SXSW 2013 – Charles’ Tales from the Thick SXSW 2013 – Charles’ Tales from the Thick

Ed. Note: 2013 marked Pinpoint’s third, official trip to SXSW (in 2010, Ben went rogue) and this year we did it bare bones. No interviews. No parties. No guns. No detractions. Just five days of rock and roll. It was a whirlwind, to be sure, and what follows is Charles’ best attempt to recount his time in the vortex. It is, admittedly, an exhaustive read that clocks in somewhere near 40 pages and contains 33 photo galleries of artists who range from the furious (Retox) to the soulful (Solange) to the best in American anthems (Andrew W.K.). We present the piece to you today, as a whole, because we feel its relentless and, often, personal nature accurately relays the SXSW experience. Enjoy.

Day 0!

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I’m not sure when we decided the Tuesday that launches the SXSW Music Conference would heretofore be considered Day 0 but I suppose it doesn’t matter. I am here in Austin full of a four-hour car ride with the pops down from Irving (which was arguably way more enjoyable than any adult father-son road trip has any right to be) and a breakfast burrito so goddamn good it broke up the second band. I drop off my shit at the Pinpoint (nee Lightsey Sage) House and find I am the first to arrive. Eff it. I get my wristband and meet up with Megan for the first Lone Stars I’ve had in a year despite four days of being in Texas already.

It’s a fucking sin.

Not so deadly as being across the street from where Bonaparte is playing his mangled queer dance pop revolutions loud and proud and totally out of our reach on account of his gig being some badge only Germanic bullshit but fine…it’s fine. The beer is cold and my friend lights up my sore eyes so I decide to not let the creeping sense of exclusion (“YOU JUST DON’T GET IT, DUDES! YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND AT ALL!”) get my best because bitterness is no way to plot a course through SXSW.

I think we’re at the Black Heart. Lots of folks are bleeding in dressed in that fucking nouveau colonial uniform that just makes me want to smother popular culture (suspenders over tight pants, lace dresses, fedoras and crap) with a steamer trunk of smallpox blankets because that artisanal nonsense was tired before the Yippies called it a day.

I grumble briefly about the depths of my rage.

We bail.

There’s some Slacker Radio strong man contest where you smash a mat with a fake guitar and maybe you can win something. I don’t know. I just like violence. So does Megan. We swing and swing again and though the impact sends great pangs of life from my arms straight out my ass, I am pretty much bested by everyone…except Megan.

Good for me.

She goes her own way and I head over to Latitude 30 because I’m feeling British (inexplicably). I’m not sure who I see. Some moppish surf and sea gaze band which might be fine on a lonely mix tape but doesn’t do it AT ALL for me this evening.

Evening?

When the fuck did it become evening?

I head to Metal & Lace (ugh) to catch Assacre because of course I’m going to see a solo gay masked grind unit called Assacre. Do you even know me?

Zorch is playing first. They’re okay. A little wide-eyed tribal laptop low-grade laser light show for my tastes but in a less cramped context and were I not secretly preparing to have my balls razed by Assacre (AASSSAACCRREE!!!) I’d say they were definitely damn worth your consideration.

I make a photographer friend whose card I’ll lose later. He’s a hired hand. We talk flashes and backdrops and odd jobs and then Assacre plays.

ASSACRE!

Eh.

I don’t know why I expected Assacre to produce some furiously debilitating bran/body experience with his one guitar and sampler buried somewhere in the back of Metal and Lace but I did and he didn’t. He didn’t even really so much play the ever-loving fuck out his guitar. He riffed, sure as shit, and the whole black cloak, sunglasses and shawl under the cover of a Rayovac headlamp was delightfully contrarian but it wasn’t until he went outside and started to shred in front of a some desperate busker band (which no one present could actually hear) that I really gave a damn about his performance.

Those dudes were PISSED!

A for insouciance, buddy.

Assacre

I head up the block to check out whatever Pitchfork has going on at the Mohawk (Cloud Nothings are fun) but the line is long and riddled with laments and then some wrinkle of my lizard brain remembers reading that B L A C K I E is playing at some joint called Holy Mountain so I flip off the kids who don’t know that I exist and go in pursuit of face melting innovation.

Instead, I find God-Des and She.

So far, I’m ½ for 4.

God-Des and She rhyme (She) and sing (God-Des) over an iPad’s bleats. They are out, they are proud and where I can certainly appreciate (and thereby applaud) the strength of their existence in a genre that’s almost unanimously straight, male and unapologetically misogynistic as well as being laughably homophobic (We’re done with “no homo” right? Sweet Christ.), blankly materialistic and often enough just plain fucking stupid but there’s just not a lot about their sound that speaks to me.

I’m just glad that they’re not Bitch and Animal.

God-Des and She

Max arrives. We drink Coors and PBR and Lone Star and I forget all about the fact that I won’t be hearing “Radiowaves” tonight (or at any point in my tenure) in the interest of some band that insists on calling themselves The Couch.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“You can’t fucking call your band The Couch.”

“But they did, man.”

“Goddamnit, I want to like them.”

“Me too. Well, half of their set.”

“Yeah. It’s like the first few songs they were scrambling to be some fucking Southern rock nonsense or blah blah Americana shit and what the fuck was the girl doing there?”

“Did she play keys?”

“Was there a keyboard in that song?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then they got awesome though.”

“Yeah, I would totally see that second band they were again.”

“Yeah, man. Totally. AMERICAN ROCK AND ROLL FREEDOM!”

“Totally.”

And that is how men talk when men talk about SXSW.

The Couch

Ume was next. Max fucking loves Ume. I honestly don’t know fuck all about them but what Max played me last year one long night at 4am drinking Jim Beam straight from the bottle and maybe Yaz was there or Lemon or a gun or I don’t know. Last year was scary and confusing and left scars on my brain that may never mend again but I remember Ume reminding me of a more emphatic Joy Formidable with a little bit of shoe gaze thrown in to ease you away from the pretty blonde girl just rocking the fuck out of her blistered six string before she lifts her knee up in your teeth and shreds you both to heaven.

And they totally sounded like that.

Fuck yeah, Ume.

Ume

The only problem with this band, I can concede, is that Lauren (guitars, vocals, AWESOME) is so relentlessly manic and thoroughly charismatic that it’s hard to remember that there has ever been anything in modern music but her. Ben says their record is overproduced but I don’t give a shit. I (heart) Ume.

Elated, we leave and pay too much for a cab back to drink and smoke and laugh and meet Ben who took photos with Dave Grohl and Pat Smear at the airport which is great and all and we’re both hella jealous but Ume, man. FUCKING UME!

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DAY 1!

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And then there was Jillian.

Ben reminds me that I’ve met her before, tells me she shot our friend Eric’s wedding but in my pre-coffee haze I wouldn’t recognize Eve let alone a woman I met once hidden behind a lens amid a crowd of drunk, aged strangers.

“She’s just, like, a free spirit.”

“Shit.”

“What?”

“I don’t trust that phrase.”

“Why not?”

“’Free spirits’ are fucking sociopaths…or drug addicts…or both.”

Ben shakes his head and walks away. I sip my coffee; make some bacon and eggs. My judgment wanes.

The four of us catch the bus downtown. Ben and Jillian head to the Convention Center. Max goes doing Max things. I go to the Death Match where Trash Talk is playing.

Rule fucking 9.

It’s 2pm. The Scoot Inn is packed with mealy skate rats, white vatos and punks of an age where the thrill of the pit comes from clotheslining teenagers who knock over your beer and the young, blonde girls who love all of them. There are also more people of color here than I’ve seen at any SXSW event except MAYBE for that one time we saw Talib Kweli but it was late and the lighting was bad so who knows for certain?

