After having lived here in Austin for 25 years, last night, we decided it was finally time to pay our respects to an Austin landmark so, we went to the Broken Spoke. When someone finds out you like to go honky tonkin', the first question they always ask is, “Do you go to the Spoke?” Well, now we can say, “We did, but we don't any more.” It's just one of those things that once is enough.
Now, I am not one to run down an Austin institution, so I am certainly not going to start that now. Anyway, I think the Spoke is going to do just fine without me, so it is obvious not everyone is going to agree with my observations. Let me say, up front, that the Broken Spoke looks every bit the part of the classic Texas honky tonk. The gravel parking lot, formica tables, creaky – slanting floors, and seven foot – smoke stained ceilings all scream, “Honky Tonk!” To top it off, you won't find a better chicken fried steak anywhere.
So, you ask, “What's the problem?” I'm glad you asked. The Broken Spoke bills itself as a serious place to dance. The web site boasts of all the great dancers that come out. A sign on the front doors brags that, “Through these doors come the greatest dancers in Texas.” Based upon those statements, I was expecting some very good dancing. There may have been, in fact, a couple of pretty good dancers there but, we will never know because no one can make their way around the small concrete floor for all the tourists and eight year olds jamming up, what should be, the fast lane. I would venture to say 90% of the dancers had never had a lesson in CW dancing and were clueless about dance floor etiquette. Honestly, I think most were there to dance a couple of hours so they could buy the T-shirt that says, “I danced at the Broken Spoke.” Many were oblivious to the progressive nature of CW dancing and you will see people doing swing in all areas of the floor, people anchored in place in the fast lane, people teaching their eight year old daughter to dance, etc. And, while I am thinking about it, what in hell's name are young kids doing in a honky tonk?! The management must be idiots for letting them in and, what does is say about the DUMB ASS parents for bringing them?!
I think that is enough said about why I am not going back to the Broken Spoke for anything more than eating a chicken fried steak and why, their web site is no longer listed in my bookmarks. Believe me, for dancing, there are plenty of other places around Austin to find a nice, smooth oak floor, where the dancers know how it works, and no one under 21 will ever be allowed to stick their heads in the door. The slogan at the Dallas Nightclub on Burnet Road is “Still a two step above the rest” and, after 26 years, is still a hard place to beat.
I probably should not even mention the band at the Spoke last night. It was the James Hand Band and it was not their fault that the dancing sucks at the Spoke. They are actually a pretty good band but, if you ask if they were worth the $10 cover, I would have to say, definitely not. Not bad, but equal to a thousand other bands that play for a percentage of the bar plus tips. If you are going to see them and have to pay a cover, don't bother. Two small criticisms I would make was that until they got warmed up they had to hunt around for the beat some. This pretty much disappeared after half an hour or so. Secondly, their set list needs work. I listened for an hour and a half before I had had enough and they never played a single Waltz. I, personally, hate to Waltz but, I know a lot of people like it. They played a run of Polkas that just made me wonder what they were thinking. During the first, maybe three couples got up to dance. Maybe they thought everybody just forgot to get up, so they played another Polka in which maybe four couples danced. By the third Polka in a row I believe these guys were saying, “Screw you, we are sticking to our set list whether you like it or not.”
Anyway, that was our Friday night this week. We still had a good time in spite of the lousy dancing and there was one thing that made the entire evening worth while. We ran into an old friend, Kaye Delancy, that we had lost track of about 10 years ago. It was the highlight of the evening!