My band is not going to SXSW this year; no beer-glazed Torche matinees for me, no super-secret sets by this young up-and-comer. So I'm going through the diaries I kept the two years I have participated in the shitshow. The first one goes back six years, when a rock band I was in trekked endlessly from our motel to 6th Street, debated whether to see Goldfrapp or Blowfly, and pushed the limits of how many margaritas can be kept down. I think we also played a couple shows.
Austin: such nice air, soft, warm, slow-moving. Driver Abou got us to the Quality Inn “Central,” next to an overpass and an Ihop. Checked into our fuggy room, then walked to the Shell station for a bottle of Spanish wine, which we drank by the pool while going over the bands we wanted to see.
Met managers at Stubb’s [huge BBQ joint where bigger bands play]. The Strokes’ bus was outside, kids in puffypaint Strokes T-shirts milling around. Nick Valensi, who looks a lot like Geddy Lee, ordered some food.
Over the river to Barton Springs. About five people were waiting, including an Australian veejay lady in a straining wifebeater. Stood on the bank with the veejay, who started reading questions off her Sidekick. One of the techies took it and fed her the questions, which she either echoed in a nervous monotone or tried to answer. Jumped into the river fully clothed, splashed around for a minute, then did a station ID soaking wet.
[Backyard of an art gallery on South Congress] There was a tent with a makeshift stage and a smaller, more makeshift stage beside it. Flight of the Conchords set up on this stage, hardly big enough for the two of them. Jemaine: “We told our manager we wanted to play on a box, under a tent.” His head was grazing the fabric. The mics were way too quiet and a band was soundchecking right next to them. People started yelling “PLAY!” and Bret replied, “We are playing, actually. If you stopped yelling, ‘play,’ you could hear it.” They gave up.
During interview I had to slouch way down for fear of gravity’s effect on what was inside me, trying to get out.
[Final night] We marched down Sixth, sidewalks sticky with mashed pizza crusts and vomit, evangelists with signs and megaphones, cops, music dying one by one from the windows, and virtually every face and every song familiar by now. Through the walkways of the Four Seasons Hotel to a small dock. About twenty of us were there. The 2½ hours passed quickly. Many hugs and pledges to tour together, and then we took a cab to the airport at dawn.
It’s unseasonably warm in New York today, and I shit you not, the Conchords’ “Part-Time Model,” which they played to 50 people all those years ago, just came on at the cafe I'm working from. Safe travels if you're headed down there. If you're not, check this space next week, when I'll dig up some fragments on my next trip there, like winding cords next to Snoop Dogg.
Image: Courtesy the author