Fun fact: I learned what a Chautauqua is when I was 22 after reading the first few pages of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Another fun fact: I have never finished reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Perhaps, had my attention been able to surmount my own ignorance about both Zen Buddhism and motorcycles, I’d have made it to the end, enlightened by the musings of a navel-gazing dad from the ’70s on a cross-country motorcycle trip with his son. But it all sounded so boring, which is why my path is neither eightfold nor two-wheeled.

Anyway, the Chautauquas that the author described were these old-timey, big-tent lectures/entertainment combos that traveled across the country around the turn of the 20th century, bringing educational speakers and musicians to rural communities, sort of like a traveling TED Talk paired with the Max Weinberg Seven — noted teetotaler and silver enthusiast William Jennings Bryan was a popular speaker, and gospel, opera, and other kinds of music were typical features. Chautauquas were hugely popular until about the 1920s, when radios had become fixtures in most farmhouses and movie theaters had reached even small towns.

If that kind of event sounds interesting to you, you’re in luck. On Wednesday, Shipping & Receiving (201 S. Calhoun St., 817-887-9313) is presenting its own Chautauqua, nixing the anti-gold propaganda speeches and temperance sermons and getting straight to the music. The Chautauqua Song Circle features local singer-songwriters Kenny Uptain, Jake Robison, and Jacob Wayne Floyd playing old-timey instruments like acoustic guitars and banjos, sangin’ songs, and spreading the joys of imbibing large amounts of alcohol. Motorcycle parking is readily available. –– Steve Steward



Bizarre Ride

Did you know The Pharcyde was supposed to play downtown a couple Sundays ago? Neither did I, until I got the invite. Still, I got in my car, drove downtown, and pulled up at the venue, TriBeCa (907 Houston St., 817-334-0720), normally a swanky, DJ-friendly nightclub. On the sidewalk was a large crowd of people who all looked as stunned as I was that a legendary hip-hop group was about to perform in downtown Fort Worth.

I’d never been to TriBeCa (nor the Manhattan neighborhood for which it’s named), but I am always sort of embarrassed for bar owners who try to trick the paying public into thinking their bar is glamorous by naming it after a place that is ostensibly hip. It would be like if I had a really lazy, unathletic dog who didn’t want to do anything fun and thought I could change his disposition by naming him Spuds MacKenzie. No matter what you call him, he’s probably never going to learn how to play drums or surf. And, likewise, no matter what TriBeCa is called, it will still look kind of dark and humdrum.

Dark and humdrum is OK, but dark and humdrum with crappy service is not. Since the two-story club was starting to fill up, the lone bartender working the downstairs bar was doing the best she could, but I knew it would be forever before I got a drink. I went upstairs, where half a dozen people were sitting at the bar, including this bald dude who at one point smoked a hookah pipe through his nose. I thought that was kind of funny, but I didn’t like the fact that the bartender completely ignored me, puttering around and bantering with the customers, all of whom already had drinks. Nearly 10 minutes went by before he acknowledged me.

“Jack and water, please,” I said. He simply turned and disappeared into a doorway behind the bar. After about five minutes, the bald guy took the bartender’s place behind the counter. “Whadda ya need?” he asked. I repeated my order. “You got it,” he said, and then he headed in the same direction as his coworker. I tried to stop him, to tell him that he was clearly headed into a cross-dimensional portal from which there was no return, but he was gone. After about another five dry and bartender-less minutes, I decided to wait for a drink downstairs.

Though the bartender was still swamped, she got to me in due time, but even after 30 minutes there was still no show happening. So I left for Embargo, the nearby downtown club to which, according to scuttlebutt, the concert was allegedly being relocated. An hour passed. Nothing. I went back to TriBeCa only to find people leaving, saying the show was being moved to yet another venue, Lola’s Saloon. I gave up. I went home, where the service is always fast and friendly and where I could listen to Bizarre Ride by myself. –– S.S.

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