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Music Staff Selects: What is Your Most “Austin” Moment?

This is an enchanted place. No, I don’t mean really cool or fun or eclectic – it’s literally enchanted. Things happen here that don’t happen in the real world. Each member of the ORANGE Music Staff has experienced that pivotal moment that changed their lives forever. It’s a blessing and a curse, really. No matter how mind-bogglingly awesome our celebrity run-ins or community festival experiences may have been, we are now forever spoiled, fully aware of the depressing fact that no other city will ever match the serendipitous beauty of Austin.

​The Cult onstage at the Moody Theater.

​The Cult onstage at the Moody Theater.

Bryan: Seeing the Cult and meeting some spectacularly ordinary people
I’ve hopped onstage with Phil Anselmo of Pantera. I’ve moshed to Slayer ‘til I was black and blue. I’ve stood less than 200 feet from one-half of the living Beatles (don’t get too excited – it was Ringo). Yet, despite all of my star-studded encounters since moving to this city a year and a half ago, my most “Austin” music moment revolves around the regular people, the everyday folk with whom I actually have something in common.

The first show I saw in Austin was the Cult at the Moody Theater last September. I had nobody to go with, and I knew nothing about Austin public transportation, but screw it, I was dying to see a show here, and I had grown up listening to the Cult. In hindsight, maybe I should’ve done my homework.

After fumbling my way downtown via bus with the help of a University Co-op employee (seriously, thank you so much), I finally made it to the Moody. I was already feeling a little helpless and totally out of my element. I always went to shows with my friends back home, and we never had to waste time locating the familiar venues. But now I was a small fish in a huge pond, and I was starting to second-guess the wisdom of coming here.

A scalper hawking half-price tickets caught my eye. He finagled with a few people on the street before disappearing around a corner. I wanted to pursue him, but didn’t want to risk getting lost in this strange, new land. I guess nobody was falling for my confident facade, because a group of 30-somethings beckoned for me and flagged down the scalper, so I could snag a ticket. Already feeling eternally grateful, I introduced myself, and we made some small talk. They were amazed I was only 18. I was amazed they didn’t treat me as such. These people were cool. They said things like, “Me and my old lady have been here for a couple years, but we’ll hit the road and just cruise whenever we feel like it.” I was awestruck.

The Cult gave a terrific performance, as to be expected. After the show, it eventually came up that I didn’t have a ride home. Without giving me room to object, they insisted on driving me back to campus. We had some hilarious, alcohol-fueled conversation, and for those five blissful moments, it felt like we had been friends all our lives. When I got out of the car, they extended me an offer: “If you ever get sick of hanging out with kids, give us a call and come barbecue with us.” Regrettably, I never took them up on it. But perhaps some moments are best left alone.

Julian Casablancas, lead singer of the Strokes, performs a free show during SXSW in 2011.

Julian Casablancas, lead singer of the Strokes, performs a free show during SXSW in 2011.

Tess: The Strokes at SXSW
My most “Austin” moment happened the first time I ever visited the city. I was a sophomore in high school, and I had convinced my brother to drive me to SXSW to see the Strokes play a free show. This might sound crazy now, but at the time I knew absolutely nothing about Austin’s reputation. I had never heard of SXSW, and the only view of the city I could picture was the Capitol. The tween version of me was in complete awe as my brother and I drove into the city, and I caught my first glimpse of the skyline. This was before SXSW became a madhouse, so we somehow found free parking within walking distance from Auditorium Shores. I remember walking around the park, camera in hand, amazed by how beautiful everything was. The Strokes performed in front of our iconic skyline, and the night ended with a fireworks show. Afterward, we joined the huge crowd of concertgoers as they walked down the South Congress Bridge. Since it was also St. Patricks Day, my brother insisted we drive through downtown to witness the chaos that stemmed from Austinites celebrating a mixture of Spring Break, SXSW and the holiday. As you can probably imagine, the city was in a state of pure pandemonium. It’s crazy to think about how much Austin has grown since then (free parking and driving in general during SXSW is just a pipe dream now). Looking back, that was not only the best first introduction to the city I could have asked for, but it was also the perfect depiction of a typically awesome night here.

