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Remembering Leslie in true Austin fashion

Performers flock to the fests to celebrate the legacy of the city's most ecclectic celebrity

Chad Swiatecki

Mike Dubose is still deciding if he'll have a thong, fishnet stockings or other showy fashion when he performs at Sunday's Leslie Fest.

"I love the idea of this, and people dressing up like Leslie, or rocking some kind of a skirt or fishnets as a fantastic way to remember him," said Dubose, singer/guitarist of Mike Dubose and the Dissidents and a longtime friend of Austin's famed homeless transvestite. "I hope a lot of people come out dressed up to have fun in his spirit."

Taking place in observance of what would've been Leslie Cochran's 61st birthday, the fest is a way for Austin residents to remember and celebrate one of the city's most visible celebrities, who died in March after complications from severe head trauma.

Joining Dubose and his group are more than a dozen bands such as the Millipede, the Nouns, Befriend The Bears and Shakey Graves, along with Eva Strangelove burlesque. All proceeds benefit Hospice Austin's Christopher House, which cared for Cochran in his last days.

Dubose met Cochran — a local tourist fixture who made serious campaigns for mayor and embodied the "Keep Austin Weird" state of mind as well as anyone – nearly 20 years ago and let him stay at his home last winter when temperatures made it unsafe for him to be on the street.

"He liked to listen to me while I played music, and a lot of people didn't know this, but he was an amazing repository of jokes and was very funny," Dubose said. "He lost some of that spark after his (2009) injury, but this is a way to celebrate his life, process the grief from losing him and give some awareness to the plight of people like Leslie."

In that spirit, the event will feature a free outdoor area — admission to the clubs comes with a costume discount – and information booths and resources from local groups such as Hill Country Ride For AIDS, Crime Victims First Austin and more.

Sunday's festival comes the day after the annual Keep Austin Weird Festival and 5K focused on the Long Center — an event that was something of a spiritual beacon for Leslie, if not directly inspired by him — which will also feature a day full of music from bands such as Semi Precious Weapons, Ian Mclagan and Saints of Valory.

Both events will bring people together to celebrate the "anything goes" attitude Cochran embodied and encourage Austinites to hold onto that spirit even as the city grows and changes at a startling clip.

"People miss seeing Leslie and being around him around town, and I wanted to celebrate what he meant to us," said Brently Heilbron, who organized Leslie Fest. "From rock bands to burlesque to contortionists to a new take opera, we've got a little bit of everything, and it's a great chance for Austin people to hang out together because Leslie was someone who cut across all factions."

Leslie Fest