SXSW: A Drunken Pilgrim's Belated and Hastily Written Recap

Holy wow, I drank a lot of Lone Star this week. I got to that point where I needed three or four drinks to get back to normal. On Saturday afternoon I entered this very strange headspace, where fun was awkwardly co-mingling with absolute physical and psychological exhaustion.

My inner monologue: “Bands! Yay! More alcohol! Yay! I want to blow my brains out?! Yay?!”

But, yeah, my idea to do a perspective piece/video blog thingy went out the window pretty much immediately, as did my ability to do anything that could pass for meaningful written reporting. I also spent way too much money, my cell phone got fucked ‘cause of something I don’t remember, I probably have (more) brain damage, and I just spent 40 hours in a rent-a-van with seven other people.

So, of course, I really want to go next year. Wouldn’t bother trying to get a band or press pass next time around, either. All the shows I went to were no badge/no cover.  

Once the giddiness of Tuesday’s arrival wore off, it became apparent that trying to report on SXSW while simultaneously participating (kind of – we weren’t on any official SXSW showcases) would prove far more difficult than anticipated. Partially ‘cause I was tethered to the shows I had to play, and while me and my buddies had a fascinating time drinking in our hotel room, aimlessly stumbling around Austin, and embarrassing ourselves in front of various music people, I’m not sure it makes for interesting reading. I sense events transpired in our hotel unrelated to us that would make a compelling story, however I was specifically asked not to film or write about anything that could ever be used as the People’s Exhibit A.

The Travelodge in Austin is the sketchiest, lamest hotel, like, ever. I could get a hooker anytime I wanted (which I didn't), but I had to walk to Kick Butt Coffee for an internet connection. On the upside, Kick Butt has a keen kung-fu movie motif, serves beer, and had dudes playing acoustic guitar every morning I was there. On Thursday, I caught Texas troubadours Jordan Minor and Allan Goodman covering of “Walls” by Tom Petty, and I have no idea why I’ve never heard anyone cover that song before. Seems like such a no-brainer.

Anyway, in case anyone’s interested, here’s a recap of my clusterfuck in Austin.

Tuesday: Got off the plane, eaves-dropped on some business dude’s phone conversation, as he frantically stressed a need to acquire ten grand to finish a record. Then I met up with bass player friend Juston Speed, who paid cab fare for all of us, all week, for reasons I do not understand. Then we wandered around trying to find beer, and eventually found beer. Then the rest of the kids arrived. We got our shit together, headed over to Headhunter’s, and played an utterly horrid set in front of a packed house. No sleep + no practice + too much booze = EPIC FAIL. We were told Kevin Lyman was going to be there. Hopefully he wasn’t.

Wednesday: A much better time. We played at Cheapo Discs, which is the biggest and awesomest used record store I have ever seen. There was ample free beer, the five to ten kids who watched out set seemed to really like us, and I got a Pretty Girls Make Graves CD for, like, four bucks. Then we saw Star Fucking Hipsters, which was really bizarre. I presumed it’d be S.F.Hs and a bunch of crust punk bands playing at some hole in the wall. Instead, Opal Divines appeared to be a respectable family restaurant, and this really bland Italian soft rock outfit called Belladonna went on before S.F.Hs. The only notes I took on them were tasteless observations in regards to their voluptuous lead singer. 12 beers in, I turn into kind of a pig.

Thursday: We played two pretty good shows, went to a party somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and waited about two-and-a-half hours for a taxi to take us back to the hotel. The most notable happening of the day, and the coolest thing I have ever seen, ever, was Peelander –Z’s stunt at Trophy’s. The video doesn’t really do it justice. I was going to write something about telling my grandchildren the story someday, but Faraone appears to have already made the same comment about Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek’s SXSW performance. Fuck!

Friday: That morning a friend called me to brag about smoking weed with Stza (from Star Fucking Hipsters and Leftover Crack), Ethan Suplee (of My Name is Earl and American History X fame) and Willie Nelson. Normally I’d assume this friend was full of shit, but given the circumstances, it’s a perfectly feasible scenario. A neat-o thing about SXSW is there are tons of semi-famous people just hanging out, like, everywhere. On different occasions, I ran into Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady, World/Inferno, S.F.Hs) whose mustache is an inspiration to us all, and Exene Cervenka, who is shorter in real life.

We got horribly lost trying to find the party. Apparently, in Austin, there is both an East and a West Caesar Chavez Street. Also, when you tell people, “near Red River” you have to specify whether you’re talking about the street or the literal river. We eventually found the place, and Pre, Dark Meat, the Mae Shi, and uh…some other band were all awesome.  The show we went to after that was BYOB. Y’see that footage of the Death Set? I don’t remember shooting that, or seeing them play. At. All. I do remember me and my buddy Rodney made total fan boy asses of ourselves in front of Johnny Siera.  Had I not gotten so fucked up, I probably would’ve gotten some badass Reverend Glasseye footage later that evening. Damnit all!

Saturday: The kids from my band all went home, so I met up with Pariah Beat. They played a couple of shows, but none of them were acoustic, and I already knew the only footage of them I planned on uploading was a buskin’ rendition of “Hymn #2.”

I should emphasize that Pariah Beat are NOT a Christian band by any means, but I liked the idea of shooting something wholesome and minimalistic in the middle of this glamorous vortex of debauchery. They weren’t planning on doing the busking thinig until Sunday, So once they finished their Saturday shows, me and Nick went to the Bloodshot Records showcase at the Red Eyed Fly, where Nick hoped to schmooze his was into a record deal. It was way sold out, even for badge carriers, but we got in later after enough people left and the bouncers took pity on us.

I wandered off sometime during Waco Brothers and passed out in a ditch for about 20 minutes. When I awoke, Nick was nowhere to be found. I eventually I tracked him down, and he explained that he had been chillin’ with the dude who played Ethan Rom, the second most notorious Other from Lost, and was therefore unable to answer his phone. The following morning, I woke up in an empty trailer to discover my cell phone no longer functioned.

Sunday: Around 6 p.m. Texas time, we started driving. Yesterday, we stopped at Foamhenge in Natural Bridge, Virginia, and took some pictures. Many hours later, it’s Tuesday morning, and I am back in Boston. Now I can finally get on the internet to post this, upload some more video, and look into getting my phone fixed. I put it on the charger for a while, and now it halfway works. At least I won’t lose all my numbers. 

Now I’m going to take my first shower in a week. Let the snarky comments about how no one cares that I can’t handle my liquor commence.

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