By Michael Corcoran
Only the mediocre are always at their best, someone said, which could be why Austin is so damn proud of itself.
Welcome to Mediocre, Texas, the home of the Texas Longhorns, Harry Knowles, the bats, Bright Light Social Hour, KGSR, the weekly 10K fun run and street closer, “country legend” Ray Benson, the pot luck architecture of E. 11th St. and bands playing at the restaurant when you just want to fucking eat in peace.
But what about the world class music scene? Brooklyn Vegan loves us, but in nearly 50 years as a hotbed, Austin has not produced a single Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee. Timbuk 3 ain’t gonna make it, folks. Rock stars aren’t launched here, they go to Austin to retire, work the steps, and wait for their Margaret Moser profile.
This used to be a town that worshipped guitar players, but forget learning at the feet of blues masters. If you want big ups in the ATX these days you want to get with Bobby Flay, not Buddy Guy. Tyson Cole and Paul Qui are the new Vaughan brothers, and folks on the Eastside are lining up for Aaron Franklin’s smoked brisket the way they once did Aaron “T-Bone” Walker’s smokin’ riffs.
It’s true the food scene has improved immensely from the years when the four culinary options were Tex-Mex, BBQ, Thundercloud, Other. But it’s a little lame to live in a city where there are more groupies lurking around kitchens than backstage. Mouth-watering is the new jaw-dropping.
Austin is touted as a movie town, but unless we want to count UT grad Wes Anderson, we haven’t exactly been churning out the great flicks. “Tree of Life,” what was that? Director Terrence Malick doesn’t like to have his picture taken, but he’ll let us watch him masturbate for three hours.
There are two cities in the U.S. that truly matter: New York and L.A. Everywhere else is bullshit. Austin is cool and fun and artistic and- most importantly, easy– but that doesn’t make it a great city. The things that make a town a city- rapid transit, a great art museum, Chinatown, pro sports- Austin is without. We’ve got L.A.’s traffic, but no one who can greenlight a project bigger than a Chili’s commercial.
It’s so unchallenging here that “living dangerously” means going to the HEB on E. 7th instead of Hancock Center.
The only Austinites who have the right to feel smug are those who made their money in L.A. or New York and came here to raise kids. Everyone else should shut their Mighty Cone-holes. Don’t blow your own horn after you’ve been blowing your nose all morning due to cedar fever.
To paraphrase the blue-eyed singer of “New York, New York,” if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere and if you can’t there’s always Austin. We got chicken shit bingo, too!
This is a burg populated by those unsatisfied by their hometowns- and Seattle didn’t work out either. All that rain. Some came from Houston and Dallas to attend the University of Texas, or from Lubbock to tend to the women, and never left. Or they came during SXSW and realized, dude, this is much cooler than St. Louis. Dreams and reality share an apartment off Stassney Lane.
We’re not here to knock mediocrity, but embrace it. It’s something to strive for, Capital Metro. This college and legislative town was built on being just good enough to advance. Mediocrity means that you know exactly how your day is going to go, so the only messy surprise might be that migas don’t travel. A movie about the Austin mindset was called “Slacker” because “Lazy and Full of Shit” was too hard to market.
The most notable book about this town was called “The Gay Place” (1961). Billy Lee Brammer had no idea how right he’d be in 2012. Meanwhile, the limits of Austin as a city are right there in the name of its famous TV show. Nothing that happens here seems to have an impact elsewhere.
Let’s lose that “Live Music Capital of the World” slogan like an itchy scarf. Most live music is unlistenable- or, worse, unremarkable- and yet we still have all these entitled musicians who want affordable housing and other benefits. Stop feeding the pigeons and, you know what, San Marcos has a pigeon problem. Not against musicians- the talented ones truly enhance the quality of life. But you never hear them complaining.
Obviously, if you’ve read this far, I’m not exactly Joan Didion. You want to know who ‘nated in my cornflakes? My own mediocrity did.
But it’s cool. Pressure’s off. I’m just going to live an Austin life like I should’ve been doing all those years I tried to set the world on fire. I think I’ve got a new slogan we can all say proudly, and without refute: “Austin: Not bad, not bad at all.”
MORE: Mediocre, TX goes to the old ball g-a-m-e
Heard in Mediocre, Texas
“It’s boring as shit, but the kids love it. And it’s free.”
“Top three Richard Linklater films? Just three? Wow, that’s a tough one.”
“Is it true this used to be a black neighborhood?”
“Why move to Brooklyn when Brooklyn’s coming to the Eastside?”
“Good news. We’ve got Andy Langer to emcee!”
“The place is small, without any charm, but at $1500 a month the price is right. And we can walk to Torchy’s.”
“I’ll go with you to Merle Haggard, but only if Dale Watson is opening.”
“We don’t need to know the lineup to pay $200 for three-day passes. It’s gonna be awesome.”
