Sunday, March 19, 2006

sunday morning coming down

around the same time i started looking into south by southwest, i stumbled upon the works of artist mark rothko. actually, it was christmastime, and i bought a small box of rothko cards to go with my presents for closer friends and family. i was browsing borders when i ran into the stationary table, and realized i didn't have any cards to give in the first place. the rothko ones jumped out at me, and even though i tried to stay open to the other cards on display, at the same time playing with the idea of not getting cards at all, i was helplessly drawn back to them.

they were simple enough. blank on the insides, with one of five paintings pictured on the fronts of the cards. but i already had in mind which card was for which gift, the colors i thought best matched my relationship with its gift-getter. it was the first time i'd look at a painting and feel a genuine emotional reaction. some made me feel warm inside, those were for family. some made me feel introspective, those were for friends. some made me feel angry or sad, and those were for my special ones, like nick or jeff. one made me think of love, for amy.

i wanted more. i read up on the artist, and poured over hundreds of images of his paintings. untitled, 1969 brought me to tears the first time i saw it. i don't know why. i think i was looking at the national gallery of art's online exhibit when i clicked open the image, and right away, my eyes welled. it was an incredible, addictive feeling that i couldn't get over, and i kept searching for more.

i may not have gone any further than that online feature when i first read about the rothko chapel. meditative center partly designed by mark rothko. in houston. texas. only a few hours' drive from austin...

leslie had an early flight today, so i was groggily making my way out of austin around 8 am this morning. we were up late, of course, but the little sleep i got was spleeeendid, since it was the first night i'd slept on a bed, and not a floor, in five days. and the early start was great, since houston isn't really on my way home at all, but a sideways trip east across the state. going home from houston will probably take about as long as it did getting to austin.

barnett newman's "broken obelisk," dedicated to martin luther king jr, outside of the rothko chapel in houston.

i'll be honest. i came to austin hoping for something glorious to happen. i've been restless as all hell for months now, and it wasn't until driving to and from new york to see jiggsaw a month ago, that i found a glimmer of rest for my soul. something about the drive, in the anonymity of the road no matter where you are. my car became my sanctuary. it became my vessel for adventuring the outside world, with my own private place of music and musing on the inside. that's mostly why i didn't mind making this trip alone. i really wouldn't have had it any other way. i've been craving that zen-like duality ever since new york. i've felt pretty lost lately. and austin, with so much live music and so many people, seemed to promise someone or something would find me there.

did i really expect that? i ask myself this and, yeah, that's what i really wanted. i didn't know how or what was going to happen, but i was sure that if i kept my eyes, ears and heart open, i would experience something magical.

that used to be one of my favorite words, "magical." one night after we broke up, amy and i were talking, and somehow one of us described something as magical. probably me. all i really remember though is how she suddenly burst with distaste for the word, and concept of, "magic." it isn't real, she said. isn't real.

of everything about her i could keep close to me, this is what sticks the most.

and of course, nothing magical happened. really, despite how glamorous it all seems in the pictures and the stories, it was not. sure, i saw a lot of incredible bands and met a good handful of good people, but for the most part everybody was trying too hard to maintain their independent images and ideals, than to care about anyone else. i mean, have i been touched by anyone or anything in austin? not really. maybe, a little. i tried to take in as much of everything and everyone as i could, but i don't know, i only ended up with a head full of too much to make sense of. i'm no different now. magic isn't real.

i wanted love, and looked deep into the eyes of everyone there, hoping i might find someone who had more love for me than anyone i'd ever met before. i wanted the sense of belonging, and wanted to want to never leave. i was ready to call home and have my roommates ship down my belongings. i honestly wanted my world flipped upside down, by some new kind of happiness and peace i was convinced i could find.

my very first night in austin put all these hopes on hold. i was a little drunk and intently watching my first crowd of the week, studying the looks on the faces, the way everyone moved among each other, how they talked and what they said. i was fascinated with everybody's cheekbones, they were all so sad... and as i walked in and out of the bar, to the beer garden and the other stages, i was overwhelmed with the sense that i was not alone in why i came to austin. everyone lining the walls of these bars expected something amazing to happen to them during their stay. and what did that mean? is this just where the lost and lonely migrate to every year, 14,000 strong? suddenly it was never-never land, and we were all just hoping to stave off adulthood one week more. just a bunch of kids with questions and nobody to answer them.

but somehow i still felt more enamored, more engaged and engulfed, in this new world, than anyone else. i was charlie and this was the chocolate factory, and i was going to win it because i deserved to more than anyone else. it didn't have to be magic, but it had to happen. i needed it.

