SXSW Diaries – Wednesday is for Milwaukee beer lovers

Blue? No clue.

Note/Warning: My proper reviews for SXSW will be on La Pop Life and Gold Flake Paint soon(ish). For Sloucher, I’ll be posting diary-style stuff, mostly unedited (barring a few typos that had to go away, replaced by more typos. Most of these diaries were written late at night and honest to God, this is how they went. No clear cut narrative is intended, just general ramblings. Enjoy this Gonzo-style experiment.

For the record: I am a fanboy. I obsess too fast over bands and I for one can listen to a song 20, 30 times in a row in the same day, without getting bored. Something with Headlights made me obsess over them after I got one of their albums, back in 2007.

Of course I’m wearing a Headlights t-shirt. Of course I’m going to meet Erin Fein, who was the golden voice leading the dream pop band and now does so in Psychic Twin. Of course I’m petrified.

Hey, what’s the time? Yes, it’s “Sam’s terrible decisions time!” I take the bus at Airport Boulevard. It’s not that full and after a few stops, I decide to get off at Hancock Center. I want to ask at Radioshack if I can buy a cheap SIM, as my credit, all my phone credit is gone now. Two days and I’m out of credit. Thanks, Telcel, now go fuck yourselves.

Radioshack employee is super helpful, but the SIM doesn’t work. She mentions a phone that would set me back 50 dollars, but has unlimited data. I agree and it turns out they don’t have it there anymore; the last 2 remaining are at the Radioshack near my motel. Oh, well. I decide to drown my sorrows buying food from HEB and the bus safely passes just a few minutes after I left the supermarket. I have only nibbles (chocolate bars, Japanese peanuts, milk, melon) so I can force myself to actually eat something today instead of trying to get my nutrients from music.

Motel 6’s Internet has been down since Monday morning, which in internet junkie terms means “too fucking long.” I want to say I can live without Internet, but that would be one of my lesser lies. I make my way through 9th street towards Cheer Up Charlie’s. Asked for ID again? Thanks! I make my way in and when I do a left turn by the little ramp by the entrance, I see Erin Fein. My heart sinks, I feel like panicking out and she sees my t-shirt and smiles. I do the manliest thing ever: run to the bathroom and hide.

I come out through another door, labelled “men are cowards, amirite?” and catch GRMLN, who are great but can’t afford vowels. Ah, that was cheap, I’m actually jealous of how good they are. The fact that they are one of the first bands and they have a good sized audience confirms my suspicion.

GRMLN. Vr njybl.
GRMLN. Vr njybl.

I finish my milk and a cup of melon and feel more confident. Erin still is near the entry, guarding some of Psychic Twin’s gear and I introduce myself, agreeing to do the interview after their set. I only stutter every odd sentence. Well done, Sam.

This paragraph is going to be very, very biased: I loved Psychic Twin’s set. It’s electronic, it’s very 80s, but in that same 80s vein of dark electronics. Catchy, but with a dark undercurrent waiting to pull you out and drown. Just like the riptides in the dark blue waters of Miramar Beach, Tampico. The crowd is enthralled and they are quickly gaining new fans. Keyboard player Jessica has to remind Erin to tell the name of the crowd as often as possible.

Afterlife with Psychic Twin

I get introduced to the rest of the band and lend them a hand getting all their stuff into a van. I’ve done it so many times before I feel I should get an “honorary roadie” t-shirt for all my trouble, really. Some of them are going to a shooting range. Jessica and Erin stick around for the interview and we manage to get this sweet couch by the patio, where a carpet with a tiger decors the tarmac.

“The carpet really ties Cheer up Charlie’s together.” They do get my reference. The interview goes well, almost too well and I think it can’t get any better than this. Erin excuses herself when we finish while Jessica tells me about her band Via Audio. Which I check later. I honestly suggest you check it out too.

