It was a continuous 13-hour drive that ended around 10 a.m. when we finally rolled into Austin, bloodshot and incredibly road-weary. We sought refuge in the welcoming and hospitable patio of the Spider House Cafe still suffering the effects of highway hypnosis/Red Bull psychosis, the antidote for which I decided was several pints of modestly priced, locally brewed Lone Star beer. There's a chance I was hallucinating, but I'm pretty sure Christopher Mintz-Plasse - a.k.a. McLovin from Superbad - was sitting at the table across from me.
From here, my proper SXSW schooling began. Basically, almost every band playing this thing does at least one free daytime show, but the sheer volume of these shows is still overwhelming, to say the least. I started off my day at Emo's with a much belated witnessing of Y.A.C.H.T. Mixing crunk-ass beats and anti-establishment chants, Jonas Becholt (formerly one half of The Blow), usually a one-man-band, was joined onstage by a yet unnamed female who aided with backup vocals. Immediately after, I caught The Raveonettes, who rocked out a short, sweet and delightfully minimal set of surfy, retro garage pop tracks from their newest Lust Lust Lust. From there it was Why?, The Blow, over to Creekside Lounge to catch The Spinto Band (with live sound run by Nashville's own Jesse Newport), and then to Beerland to catch the Black Diamond Heavies and kick it with the folks from Glossary.
After the daytime showcases, everyone gets kicked out, and it’s the time where laminate holders have the run of things. I caught wind of some free beer, wine and Rock Band (as in the video game) at a joint called the Firehouse and took full advantage and found out I suck horribly at Rock Band. What followed was a series of bars, drinks and chance encounters that led to me watching The Clutters on the roof of The Light Bar. Normally, I wouldn't care to drive 500 miles to see a local band I'd seen 500 times already, but when begging, it is understood that one cannot also be choosing. More drinks, more bars, more chance encounters followed and, just as I intended to hang it up and get some rest (for the first time in 36 hours), I happened upon the Lemonheads playing an outdoor venue and caught the latter half of their set from the other side of the fence. There was word of a Tennessee party happening close by, wherein all the folks from around these parts would celebrate their roots in the Volunteer State with TN-shaped cookies and the like. As tempting as it was, sleep seemed more important than the novelty of re-creating a Murfreesboro keg party deep in the heart of Texas.
Some other random notes and observations on SXSW and Austin so far:
Wireless internet is literally almost everywhere in downtown Austin. Pick a sidewalk, any sidewalk—except the one I'm sitting on now.
Free food and beer do exist here, badge or not, but in most cases you must RSVP. I did have the foresight to do this for several events, but not all. I am trying to rectify that at this very moment.
If you see a guy onstage with an Afro and a beard, chances are, regardless of his race or nationality (or even sex for that matter), he can and will play the shit out of the drums.
It's pretty much impossible not to gain about 10 pounds over the course of the week here. Hot dog wagons and pizza trucks are around every turn, and it would most definitely be a travesty to venture all the way out here without gorging on world renowned BBQ and Tex Mex.