[In this week's Sunday Supplement, our favourite raconteur and bon vivant Campfires & Battlefields talks us through his experiences at this year's South By Southwest festival, which included meeting a certain infamous amphibian acquaintance of ours. Don't forget, if you'd like to contribute to the Sunday Supplements, just email your article in to sunday(at)songbytoad.com]
Well that was fun.
I flew into Austin pretty late on the Tuesday night, but my SXSW experience really began a few hours earlier, while I waited for my connecting flight out of Dallas. Anyone who has passed through the Dallas Airport knows that it’s typically all ten-gallon hats, oversized NASCAR belt buckles, and poorly-concealed firearms. But on this one night, in this one terminal, the place was almost entirely given over to the pallid, assless hipster set in their tight black jeans, one knot of whom particularly caught my eye. There were five of them, and they were almost complete strangers to one another, having just met about ten minutes before, but despite all this they were busily hatching a plan to rent a car together so they could cover that last few hundred miles to Austin in case they didn’t get a standby seat on the plane. I shuddered and thought to myself, “this is how horror movies begin,” then gratefully patted my inside pocket for the hundredth time, just to make sure my plane ticket was still there. It was, and so I boarded, my head filled with disturbing visions of those poor suburban youths, stranded along some lonely stretch of highway in an overheated Kia, easy prey for any one of the thousands of sunken-eyed drifters who vote in Texas elections every year. May god have mercy on their souls.
Anyhoo, what can I say? SXSW was a complete blast. Even better than I’d expected. In four days I think I saw about 30 bands, including Shearwater twice, Liars (who fucked me right in the ear socket and made me their bitch), Quasi, Plants and Animals, The Rural Alberta Advantage, The Low Anthem, Fanfarlo, Timber Timbre, Basia Bulat, Midlake, Twin Atlantic, We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Black Angels, The Wave Pictures, Slow Club, Titus Andronicus, Japandroids, Morning Benders, St. Deluxe, Lou Barlow, Yellow Fever, The Lovely Eggs, yadda yadda yadda. I saw bands in proper clubs and I saw bands in churches and hotel lobbies and clothing stores and pizza parlors and bowling alleys and vacant lots. And all over the streets. Highly concentrated musical awesomeness from 11:30 am to 2:30 am every day, plus vast quantities of free beer, tasty chow, and about a million people all being remarkably civil to one another. And great weather, except for Saturday, which was freezing and raw but still a good day for boozin’ and chattin’. What’s not to love?
In my inexperience I bought a SXSW wristband and stayed at a hotel out near the Austin airport, so I needed to take a shuttle back and forth every day and night. It was fine, but in retrospect I probably should’ve passed on the wristband and shuttle and put my money to better use by getting a hotel room right in downtown Austin, within staggering distance of Sixth Street, SXSW ground zero. The wristband doesn’t guarantee admission to shows, it just allows the wearer to enter official showcases before the proletariat and without paying a cover charge. But seeing as the wristband cost $165 while the cover charges were only $15-$20 per showcase, I didn’t like how the math turned out at the end of the week. The unofficial day parties, where I saw one amazing band after another, were free and wide open to the public, wristband or not, although a few (like the Paste Magazine party) required people to RSVP online beforehand, which is not particularly burdensome. If you can drag yourself out of bed by noon, getting into these day parties is not difficult. I highly recommend it.
As good as the music was, the fellowship was better. I got to spend some time with Matthew, who turned out to be an excellent companion despite the odor, and I also met Peej, Esquire, and the lovely ladies in his life, the Honorable Vic Galloway who hospitably offered me a cigarette about five seconds after meeting him (a simple but endearing, open-handed gesture I thought), a very sweet kiwi songstress named Michelle, and a drunk guy on the street who used Michelle’s camera to take pictures of his own ass. Good peoples all. And at long last, I managed to see Broken Records perform live. In fact, I got to see them play two absolutely scorching sets in two very different venues, and even had the good fortune to meet those enterprising Sutherland boys and nearly the whole Broken Records posse. Pardon me for getting all fan-boy, but that felt good. They made a gorgeous racket and did Edinburgh proud, rest assured. Oh, and during “the pause” in Slow Parade? Total silence.
Liars – Mr. Your on Fire Mr.
The Black Angels – Black Grease
The Lovely Eggs – Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?
Broken Records – Slow Parade