accidental...everything just happened upon us! We saw the best bands, drank the best drinks, ate the best food, and we did it ridiculously cheap. I'll give you the play-by-play...introduce you to some newly coined terms...and teach you some lessons. Keep in mind that these learnings can be leveraged for use at other festivals and the like.
Friday, March 20th
We start the day by getting our game plan together, looking at the bike routes, and hitting Highway 290 all the way to Austin...listening to the tunes of Yo La Tengo (no they weren't playing at the fest...but we're getting excited about Pitchfork Fest over the summer).
We rolled into the north side of the city to the 29th Street park entrance to the bike trail. This trail follows Shoal Creek all the way to Towne Lake. Parking lot, check...signs along the path leading us in the right direction, check...hip waders to traverse the creek with my bike, damn I forgot those! Good thing I was a tom boy when I was young...my stone steppin' abilities definitely came into play. Fifteen minutes later, we were cruisin' down 4th Street in the midst of the festival. After the bikes were well secured, we wandered into Cedar Street for the Filter Magazine's free daytime party...we didn't recognize any bands on the list until later in the afternoon so we got our wristband and walked around to find sustenance and cold beer. We hiked up Congress to Hickory Street for their $3 pints, unlimited salad/baked potato/sundae bar, and delicious philly cheesesteak!
Tip #1: Individually wrapped cornbreads from the salad bar fit well into a backpack for drunken noshing.
Tip #2: Bring a backpack...it doesn't get checked....ANYWHERE. And personal water bottles for that matter...
We paid our tab just in time to mosey back to Cedar Street for the Late of the Pier and Razorlight shows. LOTP was a British electro group and creepily entertaining to watch. The lead singer gets bonus points for his mid-song fight with the bouncer and return to the mic/guitar promptly after taking some swings. Razorlight also put on a good show...but after a couple of stiff drinks we knew it was time to finally check into our hotel.
Tip #3: Go to a Specs Liquor Store (before 9pm) and pick up your clear liquor of choice, a couple of bottles of your mixer, and a bottle of water. Drink some of the mixer, pour in your desired amount of booze, drink the water, then pour the rest of the booze in the water bottle. This should be adequate for getting two people tipsy.
Tip #4: Park by Shoal Creek/10th Street and walk or bike to the fest...it's easy!!
After our trip to Specs and such, we parked by Shoal Creek and made the short walk back to Cedar Street for Canada's Bedouin Soundclash, Peter Bjorn & John, and Grizzly Bear. We had great views from our free sidewalk location...sippin' on some Coke Zero (w/ Cruzan rum) and eating taco's from the Casa Del Fuego...it was magical. Bedouin put on a terrific show...they had horns and brought me back to my ska days.
Then the old SXSW officials started cracking down on the growing sidewalk audience. The cops even laughed at how they couldn't do anything, but we moved out of the way and onto the street. What made me more pissed than anything was seeing those of us who really wanted to hear the band being pushed into the street and people in the douchebadge line who couldn't care less saying things like "Ha...look at all these people without badges" accompanied by a smirk no less. This is when we started using the term, Douchebadge = one who has money for a badge but unworthy of actually putting it to use. This jerk was stuck on the street with the rest of us, but in a line. Which leads me to the next tip...
Tip #5: Badges are useless unless they are free and platinum...and don't even think about buying a wristband, it's a waste of your money. SXSW is a caste system...higher rankings get first priority. It's not worth it.
Peter Bjorn and John didn't play a single thing from their last album and only a few of the new songs are actually decent. Some of the new stuff is a lot darker...and not as enjoyable. The bottle of rum was gone by this point so we ventured back to our hotel to eat the cornbread reserves and rest up for day two.
Day one was definitely a success! We saw a couple of celebs....the people watching was just unreal!
Saturday, March 21st
This day wasn't even going to happen. We had tickets to see Andrew Bird at the Houston HOB that night, but after seeing that Explosions in the Sky were playing a free show, we had make the gametime call to stay for another night. (Thank you Nikole for watching Mallory at the last minute!)
With a slight looming hangover, I had to get my head (and stomach) right for another full day of musical madness! This required a visit to Kerbey Lane Cafe before even thinking about heading to downtown. We dined on huge pancakes (their's are quite possibly the best I've ever had), omelets (mine was roasted chicken with verde salsa, the MF had his stuffed with cheese, homefries, and other good things)...but the two bloody mary's saved my life. KLC makes theirs with a spicy infused vodka that gets your game face back on. It was time to park the car and bike it back down to get in line for Rachael Ray's party at Maggie Mae's!
