My SXSW experience this year was one that could have been full of let downs, but instead it came out as one of the best experiences of my life. It all started out on Thursday afternoon. Me, my Uncle Carlos, and our friends JC, drove up from Corpus Christi to Austin after JC got out of work.
Let down number 1: JC having to work and not being able to get off early, leading us to miss some bands. We get to Austin around 9 that evening and instead of fighting for parking downtown we decide to hit up a local neighborhood bar called Nomads. It’s a pretty cool place off of Cameron Rd that I suggest for anybody to check out if they don’t want to fight downtown. When we walked into the bar there was a band playing, a Southern Rock sounding band from Boston. I didn’t catch the name and didn’t ask because I’m not into that sort of scene.
Let down number 2: My car getting towed. The next morning we decided to get up early and try to make it downtown before 12 to get in line at Red 7 for the Shirts for a Cure Showcase that started at noon. For breakfast, we went by Kirby Lane by the UT campus. Only problem was all the parking spaces were full. So we had JC get down and get a table while my uncle and I drove around looking for a place to park. We go around the block and see a parking lot behind the restaurant that is separated by a fence. We figure it has to be additional parking for the place. So we pull in an open spot and start walking around the buildings to get back the restaurant. It didn’t even occur to me that this place was a parking lot for something else. Bad idea. After about an hour in the restaurant we head back to the car. And it was just like the movie. “Uhhhh dude, where’s my car?” Then out of nowhere there were the signs. No parking here without permit. They were posted everywhere. How could we miss them? I called the tow number and the lady told me what we had already figured out, they had my car in the lot and it was going to cost me $196.86 to get it out. Wonderful.
Let down number 3: Finding a ride. So usually our friend Danny, who lives in Austin, would help us out in a moment like this, but he happened to be in Dallas that weekend. Call up a cab company and we can’t get through. Too much traffic on the phone lines. We call up another friend and he doesn’t answer the phone. Terrific. Finally we get through to a cab company. 25 minutes or more till the car can get us. Oh well. We’ve been waiting 30 minutes already, what’s another half hour? We passed our time sitting outside a Burger King on the tables they had set up. Our friend that didn’t answer the first time called us back. We explained the situation to him and he said, “I wish I could help guys, but I’ve got the baby with me and I don’t have the car seat…oh wait! Here it is, I’ll be there in a bit.” So our day’s looking up. I tried to call back the cab company to cancel our car, but I kept getting kicked off the phone line. So about 30 minutes after we called for a cab somebody shows up. We were worried about having to take the cab, but the driver was cool about it and just hit reset on his tab and went on his merry way. So I would say around 2 our friend Rod shows up to the Burger King. His wife comes a couple of minutes after to pick up the baby and we head south towards the impound lot.
Pleasant surprise number 1: The Bum and car ride. We were making our way through downtown Austin trying to get on I-35 to head south. At a corner there was a homeless man who wanted to wash windows. So Rod tells him go ahead and gives him a dollar. The homeless guy then tells us, “Thanks guys. Keep it real! There’s a lot of posers in town this week.” I guess only locals give him business, all the out of towners must be too afraid to talk to him. After we get on the interstate the ride became a lot smoother. We make it towards the towing company. Why is it that towing companies have to be real shady? This place was in the middle of nowhere with random other lots around it. We pull into the drive way and all we saw were little kids running around. It was like a scene out of a horror movie. 10 kids ranging in age from teenager to toddler were just roaming around the front of the place staring at us as we drove in. It didn’t help that Rod started singing the banjo part of Deliverance.
Day looking up part 1: Getting the car back. I pay my fine and we get in my car to head out. It’s about 2:30 so the day isn’t totally wasted. We head back towards downtown and instead of trying to fight for a parking spot over there we just park in the neighborhood across the interstate. It’s only a 5 minute walk and you don’t have to pay to park in the public street. That’s a good tip for anybody looking to find cheap parking. Once we park we start to head downtown. Me and my uncle head towards Red 7 while JC heads off towards the Bob Bullock Museum (he’s not a punk rock kid like the rest of us). So we finally make it to the club. This was the fourth year that we have gone to this specific showcase and usually you wait in line to get into the club and the wait would only be around 30 minutes. Not this time.