I’m actually kinda thrilled by the diversity. Punk is the music of the people. A revolutionary soundtrack that grew hand in hand with hip hop among the pissed and the fucked who were champions of the streets and when it’s throttled into the wide-eyed violence of hardcore it should fucking well echo diversity.

Kill whitey.

When Trash Talk takes the stage, the crowd sizzles with a lifetime’s worth of inchoate and misdirected rage. Lee Spielman’s in a leg brace. This might be a good thing for me. I’ve seen Trash Talk before and that motherfucker just doesn’t know how to be on stage more than three minutes (roughly two Trash Talk songs) before throwing himself with neck-snapping abandon in and/or at the audience.

My camera might just be safe.

It isn’t and neither am I.

As the band commences to blaze somewhere between dirge, hate and triumphant abandon the audience goes appropriately apeshit. Fists, heads and elbows fly. A circle pit ensues. The speaker which I have wedged myself against suddenly opens itself up to life as a diving board. I take a knee to the back of the head and another and then another and then I feel myself being grabbed from behind, lifted up and pulled away from the melee. The move is so sharp I don’t have time to react but when I open my eyes I see a big bald bouncer in iron shades. He pats me on the back. I thank him and immediately feel like apologizing for those ten years I acted like a complete shit to the strongmen whose lives were spent on the other side of the barricade.

I don’t though. Now isn’t the time and I’m willing to wager I have eight years on the man so a mea culpa would be strange.

I buy a beer and thank him again.

Trash Talk’s still playing. I don’t know if they’ve been on for an hour or twenty minutes but Lee is in the audience and he’s bleeding and everyone loves him as they swirl around his wiry frame like lemmings down the drain.

There’s something messianic about that motherfucker. A long-haired freak in a world of muscle skins willing and able to brutalize himself routinely in order to emancipate the children of America’s lazy inevitability.

I wonder if I have a concussion.

Trash Talk

When Trash Talk’s done, they invite everyone to head on over to the Mohawk but I decide to see whatever band happens to be playing inside.

I think it’s Pangea whose name I’ve heard before (and will hear again) tied into Burger Records on the surf garage tip and they’re perfectly fine but anything that follows the raw fuckless terror of Trash Talk is bound to be weighed down in such anticlimax as to be never considered worth one single of my good goddamns again.

Sorry, guys. You really did seem like a good time.

Pangea

I leave. I wander briefly. I end up at Cheer Up Charlie’s which may well be my favorite place in Austin because the beer is cheap, the space is freeing and there are never so many assholes present to make me wish I was back in NYC.

(I’m looking at you, Beerland)

California X plays.

I’m excited for a minute. I had certain reservations about the “everything is 90s again or maybe we’re being ironic” aesthetic of their self-titled endeavor but with enough time I was able to concede that Dinosaur Jr. covering Dead Moon without too many Allman solos isn’t such a terrible thing. Who doesn’t love white fuzz box trebling?

But yeah, they suck. Okay, maybe they don’t suck but they are boring as fuck. Almost as bad as the stoic Muesli of Discharge or (GASP! HORROR!) the Pixies. They don’t do a goddamn thing on stage. They play their instruments consummately but who gives a shit.

Seriously.

ROCK ME! Please? Or don’t. Fuck you. I’m going to see what Megan’s up to.

California X

Megan’s free so we grab a Fat Tire sixer and head over to her friends’ place. I meet Andres. He’s fantastic. I meet Sam whose a fucking dream and I may have encountered once or twice too many blurring years ago at one of the stud and leather dives we once tried to call our own.

We sit out on the terrace of their deluxe Guadalupe apartment while Andres and Sam hurl insults at the fixie shits, aesthetes and juiceheads making way several stories below. We smoke cigarettes and drink and talk, at length, about Christeene and my sole desire to attend Gay Bi Gay Gay this year.

“Charles, are you gay?”

“Nope.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

“Then why…”

“I just love a party.”

“Well, who are you seeing next?”

“Wet Nuns, I think.”

“Wet Nuns?”

“Why not?”

“Um…”

Wet Nuns

There is a dim and dirty hate fuck that permeates the work of Wet Nuns. When I first heard them in preparation for this event, I imagined their performance would be marred by brutal, dopesick desert metal antagonism but at their heart these boys are a blues band. A no good, broke-ass and desperate fucking blues band whose squalor and stupor speak to a ribald truth at the root of the genre.

Life is fucked so let’s have a good time.

Sure the singer plays his guitar while riding on some chubby lady’s face and bumps and crashes into everyone within spitting distance with his hair matted down and the faintest glimmer on his English lips but it’s okay. Despite how dark the bar (hence the one fucking picture, UGH!) and the sound there’s a palpable sense in Headhunter’s that what’s happening is wronging some limp-dicked right of the straight world and we should all just shut up, drink deep and live satisfied with the squall.

My eyes feel funny.

I head on back to Holy Mountain so I can see Bleached who are one of the only acts (other than Trash Talk) that I REALLY fucking want to see but my timing is fucked so I see MMOSS finish whatever the fucking psych Rorschach nonsense they were playing at (not pictured) and then I catch Rough Francis.

Rough Francis is a band comprised of the three sons of Death (an all black punk rock band from Detroit way the fuck back in the Stooges/MC5 days who would’ve been relegated into obscurity if not for the furor of record nerds) and a whole bunch of other motherfuckers who kick out the jams from Motown soul to punk as fuck and just fill the room with truth.

I’m not exactly sure what that means but I feel good that I am here now and there ain’t a damn thing the world can do about it. I grab a beer and the band plays “New Rose” which suitably fucking rules.

Rough Francis

Laura Stevenson and the Cans (?) are next and their tunes are kind and pretty. Sad pretty. The lonely heartbroken tomes of lovely and talented people enduring the shame of a city that should be heralding them as bohemian love interests when, instead, it’s just a blood-sucking harpy and they overpay for a one bedroom rat’s nest (rat free since 2006) and have to make sacrifices and…I just can’t fucking stand it.

I live in NYC. Queens, to be exact. It sucks and it costs too much and my heart has been broken in wild and unconscienable ways that Ms. Stevenson can’t possibly fathom and I don’t have a job and I’m unsure about what my future holds in store but you know what? So does fucking everybody so fuck you for making it onto the stage where I have to sit back and take pictures while pretending to appreciate every little thing that you do.

HHHHRRRNNNNN!!!

Laura Stevenson and the Cans

I’m sorry, Laura. I don’t mean that. My eye is blurring. I can’t see right through my camera and my head is starting to hurt and I’m confused and so I think I’ll go see PAWS. Maybe get some Brit post pop garage grunge agitation in. We’ll meet again. I’ll love you, then.

PAWS are fucking awesome.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. They’re another 90s (not 90s) band but they’re from Glasgow (which is one of my favorite fucking cities in the UK from my brief and ramshackle whirlwind with the 241ers, their wives and Toni Dead Bones. I LOVE YOU TONI!) so they get points against rain and gray, unemployment and boredom and they seem to be having the best fucking time ever despite playing a number of shows already and the hooks are legitimately catchy and the pride is evident and the bass player looks a lot like how I imagine Lemon in my vacant Grimes sex fantasies.

So yeah, buddy!

Towards the end of the set, the singer climbs on the bar and continues with his rusty-eyed rocking out. He sits down. Someone feeds him a beer and he smiles wide, dribbling some.

PAWS

My eye’s fucked.

