Here’s the thing: I kinda suck at South By Southwest. I get to Austin late. I get defeated by lines. I drink too much, or I don’t drink enough. I worry about who I’m going to impose on for a place to crash, or I get stuck at some ranch that can be reached only by bus because it’s actually located on the moon. I miss the best shows, and I’ve yet to find what goes on in the Fader Fort. People getting faded? I have no idea. The line is always so fucking long.
So this year, I split a hotel room with Son of Stan’s Jordan Richardson and Bryan Garcia. I had one show to play, on Tuesday, when the fest is just starting, which left me the rest of the week to do South By correctly –– or at least drink myself into middle age. My band, Oil Boom, played a sanctioned showcase at B.D. Riley’s in the heart of the action, 6th Street. On a normal weekend, 6th Street is sort of like a year-round St. Patrick’s Day combined with a Carnival cruise, with the master chef at Hooters as ringleader. During South By, it’s all of that with the budget and imagination of a Michael Bay movie. Regardless, the event Oil Boom played also featured Fort Worth bands The Cush and Son of Stan, both of whom, during their respective sets, enthusiastically crushed the incumbent crowd of happy-hour drinkers and festival-goers.
On Wednesday, I got up at the crack of noon to make it to the Scoot Inn on the East Side, commandeered for the week by Converse and Thrasher magazine, apportioned with a half-pipe, heavy bands, and almost every denim vest aficionado in Texas. While I waited to watch San Diego’s Earthless, some drunk kid with a skateboard and a gash on his face started telling me about how he totally ate it. I pointed out that he was wearing cowboy boots. “Yeah, no traction at all,” he said, heading toward the ramp.
Earthless blew my mind, and the afternoon bled into the evening. Son of Stan played a house show on the south end of town. A cop broke up the party during a band I didn’t like. We headed back to the East Side, where, while waiting in line for a second hot dog at Hotel Vegas, I, along with lots of other people, got the terrible news that a drunk had driven his car into a crowd of people. I couldn’t tell if the collective mood of the people swilling PBR tallboys under the canopies had changed at all. It’s not like you’d notice if everyone started looking at their phones for news, because when are people not looking at their phones at shows?
Thursday was basically a free day. Jordan, Bryan, and I spent it getting drunk. We went downtown, and the three of us got chair massages. From the relaxation station, we watched a crowd watching a street magician, including a woman I dubbed Stickertits, because she wasn’t wearing a top, just stickers on her breasts. Then we ran into the dudes from War Party.
They’d played somewhere earlier, and we got in line with them wherever it was that Big Freedia was performing. Big Freedia, if you’re unfamiliar, is a gigantic drag queen who favors big beats and topical lyrics, provided the topic is booty. Then War Party took us somewhere else to see a band called Eagulls –– and promptly started a mosh pit in the middle of an otherwise staid crowd.
I stuck to mostly Fort Worth bands on Friday. At Hops and Grain Brewery, Son of Stan played again, and Quaker City Night Hawks rolled up as Dallas’ Roomsounds were ending. After QCNH, we went downtown to get bummed out by lines, returning in time to catch Fort Worth stoners Vicious Firs play to a sall but drunken crowd made up almost exclusively of people who live in Fairmount.
Did I do South By any better than I’ve done in the past? I’m not really sure, because I totally missed Lady Gaga’s sermon about Doritos, even though I had a media badge and should probably go to those kinds of things. Oh, well. South By Southwest has always been more of an out-of-town vacation partying with friends from home than “work.” I think I hit a pretty high score on that.