Live Music

Like Austin, Like Fayetteville

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The Setlist
By Brian Washburn

It is extremely debatable what city the nation will deem the “national music capitol.” While Nashville, Memphis and, of course, Los Angeles all have bones to pick with this debate, some music fans — especially those live concert fanatics — will call Austin, Texas, the “national music capitol.”

After a wedding brought me to Austin last weekend, it is not only clear the town is definitely weird, the sense of music is all over, but most surprising, Austin is simply a big-city version of Fayetteville, which says much for the potential of the local music scene here in the Ozarks.

Being a part of the wedding party and my limited time in the weird town — there’s a long-running “Keep Austin Weird” campaign — kept me from further exploring the parameters of the entire music scene. But I did get a small taste with tours around town to fully picture where music festivals such as South by Southwest and Austin City Limits take place.

The rehearsal dinner found me at a nice bar patio with live music on Austin’s famed Sixth Street on Friday night. Each band seemed to be locals who play on a regular basis and might not have any national recognition yet, and they did resemble the sounds and sights music listeners would find in Fayetteville.

The first band was playing when I entered the patio, and they went on for more than an hour after I arrived. Equipped with a funky, jazzy sound and no vocals, they were clearly in the same genre that Fayetteville music scenesters dig, especially the Wakarusa crowd.

Even though the groovy jam genre is still on the rise in Fayetteville, it was the second local band who performed that really epitomized the link between the Austin music scene and the Fayetteville scene. The band played acoustic, alternative music with an abundance of country flair thrown in. Though it was a bit aston-ishing and unique to see the drummer not banging on a full drum set, but instead on what seemed like either a board or part of an electronic drum set. I still can’t figure it out, as I was standing on the patio looking down on the band.

However, neither of these two acts impressed me too much outside of the fact that it was entertaining to listen to some live music while socializing and having a few drinks at an Austin bar. But here is my point: On any night in Fayetteville this is the same answer from those hovering around Dickson Street — unless, of course, there is a major local show or local act rolling through town.

The skyrises, the businesses, the plethora of taxi cabs, the abundance of people everywhere — no, this doesn’t exactly describe Fayetteville, but it does describe Austin. Try this one on for size, though: Rows of bars, live music heard from every street corner, young adult free spirits roaming the streets with one another looking for the next drink and hot spot. This does describe Dickson Street on a Friday night, but this description actually belongs to Sixth Street in Austin. It also points out the potential Fayetteville has to grow into over the next decade, economy withstanding, of course.

Music festivals like Austin City Limits and South By Southwest have put Austin on the map musically. The Ozarks already has Wakarusa about an hour away, but with a bit more expansion over the next couple of years, Fayetteville could blossom into the music-crazy, fun-loving, free-spirited city it has the capability of being. And nothing proves this point more than driving nine hours southwest and visiting the current “live music capitol in the nation.”

One Comment

dorylyn May 23, 2010 at 9:09 am

I have lived in Austin, Texas for 55 years until 3 years ago we moved to Fayetteville to help care for our granddaughter. AND, although you might think the Fayetteville music scene is becoming like Austin…think again. Sixth Street is 7 long blocks, from IH35 to Congress, filled with a vibrant eclectic mix of music you can feel as you step onto the street. Each door you walk through, inside has a different sound. Most eclectic of all is Leslie…did you see him parading around?

When Austin City Limits, KLRU-TV, started up, they always show cased a known band/singer with a lesser known band/singer for the viewers to see. If you volunteered to serve beer before taping you got in free! Oh, and, Armadillo World Headquarters where pot smoking was tolerated…yes,really, ZZ Top, Bruce, Commander Cody, Jimmy Buffet, Levon Helm, New Riders, Sir Douglas…you are missed, Joe Ely and the list goes on. I also witness the amazing guitar playing of Stevie Ray Vaughn…did I say amazing? Once some friends threw a Halloween costume party, the band was the Thunderbirds.

Even though these places have gone on to bigger and better venues and pot smoking is no long tolerated anywhere. The path was laid then for the “live music capitol in the nation.” Music, as you said, is everywhere in Austin today. You only got a whiff! So get back in your car, drive the 9 hours because you missed the Drag, South Congress, The Continental Club, and a dance hall named Gruene…just to name a few favorites. If you haven’t attend SxSw, ACL, Pecan Street Festival go. During the Christmas holidays, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is packed with music, mostly our local favorites, and always a big surprise guest shows up!

We are adjusting to Fayetteville. We found George’s and Good Folks. A couple of months ago we saw Joe Bonamassa. That was so nice, for a few hours there I thought I was home.

I do agree with you, though, and I have commented to my friends in Austin, Fayetteville reminds me of Austin only in the ’70’s. Keep pluggin- in and tuning up, Fayetteville can make it happen!

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