PRESTON vs. Austin: Battle of the music scenes

Part of what drew me to pursue study abroad was gaining the opportunity to experience the authentic culture of another country and one aspect of any culture is music. Coming from the “Live Music Capital of the World” set the stakes a little high for any other city to live up to in terms of selection and venues and just sheer number of performers, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of local pubs and coffee shops in Preston that have live music on a regular basis. 

Generally speaking, the university students over here listen to the same Top 40 pop songs that we do back home, with a few additional British bands thrown in the mix. Preston isn’t particularly known for its music scene, but since there is such a large student population, it’s definitely growing.

Most of the larger pubs have live music at least one show a week in addition to an “open mic.” The open mic nights are always more fun for me because you get to see a variety of people perform instead of just one for three hours straight. One of my favorite musician duos so far has been two old men, a fiddler and a banjo player, who show up for open mic every week. It’s probably the closest thing they have to country music in Preston. Most folks either haven’t heard any country music more recent than Johnny Cash (Taylor Swift excluded) or they just don’t care for it. It’s one of those funny things you don’t think about prior to traveling abroad; I miss country music. 

Karaoke is also really popular with uni students. Oasis and the Beatles are almost mandatory in any set of cover songs or karaoke. They’ve got a whole lot of pride in the bands that do come from England, so apparently they never tire of them. I could go the rest of my life without hearing “Wonderwall” ever again and be content.

The traditional pub and folk songs are what I find really interesting, though. Especially if you find a pub that caters to the locals, you’ll get a classic English or Welsh song that the entire audience will sing along with. It always makes it awkward for the lone American who doesn’t know the words, but it’s fun to hear the types of songs that have been played and passed down for generations. 

Overall, I’d say Austin has nothing to worry about in terms of another town taking its title, but Preston offers a rare and personal live music experience as well.