From the desk of what’s left of Rob Miller:
Now that, a week later, our ears have stopped ringing, our cholesterol levels have moderated, and our livers are no longer tender to the touch, I wanted to post a quick note regarding our recent shenanigans at SXSW in Austin TX.
THANKS to everyone who attended, enabled, or otherwise contributed to our annual Yard Dog Party and Continental Club showcase being such rousing successes. It all goes by in such a whirl, we want to make sure you know how much we appreciate it all. If we ran past you, had to dash off to take care of something and didn’t return, or otherwise seemed like frantic jerks, we apologize. Special thanks to our kind hosts—Randy, Jan, and all the Yard Dog staff who put with us—and to Kiki, Dr. Nancy Bloodshot and BS alum Scott for spending their afternoon hawking our wares.
You know, most of the time we labor ignominiously by the wan light of our computer screens, trying to save 3¢ and a length of pipe (movie reference! Free BS shirt to first person who gets it!), and the Yard Dog party is a yearly reminder why we put up with it all (well, that and the 25-hour work weeks and fat and eazy stackz of ca$h—that’s what the kids call it, right?) We make new friends (thanks Joe Purdy and the Vandoliers for the killer opening sets!), and see old pals and allies throughout the day.
Especially gratifying is actually being out there and experiencing the still-a-kick-in-the-head exhilaration of watching artists you believe in connecting with an audience in such a politely chaotic and passionate environment. Jon Langford’s Four Lost Souls is a project that is finally getting the recognition it deserves. It’s a record that washes over you like a warm southern spring evening, and to watch folks responding to the otherworldly talents of singers Tawny and Bethany was so great. I think Australia’s Ruby Boots might have been taken aback by the energy and vibe at her first ever Yard Dog exposure (Aussies being a generally reserved lot), but man-o-man, she hit it out of the park (that’s a baseball reference, Ruby…). And we couldn’t be more excited to get Sarah Shook & The Disarmers’ new album out to the world and see where it takes her.
What can you say about the Waco Brothers at Yard Dog? They are the sweaty id of SXSW. I don’t think there is an artist down there who hasn’t wanted to be them for at least one set—a fuck-all attitude that puts the joy and urgency of performing front and center. No need to impress for some publicity hack or to behave for a bunch of “music industry professionals.” It’s all right there. And, oy, that T.Rex cover with all hands on deck (pictured above)….memorable. I wish I could remember it…
Super awesome bonuses to the week were getting to hang out with Wayne Mueller, scion of the Louie Mueller BBQ empire. (My three favorite places in the world to eat are Mother’s in NOLA, Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit, and the Chartres cathedral of brisket, Louie Mueller’s in Taylor TX.) And, boy did that canned Lagunitas beer go down smooth (and fast) at Yard Dog. And that Dark Matter Coffee...sweet god we were awake until ungodly hours from that delicious wakey juice.
Life as an indie musician and label is harder than ever and SXSW can sometimes feel like a sordid reminder of everything that WRONG with it all. Every year there’s some sort of new angle, or “revenue stream” or “ingestion platform”—remember when people thought we would be saved by ringtones? Ringtones! Or Guitar Hero licenses, or thumb drives? Bleh.
We come down to Austin every year with the naïve hope that it is the MUSIC that matters, that one day the world will come around to our way of hearing it.
For one afternoon every year, we get our wish. People always thank us for putting this carnival sideshow together, but really, it is us who should be thanking you.
[Photos by Justin St. Clair for American Songwriter Magazine. Less tasteful photos by Mike Smith.]
[Rosie Flores drank Rob under the table]
["Thank god! More women playing guitar!!" —Tawny Newsome giving away a Recording King guitar to a lucky fan]