17 March 2006


"Don't Mess With Texas" is more than a saying on the label of the urine that is Lone Star beer: it is the truth. I tried messing with Texas- or at least had too good of a time there over the course of the last week- and am now paying the price with a full-blown cold complete with headache, sore throat, and a runny nose which has since becoming a sinus infection. But damn, I dare say it was worth it! And besides, having a cold is an excuse for a hiatus from alcohol, and that is absolutely what I need right now besides echinacea, water, and vitamin C.

I took an early flight out to Austin and met Regan at the airport. After grabbing the little Adidas dufflebag I checked, we shared a cab downtown with a DJ from Brooklyn named Spencer Product. We finally registered at the convention center after following a labyrinth of lines and booths winding round, and were given our badges and the beginnings of bands which would accumulate on our wrists over the course of the next few days. We also received a huge cloth bag of goodies including magazines, promo cdees, a toothbrush and toothpaste, one of the cheapest condoms I've ever laid eyes on, and- most random of all- a Roy Orbison CASSETTE!

We walked to Casino's, a biker bar nearby on 6th, and sat in the sunshine of the back patio. I ate chicken wings and drank my first few Lone Star's while reading over the schedule of music to follow- it was daunting! Suddenly, Nan Warshaw (head of Bloodshot Records but, more importantly, former head of Sound Exposure) walked in and joined friends at a table in back, and it was as if right then I felt a real thread within my life as a musician. There I was, readying to play a huge music festival in Texas, and there was the woman who had helped the then-teenaged Stuart and me organize our very first shows in Evanston. We had become colleagues in a way, and I felt proud. We spoke briefly, and I sat back down with Regan and continued to soak in the sun, calling Stuart to tell him the funny news.

Soon, we met Regan's friend Briana outside, and she drove us to her house. Briana and I clicked immediately- she is a very sweet girl. We sat in her living room watching the dazzling Sophia Choi on CNN news (at least, I found her to be dazzling), followed by some quality Family Guy episodes her roommate had recorded on his digital TV. We were starving and, after two misses in the restaurant department (both Hula Hut and Shady Grove were packed), we ate delicious Tex-Mex at nearby Maude's cafe. We took a short stroll around downtown and I was amazed at how busy it was even without the SXSW festivities beginning! I got some chai at a cute cafe called Halcyon, and then met Briana's adorable friend Krystle at the bayou behind Stubbs to secretly watch the Strokes! It was so nice- I had never heard them live and, although I obviously couldn't see them, it was nice to catch their show.

After getting kicked out of there by cops nice enough not to give us tickets (they were looking for crackheads), we went to Jackalope's for a few drinks. We all went to Briana's for more “Family Guy” but quickly passed out- I preferred the floor over the couch, but I am not sure I even had a choice.

The next day was insane and began very early. I drove Briana to work at 10, then returned to her house to check email and shower. I couldn't believe she had trusted her home and her car to a stranger, but that's just the kind of southern hospitality I'd grow to expect from Texans. Well, maybe not, but at least from her and her friends! Regan and I went to Guitar Center and I nearly bought a new mixer- only at the last minute to decide against it. We picked up Briana, ate some tacos at a nearby haunt which had a mountain of taco meat on the grill (not as appetizing as it sounds, believe me!), then began the show-hopping.

We left the first show almost immediately and went to a large tent on Red River and 6th to see Awol One. Briana had to meet up with her friend, and I waited with her on the corner. Louise of Fringe Benefits was going to meet me there as well, so we just stood and watched the crowds go by. A gorgeous brunette and I made eye-contact as she approached, and then I realized it was Briana's friend! Isn't it lovely how that happens? I told them I'd wait for Louise and meet them inside.

Louise took forever, so I went across the street and bought a Sparks. When she arrived, conversation was difficult through all the noise, and became even harder when Steven and his friends showed up. Regan was ready to leave and, to make a long story short, I never really listened to a single song in the set and left with Briana, her brunette friend Sara, and Steven, losing Louise in the process. We walked in the wrong direction towards the next showcase, but got to talk and all get to know each other a little better.

