So the first two days could have been enough of an experience to pack up and head back to Cali with our heads held high, but we rented that over-priced house for six nights and so we had to keep ourselves busy for another few days. Our band count was already at fifteen, we figured what the heck, lets double it in three days and add one more for good measure.
Day three at a festival is always the morning that tests your will. The hangover is always a little stronger, you kind of feel a scratch in your throat and chill in your bones that says you might be inching towards sick, you’ve seen and done a lot so doing nothing sounds kind of cool. So you pound some OJ or coffee, or in our intern’s case, something else that we won’t speak of, and you kick it into overdrive.
On our third day we splashed that water on our faces and headed to downtown Austin to hang at the Photo Finish Records showcase. We parked outside of the venue, Speakeasy, early in the morning and set up our PA system and video screen. The first band, Misterwives, showed up on time and was already loading their gear into The Van when who should come along but our favorite character, the Texan police officer.
As usual the officer looked like he failed out of the local community college because he was too focused on eating brisket sandwiches. Of course he told us that we couldn’t be parked where we were parked. One of the label’s team members tried to appeal to his softer side by showing him how cute my dog was, but he had the gaul to say that my dog wasn’t even cute. That was some hillbilly BS, cause my dog is friggin’ cute. At any rate, we were again forced to slowly feign packing our gear while we stalled for a solution. We racked our brains (like 12 brains were racking in unison) but no solution was appearing. The Perfect Hippie put in a call to the gentlemen that had saved us the day before, but he got their voicemail. The cop was getting restless, apparently we were wasting his precious time. Then just when things were looking their grimmest, the good old boys from the day before appeared beside us on the sidewalk. They didn’t even call back, they just showed up, I mean, how baller is that?
These dudes owned like forty parking lots in the Austin area, also baller. They had a big-ass one just a few blocks away, and that’s where we found ourselves about fifteen minutes later. The cop, well he can suck it, wherever he is. To our buddies with the lot, you guys reaffirmed a little of our faith in humanity. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Unless its cover is a Texas State Police Officer uniform, then burn the book. Aaaah, that’s a little harsh I guess. Pee on the book and runaway.
So, having found a place to be, we set about our task of filming bands and being awesome. Band number one was still Misterwives, and holy hell they are good. The name is apparently a play on Sister-wives, because it’s one chick and a lot of dudes in the band, but they’re way cooler than mormons. Keep your eyes out for this bunch, they’re gonna be one of those bands from Brooklyn that get real hip real fast, and deservedly so. If I’m wrong, well the music will still be good.
After Misterwives came a group from Knoxville, TN, The Black Cadillacs. They hung in this big old lot with us for a while, skateboarded around, hit the Pax, played with RZA the dog, and then jammed in the van. Pretty heady stuff.
The lot we were in had an entrance that was on an incline. We had settled the van at the base of the incline, and so when the next band arrived with their entourage of handlers they looked rather impressive walking en-masse down the hill towards us. Like some Beatles getting off the plane for the first time in America-type-footage. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that this band, The Strypes, were all extremely talented 16 and 17 year olds from Ireland who cary themselves in much the same way as the 60’s Brittish invasion bands. What I mean by that is they’re most likely cooler then you were in high school.
They played two songs including their hit single “Blue Collar Jane,” and then they were shuffled off to perform at the Photo Finish showcase. Before they split Spud let them know that they were free to invade our shores any old time they liked. They seemed to take a liking to Spud, presumably it had to do with the fact that there are not many Spuds over in Ireland. The Spud type of Spud, not the potato type.
ATO recording artists Majestico came through next. They only brought two members of the band but it was still pretty heady, as were the trippy glasses worn by their guitarist.
We wrapped things up with T. Hardy Morris, a member of Dead Confederate and Diamond Rugs. He was however attending this SXSW in support of his own project, T. Hardy Morris and the Hard Knocks. He recently put out a wonderful album called “Audition Tapes,” from which he played three songs in the van. The title track of which was one of my favorite Van performances of the week. Hardy himself is a pretty swell dude. I’d met him a few years back in New Orleans and he remembered hanging. When we offered to give him a Pax vaporizer he told us that his slide guitar player would like it and to give it to him. He was right. The guy knew all about the Pax and his face lit up when we put the box in his hands. We like making folks smile, so that was heady.
Day three in the books we took it back to the homestead, grabbed some Torchy’s Tacos, and called it a night. The following day was Saturday, and we were having a party. RZA the dog had other plans which included chasing after the cats that lived next door. There were 17 of them by the way, cause that’s not just a little crazy… Dogs will be dogs though, and luckily this dog had a GoPro running the entire time, so the madness was preserved. His ear however was not. Rusty nail in fence 1, RZA 0.
