Like Austin, Like Fayetteville

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.”

Categories: LIVE! In NWA