Quinton: “Meeting” Kanye West at SXSW 2014
Fate is real. I’m a huge proponent of the “everything happens for a reason” cliche, so sue me. I present to the jury my strongest piece of evidence: running into Kanye outside of the W Hotel on Lavaca.

It was Wednesday of SXSW 2014, and after fumbling downtown early for an interview, my video partner realized he had forgotten his camera. Without hesitation, we hustled up to 3rd and Lavaca, just in time to watch the tail lights of the Metro Bus disappear up the street. Thankfully, we budgeted enough time to afford a quick stop at the expansive Starbucks on 4th and Lavaca. I felt some type of way about that decision, but I wouldn’t know what it was until later.

Realizing this was the first time I had slowed down since my week of debauchery had begun, I sat in silence, recapping the past 48 hours in my mind. My partner made his way over to a table in the middle of the massive herd of out-of-towners, badge-holders and worker bees. Facing the excessively large windows looking out onto the street corner, I decided Twitter was more important and dove deep into my timeline.

As soon as I look down I hear, “That’s Kanye right there.”

I slowly looked up at my partner. He was peering through the window, incredibly calm.

“Yeah, that’s him right there, I can see it.”

I catch a glimpse of a hooded figure, strolling down the street. That was totally Kanye and Don C. We immediately snatched our things and burst out of the Starbucks in pursuit of the W Hotel, probably slamming a few pedestrians along the way. We burst out of the Starbucks and turned to head down toward the W hotel. Lo and behold there is Mr. West, literally moseying down Lavaca with his long-time friend Don C. As we calmly approach from behind, there were no words, there was no plan, and my knees felt weak. Kanye stops at the concierge, holding a small, confused discussion with the doormen. Two women with nice suitcases stand off to the side just as perplexed as everyone else. Kanye steps away from the action, and his eyes wander toward the street. He looks directly at us. Or maybe through us.

I reached for some kind of physical reaction, but draw blanks on all ends. Instead, my throat closed up, and my eyes may have watered a little. Finally, I mustered up a pitiful amount of strength to walk back and say something to the living legend as he headed toward Starbucks. We trailed them from a safe distance, but suddenly they dipped into a construction zone entrance and were gone forever.

It’s no secret that Kanye likes Austin. During his SXSW appearance alongside Erykah Badu, he freestyled about having a loft in the city. I wouldn’t doubt it. Austin is a haven for artists, a place where they can be treated like normal humans. In this city, they can walk down the street in the middle of the day during an enormous music festival and go untouched. I like to think I helped keep it that way, whether purposefully or not.

Adam: Bonding with Lord Yeezus
Every so often, this city is blessed with greatness. Last year, Kanye West was kind enough to grace our presence at SXSW 2014, and being front row for his performance is an Austin music moment I will never forget.

West — also known as the one, the only, the great Lord Yeezus — performed alongside fellow rap megastar Jay Z. It was a pop-up show, and completely free. Granted, I had to wait in line for a combined total of eight hours, but sometimes a man must do what is necessary in order to survive.

Both rappers played almost all of their hits, along with deep cuts for the diehard fans and several numbers from their joint album, Watch the Throne. The lights, the bass and the energy had the audience in awe. Then it happened. The moment Lord Yeezus and I became one.

My wardrobe is nothing fancy, but the article of clothing I’m most proud of is my T-shirt with a huge picture of Yeezus’ face on the front. Of course, I wore it to the show. As Kanye angrily rapped his gospel to us ordinary people, he scanned the crowd to get a good look at exactly who was willing to spend literally half their day waiting to see him. As I screamed his name, we locked eyes, and I knew my life was about to change. I held up my shirt. He looked at his face. Then he looked at me. Then he looked back at himself, and for a full 20 seconds, he rapped into his own eyes. All I could think was the phrase, “That’s so Kanye,” playing to the tune of the “That’s So Raven” theme song.

Yeezy may not remember the magic we shared, but for me, after that moment, nothing was the same.

