26 March 2009

"a backstreet lullaby"

SXSW Day 2 (Thursday) dawned bright and early. Too bright and too early, thanks to the giant window in my hotel room which, because I am lame, did not have the curtains closed. Actually, I didn't close the curtains once during the entire week, and while that may seem pretty dumb, I sort of think if someone has a telescope trained specifically on the window of 603 at the Embassy Suites, they can see whatever they'd like.

Armed with a mimosa-to-go, Courtney and I decided we wanted Actual Food. A few years ago at south by, I came up with a new rule: must consume one sit-down meal a day. Preferably with something green in it. Man cannot live by Roppolo's alone. So we ate at the fairly new (I think? Wasn't there last time I drove by it) tex-mex restaurant near 4th and Lavaca. I had ceviche! Which, as you may very well know, is a biological imperative to keep my body functioning at optimum levels of contentment.

After that, Courtney really wanted to go down to Trophy's, on So Co, to see The Gin Riots perform. So off we went!

A quick note on Trophy's: They had no cold dos equis. This is of course a travesty. I mean, it was okay, there was Shiner 100, but MY GOD, PEOPLE. This is Texas. WE HAVE A REP TO PROTECT. No dos equis is like a tex mex restaurant saying, "Sorry, we ran out of queso." It just shouldn't happen.

The band playing before The Gin Riots was a band called Here Holy Spain. I do not understand from whence their title springs. I have nothing at all to report on them, except that they SEEM nice, even if their look didn't exactly match their sound. It was sort of like watching the musical equivalent of drinking water. I don't mean that in a rude way. Water is important. They just did nothing for me.

But the next act, London's The Gin Riots, certainly did. You guys, this band is sheer fun. I'd heard their single, "The Polka" before, and it's a fun, dance-worthy tune. So it came as a nice treat that the rest of their set was just as fun and dance-worthy. Courtney, in fact, did dance. I mostly took photos. Can you blame me? These boys are pretty:

The lead singer, Guy, has a sort of Elvis Presley-meets-Mark Bolan swagger,which I realize is giving him far too much credit as it stands now. But he was a pleasure to watch. And the members of the band were a pleasure to speak to, which Courtney and I did after their set. The conversation quickly jumped from "nice to meet you; are you enjoying Austin?" to an in-depth discussion about the last cycle of America's Next Top Model and the rape of dead squirrels. I would like to say that this is an unusual turn of events, but to be honest, it happens to me a lot.

Here is a video of them performing "The Polka" which doesn't really doesn't show their stage presence very well, but is good quality:

After we left Trophy's, it was time for that most sacred of So Co traditions: cupcakes. I actually didn't go to Sugar Mama's that day (IKNOW, I KNOW. But don't worry, that's coming.) but rather just skipped across the road to Hey Cupcake:

Later on in the week, I was walking down Sixth street with a British person I had met, and we happened by the Hey Cupcake trailer, and he said "everything that's wrong with america can be summed up by the idea of a travelling cupcake caravan." That is a stone-cold true statement, if you replace the word "wrong" with the word "amaaaazing." I wish Sugar Mama's had a travelling cupcake caravan. And that it would travel to my office.

Sugar in our bellies, Courtney and I ventured onwards and upwards, back to downtown. The plan was to go to Latitude and see Frank Turner perform. Frank Turner is a British singer/songwriter, notable (for me, anyway) for having a song called "Thatcher Fucked The Kids." I enjoy songs which are both political AND about ol' Mags, so I knew I'd like Frank Turner. Except he didn't play the song! What the eff, Mr Turner?

Here is a photo of Frank Turner, and Courtney:

Why are you doing that with your hand, Frank Turner? You're not cute enough to get away with douchebaggery. Pretty much no one is.

At Latitude, before Frank Turner's set, Courtney and I happened to meet a SuperFan for a man who was playing guitar for Frank Turner. (Like many overseas solo musicians, Turner hired a local band to perform backup.) Constantly bordering on the verge of SuperFandom myself (seriously, do not mention the words "Yeti," "Pulp," or "The Libertines" to me - you will live to regret it.), I'm always interested in talking to SuperFans. What is their motivation? How far have they travelled? Why do they exist? I am not going to cast aspersions on the actions/motivations of this particular SuperFan; however, I will say that, because I am a selfless human being, I manipulated SuperFan into switching places with Courtney so that Courtney could get closer to Frank Turner. You can thank me later, Courtney!