“Lambert’s used to be called Liberty Lunch.”
“This is going to be a totally one-of-a-kind club. Michael Hsu is the architect and Joel Mozersky is the interior designer. Hit up Giant Noise for more deets.”
“That’s weird. I just rented a movie from Vulcan and no one who worked there was eating.”
“Sorry, but I had to listen to screaming babies when I was single. Now it’s my turn to make everyone in the restaurant miserable.”
“Hook ’em, Horns”
121 thoughts on “Welcome to Mediocre, Texas”
“Dreams and reality meet in an apartment off Ben White.”
I love it! Such a great one. This article is full of great one-liners.
You’ve got a gift, my brotha!
Well put, and much agreed, but too little, too late. Austin’s manufactured “hipness” at the hands of unscrupulous opportunists and the monumental egos and emotional baggage dragged from both coasts have fouled the waters of this formerly sleepy town with lots of hidden treasures – both human and inanimate. Like plastic surgery, Austin has been remade in the image of those who came here late, desperately trying to imagine it as it had been. It’s true for those of use who were born and raised in Austin before 1980, you can’t go home again.
No more laments – best to remember the good times and hope people will get tired of hot weather, amplified acoustic music, and Southern “over-friendliness” and move on to the next 24-hour party.
Man, you’re gonna find yourself in a world of shit for this blasphemy, but I really enjoyed reading it.
Didn’t you write this in the Chronicle about 30 years ago?
Did your JFK tattoo whisper this snidedreck in your ear? What’s the problem Corky? No recent KISS concerts for you to whine about? Why don’t you catch a one way ticket back to Honolulu and get high huffing the farts of Don Ho’s ghost? One less pretentious Dragworm wannabe might actually shine this place up!
Hey, you used to write for the Chronicle, right? Oh, hahaha, oh my god, this is great — “Get off my fuckin lawn!” Hahahaha! You’re killing me with this shit! Really? You wrote that? Hahahaha!
You always sucked, Michael. It ain’t Austin, hahahaha!
Oh SHIT! Hahahaha! You fucking nitwit!
rock and rock hall of fame! What?! Hahahaha! Hate white people much? Oh, fucking awe-inspiring! Mediocrity!
Best laugh in weeks! Months. Thanks.
You fucking idiot, I love you.
Fuckin finally someone’s getting pissed when they write and not making excuses for how they feel…we are inundated w/ mediocrity all over this sell-out, youth market obsessed, to-busy-for-activism, attention-span-of-a-nat, faux art-derivative soul less f-in planet, but Austin does a better job at pretending it has more. The newbies moving here to escape their pre-hipster identities are just like the bridge and tunnel crowd of the 80’s NY & they’re all unknowingly driving the last nail into the heart of what it once was. If you’re not at least a little angry about this, you either don’t know what it once was OR you’re too much of a pussy to say what we’re all thinking. Great read & write more when it feels honest to do so. Reposting!
I’ve encouraged all my hipster friends in the east and west coast to take their fixie bikes and move to Austin. So far it’s working, New York, LA, SF, and Seattle are much more pleasant places to live now. Thanks and as that bumper sticker says, “Keep Austin White”!
Well written. ..I guess some folks don’t realize the Drag disappeared years ago.
When I want to feel like I’m in Austin I visit Denton.
It’s North of the river so it still counts for me, right?
And they keep it weird. We keep it over-marketed to a boring target group.
Austin is making San Antonio look way cooler.
I love you when you’re angry. Don’t you ever leave town again.
“There are two cities in the U.S. that truly matter: New York and L.A.”
So get going! If Austin is so mediocre to you, many of us would be happy to see you go! Instead of beating everything down, why don’t you try being uplifting about it. Austin still has a lot to be proud of, a lot to celebrate and a lot of life in it. As the mother and the daughter of musicians, I disagree about the lack of talent. I see amazing talent that would blow any American Idol, X Factor, America’s Got Talent, etc., fans, executives, judges and contestants away. I see this every week at Open Mics and in parks and on street corners. A lot of musicians I know are very happy with the lives they have, playing locally, around friends and family and being in the local scene. They aren’t tainted by the producers and executives and stay true to their style, their hearts. They don’t make millions, but they don’t sell their souls, either.
Seriously, if the “mediocrity” of Austin disappoints you so much, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. In fact, I see Austin being a lot less mediocre with toxic people like you leaving our beautiful city!
Yea, but we have “Fashion Week” and a new slogan “Keeping it Weird” to replace the old,… “Music Capital….” not to mention Austin is the official Retirement Capital of the USA… So no more Pretentious hippies,… We need more Pretentious yuppies.