the whole week is replaying through my mind, moment by moment, as i'm sitting on a bench in the middle of the rothko chapel. all of these things, churning through my head, and i'm fighting to let them go. but the chapel is dark inside and the huge paintings morose, screaming madly from the walls all around me. i breathe deeply, belly breaths, in and out. i close my eyes and try to think back to acting classes, and guided meditation with my instructors. i can hear a generic voice in my head trying to help, but it can't counter the explosion of disappointment in my head. i don't know whether to keep breathing deep and trying to let go, or simply count my losses and go home already. i start to wonder what i expected out of this whole chapel thing, too.

i feel something moving on my arm. i look down to see a little bug, making its way across my elbow. it snaps me out of my delirium and i smile, wondering what the heck a little bug is doing inside this big, dark room. it doesn't belong in here. and i start to think, "you don't belong here any more than i do..."

when the bug flew off, i lied down on my back. there was a skylight in the middle of the domed ceiling that drew my gaze. i really don't belong here, i thought... no more than that bug does. my eyes are closed and i'm thinking back to this recurring battle i'm having between escaping life and embracing it, when a woman was suddenly standing over me. i hadn't seen her before but she appeared to be an usher. she whispered, "you need to get up." i apologized, but she was smiling, and for a second i felt like her words meant something more. i sat up and looked back at the dark walls, and started to cry. i did need to get up, and i needed to go home. but i wasn't ready, i hadn't found anything yet...

through my welled eyes, the walls looked lighter than before. i could still hear them screaming, but the noise in my head wasn't so loud now. there was the quiet hum of air conditioning. a bird whistled from outside, muted by the walls of the chapel.

i felt strangely... at peace.

it all made me think about this magnet one of my roommates has. i made her take it off the refrigerator because it made me sad. it did. it said something like, "peace is not living without war, or struggle or pain. peace is living among these things, and being still within your heart." it used to make me angry, because i didn't know how to do that.

looking at the walls of the chapel, painted by a man who, shortly afterward painting them, went home and cut open his wrists; hearing these giant brushstrokes screaming at me, from every wall of the six-sided room; yet, feeling completely serene and calm on my bench in the middle of it all, i started thinking, "that goddamn magnet is right..."

i said a silent thanks and picked up my bag, on impulse, and walked out of the room. the usher smiled at me as i left, and whispered in that same, knowing way, "come back." i smiled and thanked her too, and said i would. i might.

on my way out, i stopped to sign the guest book. there was writing on the page already, frantic cursive filling the entire page and the one before it. somebody was writing to a lover or friend who had passed. she said, "i think i've finally realized it's not about letting you go, because i've tried and i can't. it's about acknowledging the fact that i will always miss you..."

the tears welled up again, and as i flipped backwards through the book they started falling. there were entries in french, in spanish, in chinese. a girl, signed as only ten years old, wrote that she walked out of the chapel feeling like her life was changed. good for you, i mumbled while sobbing quietly, still flipping through the entries, touched surprisingly deeply by almost all of them.

i didn't know what to write myself, or if i even should. but i wrote down exactly what i've expressed here. that i came in not knowing what i'd find, if anything, despite so badly wanting to find something... but that i did find exactly what i needed. and that it's not here, but back home, amidst the madness i left behind.

it was hard to leave. i was holding that guest book like i'd fall down if i let go. but as i did walk out into the beautiful houston sun, almost an hour after i had left it, the humidity thick and sweet, the birds alive and singing, i honestly felt a happiness like i've never felt before.

right now i'm sitting in a small cafe just down the street from the chapel, with some of the most beautiful, down to earth people i've met all week. in fact, i think i could probably stay here forever...

just kidding. i actually can't wait to get home. i can't wait for the drive. hell, i can't wait for the walk to my car. i love you all and i love houston and i love mark rothko. and the bug and the usher and even austin, as hellish as it was. right now, i kind of love everything. for the time being, at least.

which is just fine with me.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

picture party

tristan and newcomer nick from the headlights show last night. gorgeous dudes, man. gorgeous dudes.

taking a moment to myself after a long and beautiful walk from the hyatt across the river. not-downtown austin is really wonderful. i gotta thank jeff for helping me make a game-time decision after seeing tilly and the wall at club deville: 5 pm local in-store performance by band of horses? or a 4:30-5:30 triple set by john vanderslice, jason collett (of broken social scene) and the long winters? after some back and forth, he picked band of horses and i couldn't have been happier with the call. here's a pic from the in-store at end of an ear. awesome place. awesome band. first and only cd i've bought this week.