Frank Turner's set was over, and it was time for Courtney and I to part ways! I was going to go over to the Mohawk to see Bishop Allen, but quickly changed my plans when I saw the line to get INTO the Mohawk. Some other time, Bishop Allen! Instead, I went to Elysium, where Aqualung and Ed Harcourt were playing.

I feel I should pause for a second and explain that I'm not ACTUALLY obsessed with British people, despite my taste in music, cider and, perhaps, boys. I just try to plan my sxsw schedule to see bands I won't otherwise see throughout the year. Lots of North American bands, as well as some from other countries, will come tour Texas. British bands, on the other hand, have some sort of fatwa against touring the southern states of America. So I grab the chance to see them when I can, which is usually sxsw.

Moving on, I arrived at the Elysium, grabbed a drink, and immediately was hit with a wave of sxsw-related fatigue. All I wanted was easy access to booze and a place to sit down. The perfect place was on the stairs, next to where the artists were storing their equipment. This led to Aqualung bashing me in the head with his guitar case. THIS led to an unfortunate joke I made later in the evening to some of my friends, likening the guitar case to a bunny slope and me to Natasha Richardson. Too soon?

Around this time, I received a text from a guy I'd met previously in the evening, and he came over to meet me. We drank and listened to both Aqualung* and Ed Harcourt, and I wasn't too impressed with either act, but then again, I was drunk and busy talking to a cute boy, so what can you do? Maybe someday, Ed Harcourt. Maybe someday.

From Elysium, I went over to Maggie Mae's, where I had no idea who was playing, but I did know that I could stand on the roof and take in the great Austin night air. It all seemed perfect until I had to look for the restrooms, and realized that I had to WALK ACROSS THE STAGE to get to them. What an insane set up, Maggie Mae's. I do not want to be a member of a band just because I have to go to the bathroom. Besides which, if I'm going to be onstage with any band, it's going to be one of these:

Unexpected Bassist
Secret Baby and the Big-House Bruises
What Are Your Thoughts on Yaoi?
The Funky Meercats

These, by the way, are the band names that I have come up with over the years. They can't be any worse than Natalie Portman's Shaved Head.

I have to say that I actually didn't see any bands past 11 pm on Thursday night. Instead, I wandered around Austin in the guise of showing it off to someone else, spent time at a church, and, in typical Klutzy Erin fashion, managed to totally eat curb whilst trying to catch a taxi. (my knee is still skinned) In typical sxsw style, though, it's the down time, the moments in-between, which fill up the expanse of memory. I may not remember the exact hook to a song I heard, but I will always remember the breeze against my face on the roof of Maggie Mae's, the heat of the sun pressing insistantly against my arms earlier that day, or the feeling of a warm hand holding mine. I call South by "magic time," and it is, but everything that's magical about it is merely the exaltation of the mundane. I just appreciate it more during that week than I do any other time.

* I originally typed "Aqualunch" which is so good that I'm going to claim it as another possible band name.

SxSW Stats for Day Two:

Hours Slept: 3.5
Acts Seen: 8
Acts Loved: 2 (ooh, slow day)
Drinks Consumed: 12 (5 of which were bought for/given to me)

24 March 2009

there must be an old recipe, cause i gotta get drunk, i gotta forget about some things

OH MAN. So SXSW has not yet left my brain, not even a little bit. I woke up this morning and did the following things:

1) cursed loudly at my alarm clock and attempted to throw a book at it so it would shut up (i'm glad my fancy Stephen Fry alarm clock hasn't come in cause I'd feel bad for throwing a book at Mr. Fry. I'd do it, though.)

2) fumbled for my cell phone, where I had 22 new messages (I'm not that popular: 21 were from twitter and one was from someone I met at south by.).

3) got out of bed and wondered where the cham cans were. real life is for suckers.

I know that to really appreciate something, you can't have it all the time, and that I wouldn't REALLY like to have a life where I'm walking around forever and listening to a different band every hour and drinking too much and hanging out with my friends and having no schedule or responsibilities. But boy, do I ache for south by.

Here's what I did on Wednesday!

I left home late, due entirely to the previous night's St Patrick's Day celebration. Have we, as a nation, come to a conclusion about why jello shots are considered a cultural celebration? Cause I'd like to know the reasoning. Seriously.

Courtney, my esteemed sxsw partner in crime, and I met up at our hotel. This is the first time I've ever stayed downtown during south by! It was amazing and Courtney and I have decided we'll never go back to a hotel out of walking distance from the convention center again. We got spoiled. Also, randomly, our hotel had a giant mirror over the bed:

If you think that didn't come back up during the week, you don't know me very well.

