The Austin Music Scene is much like an eclectic group of carnies and street performers. Each type of band has its own colorful clique, and here I have only covered what I perceive to be a handful. While these aren’t genres (I’m not a music snob, and if it’s not indie rock I don’t really know what genre it fits into), this is my interpretation of the menagerie of different types of bands in Austin.
Each quirky group tends to stick to certain venues in Austin, but that’s not to say you won’t find the unexpected in some places. When waiting for your favorite band to play at a typical bar, it’s often common to have your ears raked by the discord of some emerging new band, from an emerging new genre.
Everyone here is in a band. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can either stop discerning about what tastes you like, or just stay in on the weekends. Austin might be the Live Music Capital of the World, but that might be because everyone and their Uncle Byron owns a guitar pick and a crappy amp. There is no reason to hate all the music that pulses through Austin. I just think there’s such a hilarious mixing pot of them that you might want to consider looking up the bands before you go see them play. Otherwise it might be like catching karaoke.
While walking down South Congress street in Austin, one will notice endless food truck options selling cupcakes, tacos and pies as hot commodities. However, a gem in the rough tucked away on South Congress and Gibson Street is Curb Service Adelante, a truck which sells Texas-inspired products and vintage finds for the home.
Curb Service Adelante was founded by Tricia Mason Roberts, who saw an opportunity to open a boutique in the growing city. It started with authentic dresses, pottery and silvered imported from Mexico. Roberts scours the country from coast to costa, hand picking each item featured in the boutique. Curb Service Adelante carries hundreds of fashions, often vintage-inspired but always with a distinctly modern twist.
Almost all the items sold are under $50. The unique curated pieces pique interest and keep Austin fashionable.
Oh, Austin. I spent this past weekend hanging out in the US Capital of Weird with my pals, Untapped Austin contributors Pat and Jackie. It was the best! My last visit was too quick to do much more than scream excitedly at my friends and sample some barbecue before leaving again, but this venture was a little less hurried. This was more appropriate, as Austin doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word “hurry.” I spent an enlightening afternoon biking down South Congress, visiting all the curio shops and marveling at the kitschy designs of all the storefronts and themed restaurants. The amount of attention paid to design and the effort devoted to branding each establishment was cool to see, as well as the cohesion of an entire chunk of the city looking so deliberately “crafted.” I like visual continuity.
I spied this human through the window of a coffee shop (the Hideout, I think) as we were taking a caffeine break on the way to check out the Capitol building. There were definitely a lot of people wearing bright colors (a Texas thing?), but this poofy-haired dude went for a more muted palette. Not that the earthy color choices could do much to downplay the ostentatiousness of the outfit—he looked like a member of a belly-dancing marching band. Then again, it’s Austin… maybe he was. I’m not sure if you can tell from the scan, but I used metallic gold ink on the braiding for his jacket and the jangly coin belt.
Also notable: this bumper sticker. Talk to your children about mustaches. You could save a life.
Austin Food Service Tip number two: Prepare to hear a handful of songs repeated endlessly at the restaurant you frequent.
When repeatedly visiting a restaurant, either to work or eat there, often the radio is under absolute control, or no control at all. These can both be horrible things. A manager very grounded in their tastes might blast Iron Maiden or Ronnie James Dio for hours on end, or you might just find yourself riding the endless teacup ride of local or college radio. Maybe some people can table this well and get on with their meals, but I think a great food experience is associated with alluring atmosphere, so shouldn’t your music be new and exotic to complement your food?
I get it, there are cliquey atmospheres everywhere. Dive bars play The Sword and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, coffee shops play Thievery Corporation and smooth jazz, and local hipster restaurants blast a lot of R.E.M., The Talking Heads, and 90s alternative rock. It might be more noticeable to a back of house peon performing the same task repeatedly in a trance, but when I’m eating I don’t like Eddie Vedder’s voice funneling into my ears and reverberating off the tines of my fork. As one of the back of house zombies you find yourself singing along once you’ve heard a playlist or song 100 times, but that doesn’t mean you’re not ashamed of it.
Something I’ve learned in my short span working in Austin food service is that quirky headwear is important – appearance matters! A large chunk of restaurants throughout the city don’t consider this bohemian style of dress to be the image they want to portray, but more and more are coming around to it. If you want to survive and earn more tips and respect in the service industry, I’ll give you some ground knowledge that applies to new restaurants, food trailers, and bars springing up. Some advice found here will seem practical, some not.
First tip: Wear quirky headwear that shouldn’t be worn indoors. Possibly to obscure the greasy shellac of your mullet, possibly to strut your true colors as an Austinite early on to avoid getting torn apart by other staff members, possibly to dissent from normality and flaunt your free spirit; don an absurd piece of quirky headwear. It doesn’t generally get below 40 here and there’s central heating, so I know you don’t need a winter hat. Tips will roll in by the bushel, but remember: if you receive compliments just cock your head, groan, and say “you wouldn’t understand.”
If you are male and moving to Austin, remember to pack a mustache comb, some wax, and a lot of confidence. Bike knowledge, level of taco addiction, and density of sleeve tattoos all factor into overall coolness, but none more so than facial hair pride. If you can’t seem to cultivate luscious locks and easily sculpt them into dueling cyclones, go weird. Have conviction about that nearly invisible blonde grit stash because here, nothing determines social acceptability more than the sparkle in your eye that affirms, “I was born to have facial hair and share it with the world.”
Once you’ve embraced your itchy push broom, it is only a matter of time before the stash gets a name and possibly a spot on that sleeve you couldn’t quite afford to finish. The years spent grooming and growing only add to your popularity as you surpass a Mr. Pringles level of thickness and ascend Austin’s invisible ladder. Due to the hoards arriving daily, the longer someone’s been in Austin, the cooler people think they are. Living on top feels magical, but unfortunately this young transient city won’t admire you forever. So go out somewhere classy for a tenth Beardaversary, prepared to bid that decade long love affair farewell. Either that or watch it slowly evolve into a hairy security blanket that won’t fetch any free PBRs that aren’t already empty.