We walked for quite some time, passed underneath the freeway, and finally arrived at Ms Bea's Bar for a showcase of Brooklyn bands put together by Brooklyn promoter Todd P. We watched the Double while I bought beer after beer, and I ran into Chris- a writer at CMJ and a drummer of the band Parts & Labor- and his friend Poingly whom I had apparently met at the Books On Tape CMJ showcase last year. After the Double's final song, a van pulled up out of nowhere and- as quickly as a white banner was lowered down its side with the name "Teenage Harlets" [sic] spray-painted in pink- a band jumped out and started to play. The singer flailed violently with the microphone around the dusty parking lot as his bandmates accompanied him on bass, keyboard, a mint green Fender Jazzmaster and, from inside the van, a full drum set. The audience moved from the bar's patio to the lot for the band's set of 4 short songs, standing in awe with bottles of Shiner Bock. Then, as rapidly as they had come, the banner was raised and they jumped in the van, speeding away to their next destination. I imagined they were the only band to do a "tour" of SXSW!

The next band, Night by Night, was brash and started off the set by spraying the crowd with Budweiser. Although they were fun, it was time to move on to the next destination. We all split up, and I went with Steven and his friend Fernando to a showcase on 6th street where they were to film the band Gracer. I, too, took a ton of photos and wandered around the stage with only toilet paper to help block out the deafening noise from my ears. By this point, I was chugging water trying to sober up: it didn't occur to me until much later that I hadn't eaten dinner, so the alcohol was going straight to my head.
From there, it was off to Stubbs for the Matador Records showcase, and a terribly boring set by the New Pornographers. Steven and Fernando bought vile smelling food from a stand, and we walked upstairs to somehow enter the VIP area in time for Belle & Sebastian! The venue was packed and we had a comfortable space in which to watch, and new smiles were constantly being illuminated in camera flashes. Eli Reitz was there, and I soon remembered he played in a band called Bright Black Morning Light who had performed prior to our arrival! We caught up and drank together and, by the time Mogwai were halfway through their set, he had vanished. Soon enough, I was walking together to the ATX magazine after-party down the street to meet Briana, Sara, and Regan.


I sat down with Sara and Briana to take drunken photos. Cops came to break up the party, so we all piled into Briana's car and headed home to Neil Young's "Helpless" as Sara and I traded an imaginary mic back and forth for the chorus. Regan passed out on the couch, and I stayed up with the two girls until almost 6. Eventually, I curled up on the floor in the living room again and fell asleep.

The next day was Thursday, the day of our showcase. It's funny- I had been having such a good time partying and seeing other people's shows that I couldn't have cared less about my show that evening! At least, that's how I felt in the morning as Sara came out in tiny shorts, furry boots, and a tight tee-shirt and asked me if she looked cute. She put on an adorable dress with a striped black and white top, and I sat hungover on the lazy boy next to her as she applied make-up, glancing over at me every so often with a smirk. We all went to Halcyon together, and I bought Briana lunch- it was her birthday that day.

We piled in the car and drove to a new parking spot on top of a hill, and Sara and I skipped together around the streets like schoolchildren. We went to Stubbs for the L Michaels Affair (Nick Movshon & Leon's band, featuring Stuart Bogie and AJ from Antibalas on the horns) and Wu Tang Clan! I found it so strange that my oldest friend was playing with the fucking Wu, but life just keeps getting stranger, doesn't it? Regan took off, and Briana and I went to the VIP section in the balcony. The show was fun, and Thavius, Subtitle, Bigg Jus, Matt (AntiMC) and others from Mush were milling about. There was a BBQ buffet which was unfortunately mediocre, but Briana and I ate nonetheless. Sara had gone back to change clothes, but soon returned to meet us in a mini skirt, white tee, and tall boots. Jesus.

We went to see The Ponys, and only caught their last song which was incredibly loud. Sara treated me to a Push-Pop and a Red Bull, and then it was time to say goodbye. I got dropped off at what I thought would be my soundcheck at Zero Degrees, but we soon learned there wouldn't be any... One by one, the Mush artists arrived. It was great seeing Daedelus, and the guys from Clue to Kalo were so amazingly nice! Really, everyone was nice. Since we weren't doing soundchecks, I nervously and almost reluctantly left to go to the Vice Magazine party.

