How Awesome is Austin?
Instead of the traditional "Don't Walk" hand sign, the crosswalks here threaten you with "The Shocker."
By the fourth and final day of my freebie SXSW excursion, the life and adventures of being a homeless, binge-drinking freeloader were starting to slow me down a little. Activities were a little more spread out, drinks were a little more infrequent, but the good times were in no shorter supply. I will also note that given the lack of a home base, recharging my camera was damn near impossible, but I documented the day's events as best I could.
According to a flier I spotted a day or two before, I was made to understand anti-folk singer-songwriter Jeffrey Lewis would be performing at Jelly’s NYC Texas Garage Saturday morning. We arrived right on time, only to discover that I was once again either misinformed or simply confused by the deluge of event information tossed at me every second of every day in this manic circus, as there was definitely no Jeffrey Lewis scheduled to play. There was, however, a ton of free SWAG to be confiscated: Clif Bars, some fancy organic granola samples, T-shirts, rolling papers (I don’t smoke, but hey...it was free), Trojan condoms, magazines and pins. By the time I made it back over to Red River Street, most of my second-choice bands had finished, and the free food had been gobbled up by earlier birds than I. The closest source of free booze was the Creekside Lounge, where De Novo Dahl was performing at the Roadrunner Records showcase. The back deck of Creekside was packed to the gills. Two Shiner Bocks and half of DND’s set passed before it was decided I couldn’t handle another minute of being shoved, squished and jostled in this miserable mess, so I bolted.
From there we abandoned the intimate club setting and free beer for Mess With Texas 2 in Waterloo Park. It was all $3 waters, $6 beers, barricaded stages and festival seating, but had too many great bands on the bill to miss. We showed up in time to catch the last few songs from Kimya Dawson, whom the ill-informed funny man MC’ing the stage referred to as “Juno” (“Let’s hear it for ‘Juno!' ").
We sat through the mediocre sound of old guys trying to remember how to play punk rock (a.k.a. The Night Marchers) and took a nap to the boozy slapdash noise jams of Pissed Jeans to once again catch a set by Memphis underground veteran Jay Reatard. Not too many folks had shown up yet, and most were your typical mohawk-leather-and-spikes punk rockers who weren’t going to let the fact that they were just 20 people in a park on a Saturday afternoon stop them from starting up a good old-fashioned mosh pit. But the girl who kept stage diving into the same patch of four people and eating concrete every time should probably be put back on her meds.
I noticed former Circle Jerks/Black Flag frontman Keith Morris, whose new band Fucked Up was following Reatard’s set, milling about the crowd. Unfortunately, due to the demands of the company I was keeping, I didn’t get to stick around to see what they sounded like, but I did make it back in time to see some more Matt and Kim, the first couple songs by The Breeders and veteran skate punk outfit NOFX. I haven’t even listened to NOFX since I was about 17, but I was still incredibly giddy about seeing them in action for the first time, and even more so when they announced they’d be playing their 1994 LP Punk in Drublic
in its entirety. I was transported instantly back to 1995, driving through rural Alabama at 7 a.m., rocking out to this album on my way to school.
Yesterday morning, a friend had passed on an official laminate she’d received from a panelist who was leaving the festival early. I had been trying to catch Crystal Castles all week, and with this holy grail dangling from my neck it was looking very possible that I could get in to see them play on the roof at Wave around midnight. I approached the door with confidence and the lady at the door examined my badge and inevitably noticed that I looked nothing like the balding, middle-aged man pictured on my laminate.
This isn’t you, is it?
Of course it is. Why? Does it not look like me?
According to this, you’re balding and you have a beard...
[Realizing quickly that this probably wasn’t going to work, I resolved to go down swinging with the first explanation that came to mind.]
Yes. I am... I was... you see... I’m an actor. At the time that photo was taken I was acting in a film where the character I was playing was like...bald.
Of course, she didn’t believe a word of it, but admitted it was a good story and let me in anyway. There were maybe 50 people crammed into a 30-person space on the deck upstairs. I stood crammed shoulder to shoulder for an over an hour before Crystal Castles even played a note, but goodness was it worth the wait. The Canadian duo were joined by a drummer who backed up their plodding, futuristic 8-bit electro death rock with a slamming beat. All eyes were on Alice Glass as she shrieked, danced, slithered and thrashed about the stage inciting all those watching from inside the sardine can to do the same. It was by no means comfortable, but damn if it wasn't awesome.
Afterward, I figured I’d test out my laminate once more at Vice Club to see MSTRKRFT. I had no problems at the door this time and walked into a hot, sweaty, jam-packed club just as they were starting. Unfortunately, their live show failed to hold a candle to what I’d just seen. Two guys bobbing their heads and occasionally tweaking a knob or two to what was basically a continuous mix of their debut The Looks
wasn’t interesting enough to make me want to endure the funk of the room's collective B.O.
In conclusion, I'll say the trip was absolutely a success. I paid not a dime to see any of these bands, I drank more free beers than I can count and ate a free meal at least once a day. Until I win the lottery and start using Ben Franklins as toilet paper, I probably won't be shelling out a few hundred bucks for a festival laminate anytime soon. But I'm definitely already making plans to go next year. Who's with me?