AUSTIN VS. SEATTLE: South By Southwest or Pacific Northwest?

With all the brou-haha over the South By Southwest Music Festival going on right now around the country, our thoughts here in Seattle naturally turn to Austin, our sister city down south. Like siblings, the two cities might pull each other’s pigtails now and again, but ultimately we have a shared ethos. I have lived in both placed for over four years each and can empirically say that the two blazin’ metropoli have the same liberal, progressive, music-lovin’, life-is-good-let’s-party-vibe. Seattle just adds ‘please’ on the end, where Austin yells ‘yee-haw’!

Seattle is full of transplants from Austin and vice versa; many people are like me and love both cities. But which city is the best? Obviously since I live in Seattle my opinion on the Austin vs. Seattle debate is clear, I’m not the type of person to live in a place that I don’t absolutely love. When I took this question to the streets of Seattle however, I found passionate responses on both sides, which of course makes me wonder: if you are screaming about how much you love the Texas capital, why the hell do you live in Seattle? Either way, here’s what I found out:

  • MUSIC FESTIVAL: SXSW vs. Bumbershoot? At Austin’s (and the South’s, and the Southwest’s) premier music festival there are more performers and artists from more countries around the world than at Bumbershoot. Plus the venues and environment of Sixth Street is much more genuine rock and roll and better and suited for musicthon than the corporatey-feeling Seattle Center. Austin wins, hands down.
  • WEATHER: Insanely hot, sunny weather for month after month in the summer, or drizzly, overcast, sun-deprived skies for month after month in the winter? When you step out of the shower and are covered in sweat as you are toweling off, that is too hot. When swimming pools become bathwater-warm and you can no longer swim in them, that is too hot. When the temperature drops below 100 degrees and folks talk of a cold front, that is too hot. A little rain in Seattle? I’ll take it, a fair trade for those glorious spring/summer/fall days that we know will arrive. Seattle wins, with props to Texas for those amazing thunder and lightening storms.
  • UNIVERSITY BLOODLINE: The Drag or The Ave? In Austin, Guadalupe Street runs between the University of Texas campus and the Greek houses; it is chock full of coffee shops, cheap ethnic restaurants, funky clothing stores, and bookstores. In Seattle, University Way NE runs north and south right next to the University of Washington campus, it is chock full of coffee shops, cheap ethnic restaurants, funky clothing stores, and bookstores. However The Ave has no Drag Rats, kids from mostly middle-class families having fun at playing homeless and busking for bones when they have hundreds of dollars of piercings in their face alone. Seattle wins.
  • SWIMMING HOLE: Barton Springs Park or Green Lake Park? Bubbling up from the earth a clear and constant 68 degrees year round, Barton Springs keeps Austinites sane during the hot-as-hell summer days. Green Lake Park is Seattle’s working park where people are serious about getting their exercise and having fun. Kids and dogs are always swimming in the glacial lake, despite past years’ warnings against toxicity. Hmmm. Austin wins.
  • POLITICS: Liberal and progressive or liberal and progressive? Both cities are home to a forward-thinking, Obama (no! Hillary!)-loving, book-reading, gay-friendly, dog-owning, lecture-attending, politically involved populace. Seattle has the rest of the West Coast for support in this stance, but Austin stands alone in Texas, a tiny liberal island set afloat in a vast, conservative sea of pickups, churches, and XXX stores. This is probably why in general, Austinites have bigger kahunas than Seattleites. Because of this additional hardship, Austin wins.
  • TRAFFIC: Horrible or terrible? In Seattle the traffic during rush hour is slow, like the drivers, and I hear if you live on the Eastside for some strange reason, those bridges get really backed up. In Austin however, you schedule your life around rush hour, and never plan to go anywhere between the hours of 4-7PM. It’s really that bad. Seattle wins.
  • HIP MOVIE FILMED AT ALL THE RIGHT PLACES: Dazed and Confused or Singles? Richard Linklater filmed the former all over Austin with local actor Wiley Wiggins; you can climb the Moontower (and get arrested) at Zilker Park and eat at In-an-Out Burger (Top Notch Burger on Burnet Road). Singles showcases Gasworks Park and a billion other Seattle locales AND stars our favorite non-celebrity, Eddie Vedder. One movie is about cool people trying to hook up in the 70’s, the other is about cool people trying to hook up in the 90’s. It’s a tie.
  • GEOGRAPHY: Hill Country or The Olympic Peninsula and the Cascades? If you drive out of Austin at the right time of year you will encounter firey swaths of wildflowers on rolling hills, wide open spaces, and Bush supporters frothing wildly at the mouth. If you drive out of Seattle any time of year you will find incredible snow-capped mountains, rain forests, turquoise-colored glacial lakes, rock-strewn beaches and Bush supporters frothing mildly at the mouth. Seattle wins, hands down.

It is this last bit of information, the gorgeous natural setting, that pushes our city to the top every time in my mind, and in yours: Seattle wins. Out on the streets of our city most people were pro-Seattle, but the few Austin-lovers I did find would give me all the reasons in the world why Austin was the winner until I pulled out the trump card: the mountains, Puget Sound, and this beautiful emerald world we have around us. Sorry, but Austin just can’t compete in the natural beauty category. Now we just have to get our music scene up to par. Who’s with me?