Anyhow, we were over the hump on day four, and to celebrate we decided not to drive anywhere and to just have a showcase at our house. Showcase is what you call a party at SXSW. Turns out this was a pretty damn good idea, as we quite enjoyed staying home, drinking beers, and having a bunch of rad bands come to us.
Little Hurricane started things off for us bright and early. Everyone in our crew now has a crush on their drummer, and the neighbors all thought that there were surely more than two people inside of the van jamming. Nope, just two, not so big people, making one very big sound. Everything about the set was great except for the rain. Of all the days that it could have rained this was not the one we wanted.
Saint Rich was up next and they brought some guitars and sunshine with them, as the clouds started to part and folks started showing up for the party.
A few of those folks were older gentlemen who came to jam with country legend Jerry Jeff Walker. They set up their gear in our living room, lit some stogies, cracked some bottles open, and had a little practice jam. RZA Dog took to Mr. Walker and he was allowed to sit at the crooner’s feet with his GoPro camera on when Jerry performed in the van. Not a bad life for a dog.
Radkey was next and these three brothers brought the noise level up a notch. Also, super nice dudes, if anyone’s counting. Most of these bands were very amicable. I guess free booze and food bring out the best in all of us, even if the food is tacos that the Perfect Hippie made in the tiny skillet that we were provided by our rental house. That being said, the hippie did a pretty good job at making due with what he had to work with (story of his life).
The Apache Relay batted fifth in the order for the day and by this point the lawn was full of heads, a lot of whom we’d met along our travels throughout the year, as well as a healthy handful of neighbors who heard the music and decided to drop by. It was a breath of fresh air from our Los Angeles neighbors who tend to hear the music and call the cops.
Archie Powell and the Exports were last, but their music kept the energy pumping straight through to the end. A great day indeed. The Jam in the Van SXSW Showcase (dare we say) was a big success and it’s only going to get bigger. I know, you say we’ve already got a dog with a GoPro on him and a Spud, how could we get bigger? Think bouncy house…
I tried to party that night, our crew certainly did, but alas, I ended up walking all the way home from downtown early and missing out on a Rixton singalong-cab-ride-home. You shouldn’t ask any questions about that, because we won’t be able to provide answers. I also missed out on going to Hooters late night with the Perfect Hippie and having him say “here kitty kitty” to a Hooters waitress. Hey, at least I got some good cardio in.
Sunday was kind of like the last day at summer camp, it’s fun but you know it’s all about to end. We filmed at our house again, but this time it wasn’t an official “party,” although anywhere we show up to is kind of a party.
The Rich Hands were the inaugural winners of our SXSW contest, and since the only time they could play their session was at 10 AM and we didn’t want to have to pick a winner that wasn’t the real winner, we got up extra early for this one. Glad we did though, because those cats were good. Real humble dudes too, excited to get their MXL Mics package and their Lagunitas swag bag.
Quaker City Night Hawks rumbled up next and popped out like a grizzled bunch of touring vets. It wasn’t too early for them to crack a beer or puff on a PAX vaporizer, and we respect the hell out of that. We respect the hell out of rock and roll too, and they played us some.
Our house was the last stop of SXSW for Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes. They were headed back to Nashville afterwards, but they played us some tunes and then hung out and watched Michigan lose the Big Ten Championship with me. That made me a little sad, but the band gave us some vinyls, so I cheered up.
Phranchyze closed out SXSW for us the last time we were there, so we thought it fitting that he closed out this one. American Aquarium had a different opinion as they asked us to switch their time to later in the day and Phran ended up being the second to last performance in the van. Either way, his spit was fire as usual. We figured he’d be a big fan of the Pax vaporizer and he certainly was. By the end of his set we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I was eating a peanut butter sandwich and thinking about Sunday evening television. The crew was working through the fried chicken we’d had for lunch that was weighing them down, and RZA the dog was beginning to get tired of lugging his GoPro around. One more to go.
That last one was American Aquarium, a group out of North Carolina, home to myself and our DP Dave. The band ended things on a slowed down and reflective note for us. You can’t really beat southern rock at twilight, and so we didn’t try to. We packed it up, took down the speakers and the banners, boxed up the microphones and the cameras, and ordered some pizza. That my friends is a wrap, and what a damn fine wrap it was. Spud took off early the next morning and we met him in Los Angeles shortly after. SXSW you may have conquered us once, but we bested you this time, bested the hell out of you.