We were so tardy that we just had time to get our credentials before making the long trek over to the Levi's Fader Fort. We encountered a very long line to get checked in to the guest list, but I didn't mind for two reasons: 1) there was a very cute ginger-bearded fellow in line behind us and 2) we were going to fulfill a dream of mine.

No, not free southern comfort, although that was nice. You guys. I SAW GRAHAM COXON PLAY THE GUITAR:

Okay, yes. The sound was shit at Fader that day and I couldn't work out what he was singing. I was trying to avoid a crazy lady who is my sxsw nemesis. I'd lost track of the cute ginger-bearded fella. But did I care? NO. Because Graham Coxon is a freaking genius, and watching his fingers move along the frets was, for me, akin to being born again, only instead of vaguely crazy, it was just amazing. And while my love for him was (prior to this point) always pure, seeing him actually play the guitar in person made my tummy sort of tremble.

The fact that he's cuter than a sack of kittens doesn't hurt:

lucky lucky courtney

After I took this photo of Courtney and Graham Coxon, I proceeded to insult his hair and call him old. I really should not be allowed out in public.

After the Fader party had lost its luster (i.e. graham coxon had left), Courtney and I met up with my friends Daniel and Leah (and their friend, Michael) and trooped to Central Presbyterian to see M Ward and Camera Obscura. It was really, really packed in the church, as you might expect it would be for M Ward, and we had some problems with seating, including unexpected entanglement with some chick's extentions. Ack!

The set opened with Anni Rossi, who I'd never heard before, but who has a lovely voice with really haunting melodies. I'll definitely be checking more of her stuff out. And then came M Ward, Man of the Hour. He was amazing, of course, but I'm here to tell you that people shouldn't listen to sex music in a church. I hadn't felt that confused about the feelings inside me since I was 12.

We decided to bag after M Ward, as we all thought we could catch Camera Obscura later (I never did, WOE.). As we were exiting the church, one of the sxsw volunteers cautioned us not to gloat to the people who had been standing in a giant line wrapped around the block for the last 6 hours. We didn't, but one guy did stop Daniel and ask him if they had a bar in the church. We remain undecided as to whether the communion alter counts as one.

Courtney really wanted to see Laura Marling at Latitude, and since I didn't have any plans until later, I came with. First we caught an act called Stoney, who were fine if not particularly interesting. Then Laura Marling - all 3 inches of her - came on and made me fall in love with her.

Last year it was emmy the great, and this year it was Laura Marling: I seem to really love tiny, pocket-sized female singer-songwriters, what can I say?

After her set, I left Courtney and wandered down to catch a few minutes of Danananakroyd's set, as well as to see my friends Brianna and K. YOU GUYS. Danananananananananananakroyd are amaaaaazing. I can't understand a damn word they say; they may very well be singing about cheese processing, for all I know. But I do know this: they do an excellent cover of House of Pain's "Jump Around" and The Wall Of Cuddles is possibly the best invention known to man.

Confused about the Wall of Cuddles? Well, know how, in high school, the cheerleaders would always try to divide the stands into two sides, and one would shout "De!" and one would shout "Fence!" and it was a competition to see who could shout louder? (at least I think that was the goal.) The Wall of Cuddles is sort of like that, only instead of shouting, at the count of four, everyone runs towards each other and hugs.

If you've never been to south by, let me pause right now and explain how the crowds are usually made up. It's 40% hipster, 40% music industry, 10% fans/friends/family of the band and 10% people who wandered in off the streets. There is no hugging. There is affected boredom, and occassionally drunken singing, and very rarely Superfan going mental down by the monitors, but there is never any hugging. Until Dananananananananakroyd, that is. Strangers, friends, band members, bar staff - everyone hugged! It was possibly the single happiest moment of the festival. In years.

This guy hugged me the most:

Hi Calum!

After that, it was on to see Phosphorescent and Deer Tick at the BrooklynVegan showcase! You guys, Phosphorescent have gotten SO MUCH BETTER. I saw them last year (again at BrooklynVegan, hmm.) and they were good but I wasn't all that blown away by them. I don't know if it's the new material (they've recently released an album of Willie Nelson covers) or just better stage presence, but they were great. ALMOST good enough that I wanted to push my way to the front, but in teh end I opted to stay back near the bar so I could have easy access to more drinks.

And then, Deer Tick!! I didn't get to see Deer Tick last year at sxsw due to some crap scheduling on my part, but their album War Elephant was on CONSTANT repeat on my ipod this year. I was so excited to see them, and they did not disappoint. Well, they did in one way:

What is with their fashion sense? Is this supposed to be ironic, or is it because they're from Rhode Island? Either way, it's no good. Don't hide the pretty with terrible clothes, boys.