Jessica leaves and I’m guarding Erin’s stuff. She comes back, but is on the other side of a fence. She asks me to pass her stuff through the iron fence and I want to say something but she interrupts and thanks me for the interview. She says “don’t stop writing like you do” and waves goodbye. I want to say this was all symbolic and there’s some deeper message about life in general, but that’s what happened. Así fue.

I walk back to the Cargo Collective building/Dub Academy thing where Austin Music Bazaar said they were going to be. This time around they are there and they have been kind enough to keep my order separated. There’s a guy blasting some music and just when I’m going to get the Zoom H1 recorder, the cops come by. They talk to the DJ guy and it turns out the whole place, not his music set, but the whole gorramned building has to close for the day. I feel real bad for everyone, but a bystander said it best: “this is fucking ridiculous.”

My phone rings. I managed to get one text message and it’s from The Eastern Sea camp. It’s the address for their show today and when I look at a map, my feet tell me to do impossible things to my body. A group of people gathers by a pickup truck, where some energy drink is being given away for free. It’s terrible, but it’s free and I needed something cold. Not more than 2 meters away, a guy from those weird pedicabs is adjusting his chain, talking to a cop. Before he departs, I ask him how much would it be to the place I need to go. He says he’s going to charge me “a little more.” I’m too tired to argue, but it is a long ride and, well, I’m morbidly overweight, so he’ll use any money to pay for new knees.

The streets he goes through, well, surprise, surprise, remind me of Tampico again, the area around the Hospital, to be exact. I haven’t been back since 2002 and some dear people are now members of the dearly departed. There might be some guilt complex evolving into something else but for the time being, I enjoy the ride and the conversation. Above all, I appreciate the moment of tranquillity that comes from the bike ride and wonder if I should actually learn how to ride one. When we finally get to the street, we both realise we have no ruddy idea what the place looks like, but I just pay him and reassure him I’ll find the place. As the green bills fly from my wallet to his, I guffaw like an idiot and point the building in front of us. It’s Up Collective, the place I was supposed to be at. We do a bro fist.

Up Collective looks nice. Extremely nice. Some paintings adorn the walls and I overhear someone mention they are all from local artists. As I go deeper into the maw of Up Collective, I hear the distant siren call of music. The stage is outside and it looks like a house party gone right. There’s a long queue for the bar and I would love to drink some local cider, but my meals have consisted of chocolate and Japanese peanuts.

¡The Eastern Sí!

Have I mentioned I love The Eastern Sea’s new stuff? Yes, it’s almost the same setlist as Monday, minus ‘The Match’ – which has to go away for a while to let the band grow even taller. If the reception at the Spiderhouse Ballroom was warm, this was a good day in Hell, as the crowd was receptive and the photographers around me were numerous.

Near the beeline that was the bar there were a couple of small shops. Small labels, local stuff, zines, the whole shebang. I buy a book from a fella who is from New York and nick a few label samples that are up for grabs. “We gotta stay hungry” was the motto Tony Montana repeated as a mantra and it seems it has been since the inception of Sloucher. Still, sometimes it feels we are bordering into Mr. Creosote territory.

Shivering Shakes

Next band looks very Brooklyn-ey, but it is made in Austin. It’s called Shivery Shakes and it’s garage pop, of the riffier sort. I start to feel some weird pain in my foot and I go inside, resting for 30 minutes or so in the rather comfy (at least it seemed comfy at the time) carpet floor. My Internet addiction is flaring up and I make my way back to the Convention Centre. It is a long walk.

Long but entertaining walk. It’s just a straight walk through César Chávez Boulevard. Sure, I could’ve waited patiently for a 17 to take me back, but do I look like the kind of person who waits for buses? It’s like my right foot was bleeding profusely and that the sun was threatening to bust me up, Count Orlock style. Besides, I wanted to get a feel of East Austin. A friend living there had told me it was a very rough (i.e. unsafe) area, but as I made my way back, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. BBQs in backyards, impromptu acoustic guitar acts, family parties and a small tent housing country music were the highlights of the 20 minute walk back. I really think she’s a little out of touch or has forgotten her Mexican roots. I ended up in some dead end elevated parking lot near the convention centre, but I’ve seen enough parkour films to understand how to fall.