silversun pickups from last night:

beautiful downtown tonight:

something i haven't mentioned yet are the birds. goddamn craziest sounding birds i've ever heard in this town. even from inside the convention center and at nearly 8 pm, i can here them going nuts outside. i wish i had some way of recording them for sufie and bring him home a little austin lovin.

here's that stupid girl with the cupcake lip:

oh yeah, this happened too...

hah! i'll have to save the story for later. right now, i'm off to see jose again, then superchunk and the cribs. i may be weighing food money for tomorrow against drink money tonight, i'm quite parched... ;)

thanks for checking up on me while i'm down here, guys, it's been really fun for me and i really appreciate it. i don't know if i'll be able to post again before i leave or not, but i have one special stop to make in houston i'll try posting after. we'll see.


south by south... wet

rainy day in austin. even with a full day and nights' worth of festival left, it's a bit quieter than it has been. if anyone else feels like i do, this mix of sad to leave and ready to, then that might explain it.

last night was by far my favorite night of the festival. hell, it was my favorite day overall. jose gonzalez in the morning, los abandoned (my surprise favorites for friday) and tapes n tapes (i take that back, these guys are my friday favorite) early afternoon, those crazy-ass cliff people at clap your hands, POSTERS, a little bit of nada surf from the alley behind the stage, silversun pickups, headlights, the elected (rilo kiley guy's side project... they're okay), and rogue wave to top off the night. we tried getting into some crazy virgin records party on the 24th floor of another hilton downtown, but that was a horrible idea. place was packed shoulder to shoulder with, as polyvinyl intern seth hubbard put it, "with every kind of person i hate." we met and talked with this british couple on the first floor, who made it to the party and back out before we could even figure out the elevators. they walk out of the room almost laughing at how ridiculous it was and begged us not to waste our time with it. "let's put it this way," british guy says, "i'd rather be lying in the street drinking my own piss..."

so we just chalked it up as a bad idea and turned in for the night. mark stayed, though, only seth and i went back to the hotel. my tiny floor space was a welcome sight. i cuddled up with my pillows and blanket and went straight to sleep.

woke up today and packed up my bag. polyvinyl's checking out today, and flying back after the headlights and aloha show i just dropped mark and seth off at. i'm going to meet up with leslie at some point today and crash with her tonight. i'm okay being on my own for the day, most of my day yesterday was spent roaming these streets and pubs by myself, and it was great. i think not only did the festival itself warm up over the latter half of the week, but the crowd has as well. i don't know how many people i've met in the past couple days, hopped around with, ate with, buddied up with on drunken walks home. i didn't want to admit it before, but i was pretty intimidated my first night in town. so much to take in. yesterday was much better. today's a little off, but i think rain and exhaustion have set this mood. we're all still on the same page, which is incredibly cool.

the bass player from silversun pickups just walked by me. i saw her last night after the show and couldn't help interrupting her phone call to tell her she how awesome she is. i wasn't rude, but i made my point. heh. i just saw them again, actually, around the corner at that same patio bar and grill i saw tapes n tapes at yesterday. they had free crab cakes and spinach fondu dip, and little spicy quesadilla triangles, all throughout the first few bands' sets, which was perfect. i've been pretty good, but not good enough, with my money this week. i've got all day and tonight to get through before driving home, and by my estimate, i've got just about enough for gas and food. the adventure never ends.

i am a little depressed to see mark go. we hung out with this girl jessica, from some corner of the industry or another, last night from nada surf 'till headlights. she thought it was "cute" that we were doing everything together (she was just talking to be talking, i think she wanted to hook up with mark but was keeping me close for a plan b), but it's like i told her, he and i both work so much, and during opposite hours, that we really don't see much of each other, even though we live together. hanging out with mark is like slowly chiseling our ways into another mind just as screwed up as our own. he's got incredible ambition and ideals, and i really love that i got to absorb a little more of it than usual this week. we spent most of last night venue-hopping together, the two of us and jessica. she ditched us at headlights though, when another dude came along, so we headed over to red eye fly to catch rogue wave. we stuck to the back of the place, though, tired, and shot shit for most of the show. kicked back on the patio deck with a couple of tall lone stars, the pbr of texas, the elected and rogue wave playing away up front. such a great time.

but i am, kind of, ready to go home. my wallet and i are both spent, and i feel like we'll both be wading through the day. i'm still open for anything, though. you never know what the hell can happen in a day, especially here. mm. that gives me a bit of a smile. today could be really awesome, come to think of it.

