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St. Patrick’s Day and SXSW: The collision of 2 Austin traditions
Amid the chaos of SXSW, with its swirl of parties and marketing, it’s easy to overlook a much older tradition.
In Austin, Texas, where the Daily Dot is headquartered, March means South By Southwest. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world descend upon our city over two weeks to participate in the conference, which covers the best new technology, film, and music.
Amid the chaos of SXSW, with its swirl of parties and marketing, it’s easy overlook a much older tradition, however. Nearly every year, St. Patrick’s Day falls during or near the festival. For downtown Irish pubs like Bull McCabe’s on Red River, or Fado on West 4th St., it becomes a balance between celebrating the holiday and relishing the inundation of partiers that SXSW brings.
It’s a somewhat incongruous mixture. St. Patrick’s Day swells with the romanticism of Irish tradition, while SXSW enthuses a lust for everything that’s new, from innovative technologies and startups to new indie bands from around the globe and films making their debut. SXSW is a frenzy of networking and discovery over hashtags and check-ins, while St. Patrick’s Day provides an opportunity to catch up with more tenured relationships over a pint of beer and glass of whiskey at an Irish pub.
Yet St. Patrick’s Day still manages to carve its niche amid the madness of Austin in March. Fado, for example, celebrates with what it calls it’s Month of Madness, which includes fundraisers and SXSW parties, and culminates with its own street festival on St. Patrick’s Day, even as SXSW may rage around it.
“If anything it’s almost an alternative to SXSW,” offers Fado’s general manager Keith McGrory on its St. Patrick’s Day party. “I think people from Austin see this as their party too while SXSW is going on. SXSW is almost for everybody else because it’s so crazy, but we’re always here.”
This year, with St. Patrick’s Day falling on the Monday after SXSW ends, that sense of the festivities being for Austinites to celebrate will be even more prominent. It will serve as a chance to locally rejuvenate with two stages of live music as the city recovers from its two-week influx of visitors.
Like many Irish pubs, though, Fado is familiar with navigating the contradictions of cultural collisions, both generational and geographical. Simply operating an Irish pub in Texas makes for some interesting combinations of two very distinct and strong cultural traditions, whether it’s Fado’s “Country-fried Friday” with honky tonk artists like Dale Watson or when the traditional Irish string band breaks into the theme song from Dallas.
Yet there are as many cultural similarities to focus on as there are differences.
“We always try to incorporate Irish and Texas, like even our menu with jalapeno poppers and shepherd’s pie,” offers McGrory. “They’re both very proud [cultures], and have their own identity. But Texans like to have fun, to hoot and holler and drink as much as anyone, and they’re usually common, hard working folk. And that’s what Ireland is as well.”
And despite the traditional romanticism of Ireland that the pubs naturally promote, they are still just as digitally savvy as other bars or venues.
“What you’re expecting is this old Irish food and whiskey and traditional stuff, and then you’ll see banners for twitter and reddit, and you think that just doesn’t make any sense,” laughs McGrory. “The message that we send out is come to old Ireland and experience this, and then put it on YouTube and Twitter and check in on Foursquare. There’s a definitely a contradiction there to some point. But honestly it’s the world we live in nowadays.
“The traditional stuff is fun, but we like to go with the more cheeky with our social media,” he continues. “Irish people are known for being rascals, and not taking ourselves too seriously, so we try to tap into that aspect. But hospitality and going somewhere where you can relax is really the biggest part of it all.”
Fado bartender, Guy, serving up a Jameson and Ginger to the Daily Dot on a recent trip to the Irish pub in Austin. If you’re looking for a simple and refreshing way to enjoy Jameson, here’s your drink. View more of our Jameson adventures at Daily Dot Does Dublin.
All this month, the Daily Dot, in conjunction with Jameson, will be looking at how the traditional observance of St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture is transformed and updated online. What does St. Patrick’s Day mean today in our digitally obsessed culture and lives, and how does a culture that plays so heavily into romantic notions of community and craft adjust to contemporary social media and online technologies?
Ireland itself is a country leading many technological innovations, even as it continues to celebrate its traditional heritage and personality. And like the collision of St. Patrick’s Day in Austin with SXSW, it presents a sometimes unusual balance. Join us as we explore how a centuries-old brand and cultural tradition continues to innovate and grow online. We’ll be taking to Ireland to tour the Jameson distillery in Midleton and experience St. Patrick’s in Dublin. You can follow all our adventures this month on our Daily Dot Does Dublin Tumblr. Sláinte!
Photo by ejmc/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)