With members of Noah and the Whale at their ACL 2013 "pop-up" show at the Empire Control Room. (from top left clockwise, bass player Matt "Urby Whale" Owens, violin player Tom Hobden, drummer Michael Petulla, and lead singer Charlie Fink)

With members of Noah and the Whale at their ACL 2013 “pop-up” show at the Empire Control Room. (from top left clockwise, bass player Matt “Urby Whale” Owens, violin player Tom Hobden, drummer Michael Petulla, and lead singer Charlie Fink)

Maria: Noah and the Whale Pop-up show/ACL cancellation
On Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, the entire City of Austin woke up to the heartbreaking message that due to heavy rain, the third day of ACL weekend 2 was cancelled. Just like all the other three-day wristband holders who were pumped to see artists like Tame Impala and Phoenix, I was devastated. I was still on a slight high from spontaneously catching one of my favorite bands, Noah and the Whale, the previous night, but I had been looking forward to seeing them at the festival again on Sunday.

In a typically Austin move, artists who had the plug pulled on them began announcing free pop-up shows all over the city. After catching The Mowgli’s in a homeless shelter parking lot, my friends and I decided to wait in line for Franz Ferdinand’s gig at the Lucky Lounge. While we were there, we saw a tweet from Noah and the Whale: “NATW impromptu gig here tonight in Austin. Doors at 9pm. First come first served,” with a photo of the Empire Control Room and Garage attached.

We bolted from the Lucky Lounge without a second thought and sprinted to the Empire. Ten blocks, a hard fall (plus face plant) and two bloody knees later, we were thirteenth in line to see the group for the second time in 24 hours.

Upon taking the stage, they announced that they had no setlist prepared, and after three songs, they would only take crowd recommendations. I shot my hand up and jumped like a maniac in an effort to grab their attention. Lead singer Charlie Fink extended the mic to me, and I got to request one of my favorites, “Blue Skies.” As if the performance wasn’t enough to make me nearly hyperventilate, the band came out to meet the fans afterward. Thanks to the incredibly intimate live setting and the opportunity to talk to the band for nearly 30 minutes, I can easily say it was the best show of my life. I couldn’t sleep when I got home that night, as one thought continued to race through my head: “This would only happen in Austin.”

A Giant Dog perform during the intermission of Fashion Freakout 5 on March 2nd, 2012. Photo credit: Tim Griffin (@griffinshot).

A Giant Dog perform during the intermission of Fashion Freakout 5 on March 2, 2012. (Photo courtesy Tim Griffin)

Britny: Fashion Freakout 5
What’s more Austin than an event that combines music and vintage fashion? When my friend and I decided to attend Fashion Freakout 5 at The Mohawk back in March 2012, it ended up being one of the best choices we made during our first year in the city. The show was a blur of glittery, 1930s, burlesque-inspired get-ups; punked-up ‘60s and ‘70s mod outfits; and tons of red and black — all put together by local vintage and resale clothing stores Charm School Vintage, Prototype Vintage Design and Buffalo Exchange. Amid all the rad fashion, local Austin band A Giant Dog took the stage, whose lead singer started out wearing a 1940s dress from Charm School and ended up dancing around in a cropped sweatshirt and her underwear (despite the fact that it was freezing outside!). Once the fashion part of the show ended, the party continued inside with a set by The Fleshlights, where I experienced my first mosh pit. The night was flashy, punky, loud and so much fun. Austin from beginning to end.

Lauren: Unexpected Daniel Johnston performance
Not realizing Conor Oberst would have any opening acts on his Fall 2012 solo tour, my boyfriend and I shared confused glances when an older man with gray hair and a large binder stuffed with papers took the stage. He spent an uncomfortably long amount of time silently flipping through his binder, the rustle of the pages echoing throughout the Bass Concert Hall as the audience waited for something to happen. Without warning or introduction, he tore into his first song, violently strumming an acoustic guitar. After he began singing, I finally recognized that we were blessed to be in the presence of legendary musician — and artist of the famous “Hi, How Are You” mural — Daniel Johnston. Rather than abide by a written setlist, Johnson made it obvious from his fervent page turns in between songs that he was handpicking whatever he felt like playing in the moment. The raw simplicity in Johnston’s music and lyrics brought me to tears several times throughout the unexpected performance. It turns out that at the last minute, Oberst had reached out to Johnston and asked him to open for just the Austin tour date. The fact that Conor Oberst followed Johnston’s spontaneous set only made the whole experience more moving. At the end of the night, I left crying, yet feeling fulfilled and immensely inspired by two men and their guitars.

