Spilling out of my father’s Mazda sedan somewhere on the east side of
Austin, Texas, Vanessa and I gaze upon the sweaty masses lining the
horizon and leap headfirst into a SXSW wonderland.
be made? Yes. Will good times be had? Surely. Will my friend Brian and I
engage in a two-hour conversation about Dawson’s Creek, a show neither
of us has ever seen? Of course!
And that, my friends, is the
magic of SXSW. It gets you drunk. It gets you tired. It makes you happy.
Now let’s get to it, shall we?
Outside the Fader Fort I can’t tell if there’s a Hands Across America event going on or if this many people are really waiting to see Rafael Saadiq. Regardless, it doesn’t take us long to realize we ain’t gettin’ into the Fort today.
We decide instead to scamper down the street to Lustre Pearl, a sweet little bar inside an old house that may or may not be on the historic building list.
We pick up some beers in the foyer and head out to the back yard where Writer
is busting out a two-man rock fest. Bluesy guitar and heavily
distorted vocals are the name of this game, and it’s pretty good. The
lead singer appears be a close-talker, spending most of his time right
up in the drummer’s grill.
On our way to the shop we cross paths with film and television
personality Michael Cera who, seemingly in character, is goofily
strolling down the street by himself carrying an octagonal guitar case.
We stare at him curiously and after a few long strides he disappears
into the yellow Texas sun.
At Mellow Johnny’s the crowd waits in hot anticipation for Wild Flag.
The supergroup, fronted by Mary Timony and Carrie Brownstein, is loaded
with star power, and as they tear into their set they somehow manage to
The noisy pop stylings Timony honed with Helium during the late 90’s
work perfectly with this band. She’s given ample room to shred, even
playing the guitar behind her head at one point. The raucous show
rattles the high-end bicycles throughout the shop and sends fists a
We meet up with NadaMucho.com’s Matthew Ashworth
(our second celebrity sighting of the day) and drag him back over to
the east side where the false promise of free tacos at Shangri-Las
Predictably the free tacos thing was just a ruse to lure us in, but we
refuse to give up the fight and decide to stick around for a while. Our
patience pays off as we’re treated to some tasty pop-rock from Long
Beach’s own The Fling, then later, FREE PIZZA! We grab the slippery slices by the fistful
and pour them into our mouths, beaming with pride. Getting free stuff
is, after all, one of the main goals of any SXSW adventure.
Our Thursday exploits offer an exhibition in drunken efficiency and – if
the fleeting nature of this recap is any indication – memory loss. The
day begins with a trip to the Pitchfork showcase, held in the dusty
parking lot of an old drive-in theater. There’s beer, booze and plenty
of fun and games in the form of pool, pong and pinball.
The musical highpoint comes courtesy of Shabazz Palaces
, led by the former frontman of Digable Planets. If that’s not reason
enough to get excited, they also have a choreographed high-five routine
in one of their songs.
Other Thursday highlights in no particular order:
- The throwback soul of Rafeal Saadiq in a sunken street-side courtyard
- Vetiver, Cave Singers and a half-awake Wanda Jackson at Jo’s Coffee
- Chicken-fried steak, squash and spinach casserole at Threadgills
3 am and we are standing on the corner of 40th and Red River bloated
with grilled meats and vodka-sherbert punch. How did we end up here? How
will we get home? There is no clear answer to either question.
The day began innocently enough: eating Fiber One cereal with my wife
and my parents on the balcony of their Lake Austin residence. Feeling
regular and ready for action, Vanessa and I soared into town making the Gypsy Lounge our first stop.
The Gypsy was hosting a free showcase for Indiana’s Standard Recording Co., along with a craft fair out in the parking lot.
As an added bonus they were serving up sweet-tea-vodka-infused frozen
Arnold Palmers on the house. SCHWING! We downed a handful of these
heaven-sent slushies while soaking in the sounds of Sleeping Bag from Bloomington, Indiana.
Unphased by the pressure of performing in front of four people at 11:30
in the morning, Sleeping Bag playfully scooted through a carefree set of
parent’s-basement slacker pop.
The drummer/frontman wore the weathered Cubs hat his dad probably gave
him when he was five. The guitarist was more dapper, sporting a pink
long-sleeved button-up and Sunday shoes, while the bassist had all the
moves in the band, including the ability to drop bottom while perching
on his tippy toes.
Despite the small crowd, Sleeping Bag did make an impression and the
four people who were there all happily accepted the free CDRs the band
offered up as tokens of appreciation.
Spirits were high, as was the smoke from the neighboring family-run
barbecue. Brian and I checked out the spread: brisket, pulled pork,
sausage, pickles, onions, sauce, more sauce, white bread, and for
desert, moon pies. It was legit, and we ate it all.
Upon wiping the BBQ sauce off our faces we wobbled back into the Emo’s fray for Foster the People.
I knew nothing of this band, but their perfectly styled hair,
teenage-girl-seducing charm and golden glowing skin made me feel like I
was on the set of Disney Live. The sheeny music matched their image and
we slowly backpedaled up and out of there.
Looking for a little change of pace we trudged over to the French Legation Museum
for their annual SXSW Lawn Party. This is the spot where you go to pass
out in the grass with your fellow bespeckled hipsters while still being
entertained by a never-ending parade of indie luminaries.
combination of sun, lush grass, cold beer and moustaches made for a
very pleasant afternoon. Our blissful state carried on into the evening
when it was decided we’d head to Brian and Jessica’s friends’ house up
on 40th and something for more drinks and a grilled meat nightcap.
And that’s where everything went black.
The last thing I recall was chugging some sort of alcoholic lime-green
foam as Brian and I stood in a kitchen trying to figure out who ended up
with Katie Holmes at the end of Dawson’s Creek. There was also a
question of whether or not the full name of James Van Der Beek’s
character was Dawson Creek, or perhaps James Van Der Creek.
Flash forward to the present and here we are, stuck out on 40th with no
way home. It’ll be hours before the next bus arrives and hailing a cab
in this situation is about as likely as me ever befriending a Yankees
fan. I guess we’re stuck here. Well, might as well start my SXSW recap
for NadaMucho. Where do I begin…
More on SXSW 2011…