How Keeping Austin Weird Turned Into A Widespread Phenomenon

Life Writer
02.15.17 14 Comments
While perusing the Keep Austin Weird website I came across a quote that probably best sums up what the “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep Portland Weird” mottos really stand for: “If the way Austin is going makes you mad, don’t get even. Get odd.”

Now that’s an ethos, right there. One which has launched a thousand pieces of art, a deep love of food and drink, a music culture, and even a TV show.

It all started way back in the year 2000. A librarian named Red Wassenich called into The Lounge Show on a local radio station to pledge some money and the ensuing conversation produced a phrase that would change Austin forever. The radio DJ asked Wassenich why he supported the show, and without much thought Wassenich replied, “I don’t know. It helps keep Austin weird.” With that simple turn of phrase a movement was born.

The Austin Independent Business Alliance loved the line so much that they ended up adopting the slogan to help promote local small business. This led Wassenich to start a very 2000s website and even author two guidebooks to Austin: Keep Austin Weird: A Guide to the Odd Side of Town, and its sequel Keep Austin Weird: A Guide to the (Still) Odd Side of Town.

Eventually, the movement got so big that trademarking companies descended on the Keep Austin Weird slogan and then other cities started jumping on the Keep It Weird bandwagon. Now, it’s a slogan carved in stone for both Austin and Portland and an almost inextricable part of both cities’ respective identities.

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