Friday, April 2, 2010

TVD's Record Store Day 2010 Label Showcase | Ardent Records, Music, and Studios | Todd Agnew

Breaking through the Christian music scene in 2003 with his debut album Grace Like Rain and back-to-back #1 hits, “Grace Like Rain” and “This Fragile Breath”, Todd Agnew soon became one of Ardent Records' most popular and best selling artists. Seven years later, Todd has sold over 1 million copies of the track “Grace Like Rain” and 700,000 total albums combined, received six Dove Award Nominations, and performs over 150 dates a year.

A Memphis, TN resident throughout his career with Ardent, Todd recently married and moved to his native homeland of Texas in the “live music capital” of Austin and quickly became enamored with its exquisite options for his favorite pastimes. Next time you venture down to the Austin area, consider Todd's highly recommended hot spots.

1. Go to the movies.
I like going to the movies in Austin more than anywhere else. The screen isn't bigger or the sound better. It's the vibe and the food. If you come to town and want to check out a movie, you have to go to Alamo Drafthouse. We visit three of their locations: the Village (nearest our house), South Lamar (our first visit), and the Ritz (downtown on sixth street). First, the vibe is amazing. It's really creative. For big releases, they often build their own pre-show. For opening night of Iron Man, they played Sabbath's Iron Man video, some old Iron Man cartoons, some old RDJ footage, and a homemade series of clips with two comic book guys. And the food is awesome. I normally get "Once Upon a Time In Mexico," which is an amazing steak salad. Plus the fried pickles, of course. But everything I've had there has been awesome. Sometimes they'll have a new menu item or two to go along with a big movie. When we went to see Sherlock Holmes, I had their Shepherd's Pie. I wish they had that all the time. Incredible. Plus they have special events, like a free midnight ninja movie, or a showing of Lost, or a night where they play all 80's love song videos and everyone sings along. Anyway, great place to go.

2. Go out to eat.
There are so many great local places here. If you like pizza, we have Eastside Pies or Home Slice. If you like Thai, we have Madam Mam's. Chinese? China Café. Sandwiches? Thundercloud. Hamburgers? Phil's Ice House. And understand, that in each of these categories, I just picked one place. There are many. But let's focus on four things. First, barbeque. Now I can admit I don't really eat ribs here. I lived in Memphis for 7 years and don't eat them anywhere else. Although I might have to try Dreamland eventually. But as far as brisket and sausage go, we have awesome places. Stubb's, which has great music as well. County Line. And my favorite, Salt Lick. Second, Airstreams. Now that may not sound like food, but in Austin, that's exactly what it means. There are little airstream trailers all over the place that are little places to eat from. Maybe Tacos, like Torchy's. Or desserts, like Hey Cupcake. Lots of places with cool stuff that might not make it somewhere else just because of the expense of a building, but they make it here. Third, Ice Cream. If you come to Austin, you have to visit Amy's Ice Cream because it's amazing. You won't ever want to eat anywhere else. They have great flavors, with new ones checking in all the time. And they have combos where they mix stuff in, but the combos are on a chalkboard because they change all the time. My favorite is Mexican Vanilla with coconut, oatmeal cookies, a little cinnamon, and pecan praline sauce. It will fill your sugar quotient for the month but it's awesome. And lastly, Mexican Food. There are so many places it's not really fair. Everyone knows about Chuy's, and it's not even close to my favorite, although still better than most places outside of Austin. Sazon is probably one of my faves. It's down on South Lamar as well. Authentic and amazing, plus great salsa.

3. Go to church.
I know it's probably not what you were expecting, but it is a favorite. My church is called the Austin Stone Community Church. We meet at Austin High School every Sunday. It's a great place. Lots of college kids, lots of real people. The music is great, which says a lot considering my standards. We mainly have two guys leading worship, Andy Melvin and Aaron Ivey. No matter who is leading, it's top notch every week. We have three main guys who preach, all incredible. It doesn't matter if Matt, Halim, or Jeff are preaching, they are going to teach something great, true, applicable, and understandable. We have missional communities where you can get to know others and be a part of what God is doing here. It's a church that really wants to connect to Austin, not get away from it. Recently they have had a Music for the City event where one of our bands played with Fastball, one of Austin's top bands. A couple of our bands played down on Sixth Street for a Haiti benefit as well. It's a great place and we love it.

4. Go hear music.

This is obviously a big one for me. Whether it's the big festivals or the small clubs, there is great music around Austin all the time. In the spring we have SXSW, known as South by Southwest to the uninitiated. I believe there are 1500 bands here this year. So much new, and often, great music. They play in pretty much every venue in town. In the early fall is the Austin City Limits festival. This is a more classic, one weekend, multi-stage festival. I was on tour this year and missed it, but the years previous I saw amazing shows there: the Raconteurs, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin, Old 97's, and so much more. And of course, we have more live venues than just about anywhere, so you can see a good show just about any night you have free time. I love Antone's, the old blues club downtown. We went to see my fave, Doyle Bramhall II, out there recently and he was amazing. Before him, we got to hear a local guy I didn't know, but he was great too. Just bought tickets to a show at Emo's here in a few weeks. A birthday present to myself. Needless to say, tons of great music to hear.

5. Go for the arts or the parks.
We have so many cool things come through town, whether because of the city itself or the University of Texas being here. David Sedaris and Anthony Bourdain are both due in town next month. Phantom starts next week, with Stomp coming in May. Plus, we get many plays and dance troupes. My family saw The Nutcracker ballet over Christmas with the distinctly Austin flavor of having a local weatherman play the part of Mother Ginger. Also, Austin has a lot of museums. No, it's not Chicago or anything. But I was in one building for an event and noticed an original Gutenberg Bible. Pretty amazing. We love going downtown to the Children's Museum as well. Educational, fun, and a way better afternoon than Chuck E. Cheese. If you like to be outside, there's a lot to do as well. There's a ton of bike trails. It's not Albuquerque, but it is the home of Lance Armstrong. You can always head downtown and check out his bike shop, Mellow Johnny's. I've heard they have showers so you can ride in in the morning, hop in the shower, then head over to work. Our family's favorite is probably Zilker Park. Beautiful and fun. Great playground. Great open field full of soccer players, frisbee throwers, and kite fliers, with plenty of room for all. Plus a huge bike/jogging trail. This is where they hold ACL fest and a Christmas light show. And Blues on the Green in the summer. And the spring Kite festival. And a lot more.

6. Go shopping.
I know that doesn't really sound like me, but it felt wrong to leave it out. I love Austin, because small business works here. There's not just a mall with the same stores that are everywhere else. If you've seen anything about Austin, it's probably one of those t-shirts that say, "Keep Austin Weird". Well, that's actually a slogan to support local businesses. You can walk down South Congress Ave. and see store after store of unique things. And there's a lot of it here in our neighborhood as well. Anyway, maybe that will help if you ever get stuck in Austin for a day, or a week. Don't stay too long though, because you won't want to go home. It's that great. Maybe I'll see you here sometime.


Todd Agnew - Give Me Jesus (Mp3)

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