WARNING: this post is over 1800 words long and not intended for children
Matildas at Goodbellies in Oakland. Last year the Matildas were Lust Cats of the Gutters. The new name comes from Roald Dahl. You can hear the new cassette, Vivian Pickles, on Bandcamp. Lust Cats have undergone some serious mitosis, both expanding in size while rearranging to perform as the similar but very different Pacific Pride. There, you have 3 new favorite bands, have a beer. Unfortunately none of them will be in Austin this year. There were 24 oz PBR’s and Max from our dearly departed Uzi Rash. Max’s latest project, Wet Drag debuts at Casa Sandanista on Friday, March 8th.
Transportation and shelter should be secured by now. If not, it is time to beg for mercy and floor space. Fortunately Austin is very walkable so bring comfortable shoes. Everyone will be wearing cowboy boots, but do you really want to walk 3 miles in them at 4am? For the trust funded among you (or if you just wanna splurge) the pedicabs are a sweet way to travel. Confirm your hotel reservation and if it costs less than $200 check in upon arrival. I once arrived at Extended Stay America to find a handwritten note on the door moving me to their other property 5 miles out of town! Bikes and cars are useful but dangerous.
Although you don’t really need a wristband ($150ish) or a badge (only $795!), it is still possible to get them when you arrive, just ask around. Unless you absolutely must see Vampire Weekend, save your money for tacos. If you have no badge or wristband but want to see an OFFICIAL showcase, arrive early (during one of the shitty bands), ask the doorman nicely, and you might get in for $20. If you have a wristband and plan to see something “popular” it is also worthwhile to arrive early before the badged fux arrive and take priority over your shitty little wristband.
Don’t forget to eat! There is free food to be had, yet if you wait in line for Rachel Ray’s grub you may miss 8 or 9 amazing bands. There are fabulous restaurants everywhere, but sitting is for pussies. Street food is the name of the game. Austin is like Mecca for food trucks. This year SXSW is pairing with Paul Qui (Top Chef season 9), so there should be xtra-delish eats that require absolutely no sitting. You can gorge yourself with Tenderland‘s gut busting pork tenderloin while you walk across town to the next show. BBQ is a must and pretty hard to avoid. The line at Franklin’s is not always as bad as it looks. Never leave Austin without 2 food items: (1) Miga’s at Maria’s Taco Xpress. Hippie brunch on Sunday is crowded but heavenly. (2) A slice or 3 of jalapeno pizza from Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza (open ’til 3am). Hot out of the oven, greasy, spicy and baked in ovens blasting death metal non-stop! They have 64 bands playing 6 days of live metal in the back yard. Don’t be afraid, have a beer, bring your pizza back there, take a peek. I’m sure the Fat Fuxxx are super nice guys. METAL SCHEDULE HERE!
Last Sunday The Residents played their 40th anniversary show at Bimbos. Randy spoke of how he scored Mandy thanks to King Dong. He spoke of Maurice the cat. He proved once more that The Residents are the greatest band of all time. And finally you can own their whole collection! Plus an eyeball mask! And it comes in a refrigerator! And it is only $100k.
DRINKS and DRUGS
You’re not in SF anymore! Big Texas bouncers will confiscate your bowl or worse. Be discreet! There is free booze everywhere, but do pace yourself. A few bloody marys seem harmless at noon, but may be a messy mistake by midnight. Mixing liquors may lead to nudity. Easy on the other drugs, last year’s mushrooms were very speedy.
Do have some Shiner Bock. They taste particularly sweet in Austin. There are always Lone Stars around for the lighter beer enthusiast.
There are well over 2000 bands, and most you have never heard of. It’s intimidating. Relax, it’s going to be okay. Have some bourbon. There is a ton of crap you can eliminate immediately. Maybe you hate Electronica or Hip-Hop? That eliminates a great heap of shit right there! Despite raking in mega-cash, the SXSW website still sucks ass. Some of the bands do have a song you can quickly click, a few have a video and most all will have a link to the band’s website. Take a good look at the photo. I generally refuse to judge a book by it’s cover but in this case it must be done. If the band looks like shit, they usually are. If there is a band playing an official showcase, check out the bands right before and after. You may actually be able to stay at one venue for more than an hour! Check also any of the 10 clubs within a few blocks radius. Conserve energy whenever possible.
Take notes, check out 5 or 10 seconds of a band’s musical offerings on Bandcamp (A#1), Soundcloud, Facebook, YouTube, or even MySpace! Sound good? Jot it down with a few brief notes (“death metal from Finland, hot singer!”). Unless you eliminate a few genres, going through the whole list can take a good 20 hours. Don’t forget this is the OFFICIAL list. There are almost as many UNOFFICIAL bands to peruse. Showlist Austin is best for free day parties and unofficial free night shows. Do512 is worth a peek but they make it seem like you need to RSVP for every bathroom you walk into. Not so! You can piss almost anywhere.
