Tag Archives: SXSW

Getting What You Pay For

31 Mar

South By Southwest jumped the shark years ago, but now it has come to the point where if you don’t have access to a badge (good luck tryna buy one. You better start saving up now), then you can almost forget about seeing half the acts that you like.

The festival has become a bigger deal each year since I started going back in 2006. There was still a fringe element to it back then, where things were clogged, but the streets were still fairly navigable. I could not buy a wristband or badge, and still see plenty of the shows from anywhere in town. Now the major acts almost triple the unsigned ones, and you have to venture east of Red River to see anything resembling a DIY artist.

What is crazy to me is how much you must think ahead for everything during SXSW week (month?)–needing just as much of a game plan for avoiding the cluster as you’ll need for joining the fray.

Lines for every popular coffee shop, or food haunt become longer, and trying to hit up the famed BBQ spots is almost unthinkable. So imagine my surprise when a friend and I were able to just pull up to Micklethwait Craft Meats, ten minutes before they opened, and just get in line. We were fifth to get our order taken when things popped off, and let me tell you, it was legit.

The analogy I like to make about barbecue is along the lines of being an herbal connoisseur. Growing up, I smoked a lot swag because it was all I knew. occasionally, a friend would luck into some White Widow, and it wasn’t until I smoked that where I learned the difference in quality of buds.

beef

BBQ is similar in that regard. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, places like Hardeman’s, Rudy’s, Poke Jo’s, Sonny Bryant’s, Gates, and Dickey’s were considered to be really good. Nowadays these chains are like the swag of good barbecue. They’ll do in a pinch, but once you’ve had the really good stuff, it is difficult to not think about what you could be consuming.

Places like Salt Lick, Kansas City Joe’s (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s), and Micklewait are what my college friends would refer to as “BC Nugs.” Pretty good quality, but ultimately mid-grade stuff.

I actually really liked Micklewait. I’d rate it as a high quality mid grade–the 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers of Austin barbecue. Their beef rib (18 dollars a pop) are as good of a beef rib as I have ever had. It came right off the bone (a big ass bone at that–probably half of what you pay for when you are paying by the lb.) and was tender and delicious. I just salivated thinking about it.

The jalapeno cheese grits (yeah I know that I don’t normally fuck with side dishes) are otherworldly. I wouldn’t call myself a grits fan at all, but I don’t see anyway that you could improve the taste of these grits.

Their sausage is on point as well. It has just as much flavor as Smitty’s sausage, but not nearly as greasy. My only real complaint was that the brisket was a little salty. That being said, it was extremely tender. Apparently they also offer goat on Saturdays, which is something I love eating. I’m certainly going to back on a Saturday and give it a run.

There aren’t too many bells and whistles at Mickelwait. It’s just a trailer over in east Austin that is right down the street from East Side Pies. But I’ll vouch for it. If you don’t feel like hitting up the long ass lines at La Barbecue or Franklin’s (spare me), and you’re not in the mood to drive out to Lockhart, then this is your spot.

It is getting increasingly hard to rate all these bbq joints. When you start getting top-tier quality meats from places like Franklin’s, La Barbecue, and Smitty’s, it all tastes the same in its own wonderful way. Anyone who has been to a weed dispensary on the west coast, or in Amsterdam, can relate. Its only when you get the lower grade stuff that you can actually tell the difference. I guess what I’m saying is that Texas is quickly becoming the Amsterdam of barbecue, and that ain’t a bad thing.

 

 

 

Gettin’ Hype about SXSW

7 Mar

I was at the Habana show. I saw myself in the background. I’d point it out, but it was during my heavier days. Just look for the dark skinned guy with the weird gait, and heavy paunch. Who knows, maybe I’ll get down there again this year.

Surfer Blood

10 Apr

Missed these guys multiple times at SXSW because I wasn’t too sure of the name. I figured either they would be really good or really corny. You be the judge.

March Madness Revisited pt. 3 : Welcome to Austin, don’t forget to leave.

16 Jun

It’s official! The secret is out!

Honestly the secret has been out for decades.

