Unofficial SXSW ’09: Lost in Texas

March 23rd, 2009: As seen on Archive (PDF)

Growing weary of the East side of the city and the hipster shantytown that has begun to develop an invisible belt around Mrs. Bea’s and Todd P happenings, I made it a point that I was going to get super random on day three and blindly attack one of the many warehouse or house parties and get more of a breath of Austin local. The way of music, I pretty much struck out, with every band I saw coming from out of town.  But the caliber of Austin-bred youth that aided in my temporary hitchhiking tactic to get to said parties made up for it, especially the two teenagers who thought I’d be impressed if I watched them snort pills of X off their dashboard.

Though the big pupil fun didn’t happen until the moon came out.  Since I had this plan to get lost come evening, during the day I figured I’d find pockets of free and unofficial in downtown proper.  There was a Swedish and Norway takeover at a creek-side lounge called Habana Calle that drew me in easily, 1.) because Loney Dear was headlining and 2.) because the Swedes are going to Viking-conquer the world if they continue to make indie pop the way they have been.  I spent a little time with a spastic, metal version of the Shout Out Louds, Ungdomskulen, who kept reassuring in broken English that they woke up that morning feeling the proverbial “it,” which turned out to be a healthy relationship with the cowbell, before killing the hour before Loney Dear took the stage, across the street at a tent show featuring a new sludgy guitar buzz band from San Diego, Earthless. As their own entity, they layer guitar squall near My Bloody Valentine ear-bleed level.  But with special guest J. Mascis in tow, they were the ultimate reincarnation of earl-90s fuzz.

No, I didn’t wear earplugs.  And yes, I regret it.  For a good part of the next hour of hitchhiking, I couldn’t discern a car horn from a phone call, let alone enjoy the delicate string arrangements of Loney Dear.  But that subsided by the time I took a breather at a coffee shop and convinced those aforementioned teenagers, just starting their day, to take and accompany me at this warehouse shindig put on by local producer, Scott Jawson.  There were plenty of local bands on the bill, mostly dance rock acts, but a few canceled and I got trapped out in the middle of nowhere with only The Mae Shi (California) to entertain in a two and half hour block.  That’s not to say they killed it. Their brand of strobe-yelp punk threw kids into a hip-shaking fury.  I think I saw my ecstasy friends jump a good four feet in the air during a twee-thrasher called “Run To Your Grave,” the band screaming the chorus to the ceiling – “You’ve got to tear, burn, soil the flesh.  God will do the rest.”

And then with an angular guitar jab it was over.  My phone was dead.  Had no money for a cab.  The ecstasy friends had bolted.  Not that I wanted to get in with a car with them, anyhow, however entertaining it would have been.  Instead I found myself in the company of three lust-for-club girls who would only offer me a ride if I went with them to a dj-throwdown at a gutted Salvation Army building.  Again, it was kind of a NYC-invasion type deal headlined by a slick, greaser-clad spinster dubbed Drop The Lime.  No local talent in sight.  But the dude dropped enough sonic limes to draw hoards of sweaty kids on stage, that knocked the power supply out at least five times, beyond the point of annoying and the straw that prompted an internal, “Screw it, I’m walking home.”

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