Originally submitted last Thursday, but posted now because I had approximately 8 million irons in the fire. Condolences to all. —G.B.
Stepping out of a van into the chaos of SXSW after a 13-hour drive is a little disorienting. Unlike the other guys in Grave Babies, this is my first time at the festival. I was in Austin last fall, but it's now been transformed into an unrecognizable clusterfuck, and you can sense the urgency of hundreds of bands anxiously competing to get recognized. I go walk around the packed outdoor venue we're about to play and watch the adrenaline-inducing magic of one of my favorite bands, the K-Holes, and I feel like I'm in a k-hole. So I sneak out into the alleyway where we parked our van and try to poor some vodka into a half empty bottle of gatorade, but it's pitch dark and I spill most of it. What I haven't spilled I drink quickly, trying to adjust myself to the chaos around me and unwind from the tension of the long drive. On my way back into the venue I almost get run over by a bike rickshaw, which are everywhere in Austin. Hours later after we've played I'm standing on the side of the stage watching the Oh Sees, when I see Danny stage diving. When he goes back for it a second time he crashes into the pavement but luckily comes away with just some cuts and bruises.
The next day we we're innocently watching some showcase full of anonymous indie rock bands, when an electro rap act called Christine exposed the audience to his butthole. Some things just can't be erased from memory no matter how hard you try. That night we're scheduled to play a house party. We watch a couple of good bands and had just finished setting up, about to start our first song when the cops show up and shut it down. So we go back to the place we're staying at and jump in the pool.
A major lesson I learned from this tour is that I'm suddenly at an age where no matter how many stimulants I ingest, I still need to sleep. On our last tour, just last summer, I was greedily staying up for two days at a time. This time around not so much. I keep swallowing dexedrine to keep partying but it ain't working. I cant sleep in the apartment we're at due to cat allergies, so someone drops me off at a nearby party where I luckily encounter some friends and I crash at their place.
The next day I walk 65 blocks to the Austin Convention Center to hear our drummer Keith give a talk about the Seattle band map he and Rachel Ratner invented. Every person I pass on the way says "Hi," "Good morning", "How ya doin?" type- stuff you never hear in Seattle and it's refreshing. When I finally arrive, I'm denied entry. Exhausted, sweaty and irritated I go and try to find any bar that doesn't have a band playing. I sit back and almost fall asleep when Keith calls—I go back to the Convention Center where we walk around and my mind is blown by all the booths and panels trying to sell their formulas for how to "make it" in music. I thought the economy was on the brink of collapse, but apparently people still have money for shit like this. Maybe it's just me. Keith and I try to talk our way into getting wristbands, but the 17-year-old volunteer ain't having it, at which point Keith says "Fine, I didn't wanna go to any of this shit anyways." After that he's determined to get into the "band room" upstairs where you get free stuff like a Jansport backpack or something. We make it to the top of the escalator and have to turn around.
That day we go to and old wood mill to play the CMRTYZ party. Ty and Carlos know how to throw a party. They hook up free tacos and that's first time i've eaten in a day or so. In the parking lot they have a bio dome with inflatable couches and hammocks. I'm pleased to see the wood mill workers coming over drinking beers and checking out girls. It's early in the day but everyone's having a good time.
Later that night we play the Hardly Art showcase. We go on after the good times party vibe of TacocaT and within two songs have cleared the room. Tyler's little brother delivers our new EPs, and the other guys celebrate by smoking weed out of a Busch can behind a "lone star latrine." Everything is bigger in Texas, but the Porta Pottys are about average. Later we pile Ruben, Sarah, and Jason from Hardly Art into the van and go party a while at the place they rented. It's in a very friendly part of town and as soon as we get out of the van we're greeted by locals that would like to help us drink our beer. The Jacuzzi Boys show up and touchingly serenade Ruben.
The next day we play a showcase at this amazing place called Spiderhouse. All the bands are great but i'm getting a little burnt out on garage rock. I go into the air-conditioned basement to watch chains of love and the darkness and swinging disco ball is so disorienting that I almost fall over trying to sit down. I shove a bunch of stimulants in my face and wake my ass up. At the end of X-Ray Eyeballs set OJ hands his guitar to a little girl thats been rocking out in the front row and lets her jam out. She's beaming, and he probably gave her a great childhood memory. Before we leave we watch Los Headaches from Mexico and some geniuses in the audience start a "USA" chant. Danny gets in the front row and the singer screams "Diablo Blanco!" We go to a party where Dirty Beaches are playing and it's mesmerizing. There's alot of love in the room and the place is packed.
The next day I drag everyone out to watch the beautiful Psychic Ills, who continue to rule. We have nothing to do because our show got canceled, so we wander around Austin and hang out with our friends the Young Prisms, who are playing a show full of standoffish New Yorkers playing dress up. Someone steals our six pack. We watch a band called Friends. I think all their songs are about that show called Friends or something. I see a hipster in a stupid hat and plastic gold chain yelling at a tamale vendor that his tamale is "bullshit." I wish his tamale had ex-lax in it (just kidding!). I'm over SXSW at this point and can't wait to go.
When we finally leave we drive thirteen hours to Tucson and stay with our friend Joel from Cairo gallery. He's opened a new space there called Topaz Tundra. He and his girlfriend Christa are very gracious hosts and have a stunning adobe apartment. It's the first night of good sleep I've had on the whole trip.
The next day we have a show in San Diego. We drive through the mountains along the Captian Grande Indian Reservation and it's absolutely stunning. We go from sea level to 4,000 feet in just over an hour. From sand dunes to brutally hot rock and cactus to snow. The beauty of untamed areas that are hardly inhabitable by humans always gets me a little choked up.
When we get to the venue we find out across the street they sell they sell large flavorless pizzas for five bucks. we buy two and I regret not bringing a bottle of sriracha on the trip for moments like this.