The rain that was pelting the Airstream and rousing me in the pre- dawn hours sounded like bullets from the gun of God. I knew he was pissed at me, but why such an ambush,dude? I had been dreaming about walking around with a magic clipboard and telling the Badge Brigade that they couldn't get into things like Muses' secret show or the 10th Broken Bells appearance at a twittered about, unnamed parking lot. The sky violently opened and put an end to that. Yes, Day 4 was on and the sun took the day off to rest up and return after all of the black jeaned buskers got back on their planes and flew to Obscuria, IL.
There was a 20 degree drop in degrees from the previous day which made the decisions as to what to see and where a bit easier. Inside, VIP, on a list were good....stumbling around with cold hands and heart trying to review music while wearing gloves and cursing spring breakers were out. Easy enough, right? The bike ride to downtown was brutal. My bare knuckles were blue when I got there and I worried how I was going to hold the first beer.
I had VIP access to the MOG Party at Mohawk, because I am a Mogger.(look at those ads on my site). There were 400 beautiful people in line at noon and I got to walk right in to the VIP balcony, with BO under my hat and a pen that didn't work. Awesome. Brooklyn Lager was obtained, and I looked to my left and noticed Thurston Moore(Sonic Youth) leaning against a tent pole by himself. He would be playing later with an all Star indie band called Demolished Thought (w J Mascis, Don Fleming and Andrew WK). I knew in my gut that I was the only one on this balcony who knew who he was, and it seemed so absurd to me. SY is indeed an acquired taste, but the guy is an indie/noise rock legend. It was bothering me more than he....
I stayed to watch Free Energy, a Philly band on a major whom I'd never heard of and I live there, and after seven excruciating songs of midtempo happy pill rock with just the bare minimum of distortion, I knew I never would again. Hall and Oates were the best thing to ever come outta Philly and you can quote me on that. John Oates could have come out solo and done songs from his cut out bin 3rd album and still taken Free Energy to college.
Out of the gray blue I got a disturbing call from my Dad telling me that my brother had just been in a car accident, but was OK. It was an absolute miracle he survived. He flew off the road on his way to work in the early morning sleepy drive, missing a telephone pole and guardrail by inches, going airborn and crashing into the far side of a creek. Airbags saved him. His truck was mangled. There are more details, and this is a music blog, not my fucking life story, so... All I would like to say is, after losing my sister a year and a half ago, this really shook me up. I felt like this drastic weather change brought in from the cold distance had been a sign, a "something has happened" sort of feeling, mildly psychic and I was off of my game, or faking it for the rest of the day.
There were other highlights, though. If I was going to drown in my sorrows, why not do it at the showcases I had RSVPed to, surrounded by several good bands and beer practically thrown at me?
I saw Dead Confederate at the Obscure Magpie Showcase. This Athens, GA band simply blew me away with their vaguely southern style hybrid of My Bloody Valentine and Nirvana. A perfect sustain/reverb/distortion cradle that the crowd laid in like drunk, cooing babies. One of the Highlights of SXSW for me. I hated to leave, but I had been hearing through metal rumblings about this band called Howl(Providence, RI) who were right around the corner at the Attitude Adjustment party at Red 7(put on by Brooklyn Vegan and Tee Pee records). Good stuff, the free Magic Hat beer was colder than the air on the back patio and Howl brought the exquisite thunder with epic gargle/growls and a bitchslap of thick riffs.The rhythm guitarist plays pretty good for a girl, and would without question behead me with a for-the-fences swing of her Gibson if she ever heard me mutter that to a mob of bros.
