We may joke about Austin's abundance of festivals, but the announcement of the first-ever Weird City Hip-Hop Festival came as, pardon the pun, music to many people's ears. The brainchild of the Austin Mic Exchange, a 2-year-old community organization dedicated to cultivating and supporting the city's hip-hop scene, Weird City's inaugural run kicks off September 26-28.
Part showcase, part cultural celebration, Weird City plans on bringing in big-name national artists, while providing local acts a chance to showcase their talents. In addition to music, Weird City will partner with local street art collective Spratx, as well as Dub Academy and Attendance Records for workshops, panels and parties, including a special BodyRock ATX party with Riders Against the Storm.
Though it was not planned to be, the announcement of Weird City's first year came just weeks after a University of Texas at Austin study was released that found that African-Americans were leaving an Austin at an alarming rate. Though the founders say it was just coincidence, they do think it's indicative of a greater cultural movement. "The community has been noticing [this] for some time, but it being in a paper, in a study, it's almost kind of of galvanizing people to prove it wrong," says AME Co-founder Adam Protextor (aka p-Tek).
"When Adam approached me to start Austin Mic Exchange, it was a time when Austin's hip-hop scene wasn't unified," says Leah Manners, co-founder of AME. "Austin itself is a pretty segregated city, [but after] starting the Austin Mic Exchange, the rapid community growth [we are seeing] has shown us that the Austin hop-hop scene is full of really driven artists, but they need a place to showcase."
In order to give that place to showcase, AME has taken over the Spiderhouse Ballroom every Tuesday since 2012, hosting an open mic night for all members of the community. With Weird City, AME is going even bigger, tapping the Red River District to serve as host. Currently, Holy Mountain, Beerland, Empire Control Room and Red 7 have all signed on as participating venues. "We really like the Red River District. We've noticed the amazing things those venues have done for hip-hop," says Protextor.
But more than anything else, Protextor and Manners say Weird City is about bringing youth together. "Hip-hop is the music of young people," says Manners who, in addition to AME also hosts Hip Hop Hooray! on KOOP FM. "By pulling this together, we can greater cement the youth."
AME has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help raise the $25,000 in support of their efforts. The festival will announce the full lineup and wristband prices at a later date, but donations of $50 or more secures day and 3-day passes to the fest.