Not only are you not Joan Didion, your no H.L. Menken either. Your rant is not only less than mediocre–it simply does not add up. Austin is chalk full of trailblazers and innovators, UT academics, authors, poets, Dell, Whole Foods, Start ups, movie makers, renowned policy makers, business entrepreneurs, teachers, hard working everyday people, architects, environmentalists, a forward thinking populace, and yes musicians, and more than 5%! Sorry the milk in your cornflakes is yellow; it has obviously tainted your perception, and made a malcontent of you, less than nostalgic, and pessimisticly disingenuous as you lash out in reaction to what clearly appears to be an inside in need some spiritual work.
Spot on, brother. Spot on. Anyone who disagrees is simply insecure.
…@Mitchell…Austin being “full of movie makers”?!? You ARE kidding, right? Hacks, sure. Grips who spend their non-movie time waiting tables, most definitely. 5 people with a camcorder, a shit script, some bad actors who did a workshop and a dream do not constitute “movie makers”.
You’re showing your age, old buddy. You grumpy old man. I did get a kick out of your blog, and at least you are lumping yourself in with all us other losers. But is making it in LA or NY the only possible justification for living life? Get off it, people the world over love and envy Austin, for whatever odd reason. Whether you like or not, you’re part of that. Quit being so hard on yourself and everybody else. There can only be one Lester Bangs.
I can give you all the mass-marketing and what not regarding zoos and lack of a proper sports team, but to really go out of your way and knock on a music scene you clearly seem out of touch with seems a bit like an aged old man. How many nights have you spent at Beerland watching the blossoming punk scene that’s fathered bands like Harlem, OBN IIIs, etc? Are we going to neglect that Matador owner Gerard Cosloy lives here and hand picks bands to come out? I’m sorry that you have to gauge Austin’s productivity on how many Rock n Roll Hall of Fame members we have, but any true music fan knows that’s probably more a blessing than anything. I mean, let’s neglect bands like Jesus Lizard, Spoon, Okkervil River who’ve grown here, right? You’ve got some valid points, but the people who knock on the music scene are the people that feel left out by it. They’re the people that show up at Stubbs only to see the headlining act, the people who buy tickets to ACL, then bitch that all these people like the same music as them. Basically, they’re not the people working hard to make great music, working hard just to play music in Austin. If anyone here sets out to be in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, they’re probably not going to make it far.
don’t be hatin’ on the messenger
Corkie- Fucking brilliant. Cracking up with my cornflakes.
Excellent. Finally someone is saying it. Thank you.
Thank you Michael. I tell everyone who visits Austin that we love to have them visit, but even more, we love it when they go back home. If all the transplant hipster doofuses would leave, we would have the city I know and love. Because of all the transplants, I had to move to the suburbs several years ago. This is due to the rising housing costs–another bonus of having thousands of people who have read that Austin is the “best city in the US” move here.
So, Rock Stars who come here to “work the steps”, we’ll take those. Otherwise, please come and visit, then GO BACK HOME.
you might want to tell your music friends they are being used by developers p.r. campaigns. soon will all be only to afford to live in budha. but hey i got shout outs from the city planners on how cool we are… 🙁 sad face facing the facts
this is true and sad. this city is crushing the creatives. please vote. stop selling austin. the cost of living goes up while your pay check stays the same. do we really need to grow the city? do we need to give tax breaks to wealthy corporations? Apple? F1? are you kidding me.
Moral of the story: don’t piss where you eat!
That could NEVER happen.
Trailblazers and innovators? WTF?
OK, I’m calling you out. Name them, or they don’t exist.
Oh, and listing Whole Foods — lolz. It’s a fucking grocery store.
Mike, you’re so f’n right. Dude, I moved to New Orleans. The irony: somehow I feel like I’m letting Austin down by bitching out like that… But at the same time A-town consistently both bores me AND pisses me off. I think I’m coming back to Austin pretty soon, I own a house there. When I get there, let ride around town together and bitch about Austin together while we both get laid, or something. We should get a convertible and ride around with a Red Ryder bb gun and a bottle of Woodford Reserve….
Ha, be assured there are plenty of folks who help you pack a U-Haul to LA or New York. Hey, I might even throw in an 8-track purchased for 50 cents at St. Vincent with some Junior Brown tracks. Comfy sound bud on the road.
we can cycle endless songs and articles about how everything was better before you moved here. kudos to the new bands making a new scene and the tons of great bands still at it. The Gourds are playing at our elementary school and I spy Ian maclagan at the grocery store frequently.
Sure beats Dallas…
Like the Venetian in Vegas or that Twinky ,… You sense something is fake .. But one does not know what one does not know. Austin has been CoOpted. However, to be fair, Austin has always been, and remains the chosen home to Eclectic Artist, Entrepenuers, and Musicians. Not being inducted into “Hall of Fames” or being on GQs best dressed city list are not bad things, are they? Austin has added amazing organic farmers, chefs and restaurants to the array of diverse creativity we live around. These “Hipsters” are the Bohemian youth of this generation and amongst them are geniuses. If anyone doubts this array of genius that thrives in Austin,…. Avant SalonSpa is suporting 14 projects in 2012 thru our foundation http://www.fashion-EASTa.com in parterniship with Andee Skulls, H.O.P.E. These Events celebrate and educate on Austin’s continuing Eclectic and diverse creativity, give back to great causes and were created as a positive response to my similar feelings. I love ATX.