I biked on over to the Flatstock poster show for a round 2 peruse, but with my brother on my mind, couldn't really find the need to buy anything that would stay in a tube for half a decade and be forgotten about...something told me to just keep going. Here I had to make a choice...go back to the Mog Party and watch Demolished Thoughts and the Black Keys...which would have been epic, or check out 2 good friends from Bang Camaro's camp, playing in their other bands. I chose the latter. I arrived at a bar on W. 4th to catch the second half of Boy Wonder's set. BW is led by the charismatic R&B rock guru Andre Coles, who along with yours truly, were the newest additions to last year's Bang Camaro US tour. He was tight and appealing as usual and it was great to hear songs from his Superego cd live. Next up was a bunch of flaired denim clad hairy rock gods named Township from Boston. MA. Township is now the main project of Alex Necochea, who is the co leader of Bang Camaro. This outfit was scalding twin Lizzy leads, hard rock in 4th gear, 1977 8-track- blowing speakers- on the way to the moon tower- party music. If the suede fringe on your jacket ain't swayin' during Township's set, you haven't been born yet.
It was time to pay the piper, so to speak. I had been on the phone with my editor in chief earlier in the festival and he relayed to me that he had gotten press clearance for me to go to the "biggest party in Austin" (not his words, of course, those would be the press darlings) the Perez Hilton One Night in Austin featuring nobody worth mentioning or relevant to rock or indie music coverage. You know, foofy foreign disco drenched dreck dolled out by deejays....and Snoop Dogg and Courtney Love(I refuse to call anything attached to her that doesn't have Eric Erlandson involved, or isn't oozing disease..HOLE.)
I am no starfucker or fame whore, however My editor and I agreed that if I wanted to go and get some shots and see what it was all about cool, go for it. I decided to go. So at 630 pm, I stood in the line for media, and sure enough, I was on the list...but it turns out for this event, I would be a photographer. I was ushered back to a green room/holding pen for vidiots, and press people. We were given the schpiel about shooting only during the first two songs of every set. And shooting certain celebs that would stand in front of the standard wallpapered backdrop with the sponsors' names on it. Looking uninterested and sure that they were the finest that the species had to offer Besides being no fame whore, I'm also no PHOTOGRAPHER. We were told No flash during Macy Grey's set, or DJ A track's set....ok,I guess. Whatever. Macy Grey had a hit when most of the kids in the audience were peeing in pull- ups.
I found it hilarious that little old me with an Olympus digital SLR that was not fully charged was standing around with the same press credentials as some of the lifers with three heavy Nikons around their neck looking like they just got back from shooting a Fallujah firefight. I wasn't even done reading the manual yet, and I have had the camera for two years. I managed to get some happy accidents to occur simply by staying on auto with my hand holding the flash down. We were all comparing shots, and with some heavy acting being put into play by me, I might add. I actually got some compliments from a few guys who looked like they had shot Monterey Pop in '67.
Then it all started to kick in...how was my bro doing? Courtney won't be going on until when???? We can't even use the bathroom back here or snag a few XX beers? What, no deli trey? Why does the photo line feel like a mosh pit? Whats with all the high heel and fag hags back here? My battery is dying. I wouldn't review these acts even if I could. Could I pull a wedgie out right in front of these people? Am I gonna ride that bike back to the airstream in 40 degree darkness. Shit, I could be seeing Black Tusk or GWAR right now. Holy shit, I don't care about these mouth breathers and perfumed wannabes and sponsors...I'm tired and want to hang out with the friends I haven't even seen...the friends who put me up...the friends who bought me the ticket!!!! WTF is wrong with me? I'm a rocker, I'm a writer, I'm a lover, not a fighter....get me the fuck out of here.. So my friends came to pick me up and we spent the last hour of the night around a mini bonfire in Alex's back yard thinkin' about the good times. With good friends. And that is all that really matters. Not this story, not this blog, not anything but the love between good people, good laughs and good conversation.
It took me 4 days, 16 venues and 37 bands to figure that out. sniff, sniff.
Goodbye SXSW, I'll be back, next year. Maybe with a badge.
But never with a pony tail, clean jeans or a shirt tucked in with company letterhead on it.
Never hustling in a scrum of flashbulbs to get a good shot of a faceless DJ.
Never without a genuine Texas taco truck within a quarter mile radius at all times.
That's not rock and roll.