Mount Ivy, a "space rock" band, in rehearsal.
Recording equipment captures the auditory magic of Mount Ivy.
There's a lot to say about Amarillo, which seems crazy when you consider that so much has already been said—or sung, rather. Terry Stafford wrote “Amarillo by Morning” on his drive back home from a rodeo (although, most people are more familiar with George Strait's version); Nat King Cole sang about the city in “Route 66,” because it geographically made sense; Tony Christie asked “Is This the Way to Amarillo?” because, well, the city's name rhymed with willow and pillow.
To understand both Amarillo's past and present, you need to understand that the city's pioneering Western spirit still lingers here. Some say that that forge-your-own-path attitude is the reason that quirkiness is tolerated, even encouraged, in Amarillo.
You'll still hear those classic tunes in saloons today, but you'll also hear Mount Ivy. Mount Ivy is a self-described “space rock” band that was started by Broderick Adams after a band he was in with Topher Petsch, in Austin, failed to launch. They both moved back to Amarillo with no feelings of defeat. Mount Ivy was quickly established with the help of Juan Duran and Sidney Busbee; their debut album, “Wabi Sabi,” drops in December. We interviewed Broderick Adams and Juan Duran separately about what they think “the way to Amarillo” means today.
BA: It's so conservative on the surface level, but when you get here, there are some really talented, diverse people. I'm always amazed by who I meet here. There are some special people in Amarillo who are into the community, and people who are artistically talented. Amarillo has a lining of artsy-ness to it—is that a word?—and you would never know that until you came here.
JD: I wish that people knew that Amarillo is full of culture. There are a lot of creators in this city. Amarillo's not just a stop off I-40, that's for sure. If you were to come into town and ask someone to show you around, you'd have a good time. It's a town of good people.
It really has changed since I was younger. I like to say that not everybody in Amarillo wears a cowboy hat anymore. There are a lot of ideas here, a lot of things going on, and a lot of people who are helping Amarillo to progress and expand.
Yellow City Street Food puts their twist on traditional food truck grub.
BA: Yellow City Street Food. It's this weird, tiny building. If I had to guess, it's maybe 20‘x20'. Yellow City Street Food is run by a local couple who makes food-truck inspired food, like tacos and Cuban sandwiches, with their own spin on it. Then we'll surf the thrift stores—there are a lot of thrift stores downtown—and drive The Loop [Texas State Highway Loop 335]. The Loop is really pretty if you drive it when the sun's going down. You can see all of Amarillo. It's a spiritual experience; it's ethereal.
BA: The Downtown Women's Center is a great one; they don't only have women's stuff.
BA: If I have the time to sit down, definitely The 806; that's my fave. There's this coffee drink called the Pothead, it's called that because they use hemp milk in it. It's really sweet, it's got a shot of espresso in it, and it's specific to The 806. The Starf_cker is The 806's twist on a Starbucks caramel macchiato. It's excellent.
JD: Everybody likes coffee. I like The 806, it's a coffee shop here in town with live music and art. They're big supporters of local art. It's a nice place to go to—a relaxing place. I'm partial to The 806 because I live close to it. And Jason, the owner, is one of my favorite people. Jason's got an interesting sense of humor, and he's just a really good person—he's always supporting nonprofits. And I'll be murdered if I don't mention Palace Coffee.
There are regular bagels, too; they don't discriminate.
Golden Light Cantina's burgers have "the magic".
Golden Light Cantina is a favorite venue for Mount Ivy's members.
BA: Hud's or Bagel Place. Hud's has beautiful breakfast burritos. If you go into Bagel Place, you'll see a bunch of people with tattoos making bagels. Bagel Place has a bunch of signature items, such as sandwiches and pizza bagels. There are regular bagels, too; they don't discriminate.
JD: On the weekend, The 806 is my favorite place to go get breakfast—or brunch, depending on how lazy I am. It has really good coffee and a vegan menu. I'm considering making the transition [to vegan], but I definitely love steaks—the struggle is real.
BA: We just got this really cool place called IDK Sports Bar & Grill. It's got an Austin-level selection of beer; a wide selection—it's the jam. I even like The Golden Light for food. It's just a staple and they've been on Route 66 forever. They make really classic burgers. There's something about the burgers, The Golden Light has the magic.
JD: There are certain places that are staples; then there are the places that people in Amarillo are going to go to. We have a place here called Sharky's Burrito Co. and it's a build-your-own-burrito place. Prior to Chipotle, there was Sharky's. Pretty much everybody knows somebody who has worked there at one point in their lives.
The Golden Light Cantina has a cool kitchen that you can see into. The kitchen is right across the bar, kind of like a galley. Get a burger there.
BA: We basically play at four venues here—two are all ages and we play at two bars. A lot of the music people want to hear around here is Americana. We're kind of strange for the area. The Golden Light is our favorite place to play. It's 21 and up, so you'll get middle-aged guys who are surprisingly pretty receptive to the music and how strange we are. We play The 806 and the all-ages crowd eats it up.
JD: There's a really good music culture here—great bands are either from around here or are cultivating here. To hear them, there are several places: The Golden Light Cantina showcases a diverse palate of bands; that's my favorite place to play. Leftwoods just had a Grammy Award-winning guitar player, Larry Mitchell, play there (that's a fun bar to go to, too). For country, we have a place called Hoot's Pub—there's Americana-type music at Hoot's, too.
For underground music performances, The 806 has a do-it-yourself kind of vibe. Musicians load in, set up on the floor, find their way around the PA system, and just plug in and play. The 806 has this thing called Southwest So What? around SXSW [South by Southwest]. Bands that are either on their way to SXSW or on their way back from SXSW stop to play there.
Amarillo's awesome continues after the sun goes down.
The whole city is something to see.
The City of Yellow.
BA: I honestly like this place called Broken Spoke. And it really shouldn’t be my favorite place because it’s filled with baby boomers and bikers. I’ve got long hair and I look kind of different from the crowd. I get some looks but I love drinking there, for some reason.
JD: The Golden Light Cantina has my favorite bartenders in town—there are two guys who are a lively bunch, they’re just a lot of fun. I like that they don’t stick their noses up in the air. Some of my friends order Rumchata and Cokes—at other places, bartenders will say things like “oh, that’s a terrible drink, it’s sugar water.” They don’t give you a hard time at Golden Light—they’re the best.
Go to Butler’s Martini Bar if you’re feeling fancy. It’s down on Polk Street. There aren’t actually butlers there, but I wish there were. Crush Wine Bar & Deli is a nice wine place, too.
For beer, I have to mention IDK Sports Bar & Grill. If they haven’t already reached 200 taps, they’re close to it. I like places where the drink menu is bigger than the food menu. The Big Texan Steak Ranch has its own microbrewery, and they make a couple beers there. They’re great! I’ve tried their seasonal Oktoberfest and another beer that’s pretty comparable to a Dos Equis.
BA: The whole city is something to see. Drive through the city and take it for what it is.
JD: There's a really big art culture here. On 6th Street, Michael Raburn has a full-fledged arts studio there—Raburn Studio, Inc. It's just amazing.
Although “Wabi Sabi” doesn’t have any songs about Amarillo on the track list, it’s not out of the question for a sophomore Mount Ivy album. “We’ll probably end up writing one,” Adams said. Another addition to an Amarillo-themed playlist? It could be the most authentic ode to Amarillo yet.