I am writing from a Best Western outside of Austin, TX. We are in town for the annual South by Southwest festivities, where bands from all over the world, but mostly from New York, come to get noticed. It has always been a dream of ours to get noticed, and so here we are plugging & plucking away for some number of shows. (Seven, which pales in comparison to Vivian Girl’s astounding eighteen shows, or to the Mae Shi’s recordbreaking twenty-something shows last year.) If you are a very important industry rep or an A&R guy with one of the majors, please, please come introduce yourself after we rock your world because our bills don’t pay themselves, and we are committed to really making it by whatever means necessary. We are hellbent on making it. To all of you important people: we will wash your car if you let us buy you a very expensive lunch. We will give you a straight razor shave if you agree to let us look you in the eye meanwhile. We will wax your boots if you let us watch you crush our demo tape with them.
(THE MAE SHI: WATCH THIS TWENTY TIMES TO SEE IF YOU WOULD HAVE HAD FUN AT SXSW 2008)
The whole thing was a clusterfuck. "South By." We played some good shows. There was not as much free beer and food as we were told there would be. Abe Vigoda is the best band in the world. Ponytail is also the best band in the world. I saw our buddies in Real Estate play very loud and very, very good show at the Peacock Lounge. The Tallest Man on Earth (who is in fact very tiny) played one of the greatest shows in modern history, just him and his guitar. We went to see one of this band’s greatest influences, The Proclaimers, “The Twins with Bins,” in concert. They covered a Kings of Leon song, “one of the lesser known ones.”
Click this link to see an amazing Proclaimers video. Embedding is disabled, but it’s worth your time.
Finally, Patrick, a few drinks deep, and in a dirty Paul McCartney shirt, met the mayor of Austin.
Since we arrived in Austin we have heard nothing but complaints from bands that had to carry their equipment for literal miles, like lowly packmules, between venues and vans. It is this band’s most recent logistical triumph over conventional wisdom that we have with us a Dahon Boardwalk folding bike to alleviate parking woes, spaces being both scarce and distant. The advantage of the Dahon Boardwalk single-speed folding bike is that, first and foremost, it folds and can be safely stashed along with any band’s equipment in the back of the van. Now we stash our van with great ease.
We played two shows en route to SXSW. The first of these shows was in Charlottesville, Va. Note that my notes on this show are skewed, for I was feeling jetlagged and overwhelmed, because I used to live there for three years. Playing a show for a group of people, all of whom you know at least peripherally but have not seen in a year, is a high-stress exercise in emotional management, and one that I failed. This show marked our return to mid-sized American venues with our own amplifiers, and that took serious adjustment. We were very, very loud but somehow did not clear the room. Many people did leave. This was the first of two dates with the good people over at the Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson team—or as we took to calling him, MBAR. Another band played, called St. God’s Hospital, featuring my favorite waiter Caleb L’Etoile, who used to serve me beer when I was still on college payroll.
Baton Rouge was a star-studded bill, with Marnie Stern and band, MBAR again, and our new buddies in a band called The Subjects. Jimmy of The Subjects set up my guitar and Ian’s bass guitar in exchange for only a couple of Oreos, and as it turned out later, free reign to touch our asses, in a buddy-buddy kind of way that was equal parts charming an off-putting. These guys are some of the nicest folks we’ve met. There was a nice sort of recess going on before the show, with the Subjects, MBAR and all of us doing bike tricks, playing wiffle ball and kicking a soccerball around. Then it was time to rock, and so we did. Marnie travels with a cute designer pup called Fig. It was one of those rodentine pygmy dogs that yelps always and forever, and the name of whose breed is impossible to remember. The name is a portmanteau of two breeds whose names you probably know, but once connected, are humorous. Like a golden doodle or cockapoo. I can’t remember this one.