My first night in Austin, I slept in a van. Last night, I retreated beneath a stairwell in the streets of downtown Austin and was almost peed upon by some drunk guy who didn't heed to my vocal "Don't piss here, dude" warning. I slowly watched the urine inch closer and closer until it stopped about a foot from where my head rested upon my laptop bag, wearing the same clothes since Wednesday.
Sleeping under that stairwell was going to be impossible. I only had the clothes on my back and no blanket, and there were all sorts of street construction projects underway and two cement trucks created a loud, constant rumbling about thirty feet away. I remained there for almost two hours until the cold really set in, so I wandered the deserted streets, past the state capitol and up Guadalupe, searching for a coffee shop with a couch I could relax in 'til I had to get back to today's festivities. I caught my first actual sleep of the night at a McDonald's that opened at 6am this morning.
I enjoyed sleeping in the van more. Yesterday, I woke up in the parking lot of a Howard Johnson's, who served a mediocre continental breakfast of cereal and pastries, which I rightfully abused. CMRTYZ, who were staying at the hotel, dropped me off in downtown so I could make the blog post you read yesterday. I spent half the day at the SXSW press suite, and even enjoyed a complimentary massage that they were offering to weary writers and photographers.
Matt King from Mississippi Studios met up with me for a late lunch and beers at Chupacabra Cafe, and we were joined by Ruben Mz from Hardly Art/Broomsticks, who happened to be walking by. The burritos we ate were humongous and covered in queso. Matt and I both got about 3/4 of the way done with our burritos before we realized the server accidentally swapped the two. No matters, we were stuffed and set out wandering downtown. Matt won a lottery for tickets to a secret Bruce Springsteen concert, so we stopped back by the Convention Center to get those, then made our way toward the Fader Fort on the east side.
Like a lot of these day parties/RSVP events, there was some awful, semi-precious indie act performing to throngs of people who seemed to be there only for the unlimited supply of free beer (in Fader Fort's case, Budweiser). We made the executive decision to not really wear ourselves out with day events, so we went to relax at the Spotify house a few blocks away. The house was painted that vibrant green synonymous with the music streaming program/service and the yard was littered with people chilling out on white couches while wearing white Spotify sunglasses and drinking free Bacardi and Miller Lite. I ran into my old Houston friend CeePlus I used to DJ with a bunch, where we caught up after six years apart. By 6 pm, we were told to drink up and leave, as they were shutting down the day party.
"Let's Make Love At The Bottom Of The Pool" (Magnetic Fields Chillin')
Matt had received an invite to a rooftop pool party above the 20th floor the luxurious Omni Hotel in downtown, so we made our way back in that direction. We were supposed to meet up with buddies from Typhoon on that rooftop. Instead, we ended up in the company of The Magnetic Fields (sans Stephen Merritt), who were represented by the same booking agent and manager. We mostly kept to ourselves, but I borrowed a pair of cut-offs from Matt and was the only one of the group to take a dip. The water was warm and hadn't been cleaned in probably two days. Bree from TacocaT, who I ran into in the elevator (and about three times before that in the street), had mentioned that there was a pool party the night before. That pool was my shower yesterday.
From there, Matt and I split ways and I made my way to the Hardly Art showcase at Hotel Vegas to catch Mujeres, who had come all the way from Barcelona, Spain. I was late arriving, but caught a good thirty-minute chunk of their full-throttled garage-punk. They truly gave it everything they had, and you could see how in the zone the lead guitarist was when he closed his eyes as if he were following some complex math equation in his mind. They played hard and efficiently, cranking out jams old and new to a room full of bodies. I didn't bother taking any notes.
TacocaT were up next and played an adoring set of classic staples ("Leotard"), cat favorites ("Cat Fancy"), Costner favorites (I forget), and fully charged party riots ("Bike Party"). Some old drunk man with no teeth danced merrily in front of me, giving me two thumbs up like the old man with a bow tie in Twin Peaks. "Bike Party" was particularly special, as Don't Talk to the Cops arrived halfway through their set and joined them onstage for a song I wish they would write ten times over. Don't get me wrong, I like their sweet stuff, but this urgent, call-and-response Over The Edge-style punk is downright riot-inducing. Dear TacocaT: THANKS FOR "BIKE PARTY."
Grave Babies played next and filled the room with their distorted goth-pop. Their Hardly Art 12" arrived in Austin yesterday, so they were stoked about that, and played a good chunk of new tunes. I saw a mom and her daughter enter the venue with their fingers in their ears and quickly move through toward the backyard. Half the room present for TacocaT had cleared, but Grave Babies have some brilliant pop melodies under all that mechanized clamor, and it came through in their show. The reverb wasn't as muddling as it was when the band first started, and I actually understood a good chunk of what Danny Wahlfedt was singing. I think this is a good thing for the world. Danny has a very twisted mind.
Soft Metals and //TENSE// were playing at Barbarella for the Moog Music/Switched On showcase, and I couldn't miss //TENSE//, who could rightfully be the 21st century's most authentic and sonically gripping EBM group going. Soft Metals played a lot of newer cuts the duo has been creating since moving to LA from Portland last summer, and the room was flecked with a prismatic visuals. Mostly, I stood in back talking to a tall, beautiful woman as the packed room moved in glorious syncopation with the astral grooves.
//TENSE//, who hail from Houston, kind of stole the show though. Although the mic cut out a few times and the PA system popped and clipped lower frequency synth beats, much to the frustration of visceral frontman Bobby Lane, they demanded the austere crowd to start dancing, and soon enough the whole floor was moving (I will take partial responsibility for inciting the movement). Their sound draws heavily from the best bits of early Wax Trax legends like Nitzer Ebb (who, coincidentally, are bringing // T E N S E // along as support on their upcoming reunion tour). Yet, there is something truly modern about it, just the right combination of electro and EBM, replete with an electronic drum pads pounded in precise succession by Mariana Saldana, of the beloved minimal synth group Medio Mutante and showcase openers BOAN (who I sadly missed). I was dancing so hard, I was dripping with sweat by the time they finished thirty minutes later. //TENSE// is the quintessential act Actual Pain should book for their Second Sight night. Dear Second Sight: YOU'D DO SEATTLE A GREAT SERVICE BY BRINGING //TENSE// TO SEATTLE.
I stuck around the venue for Silent Diane and Neon Indian, but kept talking to the tall beautiful woman from Houston and Ian from Soft Metals upstairs, away from the crowds. Before I knew it 2 am rolled around, and my friend, who said there was a chance I could stay at his sublet last night, had vanished. I could have tried to be persuasive with the tall, beautiful woman, but she was going back to her sister's house all the way across town. I had no other choice but find someplace that would keep me dry overnight, in case it started to rain like it had the night before. I didn't expect to nearly be rained upon with alcohol piss at 3:30am. At least I avoided it, because I have to wear these clothes again today.