SXSW Day #1: Determination Edition
Our first day of SXSW was supposed to start early Wednesday morning, with us waking up peacefully in the neighborhood-y attic apartment we rented in east Austin, surrounded in almost country-esque quiet, with a few spring birds chirping. Instead, we woke up in our apartment in the dark of 4AM, jittery from not sleeping well, with confused cats running around our feet. Mission: get to Austin by that afternoon, no matter what it took. And it took a movie title to do it.
See, the plan had been fly out Tuesday afternoon, get here Tuesday evening, have a friend pick us up at the Austin airport, and get a good night’s rest before hitting day shows. But mechanical failures grounded our plane. To make a long story short, we chose to take control of our own destiny (i.e. if we waited for them to arrange it, we probably wouldn’t be in Austin until late Wednesday at the earliest, since there were basically no seats on flights to Austin), and we got the airline to book us on the first flight out in the morning to San Antonio, where we would rent a car and drive to Austin. Upon returning to our apartment in Brooklyn, defeated and ready to order take-in Thai, we discovered that there were no rental cars in San Antonio. Desperate phone calls to cash favors in from friends were begun, and I looked at our new flight itinerary and discovered…..that we had a layover in Dallas. And there were rental cars in Dallas! I immediately booked one, and we vowed to get off the plane and into a car in Dallas. A little haggling with the airline later, and the plane was officially approved. The lovely people hosting us in Austin were very nice about us missing our first night, too.
The road trip from Dallas to Austin was actually pretty fun, because Marc and I had thought our days of road tripping were over. It had been probably more than a year since I’d driven a car more than a couple miles, so I actually enjoyed taking a car out on the open highway. (It’s traffic that makes me batshit, but a 3-4 hour drive going a steady 70-75 is fun.) We rolled in to the grocery store to stock up on food supplies at 2:30, and I was giddy that we might actually be in the apartment by 3PM, able to rest and then leisurely make our way to night shows. The fates saw me thinking I was going to have that last few hours of my journey to Austin be joyful and intervened, and let’s just say my iPhone ended up in the toilet, soaked in water and ruined. Right before SXSW. When you need your cell phone to keep track of all those friends you haven’t seen in months.
Let’s just say I’m glad we know Austin so well, because we knew where the closet AT&T outlet was, and we could cut a deal involving me extending my contract. But before that happened, we got our groceries, and the woman in line with us told us that the rumor was that lines to get your wristbands were four hours long. So much for our leisurely stroll downtown around 8PM, we thought.
One traffic jam later, we finally made it to the attic apartment, which is as charming as hoped. And as is often true of hellish travel stories, once the hell of getting there is over, it becomes Valhalla-levels awesome, which is why I wonder that if there are gods, they might be capricious pagan gods who don’t want you to sample the pleasures of immortal life, and therefore they cause planes to fuck up. Of course, we were probably too tired to really enjoy last night as much as we should have. But I will say that when we went to pick up our wristbands, most of the line was gone.
Let’s hope today is as good as it should be, now that we’ve actually got some rest.
Bands we saw last night: We started off at a Spanish music showcase, where we saw two bands. The first was an art rock spazzy post-punk band that did a crazy 25 minute set. I’d recommend checking them out if any of those words make you smile. They’re called Tom Cary, and their drummer/singer looked like Aaron Ween to me. The second band probably doesn’t suck as much as I thought they did, but they infuriated me by being a dull atmospheric rock band, the sort of band who comes to a song’s natural end and decides to play two more minutes, causing me to wonder, “Since when did rock songs have ‘movements’?” After that, we went to see Austin-based rock band Ume. If you like 90s-style women-kick-ass rock, check out Ume.
The best band of the night was Lucy and the Popsonics. They were playing a national showcase, which often means no merch table, which is too bad, because I would have totally bought their album. It’s a man and a woman from Brazil who play guitar and bass over pre-programmed backing tracks that are very synth-y and danceable. But the way they play their guitars is pure rock and roll. It’s a great combination, that sweet spot between dance and rock that is hard for many who try it to hit. The lead singer is also completely bad ass.
We then moved on to see Andrew WK at Buffalo Billiard’s, and the fact that we were closing in on 24 hours of traveling and going to shows with only a very short nap in that period caught up to us before he could hit the stage. The nagging realization we had to return the rental car haunted us, too, so we turned around and left. But hopefully we will see him—and the other band we were eager to see, the Hounds Below, later this week.
Videos from bands seen below the fold.