Unless you’ve heard a guitar in Austin, you haven’t heard a guitar.
There’s something about the cry a six-string makes in that city. Pulls at something behind your ribcage. Makes you believe in a world you read about back when you read with a bed sheet over your head and a flashlight in your fist. A Neverland of sorts.
When you go to Austin to hear a guitar for the first time, you need to go in March. The third week is good.
Strap yourself in your Ford (or book a flight, but an Austin flight in March is gonna cost you a small down payment on a house) and floor it down I-35. Get off on the Riverside exit.
Park in a parking lot right before the Congress Street bridge (there’s a couple establishments you won’t get towed at—P. Terry’s is not one of them). Walk across the bridge.
And walk onto Sixth Street.
Musicians. Long hair. Always long hair with jeans skinnier than Kate Moss’s left arm. Wailing their lungs out in bars cramped with so many faces and Lone Star cans, no one can fist pump an arm without knocking liquid onto the next shirt over. Not that anyone cares. The windows in the bars are flung open on their hinges, and the music floods the streets, bathing the masses that can’t make it through the doorway.
Traveling kids. Smelling of dirt and sweat and promise and yesterday’s dinner. They come from Oregon. And New Orleans. And the birth town of Tarantino. Their dingy white Home Depot buckets are upside down. Their drumsticks hit against the rims, echoing in the street as the crowds form circles around them. Men with flat-bill hats emerge. Their wrists and palms hit the street pavement as their Nike-swooshed feet spin around their heads like helicopter blades.
And hopefuls. Hopefuls hoping to lock eyes with a face that will nod them through the “Badge Holders Only” sign. Hoping to muster the courage to open their mouth to the pretty girl with the glitter on her arms, “You like Widespread, too?” And hopefuls hoping to see if the magic of a city they’ve never been to before will lead them to where they’re supposed to be in life.
So go to hear the guitars in Austin. And go in March. You may find more than music.