i have a ton of pictures from last night but blogger isn't letting me upload them. even one of that stupid jessica girl getting the inside of her lower lip tattooed with a cupcake. a goddamn cupcake. she was from new jersey, which might explain that...

i'm done typing. time is wasting, music is playing. and some guy with a cart just dumped a huge box of splenda packets on me. i think it's time i go. :)

Friday, March 17, 2006

don't cry i'll bring this home to you

los abandoned have this smoking hot lead singer. look at her, playing her cute little mexican mandolin. she's like a spanish erin fein. delicious.

anyway. so i'm my on way from seeing los abandoned and tapes n tapes at the smokehouse bar and grill, carrying one of the bottles of juice sxsw has stocked in coolers at venues all over downtown austin. i'm on my way to see clap your hands say yeah at the club deville, crossing red river, when the driver of this suv yells out at me to come over. i'm in the middle of the crosswalk but traffic isn't moving so i oblige. he holds up a five dollar bill, says he'll give it to me for my bottle. i look at the juice speculatively, then back at him, and say, "but man, i've already drank out of it!" he points to his buddy in the back seat and says the guy has to piss so badly he's willing to give me five dollars for my bottle. hell, i shrug, take it. five bucks! there's definitely something crazy in the air today...

but the deville place is packed, its line stretching out to the nearest street corner. there's no way, badge or no badge, i'm getting into this show. the place is small, and it looks like there's just as many people in line as there are inside. but the stage is actually outside, under a big awning, and as i stretch to look at exactly how long the line is, i see some people above the venue, walking down this cliff (a small cliff, but yes, definitely a cliff) and sitting down to watch the show from up there. i decide these people are brilliant and take off around the street corner and up the sloping sidewalk and approach a smaller wall of this... cliff (yes, a goddamn cliff)! i grab hold and step up, and what do you know, i'm standing on top of this cliff, overlooking the club deville and the stage. these are the new coolest people i've met this week.

but our glory was short-lived, when one of the club's staff walked out and yelled at us to get off the cliff, that it was private property and we had to leave. we did, reluctantly, all of us cursing the guy for being such an asshole. he's got a job to do, i understand, but he really was being a dick. oh well. bygones, you know?

but anyway, we all just moved over to the side of the cliff, outside the markers keeping us out in the first place, and now we're in some private driveway watching the show from here. the sound isn't that great, but it's no worse than it would be if we were still standing out in line. the vantage point makes me feel just like spider jerusalem, above the crowd at the transient riots, no obstacle in his way of delivering the truth to the people of the city. rock on, champaign! rock on, taylorville! rock on, saara and elizabeth in boston! heed no warning, and rock on!!

aaahh... i've also found no end to amusing myself. i'm so winning this game.

so climb on up here and listen to clap your hands with me!


i did miss drive by truckers. damnit. they played last night, at the same time as minus the bear. fuck! i would've much rather seen truckers than bear. oh well. i'm tuned into their KEXP stream right now. and that show i was going to see just now is way the hell across town, and the band i want to see is playing again either tonight or tomorrow, i just checked but forget. think i'll go grab another coffee and kick back with the truckers here, and get this damn work done. goddamn dirty work. heh.

sigh. they're playing a song from their new album... :(



patterson hood, lead singer of drive by truckers, playing a solo show in just under an hour.

i win! :)


deflated edit @ 3:26 PM...

way too far away. screw drive by truckers! i'm gonna buy some posters. :(


made it over to pitchfork's tent with enough time to kick back before jose gonzalez started his set. when i got there, the crowd was weak and death vessel was up, this very thin and attractive man singing falsetto folk. it took most of his set to figure out, was he a guy or girl? it's not an insult, the dude was pretty. and his music is wonderful. if there are any songs up on that website, check them out.

and then jose. oh, jose. you beautiful man, you. it was overcast and a little windy, but the crowd had grown by then and blocked most of the chill. and it wasn't the cold but the music that gave me goosebumps. the way he plays that guitar... man. really incredible. i can't articulate the experience just yet, i'm still in awe, but it was by far, so far, the highlight of my week. worth waking up late and rushing around like a nutcase making sure i saw him play. it was perfect.