About mediocrity, well, as all things anything move from being a community to being an industry I guess any professional can do what they need to do because of an advanced, tried and true methodology. I only fear hegemony and sperious authority, often there is no code and many ways to do things.
Thanks for putting into words what I couldn’t about all that is wrong with the town that ultimately broke my heart. I remember when I first laid eyes on Santa Rita No. 1 in 1967. I thought the Austin of my youth was heaven. In 2011, I reluctantly agreed with my husband that it was time to give it up and go. I cried for 4 months in a row. But I think my grief was over something that was gone long before I was, that I knew was gone but couldn’t admit even to myself. Your words, and those of some of the other posters, help me feel better about my decision. I am sharing this with all my Austin ex-pat friends.
My dear man,
It is obvious that your dissatisfaction at your own mediocrity has produced this pathetic attempt to bring everyone else down to your level. It does you no credit. As my father used to say to me, “If you are bored, your brain is possibly damaged, but lucky for you, I can always find some work for you to do to fill your time.” I helped do a lot of tedious and unpleasant things as I learned how to fill my time creatively.
To unbore yourself and perhaps feel less mediocre, I suggest that you volunteer at any of the many charitable organizations in town and help other people instead of griping and moaning about how the city we live in isn’t good enough for you. If you don’t think it’s a place of invention and innovation anymore, that’s a call for you to get to work creatively and it should inspire you somewhere in your heart, soul, or mind. Barring that, perhaps, someone should just give you a swift kick in the pants to open your eyes. Why sit off to the side and bitch when you could be leading your own parade?
As far as music goes, here are some bands from Austin that you might want to check out before you go spouting off more drivel about a scene you don’t seem to be keeping close tabs on anymore: Spoon, Ghostland Observatory, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, Explosions in the Sky, Okkervil River, The Black Angels, The Midgetmen, The Soldier Thread, Quiet Company, The Black and White Years, and White Denim. Pretty much every band starts off caterwauling wherever they can get a gig. Through maturation and natural selection, some actually do get good at their craft and go on to succeed. Austin is a great place for bands to get started, hone their craft, and get instructive feedback.
Helpful tip: bring earplugs with you everywhere you go. I’ve had pleasant meals with unpleasant background noise MANY times (whether from a zealous off-key musician or an unhappy baby), my meal-time companions and I just switch to texts or passing notes or just being quiet together in a world of sound.
As far as good food goes, why are you trying to denigrate this blossoming scene? A true chef is as much an artist as a musician, writer, or painter. Their work is ephemeral, and not collectible, and if done properly, it’s creativity and emotion that you can see, taste, and feel. An incredible meal shared with a friend, lover, or family member is truly an experience to remember.
Austin also has a fashion scene. It’s amazing how it has grown and flourished over the last ten years. Some of the designers are actually quietly being worn by celebrities all over the world.
And now, I’ve got to get back to working on my start-up, being a single parent to an incredible child – who generally behaves in public, and staying unbored.
25 years ago. “Austin Music Sucks.” Which proves, Bill Anderson, that age has nothing to do with it.
Michael Dell killed Austin.
Robert Plant lives here… that should count towards trailblazer and or innovator points.
Once again, you missed another great opportunity to mention me.
Thank you, Hollyann!
Marketing solution: I-35 isn’t a 40-years-out-of-date, stagnant purgatory full of Westlake SUVs with stick figure depictions of families and hordes of NAFTA-semis, it’s “cozy.” At least San Antonio has an actual loop and doesn’t try to pass of white rice with cilantro as an acceptable Tex-Mex staple.
I’ll give it up, listing a veritable Dante’s inferno of preening yuppies owned by a libertarian asshole takes some gumption.
You should move to a city that “truly matters.” The people of Austin were perfectly content to let you crawl back under your rock after you lost your boring Statesman column.
You couldn’t cut it in a “city that truly matters.” You can’t even cut it here.
Just discovered your own mediocrity? Many of us have been quite aware of it since your arrival. It’s rather ironic that you just had your Ray Campi article in the Chronicle, yet you once seemed to believe that Austin music started with the “New Sincerity” in the 80’s. We all know the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one more commercial adventure. It’s no measure of anything. Don’t let the city limits sign hit your ass on the way to LA.
To be honest, I’m not mediocre. I just threw that in there so those who are- or strive to be- wouldn’t feel bad.
For everybody who’s concurring with Corky about how Austin lost its soul/used to be cool: I think you missed the point.
Austin’s got 99 problems, and hipsters and yuppies are only two of them. And not even two of the most important ones.
