River City ~ Dispatches from Austin

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Broke Down Engine

This is the fourth in a series of articles written for PROGRESSIONSESSION (http://prosession.blogspot.com ) chronicling the writer's experiences at the 2005 South by Southwest music festival.

Today is effectively the last day of South by Southwest. And I've spent most of the day in bed. How did this come about, you ask?

I left work early yesterday, rushed downtown and things were falling into place beautifully. A parking space opened up right in front of me on 5th Street (unbelievable!).. I wandered into a free show at Emo's, with the Frames on stage. They sounded great. Four guitars, electric fiddle, and a group of guys whose enthusiasm for performing was palpable. The sun was shining, the day was lovely. Calexico was coming up next. I decided to toast my good fortune with a beer. And then another. And... well, you get the idea. Hours later, at the end of the night, it's a wonder that I didn't climb onstage and pull my pants down, or some similar outrageousness. Who knows, maybe I did. Judging from my all-day hangover, my brain probably shut down early on, and my body began posting eviction notices in a desperate attempt to rid itself of the self-destructive parasite that is me.

I'm an experienced drinker. How could I let it come to this?

It's because SXSW is a party. Everything changes. Downtown Austin doesn't even feel like the same place. Between the tour buses, throngs of people, wristbands, badges... it feels a bit like some musical theme park. And as such, it's easy to lose track of time and location. I closed the night out at Longbranch Inn, where I saw the Immediate again (and they rocked - again) as well as a few various Brit bands on "Feed the Limeys barbecue" night.

But the afternoon show by Calexico was the pinnacle of the day. What looked to be an unfolding disaster (sound problems) ended in a wondrous performance. Their southwestern/spanish-villa /desert journey/Mexican border-fueled rock 'n roll style was bringing people in off the street and from emo's back room.. yes, those surly punksters all hiding in the shadows, they crept in to see what the party was all about. Beautiful. And free... Take that, South by Southwest fat cats! All the money I saved on a wristband allowed me to pour enough booze into my veins that now, I've missed almost all of Saturday.

And with that in mind, I'm going to cut this short and head on back to the party. Must do it... "For the blog..." - I will carry that chant into the early morning hours.


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