just got off the phone with my boss back home, since i still have to staff my shift for the weekend, for whoever is subbing for me. four weeks ago, i'd put in a notice to quit, and this was supposed to be my escape and reward after putting in a long, hard year with staff management and plastipak. but even during the pitchfork set, i found myself distracted and thinking about the place, and glad i have something solid to come back to. it was a little over a year ago i decided to drop out of school and work, make some money, live the normal life for a little while. it was an impulsive decision, much like the one i made to leave the job. i'm still not particularly happy there, but i'm learning to love it. slowly realizing you've got to have something to ground you. can't just go around quitting everything, looking for your answers. i'm trying to find my answers in what i have right in front of me. it's interesting, saying this from austin. but i came down here with open-ended questions that desparately needed closure, and it's funny to realize that maybe the answers aren't here, in the escape, but maybe back where you thought you needed escaping from.

enough musing. i have some shifts to staff and, i just realized, a show i really want to see in 25 minutes. maybe staffing can wait...

i almost missed jose gonzalez

it must have been about this time yesterday that i set my alarm for 8:30 a.m. today, so as not to, in any possible way, drunken or otherwise, forget to set it later. plan was to get up before the rest of the room, shower, make coffee, and head upstairs to the 18th floor conference room to see jose gonzalez. plan even involved pajamas. picture it: sleepy-eyed, freshly showered, coffee in hand, letting this beautiful swedish singer-songwriter slowly tug you into starting your day...

then, picture the morning-of, waking up to seth fein's dry, cracked morning voice talking loudly on the phone to whoever-comma-it-doesn't-matter, and when you find your phone, you see it is definitely NOT 8:30 a.m. but, in fact, 10:50 a.m. and the show started 20 minutes ago and when you went up there yesterday to see blackalicious he didn't even PLAY for 20 minutes before packing up, and jesus where's my shirt, why didn't my alarm wake me, ah fuck it, who has a room key i can borrow so i can go see the rest of jose's set pleasepleaseplease.....!!!

i made it up there to catch the last of "heartbeats." the room was pretty full, and i stood just outside the doorway and watched. melted. it could have been the relief of making it just in time, or maybe i was still half-asleep, or maybe his music is really that moving, but i could have cried. he finished and i exhaled, and the radio hostess thanked him and dismissed the room. i was frozen as everyone was clearing out, but i didn't know what i would have said to him if i tried. fumble over expressing how in love i am with his music while trying to hold in my god-awful morning breath? no way.

besides, my day was already off. wednesday and thursday, it seems, are a kind of warm-up for friday and saturday. i mean, these past couple days, i've had enough to do to keep me busy, but enough downtime to breathe. now, today and tomorrow, i can't even imagine how i'll make it to everything i want to see. that's the thing, too, about these past couple days, is that i've seen all those bands before. jose gonzalez, drive by truckers, silversun pickups, these are the bands i came to see. jose usually sticks to europe, and the closest he's come to champaign is pennsylvania. this is also the first time silversun pickups have played a show outside of california. and the truckers, well on my way down here, i'm driving past the towns and places they've sung about for years. i have to see them here. and they're all playing today.

(by the way, head over to KEXP's sxsw page. i don't know why i didn't post this before, but you can listen live to everything going on at the austin city limits studios. today at 2p: drive by truckers. today at 5p: jose gonzalez.)

so i'm up and moving at a hungry pace. got my latte in hand and pages of a schedule to sort through. i had hoped to go get my bukowski poster now, but pitchfork's day show opened its doors ten minutes ago, and jose gonzalez is giving me another chance to see him there at 1p. i'll be damned if i miss him again.

i don't really have much to say about last night. it was great, but left me exhausted. i'm sure that's really why i slept through my alarm. my body's tired from standing and walking all day and night, and austin's strict diet of beer and bbq aren't helping at all. however. rogue wave live is a whole new experience, ted leo puts on an energetically mean show, chin up chin up was my surprise favorite, headphones were just as i thought they'd be, minus the bear was incredible, and all the other bands inbetween were okay but not outstanding. as the bars emptied out, mark and i sat on the corner curb of red river and sixth streets and watched the mass filter out and back to their hotels or after-parties. i'm never unamused by these people. so many, so different, and everywhere. it was a good, quiet way to end a long, loud day.

if i'd figured out how to post songs on here like all the cool indie blogs do, i'd put some up right now. but since i didn't, and can't, i'm recommending you get yourself something from any or all of those bands, asap.