But I’m okay. It must just be a light that I caught wrong. Maybe it’s a migraine. Whatever. Fuck it. I’m fine. I’m going to go see The Mornings.

Some full on Japanese madness will do me good, right? Yelling. Fun. Party. Jazz freak out punk spazz nonsense. I’ll love it. I do. A big mess party the likes of which the Boredoms used to bring (though without the earth-moving, club-shattering artistry) and totally opened my life up to possibility at the Roxy with Marcos back when we were thirteen and…

Jesus.

My first Boredoms show is old enough to drink.

This band is amazing.

The Mornings

I try to shoot them but my eye is no longer functioning. There’s a large brown mass where my vision should be. Shit.

This is bad.

I stumble out of the club and call Melissa to calm me down. I’m kind of totally freaking out. If I can’t see I can’t shoot and if I can’t shoot what the fuck good am I to South by?

She does well enough to get my heart to rest. I call Ben who has spent the night basking in Nick Cave and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

I need a fucking nap.

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DAY 2!

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Central Serous Retinopathy (or Choroidopathy) is a disease that causes choroidal fluid to collect behind the retina due to a break in the retinal pigment epithelium. It is idiopathic (though most would agree on its association with stress), temporary (generally lasting one to three months) and a total pain in the ass.

It also has a 50% recurrence rate.

I first came down with CSR about three years ago when I had a terrible job in a loathsome industry and spent every day surrounded by alcoholics, misogynists, manchildren and this one wretched cunt whose sole professional dedication was to see that I got unceremoniously sacked one Thursday afternoon after six and a half years service to the company in a manner that not only ensured that I would receive no severance package but would, in fact, have to hire a lawyer just to successfully file for New York State Unemployment Benefits.

Then there were the threatening letters, the revenge firing in my wake, the death of good friendships and the unofficial smear campaign which I still have to address now and again when trying to take in a business meeting.

And sometimes, my heart is still filled with so much hate I just want to go back in time to kick baby Jesus to let him know that SOME MOTHERFUCKERS don’t deserve to be saved.

Let ‘em burn.

But not today. Today, I wake to find that all that confused blinking bullshit last night was just my dumb luck. I am the 50% and now there’s a big brown blister hiding somewhere in my right eyeball eliminating the better part of its practical use. Yes, it sucks and there isn’t a single goddamn thing I can do about it.

Well, I can rest…but that won’t be happening.

I’ll just shoot with my left eye today.

“Punk as fuck,” I mutter.

That’ll do.

Coffee and bacon again and whatever the hell everyone else is doing. I get the site updated. I take a shit and shower. Jillian’s having a problem but I don’t feel much like giving a damn.

My heart belongs in East Austin (again) this afternoon. Retox is playing and I’m going to see them, bum eye or not.

“Punk as fuck.”

I’m standing outside at the Liberty. The band is late and someone named Frank Turner is sick which is upsetting to some very drunk dudes. I don’t know who he is so I just feign horror when the gentlemen with the black cup of rum explains that his day is fucking ruined, now.

“I mean, like, what’s this other guys?”

“Retox.”

“Sure.”

“They’re this screamy kinda hardcore band from San Diego who’ve been in a whole bunch of other screamy kinda hardcore bands before. One of them used to wear bug masks and body suits. It kinda rules.”

“They any good?”

“Good question.”

Rummy stumbles away and a lovely woman in a blue dress asks me if I enjoy beer.

My heart sings.

Her name is Courtney and she’s putting on today’s show which also features Whirr (who I missed on account of the eyeball), Stagnant Pools (who I missed on account of the posting), Single Mothers (who I don’t know) and Edsel.

“You know them?”

“Yeah. Angular but not frustrating, almost catch but never quite as much as they could. DC to the bone.”

“Totally.”

“I’m actually really stoked for Retox, though. I’ve never seen them before!”

“Oh, cool! Yeah, they drove straight from San Diego last night. I hope they get here soon. They’re stuck in traffic.”

“Holy shit.”

“Yeah, but they should be here any minute. Justin’s (Pearson, lead singer of Retox) pro. You want another drink ticket.”

Sings a song of laughter and forgetting.

Retox show, load, slay.

Retox

I would like to tell you that Retox is violent (for reasons that escape me) but they aren’t. Not, exactly. Their music is raging and short and propulsive and almost scathingly artful but their daylight anger remains contained. I feel like, today, I am safe.

“How you doing, Justin?”

“Eh, mediocre.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“I just really need to take a shit.”

Aaaaaaaahhhhh. That’s different.

Retox goes on slaying. They’re a fucking machine up there. Tight, convoluted. LOUD! Justin writhes, yelps and contorts himself. He leaps down into the crowd to spit the band’s psychosocial vitriol in the face of a young man in a Total Abuse t-shirt. The young man smiles awkwardly and steps to his left. Justin bends over backwards to belt at his thighs then stands up and shoots me some daggers.

I love it.

I wonder what Rummy thinks.

The set ends in a blink. This is not music for extended listening.

I introduce myself to Justin who is kind and charming enough to remember our site from Todd Sipes’ recent photography. Fuck pro, indeed.

I leave and go see a band called Talk Normal down the block at Hotel Vegas because standing idly equals death at SXSW.

They’re okay. Two ladies with a guitar and a drum and a whole lot of art school ideations and pedals between them. I feel like they’ve been around a minute. Are they local? Did they play some of my nemesis’ shows? I don’t know but they’re definitely pretty okay.

Ben’s calls me. He’s on his way to see Edsel.

I head back to the Liberty and the bouncer gives me more drink tickets.

Sweeeeeeeeeeettttt.

Single Mothers play and they are fucking RIGHTEOUS! Canadian punk balls deep in the scum and drunk most successfully (cha-ching?) displayed in the young, olden days of those LA mainstays, The Bronx. Loud, messy and fun. I’d dare say this band loves everyone or would, gladly, if someone would just get them some goddamn whiskey.

Or maybe they’re just waiting to kick me in the face.

I think it’s the singer’s birthday.

Did he just talk about his momma’s pussy?

Single Mothers

Whatever. Awesomeness abounds and Ben’s here now so let’s ride this cocaine rodeo until the cops bust us up then lose the “evidence” in a Dateline fiasco the full sordid details of which the world may never know.

Yeah.

And then they’re done.

I give Ben some beer tickets. They’re only good for PBR and I’ve already had two which is more than enough to send me on the road to weird and irreconcilably surly.

PBR and I have a short shelf life before disaster strikes. I think it’s the malt.
I’m actually pretty psyched to see Edsel play. Though I knew little to nothing of them in their hey day and never caught on through all the times Kwame used to play me Techniques Of Speed Hypnosis over kitchen beers, I definitely enjoyed indulging in their rereleases and Sohrab (Habibion, guitar and vocals) is one of the nicest fucking guys on the planet so yeah, man.

Let’s DO this!

Besides, it’s always pretty righteous to be part of a band’s first performance in sixteen years…or awful…like, really really really shamefully, ruefully bad. Not that I have. I’m not THAT old for fuck’s sakes.

Anyway.

Edsel are great. Worm rock for the indie heart. Collected from years of their own experience (Sohrab plays in Pinpoint faves, Obits) and loosened by years out of the fray and away from long days broke down in the van. Married, maybe. Happy.

I really wish I was better acquainted with their catalog so I could be as excited as Courtney who is taking photos like crazy and singing along to every fucking song.

Or do I just want to feel pretty?

