Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The best little city

I had a revelation tonight, of sorts.

I'm having sushi with my pal Rene Geneva at Maiko. I am, as I always do when I hang out with Rene, mostly listening - but, also, stealing glances at her amazing, huge set of dreadlocks that took her 7 years to grow (which I just found out tonight, after a random motorist leaned out his car window and asked her). You know how some people have the type of hair that tells you so much about their personality before they even open their mouth? (Vogue's Anna Wintour and her precise little bob comes to mind, as does Winona Ryder in her pixie cut days.) Rene is one of those people. Adventurous, as well as patient - two qualities that dreadlocks rather demand. I love them.

Anyway, in between bites of edamame and maki, we're talking about why Austin is such a supportive community for artists, unlike the cutthroat, network-or-die world of NYC or LA. Local art has been on my mind a lot lately, since I'm interviewing folks for Rare's upcoming art issue (which will be an i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e read / eye-candy fest, so go pick it up in April). We came to the conclusion that unlike NYC or LA, there aren't any huge media outlets here, really, so artists don't have to compete for airtime. Grab a producer's attention here in Austin, and you could be featured on KVUE! Land a producer's attention in NYC, and you could get on Good Morning America. Or, in the case of LA, a movie.

Which is to say that Austin is in a unique position for cultural trends. I heard it yesterday from a graphic designer that Austin is about 5 years behind big-city aesthetic shifts. At first I thought, "eww, really?? We're that behind? Ugh!!" And then, I realized: a) I didn't really know what she was talking about - what is a "city aesthetic?" How does one define the aesthetic of an entire metroplex? and b) maybe being behind isn't such a bad thing. Maybe it keeps our artists honest. Meaning, they aren't trying to be trendy. If an artist "makes it" here, it is because they had an original, cool idea, not simply the best version of an idea that had already hatched on the east or west coasts.

So, do your thing local media. I do realize I dissed one of you in my last post, and to be fair I still think we can rack our brains for musical headliners beyond George Strait, yes? But overall, we're lucky to be a small city that relies on word-of-mouth, and not the news, to spread the names of rad artists, musicians, etc. If you're an out-of-towner, you could get a KUT podcast I guess, but to get plugged in you just have to live here.

And apparently, many people want to.

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