see, right here is where i would post that chin up chin up song i loved last night. how about their myspace page? :)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

austin day two

"flatstock" is the huge poster convention i'd read about before coming. flatstock is pretty fucking cool. i went in with no cash, on purpose, but picked up the business cards of the artists i want to come back to. i mean, really, it's just a big room with a ton of posters pinned up in booths. what's cool, though, is that the artists who make the posters are right there, too, displaying and selling their own work. i've warmed up to austin, and the crowd in general, and have gone out of my way to talk to a couple of people at shows or in passing. but flatstock was the first place where i'd strike up a new conversation with every turn, with fellow browsers and the artists themselves. out of all of them, however, i have to recognize the decoder ring before any others. check out their modest mouse collection. and then help me pick which one i'm bringing home (bukowski one doesn't count, fools, OF COURSE i'm getting that one)!

i'm set up outside the convention center, plugged into the wall here, resting the legs and feet and enjoying an urban austin sunset, orange light bouncing off of building windows. you know, with the food and the people and the asphalt, it even smells like six flags here. crazy.

before flatstock, i milked mark's connections for that rogue wave/ted leo show. not all day parties are open to the public (apparently), and this one in particular was an invite-only. but i lucked out, since aloha (polyvinyl) was an opener and mark had an extra pass to the event. and what they say is true: free beer and bbq. perfect. then, when mark and i were outside sharing a cigarette, none other than headlights themselves walked up the sidewalk and said they were going to join us. hanging out with headlights at a rogue wave show -- a combination born to rival all others. like when taco bell came out with those hard tacos, wrapped in a soft shell and held together with a thin layer of melted cheese. only better. naturally.

tonight, tonight. picked up a flyer at the ted leo show saying champaign's own cameron mcgill is playing tonight at seven, and sxsw sms text messaged me saying echo and the bunnymen is playing tonight at eight. echo and the bunnymen, huh? maybe. i've got a scarred perception of the band, the favorite band of a psychotic listener i used to have when i worked regularly at wpgu. jack. i still have jack's state i.d. somewhere. another story for another time.

i'll try to stop back by the convention center late tonight to update, unless madam adventure steers me in her direction and i end up across town, without my pants... in which case i'm sure i'll have a much better update, but at a much later time.

p.s. thanks for the camera, amanda!!

so many little red lights

when i woke up in the reclined drivers seat of my car, the clock said five-something. the car reeks of gasoline, which immediately brought me back to that sick feeling i had as i was trying to fall asleep, and the gas station outside of dallas where i stood, pumping gas, in a big puddle of what i thought was water. makes sense.

i rubbed my eyes and reached for my glasses. stretched to look around at an empty parking garage, and maintenence crews picking up litter. austin downtown is its most vulnerable at five in the morning. all the lights are still on, and there are even a few more like me still wandering the streets, as if the city itself is saying it still wants to play, asking every groggy passerby where all the kids ran off to.

bedtime, kiddo. i say it out loud but to myself as i pull out onto red river road. took me an hour to find the right hilton mark was staying at, and flip through all the crap in my bag to find something, anything with mark's and his coworkers names on. i don't know who the room is checked under, and he's not answering his cell phone. it is not checked under his name, i do know that.

but i find the names i need and the very helpful girl at the desk rings me through to their room. i wake mark up and he comes down, and after i throw a few handfuls of socks and shirts into my bag, i give my car keys to the valet parking guy. i don't necessarily want to pay for valet parking, but i do necessarily want to go inside and go to bed. i'll find good parking in the morning.

mark's sleeping on the cot by the window, and i don't know who is in each of the beds. i've reserved the little floor space between them and the bathroom, which will be just fine. since everyone is sleeping, i'm typing this from the bathroom and looking at my haggard self in the mirror. goddamn. my hair's a greasy mess, i haven't shaved, i probably smell. what the hell am i doing, i ask myself. it's a miracle anyone let me into this building. oh well.

anyway, last night.

i found parking at the convention center, which would last me until the shows were over for the night, and then i'd have to come up with another plan. that was all right for the time being, i just wanted to pee and rock out, not simultaneously but in that exact order. i took the escalators upstairs to the registry line, and in about ten minutes, had my badge, had peed and was walking down the street to meet up with mark at emo's.

i first got to the bar and called mark. i was outside, at the corner of red river and sixth streets. he knew exactly where i was, and he said he'd be out in a minute. i drifted down the sidewalk, and noticed that the venue i was to meet him is actually a collective of venues, all on the same block. i had seen the names distinguished on my list of venues, but didn't realize they were all on top of each other. emo's, emo's jr, emo's annex, emo's inside, outside. it was mind-numbing, and i sort of wondered if i was even at the right place. i drifted up and down the sidewalk a couple times before i finally saw mark standing on the exact corner i had called him from.

we hugged, and he brought me inside, through the 'bands only' entrance under the projection that we were both with polyvinyl, rather than one polyvinyl rep and his geeky, tagalong friend. the door girls barely moved as we walked through the doors unapproached. headlights were soundchecking when i walked into one of the stage rooms. mark was making small business talk with a labelmate, the bassist for aloha. i watched maybe a minute or two of this, i finally let down my guard and stretched back. i'm here. i pulled out a cigarette and--

"uh, you can't actually smoke in here." one of mark's coworkers, instantly worried about the disturbance.

