Written and Photographed by Ivy E
Austin is known for its live music scene, laid-back lifestyles, and being a little weird. Some locals call Austin “the musician’s retirement home” due to the overwhelming abundance of songwriters and touring musicians over the hustle and bustle of big city living, now living full-time in the Austin city limits.
This former small town is filled with amazing little dive bars and mom-and-pop restaurants where you can bump into the most interesting and talented people without even trying. At the Sahara Lounge on the East side, we did just that.
Sahara Lounge is in a reasonably quiet part of town in a residential neighborhood. Around the corner, you can see the red glow of the Sahara tucked away in the calm darkness. As you get closer and hear the music, you feel the energy. It’s radiating, like the vibes the little Gentleman’s club from Beetlejuice gives off.
At the entrance, there is no bouncer or intimidating door person, just an incredibly inviting bartender that takes the cover for the show along with your drink order.
The bar was surprisingly well-lit by colored Christmas lights, giving off a basement show vibe, which you don’t often get in Texas.
A band called Josh Langford Music that frequently plays Sahara Lonunge on Wednesdays was on, and consists of the frontman singer/songwriter, Josh Langford, and a revolving door of well-accomplished musicians that come and go as they please, playing just for the hell of it.
The room wasn’t jam-packed but comfortably full. Some people were playing pool, while the older folks were seated at table tops and the dance floor, alive with friends and fans, just drinking beers and singing along. Among those in the crowd, 13th Victim and Shitty Advice band members were just there to have a good time.
There are even four well-lit unisex single-stall bathrooms, which makes waiting in an incredibly long line for the lady’s room a thing of the past.
This particular gig consisted of Josh Langford on lead vocals and guitar, Mio Alvarado from The Meanhearts on leading guitar, Ry Meyer from Complete Control on bass, and Nick Kasten from The Krum Bums on drums. The show was full of energy with catchy riffs that left everyone wanting more.
I got a chance to talk with Alvarado and Langford after the show. It was a beautiful warm Texas evening out, so we decided to sit at one of the many tables they had in the oversized back smoking patio.
Josh Langford and Mio Alvarado, gleaming with the afterglow of playing a great set. Langford, all jazzed to talk and slightly buzzed from a few drinks. Alvarado (being sober for the past few years) calmly sips a nonalcoholic beer as he leans back and takes in his surroundings.
Alvarado explains that even being sober, he still enjoys hanging out at the bar after shows and talking with all the interesting folk that comes out. Langford laughed and said Alvarado doesn’t party the way he parties anymore, but he can still “out hang” anyone.
Knowing that the set is a fun side-project, I asked them what other bands they play in. Josh said he comes from a band called Starving Wolves and a band that plays about once a year called The Knocked Out Stiffs.
Mio said his main band is The Meanhearts out of Austin, Datura based out of Philadelphia (it’s more of a jazz kind of a deal), and a few bands based out of LA with Angelo Moore of Fishbone, occasionally. He considers himself a “hired gun” and likes to keep busy.
Langford’s eyes widen, and then he puts his hand on his hip and blurts out, “I’m going to take this opportunity to mention that I got a new band coming out called Dead Division.
He said that we should look out for his killer new band, and Josh Langford Music will be releasing an EP next year featuring some pretty amazing artists, including members of The Adicts and Dayglo Abortions. Then possibly a US tour to follow.
I asked their thoughts on living in Austin as a musician. Being an Austin native, Langford said he likes how the town is always evolving and changing. Before Austin was hitting the charts of “Best of” this and “Best of” that on every social media pole and becoming flooded with trendy, micro-banged 20-year-olds, They just had the University of Texas.
UT provided a fresh batch of new people every year that only hung around for about four years. So they managed to stay in a small town for a good while. Langford proudly proclaimed that the music scene in Austin has always been amazing, but one thing that is sad about the serge of humans being funneled into the city is the loss of downtown for the locals. Josh sadly stated that the big investors bought up all the cool venues and ripped them to make condos.
“We used to have the Red River district with all the clubs. You could bounce back and forth. See this band, see that band, any night, but then they put up all the condos that drove the clubs out. That kinda bummed me out.”
They both agreed that Austin is becoming more of a big city now, but it’s still a laid-back, mellow town. There is not an area in the city where either of them would be scared to walk around alone at night.
Mio Alvarado, hailing from Los Angeles, said “I Do love Austin, “but every place you go that’s cool or that’s worth living in is going to be expensive.”
Langford agreed, “Yeah, that is every city in the world right now, and people from Austin are like “Awe, it’s getting too big” Yeah, but I don’t wanna live in a stagnant town. I like seeing our city evolve and grow.”
Langford explained that living in a city where he could play a show every night if he wanted, getting trashed, and then going home to sleep in his bed at night was a dream come true. “Well, as long as my wife comes out with me to drive my ass home,” he chuckled. “I honestly don’t think I would be able to do half of the things that I want to do if it wasn’t for her supporting me and being there for me,” Langford continues.
Alvarado then added that living in a club-heavy town is awesome when it comes to the family being involved. He often brings his 19-year-old “Little Mio” out to work the merch booth when he plays. “That’s something special not all families get to experience.”
They both went on to say how much they liked that Austin is an overwhelmingly liberal city in such a die-hard red state, and that’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of. When they tell people, they are from Texas, people recoil a little but have a whole change of attitude accompanied by a smile when they mention Austin.
Langford threw one elbow over the back of his chair and said with a half grin, “we are a little blueberry in a bowl of tomato soup. said that.”
After I got the full lowdown on the Austin scene, I began to get curious about their opinion on other places they have toured.
So I asked them where their favorite place to play was, and Mio said, “I love Los Angeles, and I’ve lived there forever. I’ve played all the clubs there, and I miss all the clubs, but a lot of the clubs aren’t there anymore, which kinda breaks my heart. My favorite club to play there was a place called Club Lingerie. It was really neat, [and] it was off sunset. It was a classy place. I also love playing New Orleans, but it’s a bitch to park there and load up. Especially in the french quarter, but I love that city.”
Langford stuck to his guns at first and said, “I would have to say Austin, Texas. It’s home. My favorite place to play in Austin is Kick Butt Coffee at Airport. I love LA and the surrounding areas, and I love Chicago; I also love Philly and Portland.”
When it comes to punk rock, he says, “there are millions of kids that are into it, but it’s still a pretty tight-knit group of people that are all connected in one way or another. Every city that you go to is like, “oh hey, do you know Stinky and his girlfriend Farty and their dog Bob? It’s like, Oh, yeah! I know them. They’re great. Then we’re all friends.”
Of course, Austin is my favorite. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve been lucky to travel and see a lot of the world, but Austin is home and always will be home, and it’s just rad.”
The night was winding down, and the crowd was thinning out, so I decided to ask one more question before I said goodbye. I asked, what can we expect to see from you next? Mio Alvarado said that we could see him next with his main band, “The Meanhearts” They are playing on Black Friday to premiere their new music video, “Criminal Joyride.”
Josh Langford said he doesn’t have anything major planned because Josh Langford Music is taking a little break so he can do a mini tour with Starving Wolves. That is cool with him because he isn’t looking to be the next big thing. He won’t say no to opportunity if it comes knocking, but he just wants to hang out with his friends and play music. Highly recommend catching them perform if you can.