Edsel

We run into Brandon Gentry. You might remember him from his Edsel review. Dude is awesome. Austin native. Friend of a friend. He just wrote a bitchin’ book called Capitol Contingency: Post-Punk, Indie Rock and Noise Pop in Washington, D.C., 1991-1999 all about the sounds of DC (duh) in the 90s (double duh) and really needs to be talked back into being a part of our little rock and roll cabal because the man knows his shit and can totally articulate it.

Mental note.

We talk to Sohrab a bit. Buy him (and us) beer. Ben knows him from the Obits shows. He recognizes me from…three years ago? Sure. Courtney comes over and we laugh and shoot the shit and then Ben starts talking soul reviews so I grow glazed and stale and soon enough I find myself deep in debate with the bouncer and his friend about the best kills in horror films.

My money’s on Ghost Ship.

“A terrible fucking movie, sure but that opening sequence where the little girl’s dancing with the captain and the wire snaps and everyone gets cut in half but she keeps dancing with his half corpse? GENIUS!”

The men approve.

Next stop, Fader Fort.

I’ve never been before.

It’s usually such a tangle mess of next big scheming nonsense and her +3000 even when we do get our shit together enough to get the highly coveted wristbands, we never ever manage to make it in.

This year’s different, however. This year we have photo pit access.

BOOSH!

Ben passes on the chance, however and goes off to get his Soul Glo going. I stay and navigate my way through refuse and waste and ruddy-eyed bumpkin kids (there really are thousands packed in and out of this place like drunken rats throwing up a maze) to try and get to the pit to see…

Shit.

I have no idea whose playing.

The tent that holds the stage is packed, packed, PACKED and in my attempts to make it to the barricade (and then swiftly back when I learn there’s just no getting in) I quickly become wedged between a skinny young black kid manic to get his shots off for Fox News and an enormous Asian man packing a $4,000 lens.

I’m trapped.

I start sweating.

The stage is huge and is soon taken over by a band, I guess. I can’t really see and the panic that’s beginning to riddle my bowels has my ears ringing.

What the fuck am I doing here? Is this how it ends for me?

The crowd roars.

A lovely woman saunters up to the mic.

“SOOOOOOLLLAAAANNNGGEEEEEE!!!!” someone screams.

Solange

Beyonce’s sister?

I don’t know but soon enough the barricade open and me the kid and the Asian are ushered in before the bright lights, fog machines and sea of kids just going the kind of teary pop-culture crazy I never ever get to see because no one really ever weeps for Slayer.

At least, not so openly.

I take pictures. I take pictures. I take pictures. I don’t know what she sounds like. My references are void. It’s soulful, danceable and familiar, I suppose. It is adored.

Two songs and I’m gone, barreling back through the throngs who are so enrapt in what’s coming out of Solange’s mouth they don’t notice me deftly ducking under their drinks towards the dwindling light of safety.

The promise of Pissed Jeans.

I fucking love Pissed Jeans.

I love them so much I would have probably laid them down as priority number one for my time in Tejas were I not so convinced that anything presented by Pitchfork (they’re one gig at the festival is a Pitchfork showcase) would be unapproachable and insufferable but fuck it.

I just survived Solange so I saunter up to the warehouse where the gig is happening (and where, I believe, I stumbled into Pennywise last year) and pretty much walk right in.

Awesome.

Oh.

No.

The warehouse is enormous (as warehouses are want to be) and there’s a big old stage of blue and purple lights swirling and pulsing around some fucking skinny barefoot band that I think wants me to shake my ass or nod my head or go into narcoleptic fits or something but I’m not having that not just because the band, in and of themselves, are about as inspiring as a lost speck of dick lint but because they appear to have a dedicated tambourine player.

And that shit just doesn’t stand.

I go outside and pay too much for a Tecate, smoke three cigarettes and when silence descends return to stake a claim by the stage.

FIDLAR’s next anyway and I’ve heard good things. Last year they played here with Trash Talk at the A$AP Rocky riot presented by VICE so, you know…okay. The record’s all right. Ben tells me they’re big in LA.

I can dig it.

They kill it.

FIDLAR

They slop and rip like rich kids on good drugs (the very best worst that life has to offer), tearing shit up with a young unquestioned, unquenchable abandon I haven’t enjoyed since I don’t even remember when and when they shout, in unison, “I! DRINK! CHEAP! BEER! SO! WHAT! FUCK! YOU!” it actually feels like a rallying cry rather than some cheap jack off the blanket generation.

These kids fucking mean it.

They just want to rock. They just want to rage. And they’ll burn this whole mother down to the ground before they’ll ever let you stand in their way.

I make another new friend. His name’s Luis. He’s got a wee waifish take on Johnny Thunders with his big black mop and fitted leopard print blazer. He steals sips from a hotel bottle of Jack. Tells me he’s in a band called Turbogeist.

“Oh yeah, I’ve heard of you.”

“Oh thanks, man.”

He’s British. I tell him I’m from New York.

“Oh yeah, I like New York City. It’s like a less nice London.”

“I don’t know, man. London kinda sucks.”

“I know.”

SNAP!

We laugh and we going on about the bands (his favorite, so far, has been Milk Music) we’ve seen and how everybody should listen to The Wipers and how fucking PSYCHED we both are to see Pissed Jeans for the first time.

“I mean, seriously, man…like…Pissed Jeans, ya know?”

“PISSED JEANS!”

“PISSED JEANS!”

“YEAH, BUDDY!”

“YEAH, MAN!”

Yeah.

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Two strangers in a warehouse thousands of miles from home making friends by the power of Philly pig fucking.

After a brief, deadpan announced by the surprisingly fashionable (wearing a t-shirt my girlfriend might call “structural”) Matt Korvette informing us that Dave Grohl and David Bowie were throwing some bitching free beer party which we should all totally go to like right fucking now, the band snarls into “It’s So Easy.”

No shit.

Pissed Jeans

Pissed Jeans opened their set with Guns ‘n FUCKING Roses and it’s all hellfire and hate screes from there. Growling. Moaning. Screaming. Pulsing. Korvette prowling the stage like a dopesick panther, eager to kill once more before he dies. The band rip roars the sad howl of cheap sex like the motel’s on fire and the damn bitch swallowed the key to the handcuffs.

I ditch the camera a minute and start banging my head. I can’t help it. Korvette sees this and smashes a beer can in my face or, I’d like to think, hoped I’d crush the can in his hand. Either way, it catches my left eye, scares the shit out of my for a second and then the band goes straight into “False Jesii pt. 2” and I don’t give a shit for my vision or safety. They play “Romanticize Me” and “Bathroom Laughter.” I’m ready to die. I’m screaming myself hoarse. I’m flailing like an idiot.

This is nirvana for me. Heaven was David Yow’s dick on my face.

You see, a lot of people think that I’m a metalhead due, in no small part, to my twenty-year love affair with Slayer but I’m not. I think a lot of metal is quite dull, actually. I like the AmRep shit. The No Fun NYC scene. Albini’s 80s Chicago. I like bad music for weird people that turns family men into frothing psychopaths and renders me hopelessly stupid and speechless.

I like Pissed Jeans. They’re fucking inspiring.

I catch Luis by the door. We hug…sorta. My time with Pitchfork is complete. I flip off no one in particular and head back to the city for Poly Vinyl’s party.

When I enter the venue, the lights are red and pulsing. Some blurry projection is playing on a sheet and two geishas are jumping up and down, fanning themselves in front of a laptop.

What the shit?

There are dancers in white writhing through the crowd, feeding men strawberries with a lusty long kiss and then spraying them with whipped cream. Soon they’re in a circle. Baby powder goes everywhere. Then they’re on stage art grinding or something. They contort. I’m confused. I want to take photos but I’m afraid that if I do I’ll ruin this nu porn review. So I gawk like everyone else and just assume this is whatever band Of Montreal’s wife is in. Something Zombie.

