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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SXSW Diaries - Part 2

Posted by Andrew R Tonry on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 3:39 AM

Friday morning the Music Editor gets up bright and early.

I stay in bed. Sleep all day. Feel terrible like my blood's been drained. Brain sitting on the floor, deflated, and a spoon-size chunk missing. A cauldron of empty bottles and old newspapers, towels, swim trunks and a homemade pipe.

The only thing that gets me back on my feet is thought of the Mean Jeans. Masters of the Party. Bill and Ted. Crank me up. Get me twisted and ready to at least mimic the motions of a living, breathing human being.

They're playing at Spider House, well away from The Shit. I catch a cab. The driver is unpleasant bore. No insight for someone visiting Austin but passionate and energetic when it comes to talking about the weather.

Otherwise he's concerned with trying to run up my faire by making big loops and taking shitty routes. Problem is he's got GPS and every time he goes the wrong way a lady's voice tells us so.

We pull up to Spider House and I offer the fucking moron half the fare. Reluctantly he accepts.

FULL TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS AFTER THE JUMP

Spider House is a large victorian home turned bar. On the front lawn a pop-up vintage clothing shop. I find a shirt with a Blazers logo. In bold white type it reads: "Oden" It couldn't be more perfect, a reminder of the recent era that finally collapsed days before.

Out back there's a stange. Another in the sizable garden patio on the opposite side. Been going al day. Burger Records party. The Mean Jeans shred in what was once the living room. Cramped but the energy is right on. Just like a bopping, ransacked basement show back in Portland. Slam a few strong Texas IPA's and I'm back in business.

Afterwards, by the van I share a couple of plus from a bottle of Jagermiester with Guantanamo Baywatch, who are touring with the Jeans. Everywhere the Jeans go Jagermiester seems to follow. "Jagey," the call it.

A week earlier I saw both bands in L.A. Wrecked me. I don't know how any of 'em are still alive. Fucking party magnets and magnates.

Between their and here the bands' van broke down in the dreaded middle of Texas nowhere. Stuck, they went to a restaurant and befriended the bartender who offered her place for the evening. At home she offered bottles of vodka flavored with Jolly Ranchers. They turned down the meth.

SXSW would mark the end of the Jeans' tour but Guantanamo would play their way back through California and needed new wheels so they scraped together the dough for a big red truck. It looks like it's taken a handful of Texas-sized beatings. King cab. Outfitted with thick steel grating that sticks up in back and crosses the rear window like maximum security prison bars. Fucking Road Warrior.

They want to go see the Gories. Into the Red showcase at Emo's East and I tag along. They load up the gear into the truck, along with a broken scooter. The body cracks as it's lifted into the bed. Both bands plus a local and I cram into the truck. Eight of us in the cab. I'm halfway out the window on the passenger's side. Just enough extra space to make it work. Once we're on the road someone asks what's up with the scooter? Who are we taking it for? Where does it supposed to end up? No one has the faintest idea.

To avoid pigs we take the long route. A veritable tour of outer Austin. Jesus, circling the whole city, it seems.

Emo's East is a giant box. Eighty foot high ceilings and lots of dead space. Whatever charm the original may have, this place feels pretty vacant. Two ticks off a House of Blues.

Some older dudes are playing the most generic garage rock and roll. I don't care for it, but the few hundred standing before the stage seem content. Quickly the scene begins to wear on me. This was a bad choice. Thousands of bands playing downtown in The Shit and I'm stuck on the outskirts of town before a rotten one. Get the fuck out of here.

The shuttle doors are closing and I catch it just in time. Surrounded by hideous young jocks. Yelling "Get Some!" out the windows to every car and passer by. The voice of 'roid rage. In their eyes drinking is still the hallowed grounds of gladiators and kings.

Get back to The Shit. Getting late. Missing all kinds of things. Goddamnit. Do something, quick. Blackalicious. Remember them being so great. 'Blazing Arrow,' an all-timer. Seemed to fade since. Not a lot of production or touring. No definitive musical statements in years. I wanted to see for myself—to find them reinvigorated.

Blackalicious

The venue is right near the river. Pass through an tent with Talib Kweli. Inside, Blackalicious. Hot and sweaty. Yet Gift of Gab in the puffy coat. He's joined by Chief Xcel and Lateef. The crowd is onboard, smoked up and everything seems to be moving nicely.

"Deception" pops to life. That plinking piano, the "la-la-la-la-de-da" hook and Gab's dexterous, literate, and inspired flow. Canonical. Defined a new style of West coast rap in the mid-late 90's.

Tracks afterwards feel bland by comparison. I heard what I needed to. Not a lot new and none of it really catching on. And so Blackalicious soldiers on in the shadow of a toweringly creative period that has yet to be matched.

I slip out to the alley where I stashed a drink. A couple guys are doing graffiti on some dumpsters and I ask to join in. They oblige and hand me the pen. A trio from Mexico city. Nice dudes.

Fuck, any minute now the bars are closing. Nothing more I can make?

I pass by the Hype Machine showcase. Caveman are about to go on and I find their slightly-spooky, robust and beautifully shaded pop harmonies marvelous. But there's a cop at the door and he won't let me in. Thousand-some-odd dollar official pass is no good here. Need some bullshit with a Taco Bell logo. The Music Editor signed us up for this one, I swear. I'm RSVP'd, Dammit! But haggling is of no use. It's free and promotional and the venue isn't full and still no. I'm not getting in. Fuck you Taco Bell. Fuck you Hype Machine.

Ugh. Find the van for a long ride back to the hotel.

Friday is a bust.

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