musician plays classic Austin venues like Jovita’s and Saxon Pub, it was great to be at the Driskill and hear his soft sound without the distractions and noise of a typical bar setting.
With all the fantastic music around, who wouldn’t want to spice things up with an after-work cocktail? While I always look to the Driskill’s own mixologists for a creative alcoholic concoction, their weekly special of a strawberry-basil infused drink went above and beyond the typical libation. The mixture of Tito’s Vodka, fresh strawberry puree and injection of basil syrup was an unexpected one-two punch to the mouth and completely refreshing for the brutally hot Summer weather Austin is enduring. The happy-hour crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as I was, ordering up a plethora of cocktails, laughing in conversation and tapping their toes with the beat of the music. They even had a chance to talk to the mixologist and ask questions, as well as tweet during the shows as a part of the Driskill social media movement, all experiences unique to the hotel and Live at the Driskill.
While the Driskill Hotel has always stood out on 6th street as a historical monument among the storefronts, this landmark also proves distinct when it comes to happy hour and live entertainment. Although other places may have after-work specials, Live at the Driskill always knocks it out of the park with true musical performances, drinks that would make Wolfgang Puck proud, and a gorgeous setting in which to enjoy friends and lots of fun. I know I will continue to make this my Thursday night getaway spot… how about you?