Music “Deep in the Heart of Texas”
(Featured picture is a live country band playing at an outdoor "speakeasy" on South Congress Ave in Austin TX) My family went on a vacation this summer to a part of the country we have never been to before: the Southwest. We spent the first half in San Antonio. San Antonio is the jewel of the Southwest. If you want to go to one city and get the full Tex experience, go to SA. San Antonio is doused in wonderful adobe architecture and prickly pear cacti. Mariachi bands ring out from Mexican restaurants along the winding San Antonio River.
San Antonio features the RiverWalk, an urban redevelopment off the San Antonio River. The River Walk meanders through downtown, right underneath the main streets. Walkways follow the river, and are home to shops and restaurants. All the restaurants blast the music that fits their atmosphere: Country, Mexican, or Folk.
San Antonio is as Latin as you can get without a passport while maintaining its ‘Murican roots. Everybody wears cowboy boots and hats, regardless of whether they are a Southerner or a Mexican. After a few days in hot (going to be a common theme here) San Antonio, we drove off to Austin, listening to the country twang on the radio across the deserts and prairies.
When you think of college towns, there are a few places that immediately pop into your mind. Maybe Boston, Ithaca, or Princeton are your first choices. But there is one city that has a sturdy history of good times and has recently become a metropolitan hub: Austin, TX.
Austin is home to University of Texas, Austin. Ever heard of the longhorns? Yep, that’s them. Texans bristle with pride around their titular university. Every fall, nearly 50,000 young people move in to the city of roughly 800,000. Think of the effect that Bucknellians have on Lewisburg once the semester gets underway. Now times that by 15 and consider that it is one of the most diverse, well known, and respected research universities in the world. UT Austin is a microcosm of academics from around the world deep in the heart of Texas.
Austin is also best known for its long running music festival and TV show, Austin City Limits. Broadcasted live since 1976, ACL is a live concert of not only country, rock, and blues but nearly all genres. Past performers including Kendrick Lamar, Arctic Monkeys, and even Lorde in 2014. . It’s a key feature of the town’s life right along with another famous festival, South by Southwest (SXSW). SXSW has become a very mainstream, corporate festival in recent years but started as an interdisciplinary meeting of arts, science, and culture. SXSW features film screenings, tech unveilings, and lots of live music. The event highlights Austin’s burgeoning tech industry (called the Silicon Prairie), which brings even more young people to the city.
There are two main cultural areas for music in Austin: South Congress Ave (SoCo) and 6th street. Unlike its Lewisburg homophone, 6th street is the main thoroughfare through downtown Austin. It features bars and clubs, and the usual folk who frequent them. SoCo is a country-fied Williamsburg. Hipsters on bikes outnumber cowboy hats. This is where I saw two outdoor concerts. Bless the musicians’ souls, it was about 102F. Odd shops line the streets intermingled with little holes in the wall for food. The live bands I saw showcased the Rockabilly Bluegrass movement coming from Austin. Think country with a bit more tattoos.
Austin was weird, but that was what made it cool. I felt like an out of place old man. If you are ever in the Lone Star State, make sure you go to San Antonio and Austin (about a 1hr drive apart). Houston and Dallas are just concrete. If you’re a space nerd like me, you have to check out the Space Center in Houston. But the real “heart of Texas” is located right in the middle, at Austin City Limits.