"no shit?" i clamored and sprinted outside. no big deal. won't be long before all of us smokers aren't allowed indoors at all, anyway, forced to stand outside and watch from the windows as the rest of the crew eats their olive gardens or red lobsters. i just figured, texas, you know? surely texas won't keep me from smoking indoors. goes to show...

but it gave me the chance to breathe in the outside air, hear the noises, take my last good look at everyone before night falls and they all turn into monsters. the noise was perfectly unbearable, no peace at all from the neighboring bars and shows, or street performances rattling around us. i loved it.

this place is like never-neverland. it's a dream, it's a puzzle. it's not real, no more real than champaign is. it's champaign glorified, is what it is. downtown, or campus town, multiplied by ten, everything within proximity of another, everybody knows everybody, noone any more alone than anyone else. it's surreal. my first thought as i'm driving through downtown upon arriving is that this is like six flags for indie kids.

headlights have a new member. a bassist/accordianist who is slowly and finally taking place of the band's minidisc player. headlights used to be a four-piece, then lost the fourth, the brother who now manages the band (the brother who is actually sleeping in the same room as i am, i later found out). they have this new guy, though, who fills so many gaps i never knew headlights had. they've staged him as the centerpiece of the group, up front and center and in the spotlight, while the rest of the band does their usual, casual rock-out thing. but he, obviously a fan of the band in the first place, just goes nuts, bouncing and thrashing around at all the same parts of the song that you are, like you're watching your love for this band manifest itself on stage. it's incredible. every time i see them, i say they've done the best they've ever done. maybe it's been the few weeks they've spent in the studio working on new stuff. maybe it is that fourth guy. i don't know. but they've managed to outdo themselves once more.

last night was pretty tame, overall. saw owen and headlights, then aloha and the m's, all polyvinyl bands. of montreal. i figured sticking with mark and his crew for the night was a safe way to ease into the festival. got a text message from sxsw sms service that the flaming lips were playing a previously unnanounced show just down the street. but my phone was low on battery and i had it off, saving it for, oh, say, waking up in a deserted parking garage at five-something in the morning.

today's a full day, though. i'm camped up in the convention center right now, using their free wireless (hotel is crazy, wanting me to pay for internet service), waiting for mark to finish showering and getting ready, and then we're going to a day party put on by stereogum, featuring rogue wave, ted leo, aloha, what made milwaukee famous. tonight, i'm not sure. surprisingly enough, there isn't a particular show i really care to go see tonight. old leslie from wpgu is here, first time seeing her since she graduated and left town. i gave her a call on the way over to the convention center, and she's got an agenda for the evening that i might hop onto. we'll see. right now i'm only concerned about free bbq.

someone needs to get on some free coffee.

jose gonzalez plays IN my hotel tomorrow morning!


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid...

months of planning boiled down to the few hours i've left to do everything before i have to leave. i remember making a mental list about a week ago, of necessary provisions. let's hope this list is similar, at best.

audiobooks, check. it's an eighteen hour trip one-way, you'd better believe i'm armed to the teeth with the suckers. maps, maps, maps, check. printouts, atlas, a detail of downtown austin and its 60 (christ) venues. music. most of my "preparation" translated into getting drunk and spending hours browsing the itunes music store, carefully selecting the indie-grade fuel i'll need when the storytelling runs dry. i won't have brother jeff's ipod like i did for a new york a few weeks ago, but i've made do with a spindle of blank cds and am burning the last of my mix cds as i type this. computer. the old powerbook is reformatted, refreshed and fully charged. camera, courtesy of amanda wright. my pilot pal is hooking me up with the eyes of this blog. stimulants. four-pack of red bull for starters, couple bottles of water, three packs of cigarettes and the self-granted permission to stop for coffee whenever needed. clothes, cleaned and hung with care by mama hutson herself. money... enough. plan is to eat and drink at as many free day parties as i can, and save my cash for shwag. word is there's a poster convention that'll eat me alive. i'm particularly prowling for a falco "in his amadeus outfit" piece for colby at the comic shop.

so, this is it. hitting the open road, with arms open to anything. inhale--

He seemed to be headed for his ideal fate, which is compulsive psychosis dashed with a jigger of psychopathic irresponsibility and violence.

