The Lake Bottom Jazz Trio plays Longhorn Cavern between Burnet and Marble Falls, Texas in the Highland Lakes area (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The Lake Bottom Jazz Trio plays Longhorn Cavern, between Burnet and Marble Falls, Texas in the Highland Lakes area (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

This doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, but in my nomadic years growing up in a Navy family and then during my own time in the seagoing Fleet, I noticed as I moved from town to town that long-time residents often didn’t do many of their own “touristy” things.

Ask New Yorkers if they’ve gone to the Statue of Liberty or up to the top of the Empire State Building; you might be surprised how few have done either one.

As a local, I think you understandably get a little lazy. “Oh, it will always be there/will happen again next year, right?” How many times have you gone someplace, told a local about it and they’ve said something like, “Gee, I’ve lived here for 10 years and I’ve never been there….”

The problem is, I’ve now lived in one place for about 6 1/2 years, and (horrors!) I’m starting to do the same thing: failing to feel much of a sense of urgency about really exploring my town and region. It’s not going anywhere, I can do that next month, blah, blah.

That “local lassitude” stuff stops right here, right now, thanks to music in a cave.

There’s a unique concert series inside the Longhorn Cavern State Park in the Highland Lakes area of Central Texas, about an hour away from me. I’ve meant to go to one since moving here but never made the time for it until last month, when I saw a Facebook update about a jazz trio playing underground at the park.

Are you kidding? Longhorn Cavern was not only a former Comanche meeting place, outlaw hideout and CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) project in the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the caves were also a rock-hewn speakeasy during Prohibition, complete with bands and dances. I HAD to go hear a jazz trio play that gig.

My Mom and I went together and had a fabulous time. After meeting up in the Visitor’s Center, we were led down a stone walkway and then several sets of stairs to go down into the Cavern through an opening in the rock and a wrought-iron gate.

Approaching the Longhorn Cavern entrance at night (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Approaching the Longhorn Cavern entrance at night – the stonework was built by the CCC Civilian Conservation Corps (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Just outside the gate you can look up through rock formations and see the sky; I felt like an overgrown kid getting ready to hide in an underground fort.

Going underground - walking down into Longhorn Cavern (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Going underground – and watch your step! Walking down into Longhorn Cavern for a music concert (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

You walk a short distance on a (mostly) smooth, lighted path back into the caves….past curving limestone, the occasional bat hanging out and sparkling little bits of rock….until the “ceiling” above opens up and you’re in the “room” for the concert. Temperatures remain at a steady 68 degrees or so, folding chairs are arrayed in front of a small stage tucked into stone, and the acoustics are divine!

There are no bathrooms in the cave; midway through the concert was an intermission so that people could take care of business back up at the Visitor Center above ground, but the Lake Bottom Jazz Trio kept playing. Here’s a better photo of the concert area, during the intermission:

Lake Bottom Jazz Trio plays on during concert intermission at Longhorn Cavern State Park (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Lake Bottom Jazz Trio plays on during concert intermission at Longhorn Cavern State Park (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I shot some video with my phone but I’m not happy with the sound quality; here’s a better one from Texas Parks & Wildlife on YouTube featuring pianist Joe Cordi’s CD release party inside the cave (direct link to the video in case you can’t see the embed box below.)

Longhorn Cavern concert audience (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

After the show we spoke with one of the park employees who works to book the concerts; in addition to the annual Caroling in the Cave every December, he has plans to add more concerts, with all kinds of music, throughout the year.

His big dream is to get Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel to play Longhorn Cavern. I’d pay big money to see that!

As Mom and I left the park a few hours later (right after I sent a photo to our Perceptive Travel Facebook Page using the Visitor Center WiFi) I said to her, “I’ve wanted to do that for years; how wonderful that we came tonight. What else do I need to stop talking about and just go DO?”

Sometimes you have to overcome your own personal “local lassitude” and nail yourself to the wall.

The next day, I bought a ticket for Austin’s Grammy nominee chorus Conspirare‘s famous, always-sells-out Christmas concert.

Because, you know, I’ve never been there….

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