All the red allegorical sex I’m not having is making me sleepy.

Sooooo sleepy.

I yawn deep and it ends. I’m fucking magic, man.

Shugo Tokumaru is next and I’m looking forward to whatever he’ll do. There’s a creepy boyish glee to his toy pop dream machine that I find enticing and not at all twee.

A Japanese man next to me starts talking to a stranger. He is doing an interview. The questions are simple and revolve around Mr. Tokumaru, Japan and pop culture. The paper he’s holding reads “QUESTIONS FOR FOREIGNERS.”

He plays with a small girl on accordion, etc. and a drummer (who, to be fair, may also be small). He plays softly. Dreamily. He plays songs I think I recognize but between the smut and pig fucks I’m not sure I’d know my own mother.

Shugo Tokumaru

I yawn again, but harder this time. It’s not Shugo’s fault. He actually appears to be a savagely adept guitar player and his band adds a certain degree of rigor to his plaintive lilts about…um…

I decide to have a smoke on the steps outside. I sit down. It feels good to rest my bones. I’m right next to the beer girl and I can still see Shugo so all is pretty much right with the world.

He covers “Video Killed the Radio Star” on ukulele. It’s perfect.

I meet Ben and we decide to meet Vick whose new mustache rides the fine line between Nick Cave and John Holmes as sexual sadist. He informs me it’s just been trimmed. We are ushered into some club called Kingdom by a lady Ben knows from his first tenure in Texas and we find ourselves, inexplicably, at some crazy all night, overpriced, long sold-out John Digweed set.

Life is funny like that.

It’s not bad, actually. I won’t be dancing this evening but the beer is good and cheap and all the white dudes getting their Bedrock groove on tickle my cockles in a surprisingly non-judgmental way.

Besides, Digweed’s kind of a legend. Remember Twilo? That shit was endless. I wonder how Sasha is doing these days.

Outside, Vick tells us how he got into a fight with Talib Kwali and his crew and then battled him for lyrical supremacy to break pretty damn even, then shots. I believe it. Vick’s a bit of a maniac and when he’s drinking can freestyle like a motherfucker.

A man with a spiked leather jacket appears and Vick takes his leave. We do the same. It’s late enough. We’re pretty content. We decide a cab and a pre 2am nightcap on the back porch would be the best ending to this seriously choice…

“Dude, that’s LL Cool J.”

“HOLY SHIT!”

We book it to the Dorito’s stage and totally see LL Cool J who totally plays the fuck out of “Mama Said Knock You Out” and that new song with Chuck D (“CHUUUUCKKK DDEEEEEEE!!!!”) and there’s confetti and snacks and free water and goddamn, man.

“We TOTALLY just won SXSW!”

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DAY 3!

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I don’t feel anticlimactic. I don’t feel Catholic guilt. My eye’s still fucked but who cares? I’m in the red, baby. Doris can stay the bed forever for all I care. Ima go see White Lung today.

I catch a lift with Jillian and her (maybe) nurse friend. Sweet. She bobs and weaves through highways I’ve never seen. Scenic shit. Double sweet.

Not really.

We get dropped off a comfortable mile WEST of downtown and have to hail a cab so we don’t miss any of our 2pm gigs.

The cabbie’s a dick, refusing to leave his crawling lane despite there being no traffic to his left and green lights and when Jillian suggests he maybe try and do his goddamn job and get us to where we’re going within a reasonable time frame rather than letting the garbage truck in front (making routine stops) set our pace, he becomes hostile.

His accent is thick, though, so I have no idea what he’s saying but since my storied history with cabs in my city has involved draggings, cops and getting kicked square in the face, I tell the man everything’s okay and suggest to Jillian that perhaps she just shut the fuck up on this one.

She does.

We get out and I get hoofing. I have a rough mile or so to go yet and since White Lung is yet another one of those bands that I’ll be damned if I’m missing (three times in NYC since I fell in love with their last LP) I light a smoke and gun it at a power walk my dad taught me the last time he was in the city.

When was that, 2000?

I’m a bad son.

I make it to the Liberty with time to spare. White Lung is just setting up. Awesome.

Guitars get tuned, snares are tested, mics are motherfucking CHECKED! The band exits except for Mish who sits on an amp with her back to the audience no doubt getting as psyched as me and the handful of new Canadian punk devotees for the blister shred of one best young bands in North America.

Then she walks off stage.

Okay.

Whatever. She just needs a minute, a stiff drink probably. I can wait.

And I do.

I wait…and wait…and wait…and I can see the band sitting comfortably under a tent by the stage, sipping drinks with their feet up and checking their respective phones for further instructions on being badass, I bet…and I wait…and wait…and after half an hour a band starts to play inside and I blithely (stupidly) assume I’ve mistaken the band I just spend forty minutes watching idle was someone else entirely and so I pound the last of my beer and run to see…

Lovely Bad Things

What the shit?

Who the fuck is this?

A smiling four piece of fun as fuck sunshine Cali surf garage punk band that immediately imbues in me the crazy fucking notions that all might actually be right with the kids today and maybe I should consider moving back to LA and maybe, just maybe punk isn’t dead. Perhaps it’s just young and pretty and quick to smile at its strange fortune to remain a part of this thing called rock and roll after so many years of questionable living and, man…this band is fucking AWESOME!

I run to the can out back just to find White Lung beginning their set.

Sweet!

I get up front and proceed to have my mind bored into a dusty heap of irreconcilable frustration because it couldn’t be more evident that White Lung isn’t any more interested in their performance than I am in picking quarters out of my own shit.

At least then, I could do my laundry.

Seriously, though. Their set is short, dull and riddled with complaints. Mish laments how tired she is and how “unnatural” it is to expect a band to play so many sets especially during the day and I just want to smack her Barrymore fashion shades right off her sulking face.

We’re all tired, Mish. Every single fucking person at SXSW is run ragged on a steady diet of noise and frustration, alcohol and fat and no fucking sleep until it ends but you know what? We fucking do it. I’m half blind in my shooting eye for fuck’s sake but I’m here aren’t I? And didn’t I trek a good mile or more JUST to see you perform? Didn’t everybody who is here and singing along with you? We are fucking in attendance to see you fucking play, not to hear you fucking bemoan the fact that your craft is so in fucking demand it makes you what, exactly?

Tired? Sore? Bored?

White Lung

Fuck you.

I’ve got ten years on you lady (and easily the same on your eye-lolling guitar boy, bass plodding stiff and stick chick) but I’m standing straight despite my bum knees and hopeless allergies and headaches and ten pound pack of gear I’ve been lugging around ten hours a day since motherfucking TUESDAY!

So just shut up and play like you actually want to be on stage. Like your band fucking matters and so does anyone who would watch you do whatever it is you ACTUALLY do when you aren’t acting so fucking Bovary.

And don’t tell me touring is hard. I’ve been in the van. I’ve played roadie on three fucking punk tours with kids far longer in the tooth than you so I’ve seen the effect that shit has on a band. It’s brutal and grueling but you fucking suck it up and do it because it’s the life you’ve chosen for yourself and you’re goddamn lucky to be in a place where everyone at this festival wants to book you because when you have to perform for an audience of one surly bartender and two confused patrons at a bus station “club” on a rainy day in NOWHERE fucking England knowing you won’t get shit for the gig and so you’ll have to dip into your food money to drive the eight hours to the other side of the country just to do it all fucking over again…

Their set lasts fifteen minutes and I am disillusioned by all of it.