The secret had been out for years by the time me and my crew moved down to Austin in ’01 . Even then old timers and locals talked about how different Austin had become since the 40 Acre days (This was before the ominous looking Frost building was erected. That was when I knew it was for real. That the the development of downtown and west campus was only beginning. So I high tailed it to California because Austin was surely on its way to becoming Houston).

I blamed Austinite Kevin Dunn and MTV. His appearance on Real World New York spelled the end of the best kept secret in the United States. He was clearly a cool dude ( and not just on television–we ran into each other a lot during UT football games), and his praises of is lovely hometown reached the masses.

Soon everyone wanted to know about the “best place in the world.”

I had a neighbor back in ’01 who said he’d met a chick in Amsterdam that was so fucking cool and was from Austin.  This encounter with her caused him to move to Austin out of curiosity. He ended up staying for over ten years (through a strange coincidence I ended up working at a Greenpeace type organization with his best friend in San Francisco– but that’s a story for a different time–you know like–never).

There has been a large influx of Californians since I’d moved out of state back in 2006. Looking around and seeing all the California license plates made me finally understand what people in Colorado and Oregon were dealing with. The damned vermin had finally ruined their lovely state and were now coming for our respective territories.

This epidemic has spawned such T-shirts as “Welcome to Austin, don’t forget to leave.” and “Welcome to Austin, please don’t move here.”

And why wouldn’t you move there if you lived out west? Land and housing is 4 times as cheap as it is on the coast. You can live the lifestyle and not pay the booty tax.

Then again I was suddenly one of those interlopers. Having grown up in Dallas I moved down to Austin as soon as I could. For weirdo Texans like myself, Austin provided a haven for us.

Too gay for east Texas, too queer for the panhandle? Well come down to the hill country.Don’t let yourself get caught up in the rat race of bullshit, big city life. Move to Austin immediately. Cease, desist and CHILL.

It was fun, it was chill, and it was definitely weird. It was like being in a Simpsons episode. I dug it. But I wasn’t the only one who was cashing in. People were moving down in droves, saturating the job market and re-living the Linklater movie, Slacker.

And then the Yuppies came. Condos sprouted up from the ground like concrete and glass herpes sores. The capital and the UT tower were mere ornament pieces in the downtown skyline.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me when I encountered a large magnitude of people for the music and film festival. Things had reached Mardi Gras proportions. Every city bus on the “drag”  heading downtown was a guaranteed 45 minute ride, when normally it took no more than fifteen.

Every bus was a party bus. Cabs sat in long lines of traffic. I soon regretted not renting a bicycle or buying a skateboard to bring down. I either walked everywhere or I waited on the bus.

By the end of the week my feet were killing me. Because of all the craziness and the way the festival had spread out, I knew I’d have to plan accordingly.

I had made a list of everyone I wanted to see. But the free shows overlapped and some of the others were way too expensive.

I did have 3 major highlights from the time I was down there:

#1 Seeing the film debut of the Bad Brains documentary,

I’d been a fan of theirs since I discovered them in college.

That was the first time I’d heard about an all black punk band from the 80’s who were also considered to be the best of all time. I’d read about their influence on some of my favorite bands like Rage Against the Machine, and the Beastie Boys.

One time I was a club in San Francisco and I saw a couple of dreaded cats in Adidas jump suits. I laughed to myself and made a joke like “Aww shit Bad Brains in the house.”

What I didn’t know was that it really was them. As I’d find out when I ran across a flier the very next day. They had played a gig that night and were playing again the next evening. I was debating whether or not I should go when someone told me not to bother. It wasn’t going to be what I expected.

The film footage in the documentary would only confirm what that person told me. The tour ended up being shitty because of some problems between HR( the lead singer) and the rest of the band and lots of that tour was documented at the screening.

The film American Hardcore touched a small bit on The Bad Brains influence in the early 80’s. I was still slightly dissatisfied with the amount of coverage on the band. Upon hearing about this new documentary being screened at South By Southwest, I knew that no matter what was going on, that I had to see it.

I met up with my friend from Colorado, L______ and we stood in line at the convention center for free tickets. I was surprised to walk in and see that nearly no one was there and that we had our pick of seats. We went towards the back row and sure enough there was HR sitting next to some fine little blonde shiksa about half his age.

