City of Eternal Boom

Scott Francis
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Texas Monthly has a way with words.  If you’re on your way to SXSW for the first or third time, and you’re trying to get a better sense of what makes Austin tick, or what has made it tick over the last 20-40 years, Texas Monthly has really put one of the best pieces together to capture the Zeitgeist.  And appropriately enough, it is from the perspective of a musician. 

Just the subtitle says it all:

The City of the Eternal Boom

And the eternal festival. And the eternal traffic jam. And the eternal tech start-up. And the eternal food truck. And the eternal buzz. So how did Austin go from being a sleepy haven for pot-smoking slackers to the most talked-about place in the country—if not the world?

And the words are punctuated by before and after images:

Photographs by Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, PICA 01722 (left) and Sarah Lim

One more paragraph to share:

Somewhere in the haze of the last generation, funky Old Austin disappeared and was replaced by something sleek, fast, and unbelievably popular. Suddenly everyone wants to be in Austin, from tech twentysomethings to middle-aged corporate hot shots. Austin is the fastest-growing big city in the country, at the top of lists for things that can be measured (real estate and jobs) and things that can’t (cool and kicks). It has become the City of the Eternal Festival, from South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival to Pachanga, Reggae, and Formula 1. Where else can you eat the best barbecue in the world, watch more than a million hungry bats ascend into the gloaming above the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, hear amazing music every night of the week, and behold Lady Gaga covered in vomit as part of a SXSW show? Two months ago Forbes called Austin the next boomtown, apparently forgetting that Bloomberg ranked us the country’s number one boomtown back in 2013. As of October, the greater metropolitan area had grown to an astonishing 2 million people, which is 1.4 million more than we had in 1980, when I was slacking my life away.

This whole article is worth reading.  Do it.  But what I would love to see is for Texas Monthly to have a companion piece written by someone who has been in the tech business over a similar tenure – 20 years or more – who can share some of this incredible perspective through a different lens.  Putting that work against this one from the artists point of view would be truly compelling. 

If there’s an argument for keeping the arts and music alive in Austin, this artist and author has implicitly made a great case.  If there’s a way to make that work financially in Austin long term, my belief is that it will be a marriage of tech, arts, and policy – mutual respect for what each brings to the table, and make sure that the arts are getting the funding and airspace (and decibels!) to operate.