ACL or Lucy’s Ladybug Jam

Lucy's Ladybug Jam

I’ve let the truth out that I prefer a babysitter when ACL comes around. But, to tell you the real truth, I am bringing the kiddos for a few hours on Saturday morning. Before we meet the babysitter at the Austin High drop-off/pick-up, that is. Really, I do love my kids but who am I to keep them from a sleepover at Grandma and Papa’s on a Saturday night?

But, if you aren’t into the ACL scene, here is a family-friendly music event on Saturday afternoon that also raises money for a good cause, Lucy’s Ladybug Jam at Irie Bean Coffee Bar on South Lamar. I’ll bet the parking will be way easier than ACL. And even though it is a fundraiser, unless you go nuts, it will be cheaper too. If you are hearing about the music and feeling the need to get a groove on with the kiddos, try it out.

I’m doing an ACL compilation interview piece from a dozen or so ACL bands, so stay tuned for that. For example, what is the best lullaby song that isn’t a traditional lullaby? LOTS of good answers to that one, coming soon…

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My Secret to Austin City Limits (ACL) With Kids – A Babysitter

 Austin City Limits Music Festival

I’m the blogger who encourages family experiences with live music all year ’round. Maybe I’ve hit my head or developed a split personality, because this year I’d rather leave the kids at home with a babysitter.

Here is what I’m saying…

ACL is high maintenance. It is hard to get there and back, you have to commit for a long day, it’s hard to pack just the right things and the food can get expensive.

I could go on.

The weather can be difficult, the crowds are intense, people smoke pot and/or drink too much and as we were leaving Austin KIDDIE Limits last year, on stage just outside the entrance, the announcer yelled as loud and clear as humanly possible, “DO YOU WANT TO HEAR SOME MOTHER F#$%#$% MUSIC!!!!!!!?!?!?!?!”

What am I, 1000 years old? It’s rock-n-roll, baby! It isn’t supposed to be pretty!

But, here’s the other thing I’m saying…

My kids don’t know the difference between live music on Guerro’s patio and live music at Austin City Limits. They like the activities at ACL’s Austin Kiddie Limits about the same as they like our neighborhood carnival. They don’t need AUSTIN CITY LIMITS. There are venues, bands, days and times that are more fun for them. (Have you checked out

And in a related opinion…

ACL is AMAZING for a parent WITHOUT her kids. I see live music with my kids, but in general, we aren’t seeing my most favorite bands. My most favorite bands play late at night, in a venue with standing room only and a concrete floor.  I’m almost 50-years-old now, you know. I can’t do that without needing to see a doctor the next day.

But, each day of ACL has a large number of great bands playing in the middle of the day where you can sit in a chair (bring your own) or a blanket. I’m not usually all about quantity, but it helps. In one weekend, I can hear several of my favorite bands and hear a dozen or so new bands that I’ll listen to all year ’round. Until the next time ACL comes around. Then I’ll go again. With and/or without my kids.

ACL is October 4-6 and 11-13 at Zilker Park. Weekend passes are still available for the second weekend. See the ACL web site for more information.

If you are going with your kids this year, check out a post I wrote last year with helpful tips for parents or tips from ACL here. Also check out this new site – ACL with Kids.

SXSW for Kids 2013 Sucked and Rocked, So I Guess I Broke Even

Ah, SXSW for Kids 2013. I recommended eleven fun SXSW things for parents and kids to do together in a post last week. I was really looking forward to this!

Growing Up Austin

Here is Sparkles and I enjoying a breakfast taco at KGSR’s morning broadcasts on Wednesday. Hey, wait a minute! That looks like a bagel and the patio at Whole Foods on 6th street. Well, that is where we went instead, when every parking space within a mile of the W. hotel was taken.

Growing Up Austin

Here is Blue Eyes, Sparkles and Buttercup at Roky Erickson’s Ice Cream Social at Threadgill’s. Hey, wait a minute! That looks a lot like the patio at El Mercado on North Burnet. Well, that is where we went instead, when every parking space within a mile of Threadgill’s was taken. When we made the call to give up on this one, Sparkles started crying about missing the ice cream. I told her we could get some ice cream somewhere else. Then she cried some more, about missing the puppet show. What puppet show? Ohhhh, she heard us say that the Meat Puppets were playing at Threadgill’s. No, we explained, they are a different kind of puppet.