During the movie I kept looking back at him to gauge his reaction to certain scenes. I imagined it must’ve been strange to see all the footage of himself as a young man, and hear people sharing all these weird facets of his life for everyone on the big screen.

The movie was highly creative, and in depth and had great interviews (Adam Yauch and Mike D were in a couple scenes as well). I walked out of the theater feeling like my trip had been made.

It was only about to get better. I went to take a piss in the urinal and it wasn’t 3o seconds after I’d whipped my dick out, that HR came in to take a piss in the urinal next to mine. “Fucking A” I thought. Taking a piss next to HR.

I bet his dick had rubbed against at least 6 times as much pussy as mine had seen. To punctuate this thought, HR ripped the loudest sloppiest fart I’d ever heard from a celebrity.

“Pardon me” he said. Then he shook himself and washed his hands and walked out the bathroom door.

I washed my hands and chuckled to myself.

#2 occured in a cramped club on Red River street. My stuffed backpack didn’t help things at all. (It just wouldn’t be a Japanther show if it weren’t in a cramped venue).

I could barely move and I was becoming irritated, agitated and claustrophobic. But once the punk duo took the stage, I hid my pack underneath a stool at the bar and went to it.

They were so punk that it was refreshing. Two dudes, a bass player and a drummer with weird telephone mics, and over sized speakers. And they were terribly loud!

Cats were moshing and fucking getting crazy as Japanther played tunes off their new album Beets, Lime, and Rice. It had the spirit of an old school punk show and they really threw down. I felt so lucky to a part of it all. I didn’t over pay to see them. I was right next to the stage the whole night, and afterwards had a great conversation about basketball with the drummer Ian (A nice bloke but I couldn’t help but remember the bike shop gig in Brooklyn when I had walked in on him and his buddies smoking weed and they all in unison gave me “piss the fuck off” looks).

Right there, so close to the band, getting wild and intimate, and trying to look up this chick’s skirt, because I suspected that she wasn’t wearing underwear. It was a loud and raunchy night. Even the dressed up girls were getting into the pit and throwing people around. It was pretty rad and possibly the best musical moment of the month.

#3 was a documentary on Hip Hop and the L.A. riots.

This was a sneak peek of a VH-1 film that was just shown in the month of May. It was real good. Hilarious interviews by NWA members and other Los Angeles artists who were around that time.

I’d forgotten so much about that time period. I was only a kid when it happened but I remember the helpless, sad, and angry feeling I had that blacks couldn’t catch any breaks in this country.

This was the point where Public Enemy and Ice Cube were really speaking my kind of language and I’d go to middle school just hoping that a white boy would say something foul to me.

The movie was real good though. I ate some over priced chicken tenders while it was being shown.  This black lady and I seemed to be the only people  laughing at some of the dark humor and ugly situations documented throughout the film (The white liberals in the audience were realizing that they weren’t quite as liberal as they believed themselves to be).

I had a great time at the festival. It was a pain in the ass getting around but it was nice seeing some old friends. Running around town got a little tiresome and I was constantly debating just how badly I wanted to move back. Any thought of me living in New York City was tempered with the realization that even Austin was almost too busy for me.

Things had certainly changed and not necessarily for the worst. The city felt a bit more swinging that when I’d last lived there. Californians brought a douchebaggery with them, but they also had brought lots of cool and innovative ideas along too.

The comedy/ open mic scene was more prevalent since my last gig in Austin. Tons more hotties and even a film studio as well. It was becoming little Hollywood.

I couldn’t make a rash decision based on this visit though. I decided it would be best to come back during a non- event week and get a true gauge of things. The summer before I was convinced that I was moving back, but now I wasn’t so sure. I’d already done this, how much better could it get?

It seemed fitting to be sharing a late night cab with a plump and proper, british gal, whom I met at the all night eatery, Kerby Lane. What better way to salvage my evening and end my trip by making out with her on my way to the bus station?

I was heading to what I thought would be a pit stop in Dallas before catching a Spurs-Thunder game and effectively ending the first spring break that I’d had in six years.

