Anonymous music critic @Discographies (even we don’t know who he/she is) has earned tens of thousands of Twitter followers by distilling artists’ entire discographies to 140 characters (example: Bruce Springsteen: 1-5 “You ride the road…” 7-8 “…until you arrive…” 9-10 “…or run out of gas…” 6,11-17 “…or your country does.”). So for the South By Southwest Music festival and conference in Austin – four days of more bands, food, beer and people than anyone could possibly get their head around – RollingStone.com asked @Discographies to identify the unique moments that make SXSW an annual cavalcade of absurdity and amazement. Today’s installment is the second of four.
Thursday, March 15th
2:15 PM: Hotel restaurant: Every cell of my body is screaming for caffeine. Hours of sleep last night: 4.25.
2:20 PM: Record company guy at the table next to me oversharing to a co-worker about how his marriage ended: “We hooked up at our high school reunion. Best sex I ever had.” Fortunately, everything’s okay now: “I have matured, and the self-confidence thing has really kicked in!”
3:25 PM: Conversation in front of ATM machine: “I guess the worst case scenario is that we’ll have to go see some music.”
3:45 PM: You cannot make this shit up: “We’re a new fat freezing treatment! It’s totally non-surgical! And we brought the Naked Cowboy in from Times Square to join us!”
3:50 PM: This season’s – okay, every season’s – must-have Middle-Aged Rocker Dude fashion accessory: Hawaiian shirt worn over band logo tee in failed attempt to conceal paunch.
4:45 PM: Rusty’s: A way-too-excited marketing guy thrusts a squeezable plastic pouch of “Merlot” into my hand and gloats like he’s just discovered radium: “Isn’t it fantastic? We’ve put our delicious wine into a convenient pouch that you can hang around your neck on a lanyard!” I take a sip. It is insanely sugary, like fermented Kool-Aid. “Wow,” I say to the guy, and he takes it as a compliment.
5:10 PM: 6th & Red River: A woman stands in the middle of the intersection doing hula-hoop tricks. You know: for kids.
5:25 PM: Unless it’s this guy.
6:00 PM: Hotel bar: A Twitter exec and an Apple exec are repeatedly congratulating one another on their awesome accomplishments. It’s the corporate equivalent of “I love you, man.”
6:15 PM: There are not many things in this world sadder than a 60-year-old man with a mohawk and an Ed Hardy shirt drinking a Cosmo.
6:55 PM: My pedicab driver has no idea how to navigate the seven blocks to my destination: “I just moved here.”
7:15 PM: IFC Crossroads House at Vice: Poliça’s peppier, poppier take on trip-hop is wonderful. Equally wonderful: the club they are playing provides complimentary housemade caramel corn, and the whole place smells like creme brûlée. The synergy is glorious.
7:45 PM: SXSW’s voracious need for downtown performance spaces creates some of the oddest venues imaginable. Which is how I find myself in Mellow Johnny’s, a bicycle shop owned by Lance Armstrong, watching hometown heroes Shearwater deliver their grad-student-y melancholia to a hundred people and about twice as many terrain bikes. (News you can use: Mellow Johnny’s has the most spacious and immaculate restrooms of any SXSW performance space.)
8:45 PM: A woman in Lululemon casual wear attempts to talk her way into a way-over-capacity show at the Central Presbyterian Church on 8th Street by browbeating the staff: “Don’t you people have me on the list? I’m supposed to be introducing the Alabama Shakes!” Who aren’t playing here tonight. Busted!
9:30 PM: Britain’s Charli XCX is dressed like a gothic version of Ellie May Clampett. Her music – smoldery, overripe yowling framed by bloopy synths and martial drumming – is Eighties fluffernutter pop dunked in mascara: the Gwen Stefani/Siouxsie hybrid the world was not previously aware it needed.
10:15 PM: Barbarella: Soft Metals have zero stage presence, but they refashion vintage electro-pop into a relentless plinketa!-plinketa!-plinketa!-plinketa! that I wouldn’t mind getting lost in for about six hours. The room is full of girls in sparkly dresses who want to dance and boys who are afraid to talk to them.
11:10 PM: 6th Street: Woman on cellphone walking around in a circle screaming into cell phone: “I’m by myself next to the gay bar! THE GAY BAR!”
12:00 AM: Skrillex is the only performer I’ve ever seen who brings an entourage on stage with him to loaf around texting and drinking beer while he’s doing his thing. When he hits the stage at The Main, the room instantly becomes Party Central; even the security people are bouncing up and down.
1:15 AM: On the outdoor patio at Red 7, Fear’s Lee Ving, ever the provocateur, is having a tantrum onstage: “When we get done bombing Tehran, then we’ll take out the soundman!” Walking out the backdoor of the club, I find myself in an alley that – there is no polite way to say this – is essentially a 300 foot sluiceway of urine.
1:40 AM: I can’t wait for the inevitable reality TV show about drunk people competing to hail taxis in Austin.
1:55 AM: Back at hotel. Several members of a Band You’ve Seen On TV are loitering outside.
2:00 AM: Hotel Bar. I sit down five feet away from an Very Famous Rock Star and his posse. Unlike most of the VFRS that I’ve encountered, this one is taller in real life.
2:15 AM: Back in my hotel room with a club soda and a couple of Advil. My feet are killing me.