Thankfully, Lovely Bad Things are still playing so I go back inside and bang my head and feel all happy again and then there’s Nü Sensae.

Man.

I forgot they were playing today.

The last time I saw them, their set was vacant, static and brief and a tremendous disappointment to me and the friend that brought me but you know what? Fuck it. I’m choose to believe this time will be different.

It is and it isn’t.

Yes, there is a wooden nature to the band (even the guitarist’s junk fish flops seem creaky) that belies the Bjelland scatter and howl they so pointedly ape and it’s distracting as shit but, I don’t know, they just seem tighter, somehow. More rehearsed. Maybe they’re just not drunk. Maybe White Lung broke the barrel.

Nü Sensae

If nothing else, the band is playing loud like they’re supposed to be there and though they don’t provide a visual equivalent to the grit teeth rage their sound iterates, they do bear a certain spark reserved for people who actually want to be right where they are.

And that’s enough, sometimes.

Hunters play inside.

I’m suspect. I’m worried Hunters might be a fashion band from Brooklyn which from the perspective of someone who just spent twenty minutes shooting Sloan Peterson’s grungy grump of a sister is a plus but as a music geek in need of rocking there is a grave concern for suck.

There is none.

Hunters

And I don’t just say this because frontwoman Izzy is a pink punk pixie who ought to be splattered all over the tawny bedroom walls of American youth in need of a new damaged dream girl, moaning, croaking, wailing and rolling around in a bid to be the next whiskey queen of the death trip set.

The band rages somewhere in the shadows of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs no wave scratch art blues beef and the swift pop crunch and fuck all nature of the (sorely missed) Soviettes.

Actually, maybe they don’t sound at all like the Soviettes but that band’s all I can think as I watch them play with apologies for their desperate exhaustion while still throwing their balls to the wall because I like to think that band never gave a shit how tired they were because punk rock doesn’t have time for feelings. All it can do is bleed.

I really need to get over this White Lung thing.

Looks like that might take a minute because, suddenly, I’m seeing them again over at the Filter Mag party while ONCE MORE I attempt to see Bleached and they are just as blah as before but the crowd is denser and infinitely prettier (sunglass pretty, at least) so maybe they’re in they’re a little better in their element but they don’t really do anything to dissuade me from disparaging their glaring lack of charisma.

Maybe I just need to see them alone, in the dark.

Or am I just not drunk enough to make the moment memorable? That could happen, I guess. Fuck that. They suck.

Once more their set is shamefully short (considering the better part of their oeuvre fits into just over 45 minutes) which leaves a whole lot of eh for me to soak up as I look around at all the pretty kids and the more moneyed men then me and Ben is texting me but he’s across the street and it’s taking him forever to figure that the fuck out and I am beginning to feel fat and boring and dirty and aged and frustrated as fuck that I’m not just seeing the goddamn band I want to see despite travelling thousands of miles AND I JUST CAN’T TAKE IT!

On my way out I see Ben.

“Hey, buddy.”

“I just can’t fucking do it.”

“What are you talking about?”

“All these fucking Drew Barrymore girls. White Lung. FUCK! I CAN’T!”

“White Lung?”

“They SUCKED! I’VE SEEN THEM TWICE!”

“Okay.”

“You want a beer?”

“Yes.”

We get a sandwich instead. It’s awful.

“You want to go see Andrew W.K.?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“I thought you loved him.”

“I do. I did. I just want a high five. Besides, who knows what kind of show it’s going to be.”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean, will he be there with a full band playing all of I Get Wet or will it be a piano recital or a lecture or some treatise on the proletariat?”

“Why don’t we find out?”

“It’ll be too crowded.”

“Why don’t we just go and see?”

Jesus, I’m grumpy. Fucking White Lung.

There’s no line outside the Belmont.

“See?”

“I don’t know. I might just head back east to see some goth kids be pissed off at me.”

“That sounds shitty.”

“It will be. It’ll be awesome.”

“How about we just have some Sake?”

“What?”

“My treat.”

“Um, okay.”

Sometimes Ben knows just what to say to me.

We sit and order a bottle of unfiltered Sake. Ben’s choice. It’s tasty. Milky white. Delicious. We talk shop and shots. We talk jobs and friends and how awesome it was that we stumbled onto LL Cool J last night and how, really, it’s pretty fucking rad that we’ve found a way to make SXSW happen again this year despite great faults and dwindling bank accounts.

We spend time as friends.

Andrew W.K. it is, then.

Rather, it’s some Australian band, (I think) who are very much not for me but whatever. The Sake and the friendship are working in tandem quite nicely.

They finish up and we gun for the front.

The stage is studded with amps and guitars, a casio is in the background.

“That’s good right?”

“Fuck yeah, it is.”

This is going to be the real deal, baby.

“Are you ready to party?”

“YEAH!”

“I said, ARE YOU READY TO PARTY?!”

“YEEEEEEAAAAHHHHH!!!!”

“I SAID! ARE YOU READY TO PAAARRTTTAAYY??!?!?”

“YYYEEEEEAAAAAAAAARRRGGHGHHH!!!”

My mind goes black, my eyes turn gray. My heart races with sense memories I haven’t felt in ten years.

“This is happening.”

A man comes out in an aloha shirt, short shorts and white high tops. He is riffing. Hard and posed like the metal gods of old. The rest of the band comes out in pieces. Two more guitarists, bassists, drummer, Cherie fucking Lily (aka Mrs. Andrew W.K.) and then the man himself. The grand sultan of the best time ever. The white bison that broke the planes. The truth to end our quiet daze and show us the light of great vibrations.

Andrew W.K.

“IT’S TIME TO PARTY! LET’S PARTY! COME ON EVERYBODY HAVE A CRAZY PARTY! HEY YOU! LET’S PARTY! COME ON HAVE A PARTY! AND PAR-TAY-HAY!”

Goddamn, do I ever need this.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble being happy lately. I don’t have a job and every day I just watch my savings dry out. I have no idea what my future holds and after nearly three years of struggling to find a way I fear I’m close to giving up, breaking down, surrendering any semblance of a dream I’ve had to know I can safely put food in my fridge, pay my share of the rent and utilities, buy some pants to replace the many that have grown so haggard they’re unsuitable for anything other than wandering my apartment in a funk so dark and deep it’s hard to imagine why my dogs might ever give a damn for me, let alone the woman who I’ve lovingly shared the last years of my life.

I try to keep up a good front for my friends and my family, laughing up my anxiety as the standard pratfalls of playing to the idea that I’m some kind of artist with talent and purpose and, above all, fucking worth but it’s hard, man. It’s a fucking struggle that more often than not feels so pathetic and relentless to call it Sisyphean would be an insult Olympus.

But not here. Not now. In this time watching this band tear through the near entirety of I Get Wet (save “I Love NYC”), I honestly feel like there isn’t anything wrong with me. I feel young and prime and vital, like my being is one great possibility.

I am become party.

The set ends with a new song. “Head Bang,” I think it’s called. We are thanked, graciously.

“Wanna go see Bleached?”

“I’ve been trying to since Wednesday.”

“All right then.”

Ben and I hop into a pedicab. My first. It’s cheap, pleasant and efficient. Our biker’s name is Mark. I hope he made bank that day.

The line’s deep outside Hotel Vegas.

“Fuck this, man. Ima go see the goth kids.”

Ben let’s me take my leave. I go next door. He texts me the line was a ruse and I head back over.

I can’t find Ben and I can’t get anywhere near the stage so I grab a beer, stand back and watch Bleached play.

