SXSWhatever: From Wristbandless to Superstar DJ In One Not So Easy Bike Ride
So I’m staying with a band, Math the Band, they manage to cunningly sneak out their full drum kit to go film a new music video at stoopid o’ clock. I hear they are coming over to the UK soon to support Wheatus, “Teenage Dirtbag baby” anyone? They are adorable and surprised to hear they’ve also toured with Andrew WK, no, they didn’t make me wet! I go pick up my loan of a bike, again thanks to Michael. But before I gain two wheels I represent one of those rare things in America outside of Neurotic New York, a pedestrian, I walk a good few blocks, enjoying the sunshine and unfamiliar homesteads, get some stares from drivers going by who are confused with this one foot in front of the other motion and a shout out of “Great Shoes” wow Austinites sure are friendly but too fast for me to reply, “only £3 in Primark” not that it would matter anyway. Michael is setting up for his 3 days of free live music, I’m sent to Party Barn to pick up some supplies, so weird that I “drive through” on a push bike. But it’s not strange to these guys and I’m reminded of the local slogan “Keep Austin Weird”.
Time to head downtown, I dismiss any notion of going to any blogger party or sponsored free shows where, for the price of my email address, they will show me bands I want to see but will hound me forever on Gmail. Sure, I catch the scene, see all the excited/angst ridden faces, they get easily confused when your brow is dripping in sweat. I make my way instead to a 7-11 store and a Slurpy machine. Yes, I’ve been indoctrinated in enough US culture to grab one of these nuclear powered sugar highs every chance I can get. Who can not love layers of frozen cherry coke with guava and passionfruit flavoured ice? It’s, in total, 8 miles to Lexington/White Heat HQ. They obviously felt sorry for me, my budget options and the long dark lonely ride to 54th and and I get given an invite to sleep on a couch. Plus tonight we are all partying together. Myself and Gemma are Djing The Lexington official showcase at The Swan Dive just off mayhem central of 6th Street.
I go off piste and explore the backstreets of South Austin, past vintage stores and record shops, encountering some dudes who are old enough to know better skateboarding down hills and doing precarious Eddie the Eagle style jumps over speed bumps. I pick up the laptop, yes the laptop, shame amongst shame there is no Vinyl or CD decks for us, and head back uptown to meet up with Gemma. On the way I meet a Professor of Religion down here to see The Boss, please see earlier post on this, he’s quite lovely and I try to encourage him to see our headliner Future of the Left, he seems unconvinced when I name some songs, The Lord hates a Coward and Lapsed Catholics.
All the Wristbandless have gathered at the Spiderhouse for Austin Psych fest’s party Levitation, a student hangout by the University which has been decked out with 5 stages, stalls and a superb Taco palace. This is more like it, relaxing on the Patio with a Frozen Margharita, watching new bands like Purling Hiss, Growlers and old stalwarts like Ty Seagull guesting with Mikal Cronin. This is where the new and newish cult exciting bands are, this is what it’s all about. No badges or wristbands in sight, just Vibes, major Vibes. Trust me, if you want to enjoy SXSW sans bullshit you should just camp here for the 4 days (which we pretty much ended up doing).
I have to drag Gemma away from the action, Crocodiles and Sun Araw are on later, I think she hates me, taking her away from all the bountiful KFC, but duty calls. It goes well or as well as it can do when we have no official place to do a “DJ set ” and we sit down in front of the laptop on a desk on chairs, looking like we’re filling in Insurance Claims. The line-up is a solid mix of UK and US talent plus a Norweigan band for some reason or other. Spectrals on first have a noticeable difference as many of the band members I’m familiar with are now missing, Matt Benn is obviously too busy with new Project Hookworms, one of the finest new discoveries of last year. Hooded Fang gather a welcoming crowd, a true local band, they liven things up and we raise the tempo and volume on what we play also. Slowly I recognise faces from friends and randoms I’ve seen at gigs before. I’m terrible with faces (not a great accolade for a door girl, is it?) but supposedly members of Girls and Mr BBC Radio 1 Huw Stephens is there. We are generously compensated for our time by Lexington owner Stacey and we get drunker and drunker; the cigarette breaks get longer and longer. One cigarette break involves having my Tarot read by someone not unlike Bill or Ted on their excellent adventure. This resemblance increases when he reads my cards. He’s so right I wonder if he has a telephone box hidden somewhere. His hand signals and proclamations of “Rock on” for each positive card are hilarious. Not bad for $5, I await the outcome. All this to the death metal playing in the next lot at Barbarellas, surreal moment. Hatcham Social show up, a nicer bunch of lads you won’t find in London town, they have a few shows this week, all of which I fail miserably to attend. We get even drunker as Fiction and Philco Fiction play on. Ringo Deathstarr are more kick ass than I remember, less shoegaze more reverb, they inspire me to drop some Fugazi and the place gets set to welcome our headliner and possibly the greatest band I’ll see in Texas, Future of the Left. I cruise upfront, through the die hard fans who know all the words and there is a bit of a mosh pit happening, yup the boys from Wales have stirred up enough excitement in jaded label executives to create movement, sure it’s no hometown gig but I’m happy that a deserving band get a deserved response. Yes they hate the festival rating it a ”Three cocks below Zero”, I tell them they should hang with us at Spiderhouse tomorrow. Memory fails after this, we somehow manage to get back to the hotel via something called a shuttle, we all manage to resist the G-force but upon arrival at the hotel, Marcus falls fowl of too much of everything and chunders. I hear tell of him thrashing in his bed screaming to be let into the swimming pool, oh dear!