It was a longer walk than I thought, but out of nowhere, a car pulled up and I heard my name called: it was Raedawn and Tes! I rolled with them to the packed party on 11th street. Now, I had heard there were sound problems with the last act (Spank Rock), so I was hoping they had been resolved. I had no idea what I was in for... The first 15 minutes I was there, a guy on stage repeatedly tried to play a track, and it kept cutting out. Lady Sovereign was nowhere to be seen, and people were becoming agitated. 20 minutes of strange stops and starts later, she came out on stage in all the glory her five-foot-frame could muster. The show was a disaster. I have no idea why on earth it was happening- perhaps some kind of a limiter turned on if the music reached a certain volume?- but two bars in to almost each song, the music mysteriously stopped without warning. People were booing a bit, but we knew it wasn't her fault. It was rectified for a couple of songs and then, on what she announced was her "favorite song," it happened again. She sat down on the stage, folded her arms across her chest, and pouted: it was so tragically cute!

Tes and I lingered outside, chatting with Spankrock, Kid 606, and Drop The Lime while Raedawn was dawdling inside. They drove me- and some random straggler- down to 6th street, and I walked inside to a horrendous performance by someone whose name now escapes me. Anyway, I had borrowed the mixer from Bigg Jus' guy Jon, so it was all good. My excitement level was rising, and Sara texted me to let me know she and Krystle were outside just as I was getting everything ready. I escorted them in, and disappeared to the side of the stage while Thavius and Subtitle opened the show.

By the time I went on twenty minutes later, Robert informed me that we were at capacity! I did an impromptu birthday song for Briana and got the clubgoers to sing along! Then, my set went by in a flash. Once I finished, Robert informed me he sold out of my cdees during my set! I was so happy! I spoke with a few folks, sold merch, drank a couple beers, and sold a couple extra copies of my CD myself. Busdriver and I set up at a feverish pace- Clue To Kalo had taken forever to set up, and the set-times were all pushed back. We managed to do well although we were cut short, and I was sweating profusely. Swollen Members were on after us, and we had to take everything apart as quickly as possible which of course I hate doing.

It was beautiful outside. We smoked a one-hitter on the street with one of Jus' djays, and I sat down a touch stoned with a tired Sara bobbing her head back and forth as she looked at the streetlights through special rainbow glasses. Our showcase was a success- it was so wonderful. Briana had gotten much higher than I did, and was having an enthusiastic exchange with Robert about Neil Young. Krystle was sleepy as well- it was Briana and I who were wired. The five of us- Regan, Krystle, Sara, Briana, and I- piled into the car, and I sat a little crunched in with Sara and Krystle in the back. There was a bottle of Jack, and Sara poured me way too much in a cup- I still obliged, of course.

Sara and Krystle were too tired to come out (it was 2 in the morning by the time we dropped our stuff off), so Briana and Regan and I headed out for a last hoorah: the Tigerbeat 6/TTC afterparty at Karma Lounge. I started getting exhausted and, after meeting the guys from TTC, I sat with Briana and listened to Vivian Host from XLR8R & Drop The Lime play some fun booty house. There were a few fashionista girls who were quite lovely but, besides the fact that I think they were with the TTC guys, I was ultimately so tired I didn't want to pursue anything anyway. Besides, the DJ from Spank Rock fell over dancing about a foot away from someone sleeping near the DJ booth, and that was an early cue to leave. We stayed for a while longer as DJ Orgasmic played some great tracks from their Institubes label, then went to Kerby Lane (where Briana's tattooed roommate Jennifer works as a waitress) and had a very late night/early morning meal of Tex-Mex. It was delicious, but something about eating tacos at nearly five in the morning just CAN'T be a good idea no matter how you look at it!

Regan's cab took forever to come, but finally we were on the way home. Krystle was awake when we returned, laying on the couch and reading, while Sara was fast asleep in the other room.

I'll never understand why, but I was awake at 9:30 and couldn't fall back asleep. After a half an hour of laying on the couch and realizing sleep was beyond me, I went into Briana's room where she and Sara were already giggling on the internet. We looked at pictures together, listened to some music, and then all got ready to go. Krystle took forever to get there, and Sara was eager to go to a concert; I offered to go with her. We walked around 6th street together, stopping in a bar and having free quesadillas and queso while we talked about our lives.

Krystle and Briana met up with us a little too soon. We saw Gogogo Airheart perform with Subtitle and Thavius Beck and ate disgusting barbeque, and I sipped on Sara's vodka. Matt from Mush was to drive Daedelus and me to the airport, so it was time for goodbyes. There was so much more going on in Austin that weekend but- before I knew it- I was on a plane whose wheels were touching down in NY.