SCOTT SIMON, host:
Every year, Austin, Texas, the city that calls itself the live music capital of the world, holds one of the major music festivals in the world. South by Southwest draws tens of thousands of visiting musicians, journalists and fans. The 25th annual South by Southwest is underway now. As they do every year, the people of Austin are hosting their own parties and concerts, aside from many official events.
Mose Buchele of member station KUT pushed his way through the downtown crowds to find out what else is going on.
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MOSE BUCHELE: Downtown Austin can be a cacophonous place, even on a normal night. But during South by Southwest, theres a hierarchy to these sounds.
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BUCHELE: Musicians stake out street corners to play for change. Gigging rock bands blast songs from the open doors of night clubs and shot bars.
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BUCHELE: Then there are the official South by Southwest events. You can spot them by the lines of people wearing badges or wristbands in front of the bigger name venues. And if you dont have a wristband? If youre Leonard Briseno you just hang out at a friends front yard across the street.
Mr. LEONARD BRISENO: Its like being at a free concert. I mean youre right outside, you know?
BUCHELE: But Briseno is doing more than just listening. Hes making some money. He and his buddys have opened up an impromptu food stand called Lennys Legs, though it sold out of turkey legs hours ago.
Mr. BRISENO: I got sausage wraps. I got tortillas. I got a little bit of onion, you know, for the flavor smelling, mesquite.
BUCHELE: Whether its small-scale entrepreneurship, or just taking in the tunes, seems like all around this city, the attitude prevails: no wristband, no badge? No problem. Austinites are making their own festival. It doesnt confine itself to downtown and it doesnt confine itself to the indie and Americana music typically associated with Austin.
Ms. DIANE ANOBABOR: We got space after midnight, if thats chill with yall.
BUCHELE: Its already well into the evening, but Diane Anobabor is fielding calls from artists who want to perform in her East Austin hip-hop show later on tonight. Its at the Irun Cultural Center, a community space tucked between a bodega and a barbershop. During segregation blacks and Hispanics were largely restricted to the East Side. Anobabor says South by Southwest provides a great opportunity for the exchange of music and ideas, but some people in her neighborhood are still cut off from South by, as its called.
Ms. ANOBABOR: I mean that option isnt accessible like if youre not in the industry, or if you dont have the money to buy a badge. So this center is us channeling an opening to that.
BUCHELE: Its also a chance to hear some hip-hop.
Ms. TEAUNNA MOORE (Rapper): (Rapping) Look deep within me. S-O-U-T-H-R. We're the leaders. Ive got the feeling and million peoples watch without the speaking, to get even deeper Aretha Franklin blow out the speakers.
BUCHELE: Teaunna Moore, also known as T-Fly is performing tonight with her group Cypher.
Justin Time is a local spoken word artist, and he says theres no time like South by in Austin.
Mr. JUSTIN TIME (Artist, Spoken Word): It only brings more energy into this city. It brings a vibrance in this city. You know, can feel it all around. I step out my house and I just feel all this energy and I want to see whats going on, see what I can find, you know?
BUCHELE: He wasnt the only one taking to the streets.
Mr. GIDON BEN IZRA: Yesterday, even today, my crew was out there. We had a radio boombox just freestyling. We were forming a big crowd.
BUCHELE: Gidon Ben Izras stage name is Gidon the Mighty Warrior.
Mr. BEN IZRA: People aint really used to seeing that, you know, like in Austin. So when an outside cat from Brooklyn like man, like he was like, yo, man, Im going go back and tell my people from Brooklyn what yall doing, man. Its amazing, you know?
BUCHELE: Walk a little ways south of the Irun Cultural Center, and another unofficial party is underway.
Unidentified Woman: No. No. Actually, I got a...
BUCHELE: This one hosted by a more recent group to call East Austin home. More and more young white students and artists have moved in. Party organizer Justin Boyle, made sure to clear his party with his older neighbor.
Mr. JUSTIN BOYLE: And I mentioned that were just going to have a little bit of a show. You know, its not going to be a big deal. Youre not going to have any problems. And he goes, no man, play it loud. I dont go out. I need to hear some music.
BUCHELE: Theres also a keg in the yard, burgers on the grill and an open door policy.
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BUCHELE: The bands play in the living room and the guests dance in the kitchen. Boyle says for South by Southwest, he wanted his party to feature local acts, bands that might have been pushed out of their regular venues by visiting groups.
Mr. BOYLE: This is the music capital of the world, right? And so there should be stuff happening that people can go to and chill out and not stress out about being part of a scene and not stress out about like being on Sixth Street...
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Mr. BOYLE: ...and all that.
BUCHELE: But even on South bys main drag, some local musicians are trying to get the attention of the crowds jamming the sidewalk.
Mr. FELIX EDGAR MADRID (Singer): (Singing) Can you hear them now? Can you hear them now?
BUCHELE: Felix Edgar Madrid lives in Austin. Hes unemployed and is making a little extra money playing on Sixth. But he insists hes mostly here to soak up the energy.
Mr. MADRID: Its a really, really awesome vibe just to have a lot of people you could jam with randomly, and its really cool to be able to at least do that, let alone all the free shows going on. Its really uplifting I think.
BUCHELE: At least until tomorrow when the out-of-towners go home. And the folks of Austin go back to the music they play all year long.
For NPR News, Im Mose Buchele in Austin.
SIMON: You can hear complete coverage of South by Southwest at NPRMUSIC.org. Heres a taste from last nights concert hosted by member station KUT in Austin. The band is Bright Lights Social Hour playing Detroit, live at Momos.
(Soundbite of song, Detroit)
BRIGHT LIGHT SOCIAL HOUR (Band): (Singing) I need your love. I need your love. I know, I know, I know that I'm crazy but I want you to know, aint no other way.
SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.