DOWNTOWN: I’m betting that, not since New Year’s Eve 1999 have so many revelers gathered in one Austin place. After the staggered Formula One and University of Texas football sporting events wound up on Saturday, sidewalks and sometimes streets filled with merrymakers from the freeway to North Lamar Boulevard, from Cesar Chavez Street to Seventh Street and above. Orange — burnt and bright — popped up all over Fan Fest in the Warehouse District. Modish racing sportswear turned up on East Sixth Street. Austin police secured critical corners. Cabs shuttled visitors who chose not to walk. Ed Kalgbo, president of Yellow Cabs Austin said: "Logistics this weekend worked. We’ll be running cabs till 4 or 5 a.m., then focus on the track on Sunday."
F1 PARTY 1: Austin party planners adjusted to the vagaries of F1’s first outing here. They consolidated, condensed. ACL Live receptions bled into ACL live concerts. One W Austin Hotel fashion show, Full Tilt, merged into its late-night, pop-up club, Blu. "Everything feels better put together," said event planner Matt Swinney of Launch787 waiting for Full Tilt to commence. "Everybody seems to know what they are doing." The runway show presented four groupings, including fresh resort swimwear from Austin designer Linda Asaf. Sitting next to me was a professional breakdancer who works for Red Bull and was seeking Batman stunt work. What are the odds?
F1 PARTY 2:Best bites of the weekend: Howard Mancillas’ finger food at SPG Moments Party on the wet deck at W Austin. This banquet cook, who sometimes represents Trace when outside the hotel premises, offered tiny deviled eggs, crusty empanadas and crisp sausage on a skewer. The occasion? Rewards for 25 or so preferred customers, including some time with elfish Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg. UT McCombs School grads Andrew Vo and Anirban Ghosh were in town for the game — sigh — but seemed to enjoy the spoils of the evening anyway.
F1 PARTY 3: Earlier during the F1 weekend, I had drifted off course and found refuge at Brass House, the jazz and blues club on San Jacinto Street. I lingered there to meet some of the staff. Saturday, I docked at the same spot but for the right event: Fashion designer Ross Bennett’s haberdashery micro-show. "When men walk into their closet, I want them to get excited!" Bennett said. At the buzzy bar, he presented bow ties — some of his handiwork, others from London — combs, pocket squares, cufflinks and shoehorns made from ox and deer sheddings. Bennett designed the signature look for F1’s COTA Girls.
F1 PARTY 4: The Velvet Casino is the brainchild of the felicitously named Bijou Finney and Beaux Jackson of the Velvet Cartel, an event and media company. The layout at the Belmont — already an echo of Hollywood and Las Vegas in the 1960s — would look familiar to those who regularly haunt Austin charity events, since faux gambling is up there with live and silent auctions for playful distractions while benefiting worthy causes. The big hit of the early evening was a convincing later-years Frank Sinatra tribute band, Nick D’Egidio and the Dry Martini Orchestra. As soon as they swung hard into "By the Sea," I knew I was in the right place at the right time.
F1 PARTY 5: A new addition to the F1 revels this year was Monaco-based Amber Lounge. I dropped by the Coppertank Event Center on Trinity Street after 10 p.m. Saturday to find almost nobody had arrived to the silky, decked-out pop-up club. Waitresses held trays of cold drinks as, just outside the door, an official reserved a $5,000 table over the phone. Almost sold out, it’s clearly a late-night-early-morning experience. No guests to interview, so I headed back to the W Austin for Blu, which was spread out over the cool, blue-lit party rooms and terrace upstairs. At one point, a Sting appearance appeared imminent. It was not to be. Early guests at these kinds of parties — or, for that matter, large dance clubs any weekend — are a bit fidgety, waiting for the masses to arrive, which they did in sufficiently boisterous numbers by midnight. After which, this evening, I turned into a pumpkin.