Interesting blog but dude, you need a vacation. Cynical Corcoran. I’ve seen you at so-called mediocre shows and you’re always wearing VIP credentials, a badge or on the list that some mediocre local musician or the Chronicle gave you so you can hang back stage, be cool and write about it later….Or you got in free without paying cover because the doorman knows you. Come get in line with me, pay the cover charges, buy the CDs, tip the servers…then you can complain about it.
On a positive note…the Vaughan brothers will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Jeffrey’s is mediocre but closing, getting a makeover and reopening in a few months under excellent new management. KGSR..well, sorry but its corporate owner, market forces & listener trends had a lot to do with that. At least KGSR is still hear. Think positive!
Blah blah blah. HAAM saved my life twice.
Beautifully written. I could add pages with my own opinions but I just don’t see the point. Given my decades here, my love of the Longhorns and my hatred of change I could just go on and on. And even though I am the first on my soapbox many many times I always have enough positives to throw in so that any listener knows where my true loyalties lie. If this guy, and the rest of the pissy commenters, really hate it so much then they can GTFO and go write a column about how great their new digs are compared to Austin. And while they are at it maybe divorce their wife because she can’t make perfect pancakes or put down their dog because he sheds too much. Bottom line…nothing is perfect and you have a choice to either spend your life bitching about it or to spend it attempting to embrace the positive. Corcoran has clearly made his choice and I feel sorry for him. Seems like a crappy way to go through life.
People having been punching Austin in the dick ever since I arrived in 92. It’s always dying or dead or never gonna be the same. The people who say that though are really lamenting the death of their own youth. Their is still a lot of really amazing shit going on in this town. You are just too out of touch to know where it’s going on and who’s involved.
Maybe you can answer a questions for me. I’m someone who grew up here in the early 80s and still loves Austin. I’ve seen my fare share of Austin changes & still grieve some of those. However, it seems like there’s a never ending line of Austinites who hate the place. If you hate it so much why don’t you just move? No one is going to stop you or even notice when you leave.
“There is only one borough in New York that matters: Brooklyn. Everywhere else is bullshit.”
“There is only one street in Brooklyn that matters: Greenpoint. Everywhere else is bullshit.”
“There is only one bar on Greenpoint that matters: The Barking iPad Cupcake. Everywhere else is bullshit.”
“There is only one table at the Barking iPad Cupcake that matters. Or, there will be, until I leave.”
As a native Austinite I have to admit that much of this is true, but you’re still ridiculous. Austin is not a thing happening to you, it’s a place. Romance and excellence are around every corner, you just have to look in places where badges are not required (they still exist).
The most absurd sentence on this web page, in a sea of absurd statements, is that this is “beautifully written.”
If this trite brain vomit is “beautifully written” then what the fuck is Cormac McCarthy?
Good rant, but you lost a little credibility to me in trying to paint it as inferior to the mediocre, ‘bigger and better cities’ out there with bad ass sports teams and approximately 20 trillion more tons of concrete, more crime, and better asphyxiation systems. Yeah, sure, Austin is still being flooded by the influx of California and New York yuppies that read a yahoo top ten article on the best cities to live and decided hop in the Cooper and uproot, or hipsters that once heard that Austin is a great place try, who love ACL and SXSW and just need a new place to hang up their converse all stars while they work toward a yoga teaching certification or just want to be able to rock climb and eat a taco. The truth is, no city is perfect, and most cities actually kind of suck when you get down to the true nitty gritty, but how does not having an ‘Austin-Dallas Cowboys’ detract from Austin? Remember, it is a small city, and for that most people like it better. If you prefer NY or LA, then go suffer the smog, terrible traffic, and outrageous cost of living there. Furthermore, we don’t need zoos/animal prisons to make this town better – we need less cumulative arm tattoos, tight jeans, and mocha drinkers that wish there was a 99 cent coffee iphone app. And it wouldn’t hurt if they took away Ikea and Hooters and replaced them with dirt and tall grass. Actually, scratch that. Austin is a terrible place, so stay away!
New York and LA? Yeah, nothing interesting in music/culture/intellectual life ever came out of New Orleans, DC, Atlanta or Chicago, to name a few…Austin might be the velvet rut, but the New York / LA paradigm is worse than mediocre, it’s the well-traveled pilgrim of American cultural illusions.
Let me guess, are Paris and Rome the only cities abroad worth visiting?
“Hatred…it’s the only thing that lasts.”
Pompous article by a pompous writer. That being said, I don’t disagree with everything in the blog. MC’s looking for another 15 minutes of fame and he’s getting it by writing this sort of vitriol.
He’ll go away again soon…well, we can dream, right?
Lived in Austin 30 years. Some changes bad, many good.
It is what it is. whining won’t help.