They’re good. Real good. Rough and tumble ready. Probably a little drunker than they’d like to be but the great anesthetic of rock and roll is what keeps the bad kids going well past the point of logic so drink up, chumps. You’ll all be famous soon enough.

That’s stupid.

It occurs to me this is the first band I’ve actually seen this entire festival. Like, just seen. No camera, no business, no bullshit. Just me under the stars with a couple hundred strangers enjoying some LA ladies rip the garage pop jams way harder than any of their contemporaries and without any of that shade everyone’s so hep to cast these days.

It gets a little rough up front. I worry the tent they’re playing under will be coming down and then we’ll all have to go riot again but it doesn’t and we don’t so, good.

Let’s get gloomy, stupid.

Rumor has it, Wax Idols used to be some kinda black leather garage band playing up the threat of their Raiders roots to help set them apart from the increasingly referential rabble. I’m sure some of that is true but I haven’t heard it. What I have heard is their new record, Discipline & Desire which has taken me, so fondly, back to those bygone nights at the Pyramid that I’m seriously considering investing in some fishnet stocking again.

Good times, friends and terrible fucking dancing.

Though, from the stone eye-lined glower, chest rocker and black leather bra of Wax Idols’ front woman (and clearly unfuckwithable leader) Hether Fortune it’s pretty evident there won’t be any of that snake dancing bullshit happening.

No ma’am.

Wax Idols

This band is scary. Actually, Fortune’s scary. The rest of the band sublimely integrate in and out of any number of well-dressed backing bands in Bumble and Bumble cuts I’ve found myself seeing the last few years. Pretty peaches of functional space with sweet axes and a consummate sense of rhythm but fuck them (no offense). This show’s all Fortune and she goddamn well knows it.

She demands her place on the stage and commands the audience’s attention with her manic alterations. Dead-doe crooning one minute, lupine howling the next. Posing slow and confident in the red glow of forbidding sex she emanates from her bob down to her boots before hacking and flailing her instrument like it’s her wretched fundament, a curse forever unforgiving and when there’s nothing left to motion she throws her body at the audience.

They are too terrified to consume her.

Holy fuck.

I think I’m in love.

I step out front for a cigarette and see some band called Beige Sex playing in a taco parking lot. It’s sex dance stuff. I don’t think I like it but I appreciate the fact that they probably won’t mind.

Beige Sex

Ben’s having a nosh. He needs to head home.

Fair enough.

I’m seeing TV Ghost because it pleases me when my nightmare emissions can come (huhuhuh) in double doses of deep red insanity.

Also, I’m pretty sure that I like them though I rarely return to the murky rage of Cold Fish and/or Mass Dream unless I’m feeling particularly prickly and I want the world to comprehend that everything is just the worst forever.

Ahem.

This dude looks like Simply Red choked in the wet jeans of JG Thirwell (back when Lydia Lunch used to suck his dick for cinema) and the rest of the band hang their heads down and just fucking play. It’s probably best. Like Fortune before him, he is a furiously sexualized and enigmatic frontman echoing an agitated contempt that makes my knees quake.

I think his name is Tristan.

Makes sense.

TV Ghost

I don’t get to see much of him, though. He spends most of the set using me as a prop on which to climb and better antagonize the audience behind me. That’s okay. I’m earning my shots this week. Besides, what kind of punk would I be if I didn’t help (in my own, small way) a slithering herald of post goth garage ennui display his lazing rage to the masses.

I’m just glad I’ve been working out. This kid is heavier than he looks and he just won’t stop fucking moving.

The set ends with him on the floor, like most bands I’ve seen at SXSW. He inspects his fingernails and then falls back into a panting trance. The band doesn’t give a shit. They back up their gear around him and head on out to the next show. Some dude runs up and kisses him square on the lips.

He smiles.

I think I’m done for the evening.

I walk downtown to the spot where the cabs come only to find it blocked by the cops. No explanation but I blame VICE. I keep walking. No cabs. No buses. Goddamnit. I keep walking and pretty soon I’m by the pedestrian bridge on Lamar and I swear I can hear hardcore playing.

It can’t be, can it?

I’ve always wanted to see on of the hardcore shows on the pedestrian bridge. It’s a goddamn Austin tradition. Fucked Up’s played them. Ceremony. I run as hard as I can up a winding ramp to find an enormous circle pit surrounding a deep dark hardcore sludge act I will never learn the name of. I don’t like them. They’re too damn screech and meat formulaic for me but the kids sure do go ape shit. They’re wasted. WAY wasted.

“How far do you think it is to the water?”

“I don’t know…um…far?”

“Like, would I die?”

“I don’t fucking know.”

“How much you bet?”

“No.”

I start to pull out my camera but think better. Drunk violence on a bridge at night is no place for the only nice thing I own.

I wish I had a beer, though.

The band’s done and the circle diffuses. I think it’s 2am. Kids are running in from all directions, forties firmly clutched in hand. I should stay.

I look down and see a puddle of blood at my feet and a trail leading away.

I should leave.

I follow the blood to a group of young shitfaces all surrounding a hoodie. I slow down to hear what they’re saying.

“Fuck you.”

“No, seriously.”

“Seriously, fuck you.”

“You should go to the hospital.”

“NO! FUCK HOSPITALS!”

“Seriously.”

I inch in front of them to try and catch a glance. No dice. I pause. A photographer walks by, Nikon firmly gripped in hand. He takes one look at what’s under the hood.

“DUDE!”

“WHAT?!?”

“Dude, you are not fucking okay.”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

“Seriously. Your nose is fucking sidewise, man.”

“Goddamnit.”

The hood turns and it is.

Holy shit.

His nose is plastered to the left side of his face. His hoodie’s covered in blood. He’s still bleeding heavily. I’ve never fucking seen that and I have been to show’s where men have died. I spent six years working at a hospital for fuck’s sake.

“C’mon, let’s just go home, then.”

That’s a good idea.

I walk another hour uphill and into the comfort of Lightsey Sage. I’ve been walking almost three hours. My shins hurt. I eat chips with Ben and watch the end of No Country for Old Men. He suggests I ice my feet. I do.

It feels good.

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DAY 4!

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This is our last gasp.

Max and Jillian are hungover as fuck. Ben’s fine and so am I. I make us breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, avocado and pico de gallo on a whole wheat roll with a cup of hot joe and a Lone Star for measure.

We sit and nosh together outside in the shade. We grumble, pleasantly. No one is sure what they want to get out of this day but we’re determined to, at least, enjoy parts of it. No pressure, though. No stress nor strife nor even the remotest notion of enjoying Prince or Justin Timberlake, the megastar headliners set to blow all the bright young hopefuls the fuck out of the water with a callous reminder that there are enough legends still living so they best step up their young man’s game.

And yes, I’m just a little pissed that I wasn’t invited (whose dick does a man have to suck these days?) and far too sensible to spend the entirety of my day in the sun on a Samsung scavenger hunt to see the Purple One on a stage La Zona Rosa built specifically to showcase his grandiosity.

But I won’t let it get to me. There’s plenty of other shit I’d like to see and if I can’t then I’ll just see what I see.

I go to Beerland to catch Lemuria and Merchandise. The place is blackened and packed. I go to Holy Mountain again. Total shitshow. I try what used to be Emo’s and the Mohawk. Each place houses a stockier swarm than the next and I see no reason to hack the wall of still heads and camera phones.

Today, I’m taking it easy.

I head east again. I see the Jacuzzi Boys.

They’re adequate. Probably fine on record but have as much all the stage presence of a wet mop on a laptop.

