The Austin Chronicle

Luv Doc Recommends: Keep Austin Weird Festival

Republic Square, Saturday, June 16, 2007

By The Luv Doc, June 15, 2007, Columns

Remember how jacked you were when you could finally buy authentic Seattle grungewear in the Dillards casuals section? You ran over to the mall and picked up a “distressed” flannel vest with t-shirt sleeves sewn into it so it looked like you were layering to fend off the dank, cold, cloudy Austin weather. Good choice. Perfect for watching the salmon fight their way up the icy Colorado to spawn. Now you probably feel just a little bit guilty that you might have been part of the reason St. Kurt chose to martyr himself with a scattergun. Then again, maybe the whole grunge thing missed you entirely. You might have been into old-school punk like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and the Misfits – bands whose t-shirts can most easily be found at Hot Topic, the best place to pick up band merch for bands who never had band merch. You have to give them credit, at least Hot Topic figured out how to identify and merchandise a punk “look.” Unlike the unbranded punks of yesteryear, Hot Topic execs aren’t hamstrung by some half-cocked, anti-consumerist, nihilist ideology. They understand that when it comes to rebellion and belligerent individualism, most people like a well-defined road map – ideally one that leads to prime retail space at the local shopping mall. Hot Topic isn’t sweating whether or not they’re perceived as authentic. With $13.6 million in net profits last year, they don’t have to prove their authenticity to anyone (least of all their shareholders). Hot Topic has clearly tapped that punk ass. Not surprisingly, the benefits of appropriation marketing haven’t been lost on the Austin business community. Awhile back local businesses caught on to the fact that Austinites were loosely opposed to the corporate homogenization that turns unique communities into generic, big-box developments. Someone (quite ingeniously) coughed up the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” as an opposition rallying cry. Yes, Austin is weird, but it’s more of a case of contrast. Weirder that what? Plano? Regardless of how you feel about the phrase, “Keep Austin Weird” has already moved a lot of beefy tees, and if businesses decide to use a catchy slogan to vitalize the local economy and celebrate Austin’s unique character, where’s the harm in that? Why not get on the bandwagon this weekend at Republic Square Park, when AT&T and HEB along with a variety of local businesses bring you the Keep Austin Weird Festival, a 5K fun run, costume contest, and concert that benefits the RunTex Foundation. Here’s your chance to do the grunt work of weirdness: Run around dressed up like a weirdo, eat, drink, and watch a great lineup of bands: The Steps, Patricia Vonne, South Austin Jug Band, Alejandro Escovedo, Soulhat, and Bob Schneider.

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