Jack Kerouac, On The Road

whew. friends, i'm off.

Monday, March 13, 2006

novocain for the soul

i asked him what movie would he fall asleep to, if he were leaving for texas in two days?

"where the buffalo roam." he said it sheepishly, but as if there were no other possible solution. he was right.

an hour later i'm being hustled awake by four frightened human critters. frightened by the storm outside. christ, i said. can't we move this little party to one of you guys' bedrooms?

"yeah, if we were sleeping in the basement. there's a tornado warning."

jesus. came home for a nice sunday dinner with family before taking off for austin. i start thinking i'm going to die before i even get the chance. oh, don't let me die in taylorville. please.

it blew over, naturally, and i drifted back to sleep as soon as they left. had a dream i was face to face with erin fein's naked right breast.

shit, you know? as soon as i shower and dress, i'm gone. if this town's resorted to natural disasters and mind fuckings to clean out its good people, i want no part of it. must leave before i get caught in the spray.

hunter, be with me!

the sunrise so far behind my eyes

i could count the number of times a band has truly changed my life. i may only count them on a hand or two, but i can honestly attest nonetheless. replacements, broken social scene, jose gonzalez, radiohead, walkmen, headlights, jiggsaw. westerberg in particular and the entire blues genre in general. changed my life. each in its own way, but always for the better.

the number of bands i've never seen or barely heard of who are playing at sxsw is well over a thousand.

with these odds... just think of it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

pots pans books and a toaster

this needs to be a highly efficient
next few days
lot of packing
lot of planning

been up all night working
now i'm extending my night into day
playing deejay until noon
then it's rest up
and a pre-adventure show
of montreal at the canopy
with labelmates
saturday looks good to me

going to be hanging out with this entire label
headlights included
for five days

i'm so gonna
make out
with erin fein.

be jealous!

i wasn't a comic book kid

i didn't grow up on super-heroes. i bought the occasional king conan, but that was about it.

for me, it began in high school when someone told me the comic came before the band.

"what!?" me shocked.

"yeah, it was a comic first." my goth friend.

"love and rockets?" i checked.


"with super-heroes?" incredulous.

"never read it." she ended the conversation, turned up her walkman.

so i tracked down a copy. had never been in a comic book store until then. i saw the great spirit of marquez hanging over those pages. i was hooked. great characters, great tone, great spirit.

who said comics need super-heroes?

enter watchmen.

a punk friend lent me his worn copy. he said the only rule is that you can read only one chapter a night. lord knows it was hard not to read the whole thing in one sitting. but i followed the rules and took twelve nights.

famished now, i needed more. batman: the dark knight returns, ronin, elektra, swamp thing. i dined for a while. lotsa dessert!

but soon, this heyday of the late '80s, just like early hiphop, started to dry up.

the hernandez brothers stopped printing. miller produced his gems but took his damn good time. moore was a mystery. he seemed to disappear into one of his conspiracies.

every few months i'd wander the aisles of st. mark's comics or forbidden planet (in its original, more grand location) searching for something. something new, something breathtaking.

wandering. up and down.

but there was nothing much.

for years. nothing much.

i started to lose interest. my trips to the comic book store became more and more rare.

then, after a bite in koreatown, i stumbled upon jim hanley's universe, a new comic emporium in the shadow of the empire state building. i entered, not expecting much. but hoping.

and then i was eye to eye with some bald freak wearing a pair of 3-D glasses and an abe lincoln hat and beard. the artwork was superb -- clever and sharp. the maniacal grin on the character -- interesting.

picked it up, flipped it open.

from word one, i got it. profanity + anger + revolution + cynicism + drugs + cigarettes + truth + justice - fair = spider jerusalem. attitude perfect, tattoos perfect, sidekicks perfect. his name perfect.

he enters the gallery of classics. a true original. i await his new issue with little patience.

but rumor has it -- this is the end?

THE END?!?!?

it can't be. our world needs spider. please warren. please darrick. keep him coming. have him kick batman's ass. have him knock up wonder woman. break him into our world. have him educate bush on truth. let him bring peace to the middle east.

otherwise, i'll be forced to return to the aisles. famished. wandering up and down. hoping inspiration strikes this planet again.

--darren aronofsky
june 6, 2002

simple test

going to sxsw next week
might be cool to keep everyone informed
maybe something life-changing will happen
i don't know
i'm ready.