If that’s how you feel about Austin, then you should move to LA or NYC because people like you are keeping people like me who have lived here forever from living in the area that we’ve been living in for 10 years, nearly hitting my car everyday because you have no f*ing clue where you are, making my commute a total pain in the ass and generally bringing douchebaggery to this city on a whole other level.
Just leave and take your craptastical attitude with you.
Great points ATHNathan.
By your ridiculous r&r hall of fame metric, Detroit would be the greatest city in America.
Was it you Michael? Was it you who built this city? On rock and roll?
Some cities are better, many are worse. I was in Austin during the 80’s when it was cool, but I had to go to class and do boring stuff interspersed with fun exciting things. I was in Seattle during the 90s when it was cool, but I had to work and do boring stuff interspersed with fun exciting things. I was in Austin again during the 00’s when it was cool, but I had to raise little kids and do boring stuff interspersed with fun exciting things… now in the 10’s, I’m living in Austin when it’s cool, and I have a busy life and do boring stuff, but then I go to Barton Springs and wonder why I don’t go more often. Or I go to Zilker Park when it’s not ACL and wonder why I don’t go more often. Or I hear Willie play his hometown and I think he’s our guy. Or I walk around campus on some random night when the tower is orange, and I think it’s pretty impressive. We are the center of the political disfunction that is our state government, and although it makes me rage with anger, it isn’t boring. I have met cool people here, and so what if it’s not cool all the time. It’s home. It’s bar-b-q somewhere that isn’t Franklin. It’s chicken fried steak at Threadgills. It’s migas for breakfast. It’s Shiner on a patio bar in the Spring… I’ll take Austin.
lol, you know Foster the People is from Los Angeles, right? I mean, you’re a music writer, right? So, saying that L.A. has had a bigger nat’l impact than Austin is just… redundant. And silly.
Corky I agree with much of what you say in the macro about Austin. But do give credit to the hundreds of small bands that selflessly drag their gear all over town to play for very little money. It’s not all that glamourous to blow off your weekdays and weekends to play for mostly small, but loyal crowds. There are many great small bands that I feel will make it in the world of music. It’s a tough row to hoe and many need to receive credit where credit is due. A healthy dose of cynicism is always good and more people need to voice out their opinions and stop candy coating this town all the time. Cheers, Stockbauer
It’s because Pinetop died.
He was gone? Huh. Who knew.
Wonder why he came back?
KGSR is not still “hear,” my friend. It is long gone.
He was gone? Huh. Who knew? Wonder why he came back?
Corky, to plagiarize myself, “When I came to Austin in 1989, there was no reason to go south of Oltorf, and now I only go north of Oltorf when I have absolutely no choice.” My wife and I talk about moving but we always come up against a question to which we have no answer – where else is any better?
If you’re looking for an awesome place to flee Austin to, Asheville, NC is the next place that’s going to get irrevocably ruined.
But that’s not the awesome place where I am, which I won’t name.
I do, however, think about coming back to Austin and opening a restaurant called No Live Music, Ever. It would be MOBBED.
Lot’s of valid points in this article as I realize the sad truths about it. Austin is still the best place in Texas despite the hipsters and the other sad influences….
Why do you compare Austin to big cities like NY and LA and bemoan the undeniable fact that we don’t have the stuff they have? AUSTIN IS NOT A BIG CITY. Check the population figures.
Those of us who come from big cities recognize that Austin doesn’t have institutions of the level of those we grew up with–in my case, things like the Smithsonian Institute, Library of Congress, National Zoo to name just a few. We recognize that Austin is SO VERY FAR FROM BEING A WORLD-CLASS CITY but we find other things we love about it.
Austin is a great example of how “small is beautiful.”
SMALL CLUBS Clubs like the Continental, Saxon, Cactus Cafe and even Antone’s are pretty small and offer an intimate listening experience.
TALENT We so much musical talent here, it’s kind of mind-boggling. Off the top of my head, for folks that display amazing levels of talent and true excellence of musicianship, there’s Charlie Prichard, Mark Rubin, Slim Richey, James Hand, Stanley Smith, Lauren Gurgulio . . . that’s just to name a few of the people I know of, and I’m not one of those people who knows everybody in the scene. And Austin offers amazingly intimate settings in which to hear these musicians, like the listening room at Flipnotics. Ever hear Erik Hokannen there on a Tuesday night? AMAZING. And everyone in the room is mere feet from him. You just won’t have an experience like that sitting in a theater at the Kennedy Center.
ACCESS There may not be many big luminaries here, but if you go see a show at almost any Austin venue it’s easy to go meet the musicians afterward and exchange a few words–or better yet, personally thank them for the great tunes.
HIDDEN GEMS Then there is a whole underground music scene that happens at private parties and house concerts. If you’re a musician–even a mediocre one like myself–you’re sure to be welcome and invited to some amazing events (because people are so darn friendly–see below). I have had the pleasure of hearing world-class musicians playing in living rooms, on back porches, and so on, just for the pure fun of it and there is no musical venue better than that. Austin has been the best place I’ve ever lived for that kind of music scene.
