A 4 day water-soaked weather forecast forced our hand. We had been idly camping in an East Texan location until the inevitable showers arrived. Trying to pack a soaking wet tent isn’t much fun in the rain, let alone doing the same sodden routine daily for nearly a week. Nope. Never going to happen.
Google Maps suggested Austin was a good 5hr drive away (and more importantly a damn ten degrees warmer) & that’s precisely what we decided on doing. Fuelled by coffee, smokes & reading our fare share of highly offensive Trucker Stop toilet graffiti – we eventually arrived at the home of SXSW. Ten minutes later, we were all sitting in a bar watching the banjo skills of Joe Sundell @ The Hole In The Wall.
We meet Gio, a local barman & musician immediately on our first night. WFMU & Garage Punk Podcasts greet us at The Drag where he works. We exchange details & drunkenly agree to meet him at his home/studio/recording space later in the week. When we arrive at his location, we realize why it’s called ‘Metropolis’. A sprawling gated community of artists, musicians & low income creative-thinkers pretty much inhabit this very welcoming & impressive hive. Music is allowed to be played/rehearsed from the hours of 11am-9pm INSIDE each home – yes, you heard me right. EVERYBODY is aware of this unique selling point as 4 piece bands reverberate through the estate. Drums, bass, guitar effect pedals, DJs spinning records. Yes, before you ask, there is a long waiting-list too. It’s at this veritable musical oasis that we meet and record with Gio’s band Wax Animals:
You mustn’t forget how important SXSW is to Austin. Reports last year suggest that the annual week long showcase nets the City a impressive $214 million EACH year. Throw into the mix all the musicians & artists, having played here, invariably want to live here permanently. It’s a vibrant hub of everything left-wing, relaxed & acceptable in a (very large) sea of Texas, where, that just simply isn’t the case.
‘Keep Austin Weird’ is the well worn motto you keep seeing here. An overused slogan on tee shirts, car bumper stickers & graffiti of a City that happily embraces it’s uniqueness. Before we leave ‘Metropolis’, our new friend Gio tells us, “Where I used to live, they had their own saying – ‘Keep Houston Normal’ – and that pretty much sums up the rest of Texas”