Angora Holly Polo Does the SXSW
On Tuesday, March 17th, on the Day of Sainthood of the Wholly Inebriated, one Angora Holly Polo mounted an airship vehicle with one St. Effluvia of the Mastodons: Saint, encyclopedic culture-babbler, dress-wearer; and the Texan: our trusty guide into that great stretch of Armadilla-cluttered, rolling-green-stretchy-earth pile of dusty cow-loving hat-wearing dirt-plowing boot-wearers. Austin, Texas: like the rest of Texas, only full of rockstars. And cool.
It was 6 in the morning, and despite the Kissing Party tambourines we shook meekly, questioningly?, it was a very un-rocknroll time. St. Effluvia had a special cookie. You know the kind. The kind that your parents ate in the ‘60s. She was going to go for it before the plane ride, but decided to save it for later. I attached unnecessary weight to the situation, claiming it would organically be consumed at the climax of the festival, and that she only need let fate take its course.
The first day was nice.
Sleeping at the hotel, meeting up with some of the Texan’s friends at this Memphis* BBQ joint on the lake. A lake which looked like a river. The place was called “The County Line,” and three neon pigs jumped over the sign with the word “It’s” “BBQ” and “Time” written across their chubby, about-to-be-grilled little sides. Those Texas black birds flitted around, I had been waiting to see them since last year, when I noted that they chorused late into the night – Live Music Capitol Birds. They are aware of where they live. There’s no question here.
That night was a scene: imagine St. Patty’s Day giving a sloppy drunk snogfest all over the face of SXSW, all along 6th street. We did indeed get the pleasure of seeing someone vomit. We did indeed see lots of green. I got to say “Erin go braugh.” We ate at Mekong River – AMAZING. It reminded me of Denver’s US Thai but with better ambiance and booze.
Then we retreated from the madness to hang out with These United States, the band I so lovingly publicist for. They were in a nice hotel taking artful Polaroids and writing gibberish as captions on top of them in Sharpie. They didn’t seem to understand that captions are supposed to explain the situation further, and go underneath of the picture. They must have been listening to too much of that loud music in those live music bars. They had acquired an interesting stuffed horse as a sort of road mascot. It was hanging from the second floor balcony with an ominous look on its face. They were jovial as ever, drinking whiskey, and somehow I was immediately double fisting drinks, and I wondered if St. Effluvia would blow her load and eat the cookie already. We got a noise complaint call. Then someone convinced someone to go to the strip club next door, and then we were in limbo for a half hour, deciding for and against it, then going, then not wanting to pay cover. It was a pretty weak showing for strip-club-going; one mustn’t reluctantly thrust themselves into such a situation. One must go, and go 100%. We went back to the hotel.
I barely slept that night. Not in a fun way. In a way that you’re sharing a hotel room with two people who are dead asleep, and you’re staring at the ceiling for 8 hours straight, antsy, in some sort of air-conditioned white-noise-blown prison. The thing that finally helped me sleep was wrapping the bacteria-teeming comforter around my face. Odd.
LE DEUXIEME JOUR
The next day was breakfast tacos at the Bitch Magazine party. I didn’t see Bitch Magazine, and I didn’t see a party, but I did wait in a line at Club DeVille where everyone grabbed a couple breakfast tacos, chewed on them absentmindedly gazing into the distance, like cows, and then left.
Then I got the old official wristband and immediately felt more important. With my wrist speared forward, like a sheath, I plunged into the madness of SXSW, ready to wield my power to wait expectantly in lines for shows that would be full of badgeholders.
1:11 PM: watching Pretty & Nice with Heather at Beauty Bar, drinking Red Bull Vodka. These are some of my favorite things. Beauty Bar is sparkly and pink, with ‘50s portraits of porcelain-skinned, ruby-lipped beauties on the walls. The sparkles actually made an excellent backdrop for the colorful pop-rock of Pretty & Nice. Their set was quirky, jolty, expressive and explosive. No, they are not girls. They are boys, very silly and expressive indie rock boys. I made a mental note to listen to that John Wenzel more often.
1:42 PM: These United States at the Hype Machine/Music Slut party – otherwise lovingly known as “Here’s what happens when everything goes wrong.” No reflection on their gracious hosts – as far as I heard the venue and party went well otherwise, but it was a bit of bad luck for TUS. There was a mixup, and Robbie had to play on a different drum set. The stage was too small for them, so Jesse had to put the mic stand on the floor (like, the floor where the peasants stand and watch. Yech.).
Then the sound, oh the sound. It was screeching feedback back into everyone’s ears. These United States’ reaction to such squalls of death, actually, was humorously understated. Calm-voiced Jesse Elliott: “Heya Stan there, what can we do about these little noises?” – though they couldn’t hear what they were playing at all. But the miracle in all of this? They blew the crowd away with a spectacular show, a show worthy of posting the footage on the blogs those kids write. They were gracious, humorous, humble, and patient. All my friends left gabbing to their friends about how great they were, and I began calling them “musical McGuyvers,” as any good publicist should. It was like playing a show blinded, on military-grade acid with your arms tied behind your back – and nailing it.
