Kyle and I attended the Writer’s League of Texas Agents Conference in Austin this summer. While there, we made a point to learn why and how Austin became the first city to celebrate its unique character by branding itself “Weird.”
The city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” The father of that motto – it’s far more than a slogan, actually; it’s a call to arms – is Red Wassenich, an Austin Community College librarian. Some years back, Red became alarmed when he felt Austinites were moving away from their funky roots. Instead of embracing commercialism, Austinites should support local businesses and everything indie, he insisted.
At the time, Dell Computer, founded in a dorm room at the University of Texas, was experiencing explosive world-wide growth. Other tech giants were locating in what is described as Austin’s Silicon Hills. Whole Foods, another firm founded in Austin, was also expanding. Now Whole Foods is in Amazon’s shopping cart. Even more telling, “Keep Austin Weird” T-shirts, were being made in Haiti, Nicaragua, and China. With all that going on, what’s a committed weirdo do? Leave?
No way. Stay and make art, then? Many did and still do.
Make music? Many more did just that. In Austin, there’s always a twang in the air.
Austin bills itself as the Live Music Capitol of the World – although I’d argue that New Orleans has them beat on that score. But there is plenty of reason for Austinites to blow their own horn.
Austin is home to South by Southwest, one of the country’s largest music festivals. Austin City Limits has been on PBS for forty-two seasons, featuring all manner of music, alt-country, alt-rock, alt-blues and folk to name a few of the genres performed here.
Click here to view a video on Austin music.
Funky bars are everywhere.
In downtown Austin, 6th Street is the epicenter for up and coming musicians and bands. 6th Street is closed to vehicular traffic on Friday and Saturday, allowing music lovers to roam freely from one venue to the next as the beat goes on.
Some of the popular 6th street bars are: Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar, The Dizzy Rooster, Thirsty Nickel, Maggie Mae’s.
“Keep Austin Weird” says to me: Even in the age of Conglomerate Creep, there is still room for individual expression and a critical need for every one of us to do just that: Express ourselves and be as weird as we can be every chance we get.