Miniature Tigers dance with fans on stage.

Miniature Tigers dance with fans on stage.

Jenna: Miniature Tigers Dance Party Encore
One hot August evening, I found myself at Stubb’s stuffy indoor venue watching a band I really didn’t know called Miniature Tigers. I went to the show for one of the opening acts, but I stayed for the Tigers’ playful personalities and upbeat performance. Most of the crowd sang and danced to the whole set, thrilled to be watching the group in such an intimate setting. Nothing, however, was more spontaneous and entertaining than their encore. It’s not much of a secret at Stubb’s indoors when the band leaves the stage and turns the corner, waiting just a moment before returning for one last song. The crowd was more ecstatic than ever as the band strapped their instruments back on and began playing everyone’s favorite tune, inviting an audience member to join them onstage. Before long, one or two people turned into the whole audience up onstage, laughing and singing while beaming ear to ear. Security pulled a few people down, but there was no stopping the party once 20 people were dancing all together in what made for the most unique encore performance I’ve ever witnessed. Even though I personally didn’t know the music, I couldn’t help but laugh along and bask in the exuberance of the moment.

Sam: Seeing Kendrick Lamar at SXSW 2013
After trekking endlessly through the streets of downtown Austin during SXSW 2013, I found myself far from home on East 6th Street in the middle of the afternoon. Rumors had circulated on Twitters that Kendrick Lamar would be playing a show in a small garage not far from me, so I disregarded my pain and booked it toward the venue. After waiting in line for two hours, I discovered the show was actually 21 plus, but the doorman turned a blind eye — perhaps he saw some of himself in my starstruck eyes. I was about to see Kendrick Lamar. I WAS ABOUT TO SEE KENDRICK LAMAR. Good kid, m.A.A.d city had dropped just a few months earlier, and Lamar was well on his way to becoming far too large to ever play a derelict garage space in East Austin again. For a fleeting moment, I was up close and personal with rap royalty. After I miraculously reached the front row, Lamar delivered an incredibly energetic set, and even brought some attendees onstage to dance with him. South by Southwest transforms our city into a buzzing hub of cutting-edge music, culture and technology, and this show perfectly encapsulated the vibrant spirit and youthful energy I’ve come to associate with the festival, as well as Greater Austin. For the entirety of Lamar’s hour long set, I was just a good kid in a rad city.

Devon: It’s hard to put my finger on it…
So many of my friends have met their celebrity musician crushes in the streets of this city. It’s not uncommon. For some reason, my time has yet to come. The closest I’ve been is seeing a distant mirage of Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons while crawling through the streets of downtown in a SXSW daze. Even better one was the brief moment of human contact I shared with Brian Cassidy of Okkervil River, when he signed my shirt at ACL in 2013, but the ink has since faded. Speaking of ACL 2013: Also, after two fainting friends, one hospital trip and a rained-out Sunday, I felt pretty over the whole ACL version of what an “Austin experience” is supposed to be like. My most “Austin” moments now come from the ones I create, rather than the star-struck luck I expected when first moving to the “Live Music Capital of the World.” I love having mud-caked boots after dancing wildly in the yard of the Scoot Inn or drinking Lonestar on a rope swing to the sounds of student bands at West by West Campus. When I feel most like an Austinite is when I’m being hugged by sweaty strangers in the the audience for local band Hikes’ show or wandering into mysteriously noisy venues on an average weekday night to hear some homegrown artist I never knew existed. In embracing Austin’s music scene with humbled expectations, the little things seem to count for more me than the Instagram or Facebook-worthy celebrity run-ins. I feel more connected to the community every day, and my most “Austin” moment changes every time I become more deeply entwined in this city’s rooted network of diverse, music-adoring locals.

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