This proudly different Texas capital is home to thriving live music and culinary scenes, a rambunctious university, and a healthy share of fitness fanatics. In their efforts to “Keep Austin Weird,” locals embrace it all.
Author Mark Healy Photography Blake Gordon
WEIRD. THAT’S HOW AUSTIN SEES ITSELF. It’s part of the local identity, a way for this proud city to distinguish itself from the Lone Star State’s other high-profile, large-personality towns. You see it on bumper stickers and in boutique storefronts, on University of Texas backpacks and affixed to the insides of cabs: “Keep Austin Weird.” It’s an effective battle cry and an admirable goal. And so far—if the Viking-costumed klezmer band you see dancing in the street is any indication—Austin seems to be doing a pretty good job.
Austin is Texas’ capital and in many ways a direct expression of the state’s rough-and-tumble Ranger spirit. But there are other forces at work in shaping the city’s character. There’s UT, a local tech industry and, perhaps most notably, it’s the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” with more venues per capita than any city in the U.S. It is also home to filmmakers and actors (Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Sandra Bullock and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge, to name a few), along with hordes of chefs who’ve come to join a barbecue and Tex- Mex revolution. Austinites also embrace the skeletal aesthetic spilling over from Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration, reveling in their city’s haunted hotels, bizarre “moonlight” towers and appreciation for the occult. With all these overlapping quirks, weirdness abounds. May it stay that way.