On Tuesday night, my friend Crispin slept in an excavated foundation. By Wednesday night, he'd be there again, and I would be contorting my mostly naked 6'5" frame on the vinyl bench seat inside a van outside a Howard Johnson's south of Austin, acting as the DIY security guard for expensive sound equipment. In Austin, you have to be able to sleep anywhere.
Waking up this morning, it made me feel good I showered before setting out on the road to Austin from Houston yesterday. I spent the past five days in Houston waking up on a friend's couch, day-drinking at Texas' oldest brewery, eating brunch at a place called Beaver's, catching a flu that turned my insides into juice and my sheets into sweat, seeing The Men, Psychic Ills, and R. Stevie Moore one night, and seeing Girls with girls my last night in town, among many other things. In other words, if I wasn't too drunk to fuck, I was too sick to dick. Houston was a trip that was met with unexpected surprises and serendipitous moments. Nothing was planned, but everything synced.
I held off on buying a $1 Greyhound ticket from Houston to Austin (seriously) for a former colleague to make an eleventh hour confirmation about a ride to Austin with her friends on Wednesday. I may have gotten to Austin sooner on the Greyhound, but then again, you can't smoke joints on the Greyhound or get door-to-door service. The choice was made.
We rolled into Austin at rush hour and roads were jammed with SXSW-related traffic (out-of-towners, foot traffic, complete morons, and double-parked band vans). The Convention Center was buzzing with people in red shirts milling about not really knowing whatever I asked them, people handing you little cards and trinkets and snacks. I wasn't in the system, but ended up getting checked in by a very helpful Help Desk gal (coincidentally, she wasn't wearing a red shirt). A fancy press badge on a KCRW lanyard that looks like it was designed by someone at a smooth jazz radio station or Jack Handey was placed around my neck like I just won a gold medal for being persuasive. I was ready to hit everything.
But I wouldn't even need it for first stop at non-SXSW venue Cheer Up Charlies, where CMRTYZ were running the show with two back patio stages of garage and punk music. The first band I caught was new-to-me Seattle foursome Sweet Pups, who played '77-style rock with harmonic girl-group afflictions. The male drummer was a little rigid at times, but the black-clad ladies held tight in front. Afterward, Chicago band Football ran through the field of urgent post-punk with the lanky singer/guitarist casting a diaphragm-booming voice that sounded like someone I still can't place today. (Probably some New York band that once released a record on Vice). What was the name of that one band?! It's seriously bugging me.
After running into Larry Mizell Jr., I met up with my old friend Squeaky, whose label Disaro is partially responsible for Witch House ever becoming a thing. We made our way back to some DJ thing at a bar on 6th St. called Lose Control, where a guy Squeaky was crushing on was DJing. We walked up to the second floor venue shortly before 7pm, where shitty dubstep and a very empty, extra spacious room greeted us with nauseous reactions that quickly retreated back to the chaos outside. Over by Beauty Bar, where some crazy line was stretching down the block, we ran into Lars Finberg, who was scarfing down a slice of pizza before performing with Thee Oh Sees at some Carson Daly event. Carson Daly ended up sitting in on drums for the part in their set where Lars plays guitar). Lars said that it was much better than when The Black Lips' Ian St. Pierre filled in. Squeaky noticed that there was some Dummy XO showcase around the corner at Barbarella that he wanted to go to. I stayed around for Brooklyn gay art-rock trio Mirror Mirror, who produced bare-bones synth sequences like The The and martial drum cadences like Menomena. Their singer had mannerisms not far from Stephanie lead singer Young Wil Adams. But everything was totally muddled and sounded awful.
I ditched Squeaky because Mirror Mirror were friends of his and he wanted to chat, so I walked back down 6th Street past Cheer Up Charlie's to Hotel Vegas for the Hardly Art showcase. I accidentally walked in the adjacent venue, right into the middle of some aggro-metal set that I caught exactly one minute of. The place smelled like sulfur, so I pushed past the moshing singer on my way out the door and went next door, where X-Ray Eyeballs were setting up. They had a rough start: there were a couple mistakes made in the first song, and their fog machine triggered the smoke alarm, which pierced through their distorted and oblique chaos. They dedicated more than a couple songs to Hardly Art resident dog, Chuy Pancakes, who graced the cover of Hardly Art's fancy 5 Year Anniversary zine (includes a red flexi-disc!) and played heavily from material found on their Hardly Art single "Sundae" and forthcoming LP.
I went back to Cheer Up Charlie's to see Puerto Rico's Las Adrillas, a band that featured a Davila 666 guitarist I always forget the name of singing for, well, a Davila 666-sounding garage band with a dash of speed. I actually liked it more than Davila 666 (seriously, garage rock is becoming so monotonous!). It was there that I met up with Crispin, who said he only had two hours of sleep the past two nights. After grubbing down some much-needed food, we went back to Beauty Bar for the Panache Party, where I sat around waiting for his friend to text him back about letting him in. He didn't have a wristband or badge and wasn't about to pay $10 cover. I had a badge and could have seen 30 minutes of whoever was playing. Instead, I waited in the alley with Crispin until his buddy waved him in. Once inside, I realized I had already seen the band playing in the patio (Football), and didn't even note who was playing inside. I was bored and starting to get tired, so I walked back to Barbarella for Brooklyn hipster-house duo Blondes, whose new record has been a highlight of 2012 so far. I caught a couple songs from The Coathangers, who were playing next door, in which those ladies got into their usual rotation of mischievous punk antics.
By the time Blondes went on after 1:15am, I was exhausted. I slept upright for about 10 minutes in the back of the venue on a round booth bench that had no table. The duo didn't have a table either and set up their gear on the floor of the stage. When they finally started playing, I forced myself out of my seat to dance. However, there's one thing about taking in Blondes' ethereal vibe in the live PA setting: If you close your eyes while dancing to their music, you're gonna fall asleep dancing.
If legalities wouldn't have forced me back out into the street at 2am, I maybe wouldn't have woken up sweating inside a van. I'm sure Crispin feels the same way.