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Despite heat, music fans find ways to chill out at outdoor shows

Peter Mongillo

Despite triple-digit temperatures, the beat goes on in Austin.

On Wednesday evening , about 8,000 people braved sweltering heat in Zilker Park for radio station KGSR's free Blues on the Green event, featuring Austin singer-songwriter Suzanna Choffel and alt-country favorites the Old 97's.

A few had umbrellas or tents, and some sought refuge in the shade. But most, including Ivy Morrow, 24, embraced the heat, lying out on blankets as they waited for the music to start.

"It's Texas, it's hot, but it's free music, and you can't complain about that," Morrow said, holding an ice cube from her cooler. This was her third time at Blues on the Green this year.

Carlos Fernandez took his defiance of the heat even further, holding a bocce game with friends as the music played, complete with small orange cones serving as a court.

"The heat doesn't bother us too much," Fernandez said. "We go swimming over at Barton Springs and then come over around 5:30." He added that he's been coming to Blues on the Green for 20 years.

Gary Weaver, marketing director for KGSR, said that attendance for Wednesday's show was about average for this year's series and that there weren't any incidents with people becoming overheated.

"Obviously, heat is always kind of an issue," Weaver said. "We try to prepare by having more ice and more water, and tell people to consider their animals."

Elsewhere in town, bands and venues have found creative ways to deal with the heat. At Threadgill's on Sunday, fans of the Gourds and Cindy Cashdollar got free snow cones (courtesy of the Gourds).

Even without frosty treats, crowds have been consistent for shows at the downtown restaurant's outdoor beer garden.

"Once the sun goes down, people start showing up," said manager Pauline Serhus. Other venues, including Stubb's and the Mohawk, have said that people have continued to come out to nighttime shows.

The Mohawk has had fun with the heat as well, holding summer beach parties with kiddie pools for people watching bands play on the outdoor stage. Owner James Moody said that though concert attendance had been strong, bar business has slowed a bit as the summer has worn on.

"The summer has been slow, with people saying, 'I'd rather have a beer at my house than go brave the heat and the parking and the walking and everything it takes to get to a bar,'" Moody said.

He added that keeping a club cool in the extreme heat poses a challenge. "You spend more on electricity, you tax your machinery more than you normally would, you have to start earlier in the day to cool it to get ready for the night. It's a domino effect, what the heat can do, especially to the older buildings," he said.