 Ben Caplan

Did we manage to make it anywhere? Sparkles, Buttercup, a friend and I made it to Austin City Hall on Thursday afternoon. The City Hall Plaza setup had lots of room to dance and shaded places to sit. There was even room for the girls to practice cartwheels. After some tunes, we went into City Hall and saw The People’s Gallery, with an exhibit of local artists. Beatrice Baldwin’s were my favorites. Her pieces were colorful, with interesting textures, physicality and themes. We went back outside to hear Ben Caplan, who had a lot of energy and a big, compelling voice. But the space wasn’t contained and it was surrounded by traffic on three sides. I had to keep a careful watch, so I couldn’t really listen to the music. And even though we had a drop-off and pick-up ride, the traffic was a lot to handle. Overall, given the ratio of effort and fun, I figure I broke even.

Frightened Rabbit

Sparkles and I made it to KUTX’s broadcasts on Friday. The parking lot was full, but the valet service was still available for $10, then it cost $20 to get in. We heard the last song of Dana Falconberry’s set and then a few songs from Frightened Rabbit. We watched the TV in a side room instead of the live show, because it was too crowded. Then Sparkles didn’t last. It’s a risk when I see live music with my kids, sometimes they get nutty and sometimes we have to leave. I paid $30 all together for 3 songs, at $10 per song. Well, Dana’s song was pretty darn good, so I figure I broke even again.

But, breaking even isn’t something to write home about, or write a blog post about, especially when the post recommends that other people bring their kids to SXSW too. As of Friday night, I told Blue Eyes that everything SXSW my blog had to come down, because SXSW is too big now. Justin Timberlake AND Prince? WTF? What happened to our sweet little festival where unknown bands dreamed of getting their first record deal? I volunteered at SXSW twenty-something years ago when ZZ Top performed. It was the first SXSW performance by an already-signed, already-famous band and people said it then – the spirit of the festival would be crushed if it became just another place for big bands to play.

I don’t know if all that has happened, but this year, it feels like it has gotten so big that it doesn’t make as much sense for people who aren’t conference attendees or who don’t live or work downtown. It’s especially iffy for families with kids, when the crazy logistics are even harder to manage.

On Saturday morning, I managed to say it out loud in front of my family. Should we try one more time? My favorite part of SXSW has always been South Congress, with the people watching, shopping and a free band on every corner. Should we dare to try one more time?

Blue Eyes, Sparkles, Buttercup and I got to South Congress about 11:00 and there was space in the parking garage behind Guero’s and Hopdaddy, free for 2 hours, but $30 if you are late. The parking spot was so pretty, I took a picture of it.

Growing Up Austin

We had 2 hours to have fun and NOT be late. We ate lunch at Hopdaddy, where amazingly enough, the line wasn’t long yet, then caught Tyburn Jig on Guero’s patio.

Tyburn Jig


I love to watch the girls dance. The weather was perfect. The margarita was sweet. I don’t know whose idea this was, but we ended up at Amy’s across the street to get ice cream cones, then headed back to the music.

As we were heading out to meet our parking deadline, Blue Eyes leaned over to me and whispered three sweet words in my ear, “You wanna stay?”

He got the car and brought the kids to Great Grandma’s. I started making the rounds – Guero’s, San Jose Hotel, Snack Bar, Continental Club, Freebird’s. The sets were short, so when one ended, I moved on to another. Sometimes the venues were close enough that I could hear more than one band at the same time, and head to the one that drew me more.  I didn’t need to research the bands or make a schedule, I just listened and wandered about and I heard great things. Here are a few of my favorites…

Halley Anna





Not Sure?

Don’t Know for Sure, and that isn’t the name of the band, it’s that I don’t really know, even though I really liked them. According to the schedule, it is What Made Milwaukee Famous, but these guys don’t look like the Google images for that band, so I don’t really know. Do you know?

Then, after quick nap and dinner at home, the girls and I went to see one more show, in the neighborhood, really low-key, with easy parking. We caught a few songs by Meg Barnhouse and Kiya Heartwood at BookWoman. It was a sweet end to a delicious day.

Meg Barnhouse and Kiya Heartwood
Saturday was everything I’ve ever wanted SXSW to be, busy-Mom-with-kids style. So, which is it, did SXSW with Kids 2013 SUCK or ROCK? Both. Next year, I’ll recommend less with kids and I’ll do less with my own kids. I’ll get there earlier and take the train more. But I won’t give up on it all together either. I’ll be back next year, hoping to do better than breaking even. See y’all then.