Willie Nelson and Austin in the New Delhi News


photo:  Janis Tillerson

by:  Ashwin Rajagopalan

Austin, Texas, is enjoying its new status as home of all things cool, from Willie Nelson to vegan spreads to bat sightings

It might have well been a scene from the Batman-Dark Knight trilogy. It’s close to sunset and a cloud of bats — probably a million, have just filled the skies. No, I’m not in a movie set but visibly frustrated at a vantage point in Austin, Texas, distraught that my camera cannot capture the visual spectacle that has just unfolded before my eyes. “Christopher Nolan should see this,” whispers one of the camera-wielding tourists.

Texas’s once low-profile capital (isn’t that what most American state capitals were envisioned to be) is enjoying its new status as one of America’s coolest cities. And it clearly didn’t happen by accident.

The bat flight is not a round-the-year phenomenon; thankfully that’s not the case with Austin’s ever-growing list of ‘must dos’. Other American cities may have taken years to build their carefully cultivated, larger-than-life images, but not Austin. Its emergence on all America’s ‘hip lists’ — from entertainment to cuisine, is clearly a 21st-century phenomenon fuelled largely by lifestyle TV shows and blogs. Austin didn’t even need the power of Hollywood. Austin-ites don’t care much about Hollywood celebrities either; at least that’s what they’d like you to believe.

Tune capital

Of all the monikers this city has embraced, nothing rings truer than ‘Live Music Capital of the World’. I needed just one evening in the Red River district to somewhat come to terms with the city’s bursting live music scene. The sheer range at the 250-odd live music venues is mind-boggling. Willie Nelson will be proud (don’t ever ask an Austin-ite who Willie Nelson is!), as quite a few venues are country-music hubs while jazz and rock are high on the list too. Saxon Pub has been around longer than Austin has been cool — 22,000-plus musical performances since the ’90s. It is one of those venues where Hollywood celebrities can blend in without being mobbed. Emo’s, just down the street, was one of the catalysts for Austin’s booming punk rock scene in the ’90s; not surprisingly they are mighty proud of their ‘rough around the edges’ image.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dixie Chicks, Shawn Colvin… Austin’s list of Grammy winners keeps growing. However, Willie Nelson’s bond with the Austin music scene is particularly special. In the ’70s he was part of the pilot episode of Austin City Limits (ACL), now the longest-running music programme in television history (Time recognised it as one of the 10 most influential music programmes of all time). ACL’s appeal didn’t just stop with television but inspired one of the city’s biggest live music events — The Austin City Limits Festival, held in the first half of October, one of the best times of the year to be in Austin.

Read entire article here.


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