So Robyn and I got off work and drove from Dallas to Austin arriving at SXSW 2012 around 7:00pm. We hung out, unpacked, changed, and then called a cab to come pick us up. We were staying in an apartment that we rented out in the Barton Springs area. I highly recommend subletting a place by the way instead of the usual hotel stay. You get a kitchen, full living room, and no wild people next to you that might be throwing a party all night long. Which, depending on who you are might not be a bad thing actually. After two hours of waiting on a cab that would never come, we decided to just suck it up and make the hike. The total distance from our place to the heart of SXSW was 2.5 miles, one way. The walk went by quickly since we were people watching and talking the whole time. Soon, however, we would know our trek was worth it because once we were at SXSW 2012 it would be complete awesomeness. Half the festival was walking home. Damn light weights! What?, you can’t drink from Noon to 2am??? Come on!!!! Hahaha, you can totally feel their pain, though, if you have never done the whole SXSW thing. That’s why you have to make sure to find numerous spots to sit down and relax during a full day of rocking.
So I decide to show Robyn the real SXSW, not the high tone restaurants that are featuring some live music. Those places are just tagging along the coat tails of SXSW, and are not really on the main listings. So off to 6th street we go, passing by random groups of hip hop crews with all matching shirts, to cyber-punk groups with so many colors in their hair it was a rainbow, to crazy New York crews with skinny jeans that were “painted on” skinny, ouch. Now some of you may know that during the weekends in Austin the streets are blocked off for easy walking and pedestrian fun. Same goes for SXSW, but it’s not just 6th street, it’s 5th and 4th too. During my first run with SXSW back in 2004, 5th street was just starting to develop. Now all of 5th and 4th have exploded into a vibrant corridor of restaurants and bars. The whole street scene is what I would compare to a Futbol match between Real Madrid and Manchester United just letting out after a nil-nil draw. People are EVERYWHERE; walking, talking, mumbling, arguing, eating, stumbling, jamming, friend meeting, band seeking, high-fiving type of people.
So we walk and we walk, and we zig and we zag between the crowds until we finally come upon the IFC Crossroads sponsored VICE Bar. Since we didn’t have badges for the festival I knew that we had to really think about the bands and venues that we wanted to see. Badges get in first, the public gets in, maybe. Fortunately, there was no line outside the place since everyone was already inside jamming out. Perfect! We walk in and the place is literally wall to wall with people. I had a run list of potential artists that I wanted to check out during my time at SXSW 2012 and the singer/songwriter Alice Smith was one of them, so I’m glad we got there on time. We pony up to a corner and listen to the sweet sounds of Alice Smith. The bar is packed. Promotion people are giving away free headphones and merch. Some geniuses setup a Skittles machine with their logo on the front of it and tossed a bucket of free tokens around the place for folks to get some Skittles. People thought the tokens were gold coins and were shoving their way in the crowd to get to the pot of gold. Only to hear us yell to them, “There only tokens man, for the skittles!” It was one of the weirdest promotional events I ever encountered at SXSW. I mean, do you really think someone left a bucket of gold coins for the taking. Really???
The American Secrets came on next. I had checked them out online and thought they sounded pretty good so I wanted to see them. Why not? So we stayed at the VICE bar. But lo and behold that bubble was about to be popped when our new group of friends that were standing in the candy corner, yes you make friends the instant you plant your body somewhere, kindly informed me in a mocking manner, “Dude, these are the freecreditreport.com guys!!!” I was like, no, no they’re not, shut the blank up and quit messing with me!” He goes, “Ok man, but they are.” Then wouldn’t you know it? Just four songs later while the band was tuning their instruments, I see the guitarist lean over and talk to a fan, “Oh you want to hear it?”, he says. I’m like, what? Hear what? No, no, don’t do it… and what comes out of his guitar??? The Freecreditreport.com song!!!! I was floored !!!! We all had a 10 minute laugh after that one. Wow!
So after that encounter, I start checking my schedule for the next venue to hit up because two bands is usually all I can do before I want to mix and mingle back out in the crowd of chaos. But as I’m checking my notes on my run sheet, Citizen Cope was playing next. Why not, right? It’s for free and we have a good spot. So we decided to stay and check him out for a bit, and wound up jamming for another hour.
By then it was time to leave because we were starving. Rocking out for 3 hours straight makes you ravenous. So, I start looking for the nearest food cart that I usually hit up while in Austin. Just then, I stumble on my Taco Cart!!! Jackpot!! Beef Fajita Tacos!!! While standing in line I start raving to Robyn about the Tacos. We eat them every year at 3 am. The guy pre-makes them at home and wraps them in foil so it’s quick and easy on you, but what do we get??? A Beef Gyro!!! Not the Tacos I was talking about, but damn it if these Gyros were not awesome. Maybe it comes from my time eating all that Greek food in Philly, but I love a good Gyro and these were right on the money.
So I tell Robyn that I think Jack White is still playing just a few bars down. As we start walking up to this massive crowd listening outside the 6th street bar we hear the sweet sounds of Jack White and his eclectic voice. After listening in on a song or two, it was time to check my list again.
Recently, I spent some time in OKC and heard that a bunch of bands from that area would be debuting at Buffalo Billiards during the SXSW 2012 Festival. With that in mind, we rocked our way to Buffalo. We made it in the door and trotted up stairs to the concert hall to see my next band on the run sheet. We take a seat at the bar since we were exhausted from all the walking, and what happens . . . we walk into a gem. I mean a true gem. What makes SXSW so awesome is that you never know when you will walk in on the next big band. This year it was The Vacationers. There was only about 30 people watching this band but they were playing some of the best new music I have seen in a long time. The Vacationers were that alt rock band that SXSW is known for, a true rock band, that displayed emotion and life with every song that they played.
After The Vacationers the night was over for us. So we attempted the madness of trying to get a cab along with 25,000 other people in a matter of a 10 block section. The the taller you are and less scarier you look the better chance you have of getting a ride, so I did my best. The Next day gets even better. Hahaha!