But things didn’t quite work out for me. The plump girl and I didn’t make out.  She was on some bullshit about staying in town an extra day and taking her on a proper date (Hilarious). I took her number down and threw it away as soon as I got to the bus station.

I boarded the bus thinking that maybe it’d have been a good idea to have booked my ticket for a straight shot to OKC. But the thought was quietly dismissed as we headed north on I-35, back into the weirdness i had escaped days earlier.

Sure enough Dallas would only bring about bad news. I’d find that my bus to Oklahoma City would be sold out–with the next bus getting me into town well after the Spurs game.

I’d miss the game and my ticket would be wasted (in fact it wouldn’t even be a game. The Thunder would get thoroughly dominated at home–causing many people like me to question the legitimacy of OKC’s chances to contend).

But this would only pale in comparison to the news I was about to receive that night from my little brother. His return home to Texas would be short lived as he had gotten word that his services would be needed in Afghanistan. This news sent me into a state of shock that would last for months.

My equilibrium suffered a great jolt and the ensuing shift in perspective would prove to be tremendously profound.  Things were taking on a whole new meaning. There was no way I was going to be able to look at things in quite the same way . The fun and sun down in Austin didn’t seem so fun anymore. What the fuck was I doing with my life?

March Madness Revisited pt. 1

14 Jun

Before the new year began I bought myself a dry erase board. This was a way to achieve two things:

1) I could keep track of weekly activities and duties.

2) I could have my yearly goals set right in front of my face and be accountable for them.

There were silly ones like get a membership at the local Y,

get myself a colonic,

take piano lessons.

Then there were the serious ones like buy a longboard,

take a cruise out of New Orleans and most importantly hit up my old stomping grounds for SXSW.

Last year I badly wanted to go because there were so many bands I wanted to see.

The Great Lake Swimmers interested me, I believe M. Ward was playing, this band out of Quebec, Final Flash was making an appearance. Unfortunately I didn’t get my schedule request in on time and couldn’t get the days off I wanted (I just cringed remembering that I wanted  to go see Donald Glover perform as Childish Gambino).

So I didn’t go.

This year it was a priority.

But with my recent increase in pay, I was delighted to find that I could afford to purchase really good seats for Thunder games. I bought 3 for the month of March alone.  I had tickets to see the Clippers, Timberwolves, and the Spurs.

I also had lucked into a ticket at the Radiohead show in Austin. On top of that Of Montreal was playing in Dallas at Trees.

Something had to give. It was going to take some serious creativity to do all of this AND keep my job.

SXSW was suddenly looking iffy. Two trips to Austin in a week seemed a bit crazy. But as some who know me would say, crazy was what I was best at (especially when it came to women).

Radiohead would be easy. That fell on the 7th which was an off day. I took the first bus out of Tulsa ( 4AM) and got into Austin about 3 that afternoon. I met up with my friends around 5 and we got ready for the show.

Let’s just say I ingested an assortment of party favors so that by the time the boys from Oxford took the stage I was seeing tracers ( and it wasn’t just from the light show).

Some quick history about me and Radiohead:

I’d first gotten turned on to them before my freshman year of high school. There was this punk ass kid who lived in my apartments who liked making trouble even more than I did. We immediately took to each other. We’d open unlocked cars and pilch through them, smoke cigarettes and drink beer from his mom’s fridge.

We eventually had a falling out over a girl. He asked out someone I was digging on at the time and this soured things between us. She would come spend the night at this place which perturbed me because he was already sexually experienced and I hadn’t even French kissed a girl yet.

One night when we were chilling at his place–the three of us– time got away from us, and before we knew it, six in the morning had come. A mixture of fatigue and melancholy hanging over me when this video came on MTV. It was a slow ditty, with this fella who had a beautiful voice, and it just captured me. There was a build up that led to a well timed feedback, and then it had this nice crescendo. Obviously this was the Creep video.

I went to school the next week and during social studies I looked over at this guy’s notebook and it had the words

“I wish I were special. You’re so fucking special.”

Yes. He knew. And I looked at him differently from that point on (PAUSE).

