SXSW. Love it or loathe it, it is an undeniable social phenomenon of carnival-esque proportions. Wandering through a sea of faces & sound bombarding you from every open enclave, one could easily forget to breathe. This was our third year attending, and the energy was much crazier than before. Maybe it was due to our ever-expanding circle of friends, our cell phones tugging us in more directions than we could ever keep up with. At any given minute, whatever awesome show you are catching, you are missing out on something. Guaranteed. Acceptance is key. You get in whatever your legs will allow.
Two shows this year for us. We have always been of the mind that we’d rather play one that counts than ten that don’t. Seeing brothers of ours wearing themselves out playing three sets a day seemed counterproductive. Our first show was at a joint called Whiskey & Ink on Wednesday night; classic Austin vibe with the front of the venue open for music to reach the streets. We were using their backline, and it’s a good thing they were ahead of schedule because when Jon plugged Jen (his beloved Fender Precision Bass) in he found the bass amp to be bunk. Taylor & he booked up the street, up seven floors of parking garage, and back again with his bass rig. Covered in sweat before the down-beat, this set was one of catharsis from adversity.
We had a few nights off before our Saturday showcase to take in the festival, and so we did. Thursday night was filled with wandering until we reached Skinny’s for Marvin Etzioni’s extremely intimate set. He started off the show standing on top of the bar with mandolin, silencing the room. Finishing the first tune, he set the tone saying ‘Here’s the deal, I’m gonna play. If you wanna talk, go outside’. He played another song ‘the mandolin man’ unplugged and prowling the floor before joining a string quartet on-stage. The arrangements were subtle and the evocative lyrics about lovers past were tear-jerkers. We left in a sort of post-greatness awe, touched by the honesty and fragility.
Friday we caught Counting Crows at Auditorium Shores. What a fucking band, man. So seasoned. So emotive. Adam Duritz is a phenomenal artist. It was amazing to see him improvising and having the whole band match his ebb & flow. Huge for Mike, who has been a massive fan of their music forever. We left early and high-tailed it to Far-out Home Furnishings for Tea Leaf Green. Place was sort of a hippie-haven (much love hippies) with hula-hoops and dogs off leash. Jon got to talk shop with Reed Mathis of TLG, one of his biggest bass influences. Their set was super-groovy, we all stood right in the front following the flow. Reed is really the groove-anchor of the band, and the bass was way up in the mix! Before we could say good-bye to the TLG crew we were racing to catch Sami the Great, a song bird from NYC, at The Lodge on Sixth. Ty & Jon played on her record which was recently released, and we were psyched to see the material interpreted by other cats. The bar was packed with friends, and was an excellent way to end the night.
Saturday was all about the Live Nation showcase at Lucky 13. We had the convenience of being able to rehearse all week, so we were snarling dogs waiting for the stage. The whole thing was sponsored by Pizza Hut, and being children of the 90’s, we were tickled doing interviews for them and reflecting on “Book Its” significance in our development. Our set was raucous. Simply put. Mike was a ferocious animal throughout the show, owning the stage and staring down the crowd with the intensity of one thousand suns. Everyone digs “Whole Lotta Love”, and people always flip when Taylor nails the Page licks. We crushed and in a flash, ‘work’ was over and it was time to party! Free drinks from Lucky 13 got us going for SXSW’s last night. We got miracle front row spots for White Denim, Austin’s own psych-rock powerhouse. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and check out their latest offering, “D”. They played everything off it we wanted to hear… at about ten times the bpm!! Their set was a triumph, and we strolled the rest of the night in shock from the rock. There was music till sunrise on Saturday, and we got it in with late-night sets from Cherub and Two Fresh. Taylor’s cousin and his Army buddies were in town, and we did a ton of dancing. Austin is weird and so is South By, but weird is awesome and so are you. We are slowly making our way back to LA and back into the studio. We have several shows over the next month or two, so you better get your ass to one of them. Oh, and LEAVE YOUR CELLPHONE IN YOUR CAR! Jack White had a mandate at his show that anyone taking pics, audio, or video was ejected from the venue. They offered downloadable pictures of the show the next morning. We all like were he is coming from with this. It is about being there. There is so much competing for our attention these days, distracting us from the visceral nature of the live experience. Imagine seeing the Dead or Zeppelin in the 70s, no one was fucking around on a pocket computer. All eyes, ears, & energy were directed towards the artist. Lets hope this becomes a new trend…or even a law! Peace <3 28 North