Tip #6: Eat at Kerbey Lane Cafe on Kerbey Lane...its wonderful! I want to go to there...again....soon.
Our plans were put to a halt when we saw the line for the buzzworthy event was wrapped way way way way around the block. Hell no! The Blind Pig is the pub next door, it has an open rooftop which is next to the open rooftop at Maggie Mae's and there wasn't much of anything going on there...hmmm...no brainer! We envisioned hours of sitting above 6th Street watching the SXSVesters (these are cool cats with black vests...the coolest of which do not even need a shirt under the vest. It's usually accompanied by some sort of stylish hat. Indie fashion icons before my eyes!), drink some beers in the sun, and listen to the bands as they play next door. This didn't play so well in our favor once bands started jamming on our rooftop. So much for eavesdropping...we needed another plan. With four hours of liquid courage in me and upon hearing one of the MF's favorite bands start their set, I looked at him and said..."alright, lets jump the fence". With a huge grin on his face (and I'm sure he was shocked and proud of me for actually breaking the rules...not to mention on the second story of a building) he handed me his bag and jumped in to the 30 Minute Mealer's bash...all the while, having his foot on my finger while making the climb. Thankfully it wasn't broken! An old man looked me in the eye and told me to "please be careful", then I made the hop to the other side. Our two friends were also successful...one had a war wound, a pulled leg muscle, but that's just the price you pay to sneak into a free party to watch The Hold Steady! They put on a rockin' set!! The crowd was dancing, singing along, drinking heavily...it really was magical and we were right by the stage. Rachael Ray came out to thank everyone at the end...and we left through the front door. It felt great to be a rebel!!
Tip #7: Have NO shame in being resourceful! Use your surroundings and the weaknesses of others to do whatcha gotta do. Any wall can be climbed if no one is looking, any door man can be bought for at least $20, and no one looks at the picture on the badge.
Tip #8: Don't park your bike on a motorized gate...I lost a brake. It's a bad decision...don't do it.
Our drunken bike ride from Maggie Mae's to the free shows on Lady Bird Lake took no time at all...and just as the rest of the weekend occurred, we accidentally ended up in all of the right places at the right time. Perhaps the music gods were with us...and we were definitely worthy of it. We parked our bikes at the bike valet, which I've never heard of, but am I huge fan of now. Bike valets should be present at more places, because it was a very efficient and safe way to store your bike.
Tip #9: Keep your water bottle inside of your bag. They don't check, and if they don't see it, then you don't need to empty it out.
We were STARVING! With all of the fence hopping, we didn't get the free yumm-O grub from RR's shindig....so we spotted a BBQ trailer and made a B-line towards it. The trailer was made out of wood, so it had to be legit, right? After obtaining an order of BBQ nachos (yea...you read that correctly), a pulled pork sammich, and two overpriced daiquiris, we headed to the stage...and walked directly in front. Done and done! With only one act before Explosions in the Sky took the stage, we were holding our ground till showtime!
Eryka Badu and her new beatmakers, The Cannabinoids, opened for EITS and they were pretty good. Eryka Badu was late due to some stalker complications...got boo'd...and sang a couple of songs. Nothing to really write about...it was, meh.
Then, magic happened. The humble and brilliant members of Explosions in the Sky walked on stage. They looked completely shocked at how many people were there (I still have no idea how large the crowd was...but I would say thousands!)...they took their instruments and made their beautiful music right before my eyes. The set list, the Austin skyline in the background, the weather, the intensity with which they performed, the expressions on everyone's faces, the person I was able to experience it with....were all nothing less than perfect. Then, perfection was surpassed....during the last song, while listening to EITS...there were actually explosions in the sky! I'm referring to the awe-inspiring surprise fireworks display across the lake from the stage. There were no words to describe...it was the most stunning thing I've ever experienced and I didn't want it to end. I've looked forward to seeing them for so long...and to see them for free, up-close, in Austin, and with a fireworks display...it's still unbelievable. I'm so glad that we stayed to be a part of that.
After the bike ride back to the car, the only thing I could do was listen to more Explosions, eat some ice cream and put myself to bed. I was overwhelmed and spent from the most spontaneous and enjoyable days on record. I can't wait for 2010!!
Tip #10: The Arboretum area isn't far from downtown and is much cheaper. Besides, you don't have to deal with all of that traffic on I-35! But if you do have a place to stay downtown...I highly recommend that instead, of course. Also, Courtyard by Marriott has a pretty tasty continental breakfast, and it's free on the weekends. MMMmmm...waffles shaped like Texas.
NOTE: CHECK BACK! I'M GOING TO PUT UP VIDS, PICS AND MORE TIPS!!!