Rocked-out rockabilly, vintage dancing queen, pure country two-stepper, '80s Zolo warrior, off-the-wall zoot-suiter--in Austin, anything goes. A blue oasis in a red desert, Austin has earned its keep as the South's most beloved laid-back music scene, a hot and hilly hub where individual style extends from a way of dress to a way of life. Outdoor BBQs, dive bar performances, mid-afternoon taco breaks, swinging soul parties--these are the places to see the best style in motion, and if you're itching to get in the mix, it's imperative to know where to shop, where to eat, and where to hang this week when the city comes alive and stays awake for a week of non-stop live music.
A store that puts the glam back in rock-n-roll, Factory People is home to a formidable array of international and big-city designers like H. Fredriksson, See By Chloé, Obedient Sons, Surface to Air, and United Bamboo. However, owners Le and Thomas Popov do much more than peddle threads, offering their lofty, urban store as a home to artists of every sort. Don't be surprised if you find yourself at the door for any number of the events they're sponsoring this week, including daytime DJ sets by Rock Stars and exclusive late-night concerts.
• Feathers. 1700 B South Congress Avenue, 512-912-9779.
Vintage shopping for men and women at a store that's less like your granny's attic and more like an urban boutique. Feathers boasts a colorful and organized selection of the best in '60s and '70s clothing, accessories, and women's vintage shoes and boots (including an increasingly rare collection of larger sizes). This is the place to come for one-of-a-kind party wonders, be it a Polynesian mini-dress, a killer set of suede zip-up boots, or a combo of both. If you're in town, stop by on Tuesday, March 12, for the Feathers' SXSW pre-party going on from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. with next-door neighbor/vintage furniture store Prototype.
What's an urban wardrobe without a little noir? Or in this case, a lot of it. Another South Congress favorite, Blackmail, narrows the choice to one color, but opens the doors wide to interesting designs, textures, and compositions. Constantly introducing designers who have a clever new take on black basics, the store hits a satisfying range of price-points and carries a number of hard-to-find jewelry lines, including local favorite, Baby Jane.
• Kick Pleat. 910 South First Street, 512-445-4500.
Some of the greatest local businesses can be found living in old Austin homes transformed into spaces that are comfortable, contained, and incredibly personable. South Austin's Kick Pleat is no exception, displaying the top independent women's designers in an open, friendly, downright homey space. Choosing pieces that aim to be wardrobe staples, owner Wendi Koletar's offers a well-edited selection of looks from Nicholas K, Alexander Wang, Rachel Comey, and Borne. Make a date to browse through the collection on Thursday, March 15, when Kick Pleat kicks off the festivities with six bands, going on from 1 p.m.-7 p.m.
• Big Bertha's. 1050 South Lamar, 512-444-5907.
A trip to Big Bertha's will have you up to your ears in vintage prizes from all eras. An overwhelming assortment of designer odds-n-ends that edits out the less than desirables long before you step foot inside, shopping at this self-proclaimed "bargain basement" has led to hyperventilation, celebrity sitings, and, most importantly, some truly unique and outrageous ensembles.
Host to the biggest names in music, Stubb's BBQ also feeds the biggest appetites around. An Austin institution that serves up every kind of classic, from good ole brisket to deep fried okra, Stubb's will get you through that long, long night ahead.
• El Chile. 1809 Manor Road, 512-457-9900.
In Texas, Mexican food is an obsession--beans, tortillas, guacamole, chips, margaritas, and hot, hot, hot salsa. At El Chile, you get all this, a commitment to quality flavors and ingredients, and a nice patio where you can enjoy it. For a quick-fix, head just a few blocks down Manor, to El Chilito, the eastside's favorite all-day taco stand where just about everybody rolls up at some point in the day.
• South Congress Café. 1600 South Congress Avenue, 512-447-3905.
Shopping on SoCo can be hard work. But happy hour may be the best reward, especially when Mexican Martinis, $3 Mojitos, and Queso Flamado con Rajas are involved.
Sure, many of these places are all booked up with the best SXSW performances, but don't let that discourage you. Make a point to check out these hangouts when you can, and if you're going during the day, you're sure to catch a free show.
Hotel San Jose. 1316 South Congress Avenue, 512-444-7322.
The city's favorite modern oasis, the San Jose is a bona fide retreat from the SoCo bustle where luxury, light, and sublime utilitarian design make for an exceedingly cool Zen-like experience. Though rooms for this week were reserved long ago, you can still take in the atmosphere in the shady downstairs wine-bar courtyard.
• Club deVille. 900 Red River Street, 512-457-0900.
A dark, slightly disheveled, but decidedly artsy ambiance makes this outdoor/indoor hangout the best spot for a martini, a chat, and some awesome style sitings.
• The Scoot Inn. 1308 East 4th Street, 512-478-6200.
An eastside establishment that was recently revamped by the owners of the Longbranch Inn, the Scoot Inn has an incredible tree-shaded backyard and an impressive roster of shows for the week.
• Emo's. 603 Red River Street, 512-477-EMOS.
Everyone goes, everyone's been. This is the town's failsafe standby for the brightest independent bands. Indoor, outdoor, at the annex--if you don't see something here, you're missing out.
• The Continental Club. 1315 South Congress Avenue, 512-441-2444.
One of Austin's most storied, historic music clubs, the CC has been a favorite live-music destination since 1957. Here, you'll catch big names that strike a chord in hearts from every generation--this is the place to go for a proper show.
An entire city comes alive during SXSW.