This March, CiTR music director and lovable malcontent Luke Meat ventured into the wilds of Texas for the South by Southwest music festival. This is his travel diary.
Wednesday March 16th
I Arrive in Austin by Greyhound. The cabbie tells me I could sublet my room at the Super 8 for $800 a night. I check in, all things are taken care of (thanks again, Ben!), and proceed to go see the sights. I have to pick up my badge first. On my way I hear Bloc Party playing an afternoon gig. I get so excited I almost drop my beer. The badge process takes two and a half hours. In that time, I make friends with my two wait-line neighbours and they invite me to a “meet and greet” at their hotel. Free food, free drinks, all that blah. After some great conversation (finding out that Robert Blake was INNOCENT!?) I make my way to where all the real SXSW stuff is happenin’: Sixth and Red River. All you can hear is music poundin’ out of every single club; walking by, I get a good survey of what’s going on just by craning my head and peering in to each successive venue. I meet up with some fellow radio nerds at the Velvet Spade and we try to figure out what to do with the evening. Eager to connect with some fellow Canadians, we all cruise on down to the Whitey Houston gig at The Whiskey Bar. CiTR joins forces with CJSR (U of Alberta) and CJSW (U of Calgary), and we create a triad of the baddest (Canadian) asses that this burg has ever seen. Whitey, however, has a bad evening. Using borrowed equipment and a pawn-shop bass, they just don’t pull it off like they usually do. Sorry guys.
We run across the street to catch Vic Chestnut and he regales us with tales of what it’s like to be the most depressed musician on earth. At Maggie Mae’s we see the last two songs of Smoosh’s set—they’re a band of 10- and 12-year-old sisters who play delightful twee pop. After that, with a spring in our step, we stumble over to 710 to catch Drunkhorse; slutty, sleazy rawk. Smilin’ Jay of CJSR makes a joke about catching Billy Idol at Stubbs. I retort that I will only go if he plays “Eyes Without A Face.” Sure enough, as we leave 710, we can hear the former Gen X punk serenading Austin with said ballad. The fates had decreed that we had to check this shit out. He rocked.
Thursday March 17th
The Province’s Stu Derdeyn had told me about this wonderful Texan hangover cure called “BC.” It’s a flap of powder that you mix with water and shlorp back. It feels vaguely illicit. I later find out it is just caffeine and Aspirin, but either way it does the trick. We go “git some bah bee cue” at the legendary Stubb’s and check out Electric Eel Shock. Indescribable Japanese metal. The drummer wears nothing but a cock sock. The guitarist literally fucks his flying V. The bassist—when not doing his best Lemmy impersonation—is all hails n’ horns. Fucking beautiful.
For a change of pace and genre, I check out DJ Z Trip, who could possibly be the best wedding DJ ever. The guy mixes Janis Joplin with hip hop beats. He has us all goin’ until he introduces a new jam off his latest rekkid which features (no joke) the dude from Linkin Park on vocals. You can hear the pins dropping everywhere.
Ratatat follows, giving us a great dose of their unique Maidenesque electro tunes. I rip over to The Parish to catch M. Ward. Very fun, but afterwards, I feel the need to head out on my own to mellow out at the Strange Attractors Audio House showcase, where I am soothed by Harris Newman’s acoustic guitar compositions. Paik from Michigan follows and proceeds to drone blissful psychedelic jams, only to be drowned out by Subarachnoid Space, who close out the night for me. Heavy shit. I’m tired.
Friday March 18th
Chunklet Magazine is possibly the best jaded-indie-fuck zine on the market right now. Henry Owings and Brian Teasley are the publishers, and lo and behold, they’re in Austin. You can’t miss them. They’re dressed as boy scouts. The uniformed miscreants throw a humdinger of a party at the Church of the Friendly Ghost, featuring Enon, Jennifer Gentle, Oxes, The American Analog Set, and Black Lips. The lead singer of the Black Lips lights his dick on fire. We drink free beer named Purple Haze and it packs quite a punch.
I get a chance to ask Brian whether he thinks the magazine ever crosses the line of offensiveness. I mean, this is the guy who said he would rather fuck his own diarrhea than (and I quote) “Courtney Love’s ragged-out meat tunnel.” He passes this question on to Henry, who promptly asks me to step outside to fight. I’m more than ready, but Henry says straight to my face, “I gotta warn you; I fight like a Jew.” Not knowing what this means but feeling that Henry has somehow answered my earlier question, I politely decline the challenge and receive a bear hug instead.
We go check out Controller.Controller afterwards and to my surprise, they put on a really good show. We get wind of a party happening at an old mansion run by the North by North East people. We feel that since we’re Canadian, that more or less counts as an invite. Luckily they don’t disagree. We eat free BBQ, drink free Moosehead (nectar of the gods after days of Bud Light), and meet lots of humans. We go back into the city, where we hear about another happening and head over to check it out. What we don’t know until we’ve been there a few minutes is that it is a party for porn star Brittney Rears. Full of pretty creepy people, as such things tend to be. Nonetheless, we stay for a few rounds of vodka and Red Bull—the only drink they appear to be serving.
The only show I’m stoked on this night is The Go! Team, and I’m not missing it. What they don’t tell you when you drop hundreds of dollars on a badge that will supposedly get you in to see every one of the hundreds of bands playing SXSW is that the popular shows fill up early, after which there’s no chance of getting in—badge or no badge. Having learned this, and determined not to miss this show, I show up at Buffalo Billiards right when the doors open. The Go! Team aren’t onstage for another three hours, but it’s worth the wait. It is impossible to be in a bad mood when you hear these guys. With two drummers and a set-list full of happy cheerleading jams, they had me boogieing down. Afterward I swing by Beerland to try to catch Guitar Wolf, but there are about 200 people waiting to get in (see what I mean?) so I opt to pass out instead.
Saturday March 19th
Down a few BCs and we’re ready to go. (I am addicted to them at this point, but will worry about that later.) We check out the Yep Roc showcase on Congress Ave, a very nice neighbourhood. We also meet our first asshole, a hairy-backed wifebeater-wearing dude who finds out that we’re Canadian and blames us for Mad Cow Disease, tells us he hates our country, then has the nerve to say “no offence.” After a Tex-Mex lunch we head back to Red River to catch The Gossip gig at the Kill Rock Stars showcase. As always, they kick ass. Smilin’ Jay and I put all our eggs in one basket and decide to go to the Vice party. We have the address; however, no cabbie in Austin has any idea where it is. We finally find a cab driver who uses a map and gets us to our destination. The party is in the middle of nowhere, and on arrival, we are not let in. Someone (oh yeah—Vice!) had forgotten to mention that we needed a special laminate to get in. I’m pretty livid. Not only are we in the worst neighbourhood in town, we just wasted two hours getting here when we could have been seeing bands. Grrr. Smilin’ calms me down and springs for a cab back into town. We go to Emo’s and check out Aesop Rock. Killer hip hop. The Black Halos are playing in the big room, so we stay for a couple of songs and beers. The boys represented our city very well. As did I, I hope. In between all the fun, we spread the good word about Canadian campus radio to the unwashed masses.
Thank you to CJSR and CJSW for keepin’ it real and for keeping me out of trouble. See ya next year.