FRIENDLY People in Austin are friendly. To a lot of us, that is worth more than all the zoos, museums, galleries and celebrity musicians of NY and LA combined. Some of us have our priorities straight. 🙂
In sum, there’s plenty here to brag about, but only people with certain values are going to be impressed.
Mediocrity is a cultural issue. And a great sin.
I thought the Skatenigs were inducted into The Hall of Fame last year?! What the Hell?
Ok, forget the music.
Even Bill Hicks had to head off to NYC eventually. But, as he found out, there are idiots everywhere…Austin does not hold the patent…although it is pending.
San Francisco just farted in LA’s general direction.
Emil, my wife loves Asheville, but I don’t want to be part of ruining it. Few years ago, Lovejoy’s ran an ad in 3rd Coast Music in the March (SXSW) issue boasting “NO live music, NO jukebox, NO Muzak.”
The blustering response to your scattershot rant suggests you hit one or two sacred cows right on the nose. “Mediocre” is a bit harsh, however, as a blanket description of Austin. I’d say “amateur” is more accurate, in the original sense of the word. People in Austin do whatever they do, whether it’s play music, create art or just live here, because it makes them happy, not because they’re driven by unquenchable creative drives or the promise of big money. Since Daniel Johnson left I don’t believe anyone in Austin makes music because they’re impelled by demons – they just like doing what they do and have found an appreciative audience, whether it’s half a dozen aromatherapists at Flipnotics or a gaggle of 13th generation punkers at Beerland. This isn’t such a bad thing, but what makes the place so endearing can also make it fucking irritating. Much of the time Austin seems to be coasting along at a certain self-satisfied level, and when I’m feeling curmudgeonly I too see it as a stagnant tepid bath of self-congratulation, where more energy is used in saying Austin is great than actually doing anything about it….
Update… we have a Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame INDUCTEE in Austin! Yeah, that’s right, not just a nominee! http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/austin/ian-mclagan-to-join-rock-hall-of-fame
The wording was “Austin has not PRODUCED a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee…” Don’t think he got in for his work with the Bump Band, though they’re terrific. Robert Plant and Stu Cook of CCR don’t count either.
I just want to be a part of this thread. In simpatico, in community. You brung us out Corky.
“Dreams and reality meet in an apartment off Ben White”…that was me in ’81. Well, actually it was a shitty rent house…but what a line. Fucking awesome read. Looks like you’ve already pissed off some of the migas and Shiner crowd.
I like Austin.
Hurr durr, keep drooling you fuck. Do you even have a job anymore? Or just this blog? What a fucking joke.
Keep Austin WHITE, much? All those bands you listed are predominately WHITE. What a beautiful way to make Austin look less mediocre, pretentious, and stale. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears (band fronted by a Black artist) blew up a few years ago. Gary Clark Jr. is blowing up currently. Now that he’s signed the Chronicle and other forms of Austin media are sucking his dick. He sells out shows NOW when he’s doing the same material he did BEFORE he was signed. Austin is not diverse. It isn’t cutting edge. It is mediocre at best. Glorifying predominately White pop rock bands makes Michael’s arguments stronger, which is fine with me because I agree with most of what he says. Your “tabs” aren’t any closer than Michael’s. You seem to follow all the bands getting love in the Chronicle. And they are waaaay off.
Mr. Corcoran, your Pyrrhic victory was short-lived. Now that Terry Sawyer has spoken and you’ve been–in your words– “bitch-slapped,” it might be best to lay low for awhile. At the very least, I wouldn’t respond in snarky tones, because it makes you look that much more vanquished by a better writer. And please note that referring to yourself as a “much more successful writer” is generally ill-advised in a public spat.
When you come out swinging a rusty axe, you can’t start complaining when someone carves you up with surgical precision as Mr. Sawyer did.
Very interesting read. My friend Nate used to complain about Austin jellies. I didn’t really understand what he meant then, but I believe you may have explained it to me.
I too appreciate and celebrate Austin mediocracy (lived there from 1996-2008); it’s certainly better than Dallas mediocracy. Cheers.
Uh, well. Yeah much of the piss justified and properly aimed. Up to the part about how much the town sucks, and where NYC & L.A. are the only two that matter…
The reason Austin is so fucked up is because of all the… assclowns that cashed out in LA and moved “some place nicer.” The same deal went down in NM: The half of the state that isn’t ruined by L.A. shitheads are ruined by TX shitheads who wish they were in L.A., but probably came from Dallas.
Not sure how old you are, but, for Austin, 1983 was the beginning of the end. You are simply living the punch line. Don’t dig it? Find another joke.
Best of luck, etc.
Visit? Visit what?
Austin is perhaps bearable for living but it’s a total waste of money if you come to visit. Go to Denver instead … at least you will see the Rockies.
