April 28, 2009 - ASH Bash, Fusebox Festival, and Art Night Austin
     What a whirlwind weekend it has been.  As usual, we tried to cram too many events into too little time.  But we managed to hit several keep functions this past weekend.
    Thursday night, we started at the grand opening of the new Royal Blue Grocery in the 360 Condos downtown.  The new space expands the capabilities of the original grocery (located on 3rd Street at Lavaca) with not only more shelf space, but also an in-house kitchen.  We sampled house-made canapes and wines from the impressive selection.  The prices are of course higher than retail grocery stores, but the convenience and quality are obvious.
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     We dashed over to the Austin State Hospital's annual art fundraiser ASH Bash, high atop 816 Congress Avenue, arriving about 45 minutes into the event.  Strangely, all the food was already gone, but the crowd was having a great time mingling and checking out the artwork.  The combination of patient artwork offered alongside professional artists' pieces was inspirational, as many of the patients' pieces were far superior.  And it was a treat to see the donated works by legendary cult-musician and artist Daniel Johnston.
     One smart idea the ASH Bash folks offered was a "Buy It Now" option for the silent auction bidding - I'm sure that helped bring in much more donated revenue for the evening.  We peered out the picture windows from the 18th floor of 816 Congress Avenue, looking over all the new construction and Lady Bird Lake, and marveled at how downtown has changed during the past few years.  And discovered that there are a lot of rooftop gardens in the city!
    Leaving early, we rushed over to Wooldridge Park, to catch Austin composer Graham Reynolds' kick-off concert for the Fusebox Festival.  Billed as "a piece for 50 drums," the innovative concerto included percussion of every flavor, performed by a mix of professional and amateur musicians.  Xylophone and steel drums carried the melodies, while everything from trap sets to marching drums to rainsticks added layer after layer of sound and rhythm.  It was one of the best new pieces I've heard in years, made all the more wonderful by the
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history of Wooldridge Park and its band stand.
    Saturday, we took in Art City Austin, the annual art downtown festival that is fast becoming one of the best in the state.  The added bonus of the Fusebox Festival events taking place simultaneously made the event even more interesting, especially the inventive "pink unplugged" interactive art piece that took over the public square of City Hall and drew a steady crowd of participants all day.
    We returned that night for the Art After Dark food and wine event.  It seemed that less people attended this year, but those who braved the steady wind had a wonderful time.  We chatted with friends Brady Dyer from the Blanton Art Museum and Shilpa Bakre from the Austin Museum of Art, and sampled as much food and wine as we dared.   We were especially impressed by the folks from Streeat, who plan to be opening in the Central Austin area soon - their food was inventive and fresh, so we can’t wait for them to find a home.