Look, I know I should’ve stayed at home and gone to bed instead of going out on Monday — since Thursday, I’d been struggling with unstoppable mucus and a hacking cough. I’d gone to the doctor that afternoon to combat the crud, optimistically believing that a Z-Pak and 24 hours of taking it easy would be enough to return to party speed in time for South-by-Southwest. Of course, next week, when the bacteria in my head will have mutated into some kind of super-MRSA because I handicapped my antibiotic prescription with a week of free beer and booze, I’ll probably wonder if carrying on business as usual was really worth it.
But there was this huge bill at The Where House put on by California indie imprint Burger Records and local labels Dreamy Soundz and Dallas Distortion Music. I couldn’t not go, even if the nagging voice in the back of my head warned me that compromising my immune sys- … I quit listening to myself and got in the car.
Where House owner Casey Smith was working the cash register when I walked in. I asked him if this was his venue’s last hurrah. “I dunno,” he said. “But if it is, what a way to go out, you know?”
What a way indeed. I looked at the 100-odd people packed in front of this band from California, a four-piece notable for the guitar player who switched to bass three songs in. I counted another 40 or so folks milling between the bar and the pool table in the middle of the room, its felt covered entirely with Burger Records cassettes and assorted merch. The couple that sells tacos at The Chat Room was set up next to them. Above all this loomed local artists’ oil paintings, a brightly lit contrast to the anti-cancer mustache mural from some past Movember brooding in the darkened half of the room where the bands play.
More bodies drifted into the throng. Casey and I took some whiskey shots. I watched the band for a couple more songs and went outside to the back patio to smoke some pot and yell conversations over the thunder of the trains on the other side of the fence. The bands changed. Through the building’s brick exterior, the new one, a bass and drum duo called The Gardens, kind of sounded like surf music until the bass slowed to the lazy, oceanic boom of some Southern rap groove. I went inside thinking they were done, but what had happened was that the two musicians were trading rhymes and doing interpretive dances. It occurred to me that while you might see this kind of act at another venue in town on another Monday night, you’d see them with a 200-person audience only right before South-by –– and probably even then only at The Where House.
I tried to go home after The Gardens finished, but I got into a hilariously stonerific discussion with this friend of mine on the possibility that our reality is nothing more than the architecture of a video game and decided to get a beer instead. “Fuck it,” I said. “Might as well watch this next band.”
The next group turned out to be Gap Dream, a Burger Records three-piece made of keys, guitar, and bass that played these weird, queasy-sounding pop songs over drum loops. Listening to them was the aural analog of a nice afternoon at Six Flags after drinking half a bottle of prescription cough syrup. They sounded like the Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack on Valium or The Velvet Underground for EDM fans.
Seeing as how I’d intended to be in bed by 10:30 p.m. and it was now approaching 2 a.m., I headed for the door the moment Gap Dream quit. The crowd began to scatter, like the water molecules in a diagram illustrating the stages of matter, and it made me a little sad. Would the bands that stopped in Fort Worth on their way to South-by remember The Where House? Will they care much if next year’s route takes them somewhere else — some house party in Dallas, say, or a 10-band bill at Rubber Gloves? I realized that I didn’t care. If that was the last show at The Where House, I’m glad to have gotten out of the house, runny nose or not. –– Steve Steward
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