Michael Corcoran: The Jonathan Franzen of Austin.
“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle
As somebody who grew up in one of the cities that truly matters — NYC — I really enjoyed reading this piece for a few reasons. I moved here from California about 7 years ago, but I had been here for a month in the 1990s for a summer program. When I moved back as an adult, one of the first things someone told me about Austin was that it was like a comfortable couch — easy to sit down on but really hard to get up off of…a variation on the velvet rut idea, I guess. What amazed me was that even though I moved back to Texas for the warmth and real talk and swagger that drew me to Texas as a cub reporter once upon a time, what I found in Austin instead was a smug, San Francisco-of-the-South air that I recognized from my Bay Area life. It was the air I was moving away from, or trying to. I have always liked your writing, Michael, but I especially appreciate the authenticity and swagger here. I believe that great cities are made up of people who tell the truth about the cities they love, so if there are great things about living here, the fact that you’re still around is one of them.
Now if only Austin had more diversity – like a *real* city like NYC – and more beautiful people of color like yourself, then Austin wouldn’t be so…mediocre.
As Michael notes, there’s nothing wrong with being mediocre. It’s very humorous how much this one little post ruffled so many feathers. Seems like some people took it as a personal attack that little ol’ Austin is not the slice of Eden that it’s marketed to be. Of course, people of color living in Austin have always known that to be true.
One of the many ironies about your comment: the brilliant bassist Mark Rubin would be the first to tell you that he – and many other musicians – can’t even afford to live in Austin anymore.
it’s “chock” not “chalk”
I moved to Austin on accident two years ago. Planned on a three day visit mid-cross-country adventure, ran out of money, and liked the place. In my time here, I ran a cocktail bar, started a band, got a record deal, did a 30 show tour of the US and now realize there is an absolute ceiling that looms above if I stay. Needless to say, my bags are packed. Later, Austin. I promise to write. About you.
liberty lunch was great.but it is not lamberts,it is a pile of recycled bricks.so a moron qoutation doesnt count.truly enough,this city is not at all what it was 16 years ago when i came here from oak cliff,dallas………where the vaughn brothers are actually from.austin has seen its changes and they have all been for the worst,with even more worse to come.festivals have lost their point.so have the residents.you can love a place,but have that place be lovable.in austins case……it is a lost cause now.
Some of us enjoyed migas and Shiner during the 1980’s. I still do, but mostly in San Antonio, because the migas here are way better and usually half the price.
You hit it right on the head. This is the state that gave us George Bush, and Austin is no different.
i have NO idea what is #1 about Austin. i lived in Austin for 7 years in the early 80’s. i’ve been back since, and there is so much traffic; many of the authentic music places don’t exist or they’re so hick compared to any real city, and it’s still a college town.
it’s inexpensive to live there, but the wages are so low, this is why.
sorry ‘folks’, but this is NOT a music capital unless you consider the same old blues night after night cutting edge music.
also, i cannot stand the men there, and every other vehicle on the roads is a pickemup truck.
momma don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
All this hit home for me as I waited for the CapMetro train the night before Thanksgiving, 2012. I waited. And waited. No train arrived, and I walked home to figure out how I was going to get to wherever I was trying to get. Later, it turned out they’d canceled service, without making any announcement, not even on their own website, and without turning off the ticket kiosks, all because–yes, that’s right–it was the day -before- Thanksgiving.
Welcome to the big leagues, Austin. Enjoy your reputation as a modern, culturally-rich city, before people start visiting in months that aren’t March.
Um, Robert Plant isn’t FROM Austin, dipshit.
I should have clarified whose post I was actually replying to… 😉
But good on ya, Mr Corcoran. I thought I was crazy for not understanding the hype after moving here. I keep sticking it out, hoping one day I’ll figure out why everyone loves Austin so much. Or maybe I’ll just move somewhere that actually has culture. We’ll see.
You hit the proverbial nail on the head there! The Austin of today is the construct of those that have moved here recently, the opportunists that attracted them here and the city council that has pandered to them for years. For those of us who had the pleasure to be raised here, it is hard to recognize our hometown or comprehend what it has become. Its nice to read a reasonable well thought out conclusion as opposed to the rash uninformed judgements from non residents.
I always spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s
posts daily along with a cup of coffee.
All of the haters on here must suffer from white fragility.
They are the same folks who decry the removal of Confederate statues.
Sometimes the truth hurts, folks.
But I’m still proud that my daughter graduated from UT-Austin……in three years!!!
See you soon.
We’re coming to your city.
As to the artists from Austin who made the R&R HOF: That would be Stevie Ray Vaughan. He and brother Jimmie did more to put Austin on the map than any other performer(s) IMHO.
And my daughter’s co-op (Taos) was next door to the Hole-in-the-Wall, so I had some experience with that club/bar.