Divide up potential bands amongst friends and hold a listening party. Cast your vote! If no one agrees that the Fungi Girls rule, point out that they play with Greg Ashley Thursday and you must support locals (even if they all will eventually move to Austin). We will miss you Greg!
Ultimately you need to make yourself a schedule. Handwritten, small as possible, legible, and with at least 4 options per hour. Highlighters a plus. Include address of venue. Make copies. Take pics of them on your phone. It should look something like this:
Thursday, SXSW 2012
Well done! Jello shot anyone?
AVOID the center of town as much as possible! 6th street is a nightmare. Meanwhile you are missing a dozen shows on cute, breezy little streets all around town.
Did you find a band you had never heard of before that you are really excited about? Stalk them! See them 8 or 9 times. You may become leader of their fanclub, or they may have you arrested. Those bands that play more than 10 shows at SXSW are generally destined for fame (hello Dr. Dog and Strange Boys) and this may be the last time you can see them play for 14 people in someone’s backyard.
Pray at a show! Austin has more venues than Texas has churches. In fact there are at least 3 Austin churches that are venues! These shows do have the potential to be religious experiences. Of course they may just be boring. Instead, see a show at a record store: Trailer Space, Waterloo, End of an Ear, and Friends of Sound are all hosting shows. You can buy records as you listen! RIP Cheapos.
Eat at a show! Lucy’s Fried Chicken is serving up Alejandro Escovedo on Wednesday! Home Slice Pizza is right near Joe’s and the Continental Club and just announced the Music By The Slice line-up!
Ingest legal drugs at a show! Joe’s Coffee hosts the fabulous SXSJ (not the San Jose you are thinkin’ of), with a chance to see the one and only Billy Joe Shaver on Thursday. Stay for the funky Esquivel stylings of Sergio Mendoza. Stumble across the street for Robyn Hitchcock at the world famous Continental Club. Cherrywood Coffeehouse is in the best little corner of Austin and Friday you can see Guantanamo Baywatch while you snort the purest caffeine right off the floor. From here it is just a short way to Spiderhouse and the 29th Street Ballroom where Las Ardillas and Los Vigilantes will school you in garage rock Puerto Rican style. And whatever you do, don’t leave Austin without a show at a bike shop: Mellow Johnny’s has quite the line up Thursday with Billy Bragg, Thurston Moore, Iron and Wine and more!
A great band can be ruined by a shitty venue and a good band may be incredible in the best venue. The Austin Music Hall is too big. Zona Rosa too crowded. Stubb’s usually has a great line-up and the bbq is tasty, but if the line is super long, skip it. Instead check out something at the White Horse! Like the sister bar in Oakland, the White Horse is everything you want in a bar. For fans of Will Johnson, they have Micah P. Hinson on Wednesday! The world’s greatest honky tonk, The Broken Spoke, is hosting Twangfest on Thursday with Kelly Hogan, Kelly Willis and some people with other first names. It is a little drive but worth it for the chicken fried steak alone. Mohawk (The Specials on Wednesday) and Red Eyed Fly (Sounds of Spain on Friday with Pajaro!) have nice indoor/outdoor action if the weather is just right (it usually is). Speaking of Spain, do see some bands from other countries. They came a long way, expand your horizons! Fredda from France, Carsick Cars from China, No Brain from Korea or Plaided from Austria…
Do support your local favorites, but don’t see the Mallard more than 9 times. Confirm your schedule the night before you leave, set times are subject to change! Listings are running slow this year. Tons of stuff will be announced this week!
Keep your eyes peeled for the infamous Lamar Street Bridge hardcore shows (usually starts Saturday at 2am). Wait a minute…
…OK, I’m back. Ran over to Bender’s for Noise Pop Opening Night. The blonde is back! Dylan (formerly of the Mallard) is now playing bass in The Spyrals. They rocked and are headed to Austin! Check ’em out at the Hemlock, March 7th.
Are you STILL reading this? Get off your ass and see some music! None of this will be of any help if you start yawning during the 8th band at 10pm. If you play it right TODAY you can start with the Bay Bridged happy hour at Bender’s (5pm sharp). Catch Golden Void, Wild Moth and DSTVV then jog over to the Chapel to see Emily Jane White, Peggy Honeywell, Aaron Espinoza and Damien Jurado. Sprint to the Cafe Du Nord for Radar Brothers and Califone. Shit, you missed Fuzz at 1234 GO! Or did you see them yesterday at Knockout? Can you even remember?
P.S. DO NOT MISS: Roky Ericson, Meat Puppets or Jad Fair.