Let down number 4: The Line. It’s about 3 in the afternoon. Anti-Flag comes on at 3:30 so we were thinking that we would get in before they came on. 3:30 comes and goes and we were still in line. 4 comes around we still weren’t close to getting in. Then the bombshell. Some kids in front of us had some friends come out. They were told that they were letting people into the club, but you couldn’t get into the outside stage unless you had a badge. Uhhh what? That’s never happened before; it was always a free show to anybody. Hot Water Music was playing at 5 at the outside stage. They were the whole reason we came. I ask my uncle if he thinks we should just leave and he says that we had been waiting this long, might as well just get inside and see what happens.
Pleasant surprise number 2: Stupid Kid. We were about 8 people from the door when this kid tried to sneak inside. The door guys were none to happy about that. They chased him inside and threw him out. And I literally mean throw. The kid caught air. It was good little laughter break. That kid, though, stayed out front with his friends. Dude you were embarrassed in front of everybody just go find somewhere else to be. Finally, we were next in line to get in. We show our IDs and head straight for the outside stage.
Day looking up part 2: Hot Water Music. At the door to get outside was another door guy. I asked him if we could get in and he tells us. “Yeah, we’re at capacity out here so it’s 1 in, 1 out.” Awesome. After less than 5 minutes waiting we get in. Braid was playing when we walked outside. The crowd was pretty into them, I had personally never heard of them until this showcase was announced. They were an emo band from the 90s that had broken up and reformed recently. A highlight from the set was somebody proposing to their girlfriend during one of their songs. 5 rolls around and out comes Chuck Ragan and the rest of Hot Water Music. The crowd had been waiting for this. They tore through a 50 minute set that included songs A Flight and a Crash, Rooftops, Remedy, Trusty Chords, Wayfarer, and others that I didn’t know. They also played a brand new song from a new album that comes out this summer.
Day looking up part 3: Set Your Goals. We leave the club and meet up with JC back at the car. We head home, change, and then go out again to grab some dinner. We ate at Threadgills on Lamar. We wanted to catch another free show that night. It was a hardcore show at a food trailer. We drop JC back off at home and we head out to find the place. After parking and finding the right street we show up just in time to see Set Your Goals come out on stage. This crowd was way younger than the Hot Water Music crowd. This being more college age and the one earlier in the day was people in their 30s. The band played songs like This Song Is Definitely Not About A Girl, Goonies Never Say Die, Summer Jam, The Fallen, The Few that Remain. During one of the songs a fight broke out and the owner cut the power to the stage. The fight moved from the show area towards the street, but still no music. After about 15 minutes of waiting the band was allowed to play one last song. One of the singers said, “This is the fourth show that I’ve been to at SXSW that has been shut down because the club owner didn’t research what bands were playing. So here’s the last one. Mutiny!” and the place went nuts. The crowd was either on the stage or within 4 feet of the stage. Everybody singing at the top on their lungs, kid’s stage diving, the singers lost in the crowd. The song ends and the band play another. Gaia Bleeds. I saw somebody trying to get them to stop but only one person was listening and they were telling that person that it was the same song. So here the crowd was still going crazy. The singer then says, “Okay everybody circle pit!” and the power was cut again. Everyone was let down, but it was a happy time still. I’m glad that I was able to see this take place. Here’s the encore if you want to see for yourself :
My final thought as we were leaving was, “I can’t believe I only saw 2 and a half bands today and I’m so happy.” Then it occurred to me that it’s about the experience. Not just the bands, but the whole experience, the bar, the car, the bum, the fight. They all add up to a great story and a great memory that I will never forget.