1993-1994 was a pretty interesting period for music when I look back on it.  At the time I was only into hardcore hip-hop and totally missed out on the alternative wave. I couldn’t understand what all these white people were so angsty about in their dull flannel shirts and weird hairdo’s  (though I do remember digging on some Mazzy Star–that shit went hard).

Fake Plastic Trees/High and Dry was the first single I bought when it came out in ’95 (I didn’t finally get Pablo Honey til ’97 because the only song I knew was Creep). I jammed the fuck out of that during my teen depression period–having finally kissed a girl but still not gotten laid.

At this point I was listening to the shit out of some U2 along with the hardcore hip hop (I was progressing) hiding my “white boy shit” in the closet whenever my black friends came to hang out.

By the time OK Computer hit the shelf I had graduated high school and was completely intrigued with this band that kept coming up in different junctures of my teen aged years.

This album  got me to buy in completely. I first heard it on headphones and it completely blew me away. Took me to places I’d never been. I spent months just driving around North Dallas listening to that album on full blast.

My friends called me a pussy. Though critics were hailing their latest work, most of my friends still knew them as the ‘Creep band’. Radiohead were certainly not in the mainstream quite yet.

When I found myself driving to Fair Park Music Hall to go see them, I was driving alone because no one I knew wanted  to go to the show. I didn’t have a ticket–in fact I had planned on watching a Red-Sox game on ESPN. It was a last minute decision to check them out.

I found a scalper and paid $80 bucks for a third row seat then I walked into the venue. It was pretty awesome to say the least. It was a life changing experience, one that I shared with only a few hundred people. It felt like being in a cool little fan club. It seemed like all the artsy kids I never hung out with in high school were there.

After the show I went out and bought their previous album, The Bends, and having heard a lot of the material live; I was officially a fan.

In the fall of 2000 I  met a guy at North Texas who had all the B-sides. He burned them for me and I couldn’t believe how many good songs there were that had never made it to an album. He had to put them onto two discs so that I could get them all.

This couldn’t have been timed any better because Kid A was their highly anticipated release. No one knew what to expect. When it came out I was a little disappointed. The beautiful depressing songs were few in number, replaced with these weird electronic beeps and noises.

What the fuck? I thought.  Yorke has this beautiful ass voice and he was hiding it behind synthesizers and weird effects and compressors. I couldn’t understand it, and just as weird as their music would become, so would the decade.

Every time I could finally catch up to what they were playing they would go in a different direction. And man the B-sides from that Amnesica-Kid A period was pretty fucking grooving. Some of them were better than songs that they put onto album(Fog is definitely in my top 20). Eventually I stopped trying to get it and just started digging it. Some songs of course were easier than others.

When In Rainbows came out I felt like that was the album I had expected to hear when they dropped Kid-A. It was an album I wanted to shag to, cry to, laugh to, dance to, it was impeccable.

When King of Limbs came out I knew better than to try and guess what it’d sound like. I even gave it 50 listens before I made a judgment about it. I knew there were some songs I liked, but some I wasn’t quite sure of (I still can’t listen to Harry Patch or Daily Mail).

I did know this would be a different show. They’d added a drummer to their stage show, and I was hoping this would be the thing to shake things up. I’d always been vocal about something having to change. I wasn’t sure if they were going to break up or what,especially after hearing how funky the Atoms for Peace band was.

My biggest fantasy was them doing an album with Brian Eno just to switch things up ( It made sense to me. Work with the guy who worked with the Talking Heads? they got their name from a Heads’ song).

But as always, the artist knows what’s best for them, and adding Clive Deamer (the drummer from Portishead) was a solid decision.

Every Radiohead concert I attended seemed to coincide with a transitional period in my life.  The first concert that I’d seen them in Dallas (OK Computer tour) was a pivotal period in my life. I was 19 and was just tapping into this other side of reality (beyond what I had known as a dumb jock). My tastes in art, fashion, and music (and consequently drugs) would drastically change. My reality would forever be altered.

I missed the Kid-A/Amnesiac tour because I was saving my money to make a move to Austin.

