The modern traveling speed of information creates the illusion of time moving more quickly than it once did. SXSW was just a little over two weeks ago, but it seems like it was in 1914 (perhaps if it were 1914, we wouldn't have had to walk by SXSubway (yes the sandwich chain had a stage) and see drunken brand ambassadors in giant LED-light helmets bumping into people while handing out flyers about new smartphone apps). We realize it seems like we haven't posted any sort of journal or diary from our adventures in the magical land of tacos and BBQ. So, here are some photos, video, captions, and thoughts from our 19th year at the festival of lights, music, and binge-drinking that is South By Southwest. First, let's chronicle the two-day road trip Bloodshot Rob and Publicity King Josh took to Austin. (Nan and Mike flew there...wusses.)
1. "Van's Pig Stand. Shawnee OK. Ignore the gluten free buns. Don't ignore the pig." - Rob [Editor's note: both Rob and Josh claim this is the best BBQ they've ever had (or close to it). Though, we are pretty sure that Josh only had Dr. Pepper and two packs of salt mixed with ketchup.]
2. "The "Van's Pig Sandwich", fried okra, iced tea, the hot link for snacking on later, and a faraway look of contentment---all the sweeter as I knew it would be my last moment of peace until Austin was in my rearview mirror." - Rob
3. A visual representation of what goes on in Rob's brain during SXSW.
5. "Sweetwater BBQ in St Robert MO. Josh is fond of pickled things." - Rob
6. "Scenic I-55 past Springfield IL. Note in the background the sublime and majestic peaks of the Illinois range. Oh wait, nope. That's just a brown cornfield. (And my tender wrist is doing much better, thanks for asking.)" - Rob [Editor's note: Rob is still milking it.]
And now that we've made you salivate with envy at the delicious BBQ and the thought of listening to podcasts with Rob for 15 hours, here are some music-related items:
1. Ha Ha Tonka playing Night 1 (at least in Bloodshot's schedule) of SXSW at The Majestic, kicking off a week of some of the best sets we've seen The Tonk play. Seriously; they were on fire all week.
2. Lydia Loveless and her band (which she called "The Full Monties" that day) tearing the roof off of The Mohawk for the SPIN Magazine/Vans day party. The room was packed to the gills and everyone's mouths were agape and eyes wide for the duration of the set. (You can watch a recap video of the day party, including some commentary from Ms. Loveless here.)
3. The Bloodshot SXSW showcase at Continental Club was at capacity by 7:30PM and lively all night long, starting with a toe-tappin' head-bobbin' set from Luke Winslow-King and his lovely wife Esther Rose.
4. Robbie Fulks covering Old 97s' "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)" at the Bloodshot showcase. (Now there's a piece of Bloodshot history!)
5. Lydia Loveless killing it AGAIN. (This happened frequently that week.)
6. Mojo Nixon backstage telling Barrence Whitfield "God said 'let there be light,' and Barrence, you made it happen." We aren't entirely sure what he meant, but we agree.
7. Barrence Whitfield and the Savages subsequently letting there be light at Continental Club.
8. The Waco Brothers (with substitute rhythm section...it's a long story) performing with on-stage go-go dancers and plenty of booze being strewn about.
9. Barrence Whitfield and the Savages making every hip millennial glued to their smart phones look up, shut up, and start dancing at the Filter Magazine Day Party at Clive on Thursday. It was cathartic.
10. Rosie Flores and Rob startin' with Grandpa's Old Cough Medicine early at the Bloodshot Yard Dog Day Party.
11. Bobby Bare Jr. catching some hang-time like a 1993 Nike Jordan commercial at Yard Dog.
12. Ha Ha Tonka bassist Luke Long being awesomely dangerous hanging on the rafters of the tent and simultaneously STILL HITTING EVERY BASS NOTE at Yard Dog. We were scared for his and the crowd's safety for a second, but by the time Rob walked over to tell him to get down, he was already back on the stage.
13. After a taco dinner at Guero's across the street from Yard Dog, Lydia Loveless, her band, Ha Ha Tonka, and their crew took to the stage at a greasy karaoke dive inside a parking garage (seriously...it's a real place) to sing songs by The Band and Miley Cyrus....sigh.
14. Robbie Fulks closed things out on Saturday at the Brooklyn Brewery day party with a solo set full of acoustic shredding, touching tributes, excellent stories, and a little tenderness from the crowd.
Before we start looking to next year, here are some thoughts on our Yard Dog day party from Bloodshot Rob, detailing how many of us felt after that inspiring and enlightening Friday afternoon:
"After scuttling around Austin for 2-3 days, being assaulted by aggressive and calculated marketing "experiential" events---all attempting to ramrod an organic "cultural" buzz down our collective throats, and wading through over-stimulated, under-washed "music" fans who made the Wrigleyville throngs after a 9th innning come-from-behind Cubs win on Dime Beer Night seem demure by comparison, I must say I was a bit worn out. Giant Doritos sculptures, SXSubWay, giving away energy drinks and getting people to sit on sidewalks for 4 hrs to get into MTV's whateverthefuck event...blerg. Heading to Yard Dog on Friday, I was morose, aesthetically offended and existentially dismayed ("Yes," say you who know me well, "but how's that different than the usual Rob?"). Well, it was WORSE than usual, ok? Did music even matter anymore? Unless we were able to provide selfies with Jimmy Kimmel or have Lady Gaga puke on me or some such shit, did we even have a place here anymore? What's the point of this city wide circle jerk? The sense of re-arranging deck chairs on a Titanic sunk deep into my bones. So I want to thank you profoundly for the Yard Dog party. Top to bottom, our best yet. It was a full day reminder of why I do this and why music still means so much to me. It was a personal thrill and a professional honor to have you all be there. I hope, if nothing else, that day also provided you with a few hours o playing for, and hanging out with, several hundred people who feel the same way. Looking into the crowd during the day and seeing them actually connecting and responding to what was going on, I'll take that over #youmustlikethiscuzweSAYSO any time. The memory of the day will, perhaps, gird me sufficiently for next year. And keep me fighting the good fight in the meanwhile." There's nothing we can iterate to sum up our thoughts better than that. Sure, SXSW is a total circus, but it's still a celebration of independent music and artists and reaffirms to us that we still have a place in this weird and wild world. Thank you to our artists, you fans, and all of our friends for making it all possible. Until 2015... Oh, actually, we'll close out with this video of Robbie Fulks playing "Long I Ride" at the Yard Dog party. Enjoy.