2:54 PM: Just had a pleasant conversation with a guy on stilts. I kind of had to yell up at him.You can’t tell he’s on stilts but believe me, he is.
2:57 PM: Vivian Girls at Maggie May’s. Vivian Girls are one of those bands that I’ve read so much about in magazines like Nylon that I immediately write them off. It’s like, oh, here’s this magazine that I like enough to subscribe to, and apparently they REALLY like this band, so…this disgusts me. I’m bored.
But they were fantastic! I’m a sucker for anything raw. Any day, give me something to roll around in glass to, and I’m set. The Vivian Girls are a fun female version of that. There’s a distinct difference between “raw” and “crappy.” It takes years of drinking and loud music in your face to discern the difference, but one day, you too can be like me.
3:09 PM: Joe Pug at Paradise. I only got to hear him for two seconds, but members from These United States emerged from his set later, dizzy, claiming their minds had been blown by his beautiful music.
3:15 PM: I roadied! Myself and three other girls carried These United States’ gear a few blocks to Friends’ bar. It was a decent way for gentlemen to enter a bar, if I do say so: behind a parade of pretty lady carrier-wenches.
4:31 PM: Meetings. In a span of five minutes, I ran into two people of note on the street: Jillian, the gorgeous and effervescent radio publicist for Stephen Lynch, who I work with, and my friend from back in the day, Grieves. He was hanging up posters for his show later that night. I hadn’t laid eyes on him since before he was a rapper. I had to go see him later.
4:44 PM: These United States played Friends and people were crawling in from the streets, and standing outside the windows watching. I met up with correspondent Timmy T. and drank more red bull and vodka.
6:09 PM: Some random guy serenaded St. Effluvia and I on the street, and it was sweet. And super awkward. It was a great idea, in theory. Imagine that you’re a musician and you’re not playing SXSW. It’s a cute stunt to walk the streets and play songs for people. But the song was too long for the whole kneeling, close-singing, eye-contact, closeness thing, did I mention close? And the song was about wanting to hurt yourself or something.
6:38 PM: the Governor’s Party: An oasis of Donnybrookesque comfort in the heart of downtown Austin. A creamy-voiced female jazz singer scatted in front of a standup bass. Champagne, wine, and hors d’oeuvres whilst overlooking Austin at sunset. I chatted with Larimer Scott and my long lost and dearest 28 Deep, who is thriving in LA and shooting for Radio Free Silver Lake. Jim and Rose and I took rockstar photos in the photobooth with Annie Ray, complete with rockstar accessories (like bat wings) and real guitars. Jim decided that in any band photo worth its salt, one person must be giving devil horns, one person must be snarling, and one person must point at the camera (see below). You can click the photo below to go to her site. Some lady broke one of the guitars and everyone got upset. It was fun.
7:43 PM: The Sounds of Australia party at some bar – I’m lost at this point. It felt like home as a healthy dose of the Denver crew was present with free drinks in hand: Ricardo, Jim, Rose, Heather, St. Effluvia, Megan, and the Texan is on his way with ice cream. Only I gave him the wrong directions, and we were far away and I’m sure his ice cream melted. I suddenly realized we’d wandered pretty far, too far to make the Overcasters. Boo. St. Effluvia and I danced obnoxiously in some sort of tribute or rebellion. Ricardo started calling us the sundress girls for our choice of attire.
8:47 PM: Grieves! This might have been one of the most intensely energetic, rowdy fun shows I saw at SXSW this year. Grieves is an indie rapper in the vein of Atmosphere and Sage Francis – and he’s kind of fucking hilarious. He was pandering to the crowd, dancing, cracking jokes, everyone was yelling along and they knew the words by heart, and he captured the energy of SXSW in a ball right then and there, and hurled it back at us, the small packed club screaming and sweating. I really had no idea, no idea at all. He was fucking phenomenal.
9:47 PM: We walked past “the perfect place to dump a body”** to a shack tucked away from the madness where two very tall steel doors keep the general public out. When we walked into the dusty yard, a small cluster of people were sitting around a folding table drinking wine in front of a familiar logo on the side of a warehouse. It was the Daytrotter headquarters in Austin, where they record sessions in the area. We met Sean, the humble man behind it all, and he talked about recording upcoming sessions with hugely famous bands in a mystified way, not quite believing it all himself. Jesse from These United States was there, riding a bike all of a sudden, and it felt like we were transported from this massive festival to a summer night in the whispery corners of someone’s childhood.
Inside, a couple of guys were listening to a recorded session that sounded phenomenal. There was a door with a sticky note, on top of it scrawled “BABY INSIDE.” We thought it was a joke but it was true, so then we used our inside voices.
Since it was after 10 PM and we hadn’t checked into our hotel room – and one of our crew was injured, with a foot swole to the size of Jesus – we went home for the night.
* the Texan takes issue with the BBQ joint being referred to as “Memphis BBQ,” as no self-respecting Texan would set foot in anything other than a Texas BBQ joint.
** – St. Effluvia of the Mastodons
STAY TUNED FOR DAYS 3 AND 4!