Jacuzzi Boys

What the fuck with garage bands playing with their hair all in their face? Who can I blame? Bass Drums of Death? They hardly seem to have innovated the genre of ragtop obscurity but white (ish) kids who steal blues sure do like them and it’s kind of like their thing, I guess.

I think it’s stupid.

Shannon and the Clams play next and they’re just delightful. Harder than I would have though. Faster. Their guitarist is sick, adding a jagged wank and lilt to the band’s 60s sock hop style. Their drummer looks and plays like Animal. Shannon’s captivating. A big blonde girl with a juicy voice, a glittering bass and a Roy Orbison signature tat that keeps teasing out from under her skirt.

Shannon and the Clams

I have visions of her and Hunx holding hands, naked. Walking down the beach of Fire Island to the dreamiest little margarita stand where they’ll drink from bad to fierce, amassing a small but fervent congregation of rippling men and tattooed lesbians and all will be better for the world then.

Sigh…

Then there’s Wampire. I fucking hate that name but I respect any band daring to follow in the footsteps of Big Black with a cover of Kraftwerk’s “The Model” (which isn’t NEARLY as good but, you know, props).

I do not like them.

They’ve got this 70s vibe about them I thought would be more driving but just limps by like a wet dick. It’s plodding, lazy midtempo. Music for stoners who think that being high is a gateway to the loveless tomes of Kierkegaard and who write poetry dripping with irony in a furtive attempt to overtake the New Yorker.

One dude is wearing an oversized Boys II Men t-shirt.

I hate him.

Wampire

Fuck this.

I go inside and have a beer, listen to the mustachioed dude from the Black Lips spin soul records.

And then there are horses.

Yes, horses.

I follow them down the street.

“Only in Texas, right?”

“I guess.”

“You know that guy gets arrested all the time.”

“Why?”

“DUI.”

“Get the fuck out of here.”

“Seriously. He gets drunk at the bar and rides the horses through town. The cops pick him up and hold him overnight and then he’s right back at it again.”

“What happens to the horses?”

“The cops take ‘em home. Everyone in Austin knows ‘em and no one really seems to mind until he starts riding in traffic so they call the cops.”

“Holy shit.”

“Pretty much.”

The bouncer at the Liberty welcomes me with a fist bump. I think there’s a Canadian thing that’s happening. A promise of free beer. There are a lot of really white people here.

There is no free beer.

The stage is packed with instruments and whiter dudes who look like they have MFAs. A blonde girl fucks with her fiddle besides a casio organ display.

What the fuck? This is going to be some jam band shit, isn’t it?

It is.

An elderly black man in purple fingerless gloves (pants, shoes, glasses, etc.), an overcoat and a big ass hat takes his place behind the keys and all the white people yell “BERNIE!”

This is Bernie Worrell. He was a founder of the P-Funk experience. I don’t give a damn about P-Funk and certainly wouldn’t give two shits about the jazz wonk explorations of its weathered keyboardist but I’m here so I take in two songs, take a few shots and then get the fuck out of dodge before I’m overwhelmed by the desire to start lighting every dread I see on fire.

Bernie Worrell

I go see the Spits. They wear cloaks and rule. Dirty punk for careless drunks. I’m too far away to feel the full power of their melee and the girl next to me smells like she’s about to throw up so I hightail it to see if I can catch Megan at the Clutch show.

I do.

We (and her friend who is super nice but whose name immediately escapes me because I’ve had a few more beers than I should’ve so soon but fuck it, dude) head to Cheer Up Charlie’s for a drink. Her friend disappears. She tells me I should start a website to display my rocktography. I tell her she should come see The Shrine.

“They’re fucking shredders, dude. You’ll love it.”

“Okay.”

“Wheedle-eeedle-eeedle-wheeeeee!”

Her friend’s gone. He head to the Gypsy in time to see a band that is decidedly not The Shrine. They say they’re Canadian but I don’t get their name. They’re skinny, long-haired and PISSED!

YES!

HARDCORE!

Mysterious Pissed-Off Canadian Hardcore Band

The singer jumps down in the crowd and initiates his own motherfucking pit. Some people shove in, the rest clutch their cocktails, shitless.

They are loud and rabid and just what I need to forget all about that time I made myself live the funk for ten minutes of temporary insanity.

Shuddders.

“Maybe The Shrine are playing inside.”

“Okay.”

They aren’t. It’s an Americana band. I spot a long-hair in a backwards cap with a skateboard.

“Hey, do you know if The Shrine’s played yet?”

“Nope. We go on next.”

“I’m a dick.”

“Nah, man.”

I’m pretty sure Megan spills her drink on him. I hear her apologizing on our way back outside…or is she saying “It wasn’t me.”

Whatever.

MORE BEER!

LET’S SHRED!

“Dude! Is that a Flying V AND a double Orange stack?”

“Fuck yeah, buddy.”

“THAT’S TOO MUCH ROCK, MAN!”

“No such thing.”

Awesome.

The Shrine play and they TOTALLY shred. They also riff. Occassionally, they wheedle. They’re exactly what man like me would need if he actually knew how to skate, hated my mom and dad and had the balls to drain and invade my vacationing neighbors’ Olympic pools.

Since I’m not, it’s a little lackluster.

That’s the problem with shredding, though, isn’t it? Thrash and skate rock in general? It rather lends itself to the performers just standing around and shaping the guitar sounds with their mouths which must be fun as fuck when you’re up there rocking but I just can’t take too much of it. I’ve seen too many bands that’ve just up and fucking slayed me with sweat and terror and awe and performances that reaffirmed my faith in rock and fucking roll as the great conduit of human experience so I’ll save my love for this primordial party when the band comes to town and I can see them late and drunk and ARGH!

Yeah, buddy.

The Shrine

Megan bails and I follow suit.

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to sit the fuck down and have a beer and a burger where I don’t have to see a fucking band play.”

“That sounds amazing.”

We go to Sputnik and do just that. I see Megan to the bus stop a mile or so away. I meet Ben and the Tijuana Panthers.

“Is there anything else we have to do?”

“Nope. You want to see any other bands?”

“I guess I could. I mean, I think someone’s playing at, like 1am over at…”

“Dude, it’s eleven.”

“Right, then. Fuck that. Let’s go home.”

“Good man.”

The Panthers hit their van and we grab a cab.

“Any regrets this year?”

“Not really. There were a couple of bands I really wanted to see. Merchandise, Milk Music, Bleached…”

“We saw Bleached.”

“That’s right, we did. When was that?”

“Yesterday.”

“Huh. I’d say I’m good then.”

A cop stops the cab just shy of our house.

“Where are you boys going?”

“Right there.”

“Uh-huh. Where are you coming from?”

“We were just at the festival. Is there a problem, officer?”

“Yeah. Someone drove a stolen car into a telephone pole up the hill, there. We have reports they are currently on foot.”

“Well, it wasn’t us officer.”

“I can’t even drive.”

“Very good.”

We get out to find an abandoned whip (I don’t know car models for shit) blocking the entrance to our cul de sac. The front is completely smashed in.

“Jesus Christ. Someone ran away from that?”

“I guess.”

“Where the fuck did they go?”

We both look at the house.

“Nah, couldn’t be.”

We sweep the house anyway…you know…just to be safe. It’s clean.

I crack two beers and we take to the porch. Ben’s flight is in a couple of hours. Tomorrow, I’ll be staying with Megan. Max and Jillian will do their own strange respective things come morning. This is it.

“We fucking did it, didn’t we?”

“Yeah, we did.”

We clink our cans and take a well-earned swig.

4-cn-7975



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