So The Big M and I went to SXSW. I am 22 months shy of my 40th birthday and I still have all of my teeth, so while I’m not *empirically* an old person, I’m old for hanging out outside of Antone’s on a Tuesday night during the biggest music festival probably anywhere. I had a few contemporaries around me, but still. A little incongruous with my stray gray hairs and unironically worn non-hipster Levi’s. They’re not Mom Jeans, but they’re not hip, either.
I’ve heard 200,000 people have flooded into Austin for this event. When we waited outside of Antone’s to get into the Band of Skulls show, people around us were talking about where they had flown into to get here because every flight into Austin was full. Tulsa was the farthest I heard.
One of my local friends tried to rent a van for the weekend (it’s Spring Break) and learned from the car rental companies that not only did they not have any vans available, they were 25 cars short of what they had promised to rent. Let’s hope that got worked out.
During our hour wait outside the club, The Big M counted how many men walked by with a shirt tucked into pants held up with a belt. I believe he saw 7, and that was out of probably 400-500. The Big M made number 8.
Conclusion: we are stridently uncool. I’m okay with that.
Here's what Antone's looked like when we got in.
I last went to SXSW in 2000 BC, that being Before Children. At the time I was a film addict. I spent entire days in the movie theaters during the festival, watching five or more films at a sitting. I would have been game for the Butt-Numb-A-Thon. Not so much in 2012.
The last time I went to the SXSW music festival was probably 1992. It was a smaller affair then, and ran only Wednesday to Sunday. Now it’s a 9-day event, not counting the days of pre-parties. And it has expanded not just to film but to interactive events. It’s kind of incredible. I can’t wrap my head around how big this thing has gotten.
Now as I mentioned before, we are not empirically old, but we’re already old enough that we’ve forgotten how this club concert thing works.
See, when one has actual tickets to a concert, one is not required to wait in line to get into the club. The line is for people who have wristbands and who are hoping that the bouncer will let them in if they’re really cute or really persuasive or one of the first 50 or so in line who have wristbands. We’re not that cute or persuasive, but we had tickets. By the time we realized that waiting was not a requirement for us, we’d killed enough time to just stick it out. Consequently we were among the first 10 people to get in. And consequently we got to be in the front row.
Sometimes being old and stupid pays off.
Doors opened at 8. And because I’ve forgotten how this works, I was thinking the band would come on at 9 or so.
Feel free to laugh at me.
The opening act to the opening act came on at 9. Then around 10, we got to see the real opening act, We Are Augustines. I didn’t know any of their music, but it didn’t matter because they were really fun.
I swear this guy is a clone of Marcus Mumford.
That’s Billy McCarthy, and he knows how to have a great time.
This is not a great shot, obviously, but it was the best I could do with the iphone and no flash. No zoom, either, so it gives you some idea of how close the guys were getting to us. Bassist Eric Sanderson came within six inches of my face at one point, which cracked me up. These guys were having a great time.
It was really great to see how much these two and their drummer, Rob Allen, were enjoying themselves. They obviously loved what they were doing and that was infectious.
At some point, Tim Westergren came on stage and introduced himself. “Hi. I’m Tim, and I invented Pandora.”
Thank you, Tim. Seriously.
If you don’t know Pandora Radio, get thee to a computer. It’s one of the awesomest inventions in the history of internetting. You download the free app (or, I guess, work from a computer) and enter the name of a band you like. Then Pandora radio plays music from that band and other similar music, often from bands you’ve never heard of but who have a sound that you like. It’s very interactive — you tell Pandora if you like a song or not, and it refines the music choices to fit your taste. It’s a great way to discover bands. And it’s just fun.
Pandora was sponsoring the event. That’s why Tim came on stage.
At 11 the roadies came onstage to set up. One cool thing about being in the front row: you can see the set list that they tape to the floor.
*reading through list* Oh, good! Fires (my favorite) is number four. They’re closing the encore with Impossible! Wait — where’s Honest or I Know What I Am or Friends? You’re killing me!
But at least I wouldn’t spend the entire set waiting on those.
At 11:30 it was time for the main event.
Emma Richardson is so cool. She was right in front of me the whole time. She’s a mix of Chrissy Hynde from The Pretenders and Peggy Olsen from Mad Men. (The show, I mean.) Tough, cool, Season 4 Peggy Olsen. Emma looks a bit like her.
Hard to tell in this picture, I know.
She was up there kicking so much ass on bass and with the singing. And meanwhile, this guy in the front row at the other end of the stage was standing there, wearing his backpack, and not moving a muscle.
He stood like this for six straight hours. I kid you not.
I don’t know if he was German or was being post-ironic, or both, but the guy seemed completely oblivious to the fact that three different bands rocked out all of four feet away from him. It was impressive.
More impressive: Russell Marsden on guitar. He was killing it.
This was the best picture I got. Sorry.
Love the close-up duet. These Brits rock. I was expecting them to turn the volume up to 11, but they didn’t. It was more like eleventy billion. I honestly thought my ears were bleeding at one point. They hurt for two days after.
It was getting past midnight and it was loud and The Big M had to work in the morning, so I was thinking about bailing. (You know how I know you’re old?) And I was looking at the set list and thinking, meh, I don’t know this new Ikwia song, and I’m not sure I can make it to the encore.
And then Russell struck a D chord and let it hold, and I knew we were in it for the rest of the game.
Hi-ho triple salchow I got a feelin’ like a tidal flow but I know what I am they know what they are so let me be.
It makes no sense, and it’s catchy as hell. There’s some argument as to whether it’s “tidal flow” or “tired of the flow,” but I’m going with the former as that’s what RockBand has as the listed lyrics.
Ikwia = I. Know. What. I. Am.
Then they followed immediately with Light of the Morning.
And then Death by Diamonds and Pearls and the encore, and we were out. Those last five songs went by in an instant.
Special thanks for the evening go to The Big M, who shielded me from pushy, whiny teenagers behind us (ha! like whining from strangers works on people who don’t even crater to the whiny demands of the beloved fruit of their loins!) and to my parents, who watched the kids overnight.
It was a good time for us older folk. And to the whiny teens, I say — Get off my lawn!