I caught them on the Hail to the Thief Tour which signaled my return back to university life back in Denton. I had moved back to the north Texas area after being swallowed alive by the Austin rat race. My grandmother had just passed away as well and I had just moved into my own apartment. The highlight of that night was seeing them play Lurgee off the Pablo Honey album (Jonny’s guitar wailing made me misty-eyed)

There was a touch of bitterness because I wasn’t close enough to the stage (my mother had purchased me GA tickets because she didn’t think I’d want to stand up all night in the Pit seating). The whole show my eyes looked longingly towards the pit area, wondering what if.

I had ridden with this girl that I had known back in the dorm days.  She had an OK Computer tat on her ass. She and her boyfriend drove down (with me in tow) and that was the first time I had a listen to the Gagging Order b-side, one of the prettiest tunes Thom had ever written.

In 2006, a buddy and I drove up to Toronto from his parents’ home in Michigan hoping to score some tickets to a show at the Hummingbird Theatre. They were only doing select gigs in theaters in a few cities across America. We scored some balcony seats for about 120 US dollars.

It was a great show. Very small and intimate. Not a bad seat in the house. But the night was soured because I couldn’t quit thinking about how much we’d spent to see them. I kept hoping that they’d play certain songs (Talk Show Host mainly) and frankly felt a little ripped off ( PLAY SOME B-SIDES DAMMIT!!!).

To punctuate the evening me and my buddy got into a fight because I wanted to eat at this Hooters by our hostel and he wanted to go somewhere local. We ended up wandering the streets looking for something open, both of us hungry and bitchy. We finally settled on a Falafel joint and went back to our room to smoke and go to sleep.

I’d go on to stand outside of 3 more concerts that tour, increasingly dissatisfied with their set lists. Why was I such a malcontent? Why did I suddenly dislike them?

Or was I just frustrated at how distant the band seemed from me in relation to that first concert? It seemed like every frat boy and douchebag liked Radiohead now.  Some of these yahoos probably couldn’t tell the difference between them and Coldplay. But Radiohead’s increasing popularity was driving the price for tickets up and it was damn near impossible to get floor seats for their shows.

So yeah I was sour. This was (probably?) silly backlash, and a juvenile response for their success. They were no longer this underground band that made me feel cool to be at their show. Just observing the crowds and hearing them scream like groupies at Thom made me sick. I  needed a break.

I skipped the In Rainbows tour for that reason and because most of the songs on that album I’d seen previewed on the theaters tour in ’06.

I wasn’t exactly sure if i’d see them on the King of Limbs Tour. My buddy Roach was very excited about the new stuff and had already bought a floor ticket for the Dallas show. He’d had good reports. Said it was easily the best show he’d seen by them.

This was encouraging.

So there I was.  I was 33 years old watching a show in a venue I’d worked at in my early 20’s, working shows like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tool, and Tom Petty. Hanging with some old school Austin friends. The moment was speaking to me. The douchebags and sorostitutes weren’t bothering me that much either. I even had a real job.

But what the fuck was I still doing in Tulsa when there was a bad ass city like Austin for me to live in?

“If you think this is over then you’re wrong.”

The show was incredible. And easily the best set I’d ever seen by them. They had somehow surpassed the Dallas ’98 gig. I realized a few things that night.

They were not going to break up. In fact they were better than ever. Somehow they were also super funky, with lots of poly rhythms and percussion. The addition of Deamer added a lot to the set (kind of when Talking Heads added more musicians to their live act).

They seemed so loose also. In my head I attributed it to them taking a dip at Barton Springs, and getting in tune with the city.

Greenwood was wearing a Texas shirt. The audience showed them so much love. You could tell they were enjoying themselves. Yorke even told jokes on stage.

” what do you call a fish with three eyes?”

A Fiiish” 

Yea I didn’t get it either at first.

But it was a perfect night that had given me something to think about. Mainly that I was way too liberal to be living in Oklahoma. But I was living there for a reason. Part of that was because I had a decent paying job that would allow me to do some crazy shit like I was doing this month.

I only got to spend a day and a half there on this venture but I’d be back in four short days for a week of mayhem. But I was not prepared for what I was about to encounter in the monster that SXSW had become.