That epic bender went by the name South by Southwest, and each year it leaves Mike and I wrung out and exhausted, several pounds fatter, and pretty sure we’ll never do it again. But then we do. Why? I can only answer for myself, but for me South By is 1/3 about the music, 1/3 about the food, and 1/3 about the company. We make it down to Austin 2 to 3 times a year, and the beauty of South By is that everyone is out and about. Trying to meet up with them may be hell on earth (text: where are you? text: at liberty, you? text: that [insert name of website, magazine, or snack food company here] party text: ok, maybe see you at mohawk later…), but it all works out, and it’s magic. By day your are sunburned, by night you are soundburned, and at all times you have a Lone Star in your hand. Except for the times I was smart and had a Topo Chico instead. But mostly it was a Lone Star, or, later at night, a sugar free Red Bull and vodka, for strategery. And maximum body poisoning.
So let’s break it down.
Our friends in Austin are numerous and dear. Many are Mike’s best friends from everandever, and others are newer friends who are social butterflies on a scale unheard of outside of social media. It’s an impressive crew, and we got to spend time with most of them. We stayed with very generous friends who not only put us up for a week but also hooked us up with special passes that get us VIP access into certain venues, as they do every year. Saints. A good number of our friends have kids, and I realized that our Texas visits are pretty much the only time I interact with children. Luckily, the joy of bouncing on a trampoline spans generations.
Austin is a hotbed of gluttony for Mike and I, and pretty much anyone else without extreme self control. I mean, Tex Mex meals START with a bowl of melted cheese, so it’s difficult not to indulge. To give our guts a rest, we tried to keep it light at non-Tex Mex meals, which meant lots of food truck noshing. Any brussel sprout dish is going to do you good.
Aside from Topo Chico and Lone Star, the most-consumed beverage of every Austin trip is the margarita, and its cousin the Mexican martini. Frozen, rocks, salt, with a raspberry swirl – we do it all.
This a photo of two grown men celebrating a world in which you can watch the Flaming Lips while drinking a strawberry frozen margarita. Ice cream headaches ensued.
Oh, man. I’m at an extreme disadvantage here, since I tend to yak away to any friend that is nearby instead of watching music. Sacrilege, I know. I also don’t remember bands I haven’t previously heard of unless they blow me away, and after a certain point, no matter how much I like the music, I just need to sit the F down.
That said, there were highlights. At Mike’s show on Wednesday, Social Studies kicked butt as always, and Radiation City impressed me too – the chick’s voice is amazing.
On Thursday, I really liked the Local Natives late night set outside at the Mohawk. I was also pretty tipsy by then, and in for some feel-good stuff.
Friday we saw the Flaming Lips at Auditorium Shores, which is always the best place to be on a beautiful night, with the Austin skyline glowing. Wayne Coyne was as weird as ever – he creepily snuggled a baby doll at the mic – and they played mostly stuff from their new album, which was trippy and (I’m going to go ahead and say it) a little boring. But then they played tracks from Yoshimi, and it was a lovely sing-along, hands-in-the-air place to be. After a refresher at a great new beer joint called Craft Pride we hit the Mohawk to see Thurston Moore’s band Chelsea Light Moving.
The next band totally blew me away. Trash Talk is a hardcore band from LA, and it’s possible I don’t actually like their music. I do, however, like watching a bunch of people mosh, all windmilling arms and stomping feet. They reel around, bounce off each other, jump on the stage and off again, and, when someone inevitably hits the floor, they scoop them up and place them on their feet so they can all go crazy again. It was like watching a violent ballet. I may have actually been vibrating, up in the balcony looking down on the chaos. At one point the band photographer put down his camera, jumped into the crowd, bounced around like a crazy person, then got back on stage to fix his hair and spit beer on the crowd while taking pictures. The singer got helped off the stage, his leg in a cast, and asked everyone to “Scoot in, but watch the foot.” This is something my mom would say, not a hardcore singer. Then they all kicked the crap out of him as he sang, but I bet they took care not to step on his foot.
So that was a big moment. I’ve seen mosh pits before, but never like that. The energy was passing directly from the stage to the nutsos in the crowd to me. I felt powerful, and angry, and really really moved. It made me think that in another life I would have been a dancer. Not the normal 29 year old lady reaction to mosh pits, I realize, but it made me freaking HIGH.
Saturday the notable acts were Smashing Pumpkins, only because they were Smashing Pumpkins (well, Billy Corgan, our friend’s ex on bass, and whoever else Corgan got to replace the original Pumpkins), and Supreme Cuts at the Mohawk. Those dudes are fun.
I spared you my full list of bands seen and things done, but that’s a taste. A smelly, dehydrated, sunburnt, ears-ringing taste. It tastes like victory.