As it happened.
As it happened.

Right. I keep limping back and sit my ass for an hour at the Convention Center. It’s now past 6 and it still has some life in it. It’s the free wi fi, really. I walk outside when I hear some loud trumpets and 20 or so musicians, all dressed in black and yellow, are playing merrily just outside. They perform 3 or 4 songs until whisked away with a guy with an important looking badge. They keep playing as they march and I no longer have an excuse to go to New Orleans.

As I make my way towards The Ginger Man, a strange 8-people driven bike passes near. It’s slightly tropical themed and I think the people pedaling are drinking heavily. I do wonder if you get free alcohol for your trouble, but I don’t want to keep expanding “Sam’s terrible decisions” for today. Zookeeper have a very AM radio, Americana feel to their music; country music for expansive desert landscapes. I approach one of the guitar players at the end and quip about a “Sad Accordions reunion, please.” He looks confused but knows Seth Woods (aka The Whiskey Priest) set me up for this gag.



Phew, got it out of my system.

Panoramas were up at ten, so I had enough time to take a stroll around. I went to a food truck that sold pizza. It was terrible and overpriced. Oh, well. I see that Cedar Street Courtyard has a decent crowd and I go in. It stinks of Corporate Christmas Party and it is in a way. It’s a Chevrolet sponsored event and I feel terribly out of place. No, I’m not one of those “corporations are eviiiil, you guys!” I just felt a little unwelcome by the crowd, who knew I wasn’t a dealer and wheeler/shaker and maker like them.

Benjamin Booker - superb.
Benjamin Booker – superb.

A guy called Benjamin Booker performed. Dirty blues, heavy rock moments and a very energetic display. He seemed a little annoyed to be playing there, but he channeled all that into his performance. His drummer seemed mellower, sporting a mandolin right at the end of the act. I can safely say that music washed the uncomfortable feeling away very fast. The set does end a little abruptly, though.

Panoramas <3
Panoramas <3

Panoramas are lush and relaxing. A whole line of fans is on the first row bench. I sit with them, even if I stick out like a sore thumb (they are mostly well dressed with suits and shirts.) They have been drinking heavily but never interrupt the flow of the 90s pop rock Panoramas create. Elvis Presley gets a small tribute and the band comes back for an encore, playing a rockier version of lead singer’s ‘Harmony’, a dreamy acoustic song from her solo album, Sisson.

I think I saw Andrew Kenny from American Analog Set/Wooden Birds fame in the audience. This was confirmed later by Leslie Sisson, lead singer of Panoramas and member of Wooden Birds. The Hold Steady are playing the Courtyard later tonight, but I don’t have the energy to stick around. Besides, my bus back home is sitting idle outside the venue and I get in quickly. The ride takes ages and a lot of student types seem to be performing that stereotype I usually don’t see. Don’t be cranky, Sam.

There’s nowhere to get food near the Motel so my dinner consists of vending machine food, with a cherry Danish being the clear winner here. Also, this happened:
“Hey, man, how are you?”
“Fine, you?”
“Fine and dandy. You’ve got the right idea” he says as he sees me filling up the ice bucket.
“I know, man, too tired and dying of thirst?”
“Where are you from? Are you here for SXSW? Man, you gotta check my band. We are called Midwest State of Mind. We are from Indiana. Here’s my card. Hey, nice talking to you, take care. I can play for you if you are around later.”

I wanted to reply but he was talking too fast and I was trying to get rid of a spider in my ice bucket. I just want to get some rest. We part ways and I try to sleep but I can hear an acoustic guitar strumming nearby. It’s a good tune…

Words: Sam J. Valdés López

One thought on “SXSW Diaries – Wednesday is for Milwaukee beer lovers

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s