They were as amazing as I expected/hoped they'd be, playing a good mix of tracks from War Elephant and their upcoming album, plus a few extras for fun. If you'd like to have a listen to them, here are two links:


cover of Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years"

And after that, I went to bed.

SxSW Stats for Wednesday:

Bands seen: 10
Bands loved: 5
Drinks consumed: 6 (it was a slow day, due to driving)
Hours slept: 5
Blisters formed: 4

23 March 2009

normal life just isn't as fun

Sometime in the next week, I'll try to fix my head around this past week. First comes sleep, and a lot of rest for my poor abused feet.

There are times I wish sxsw would go on forever, and times I sort of dread it (those times are when I'm trying to schedule, or pack, or am facing traffic on 35). But when it ends, I'm always left feeling shattered and entirely at peace. It's not just the music - although it spurs me on - it's not the weather, which is gorgeous, or even spending time with friends I get to see rarely, or making new friends. It's all of that, and more: the feeling I get when I wake up in the morning and realize that the entire day is stretching before me, and the biggest decision is whether to have a free dos equis or a free lone star, whether to see an act I've never heard of before or one I love to watch, whether to spend time in some small, intimate bar or out in the warm Texas sun. It's the people and the bands and the frenzy and the small pockets of peace, the crush and the space; even the blisters are little badges of honor: i was here, i lived this life, and it was brilliant.

21 March 2009

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Every year there is a party that i wait in line so long for that i start to wonder if it it worth it. This year that party is rachel ray's. Who knew?

20 March 2009

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Lounging in the slipping sun.

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Is there any doubt that this is the best week of the year?

19 March 2009

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One of the things i love most about south by is that music really is everywhere you turn. You don't need a badge or wristband to fill up your day with live music. A am on so co and, after i see the gin riots, i will eat a cupcake and jump back into the throng of downtown.


Crappy cell phone camera photos aside, I'm on twitter as likepenguins. That's where most mobile sxsw updates will go.

you think it's like this, but really it's like this

First off, hi, welcome back, sorry I've been crap at updating this thing. Blame laziness; I certainly do.

So as you may know, I'm currently at south by southwest, which is pretty much my favorite time of the year. There's something for everyone, from the music to the drinking to the making fun of tragic hipsters. Good times.

Today I stood in line for a very long time so that I could get into Fader's party to see Graham Coxon. For those who don't know who he is (or weren't friends with 15 year old Erin), he's the guitarist from Blur. And is amazing. He's releasing a solo album (about, in short, a boy who goes off to war, goes a bit mad, dies, is brought back to life and guided by the spirit of Madea, who, according to Mr Coxon, got a bum rap in Jason and the Argonauts. "Jason was a twat.") and is at south by to promote it.

The set wasn't spectacular, but that's entirely owing to the shitty sound. But even though I could BARELY HEAR HIM (and i was standing next to the stage), I could still tell that the album was going to be lovely. This opinion was validated when I later heard two cuts off the album.

After Graham's set, my sxsw partner in crime and I saw Graham doing a spot for a radio show. He came out and my friend Courtney started talking to him, and then I did that thing I do. Which is, basically, insulting musicians on accident.

Courtney and I have a running joke about my inability to hold a conversation with someone who is in a band without insulting them in some way. It's not something I try to do, and I'm always left thinking, "why the hell did I just say that?" Esp. when it's someone that I've loved for years. But nevertheless, when I meet a musician, out comes some crazy bitchiness.

I think the problem is that my mind is at war with itself. I want to treat musicians like they're regular ole' people - because they are - but at the same time I'm completely filled with awe at their talent. So that gets jumbled up in my head and what comes out of my mouth is less "It was a pleasure to meet you" and more "why do you suck so very badly at life?"

At any rate, Graham, if ever you should read this, I'm sorry that I inferred that life had basically stopped for you now that you've turned 40. If it's any consolation, you look more adorable at 40 than I looked at 4.

More news tomorrow, as well as thoughts on the inherant problems of listening to bonin' music whilst in a church.

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When i saw deer tick do am acoustic show last night, they introduced this guy as the bassist. They weren't kidding.

18 March 2009

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Reasons why i love south by. Fulfilling teenage dreams with free whiskey.

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Fader Fort is over-packed. Only 20 feet stand between me and graham coxon. 20 feet and forever, it seems.

17 March 2009

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Kicking off sxsw right with deer tick and free beer at cactus in houston.