Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So what happened at SXSW?

I think quite often we find ourselves forgetting just how far it is to drive from Los Angeles to Austin. For some reason my brain still convinces itself that Texas is somewhat close to the West Coast. Yet here we(Local Natives) sit in our van going on hour sixteen of driving back from SXSW in Austin with no sign of the LA broken ugly skyline in sight. Eight initial shows scheduled, with one added last minute which brings it up to nine total spanned over four days in anywhere from a Bike Shop to a Living Room. It’s safe to say that SXSW built us up and broke us down in more ways than one.

Day 1:
We had never played at SXSW before and were eager to dive into the depths of over 1000 bands playing in God knows how many different venues, bars and bathrooms around town. Our first show placed us right in the heart of 6th st. at noon on Wednesday. I can remember loading in and getting that weird calming feeling you get right before the bar drops to your waist and the ride starts. It was the morning after Saint Patrick’s Day and the smell of bratwursts, beer and b.o. hadn’t quite made their way out just yet. We were the opening band on the Spaceland Productions/Myspace Showcase at Maggie Mae’s. I think I still had eye crustys by the time we started playing. People started to fill the streets and too many people were already chugging free energy drinks by the time we finished our warm up set.

Our next set was scheduled at 1:30pm at Rusty Spurs for a Swing House productions showcase which meant by the time we finished at Maggie Mae’s we had about thirty minutes to pack up, pack out and load back in time for the second show. Given our track record I don’t think anyone of us thought it would happen. We made it down the street to Rusty Spurs in like two minutes and with plenty of time to grab a beer and chat with some new friends whom had seen us at the last bar. We played a slightly shorter set but nonetheless a much better one. We were up and running by this point and it felt good. As a reward for our efforts, the bearded cook out back handed me two grilled veggie dogs and a giant smile. This was the first time I had gotten to meet face to face with some of UK people I had been emailing back and fourth with. I would find myself accidentally mimicking their accents after 5 min of conversation…gotta work on that.

We relaxed for a whopping 20min or so and then packed it up and headed over to our first meeting of the day. I was parched, sweaty and needed nourishment and its safe to say we found it. Nestled in the back corner of some bar I can’t remember the name of, was an outdoor shaded patio oasis. 10 of us sat circled around a large black table with margaritas in hand. I think I am beginning to like SXSW.

There is a three-beer rule, which I try to stick by when holding a busy day schedule. One beer you’re fine, two beers make you sleepy and three beers you better just keep drinking. I think we all had two beers, which meant we spent the next hour back in our van catching a much needed midday nap.

Our third show of the day was part of the I Heart Austin benefit at a bar called One 2 One. A very eclectic mix of bands for this one and we were closing out the night at midnight. All I can say is what a difference the nighttime makes. What we all thought would be one of our roughest shows of the week turned out to be one of best sounding according to feedback from friends. The power of booze perhaps? Or maybe the power of a decent sound guy? A very fun set and after chatting it up with numerous new friends til 3am, it was time for some much needed sleep.

Day 2:

If you had to rate all our shows in order of importance the two today were at the top. That being said I wanted to start the day off right. The thought of a hot steamy shower made my toes wriggle in joy. I soon found out the joy of renting a house ten minutes outside of downtown Austin. The toilet was backed up, the hot water was turned off and there was no front desk or room service in sight. We all hosed ourselves off in the sink and scooted our way to day #2 at the festival. We caught an early lunch meeting and then flew over for some coffee off Congress St. for another meeting. By the time we had finished up it was I think around 3pm and our first show was at 5pm at the San Jose Hotel. (Damnit it’s only been two days sine we left and I can already find myself forgetting details and mixing things up…oh well). I think this was the time of the day where we were able to make it over and check out a band called Other Lives(check them out) as well as meet with some friends. Crap or was that day 1?

We arrived at the outdoor stage right on time and were greeted by some of the nicest people in Austin who were running the show. Things were running slightly behind which were welcoming words as that meant we had a little time to relax. The weather and settings were perfect for a beer and gourmet muffin which one of our newest friends had hand delivered. I caught up with a couple of booking agents in the back and then was off to set up for the show. A friend of one of the managers we were talking with was nice enough to lend us a sound guy for both of the shows. Tyler- thank you so much for the sound help! I had no idea how much a good set of ears behind the soundboard can do for you. It was our first outdoor show and quite a pleasant one. For some reason I distinctly remember playing one of our slower tracks called Cubism Dream during the set and literally cracking up to myself bc during such a slow and beautiful song a tiny maybe three year old girl was dancing up a storm right in the front without a care in the world.

The next show was our “Official Showcase” at the Central Presbyterian Church that we had heard nothing but rave reviews about. We just so happened to be playing on the same night as a little band named Grizzly Bear which all of us are big fans of. We packed up and loaded into the venue early to try and see if we could catch their set around 830pm I think. Eric who ran the venue was so nice and lead us up to the sound booth where we could enjoy the entire Grizzly Bear set comfortably. I remember feeling peaceful and humbled while watching. A high point for sure. We didn’t go on until 1am and things were running behind already so it was off to Wendy’s for some heart attack food and then I literally passed out in the van with our violin player Amanda until about 1130pm. Groggy and out of it we both stumbled back to the church in time for Elvis Perkins who was playing right before us. I don’t think any of us had any idea how energetic his set was? There seemed to be some sound problems but all around a great set and I found out he has an excellent sense of humor after meeting back stage.

We knew we had some people coming to see this show and I was keeping my fingers crossed that by the time we went on they would still be awake. At right around 1:40am we started our 45min full set and never looked back. If you know me at all then you know I am always the first one who will say we could have done something better, worked a harmony a little more, slowed down a song or two, but this time……this time everything just felt good. This heavenly chamber, this black tunnel of sound where I honestly wanted to just keep playing and playing. Hands down our best show….take me back there please.

DAY 3:

We got to sleep in! We celebrated our successful show from the night before with microbrews and happy cigarettes. A mellow but much deserved night of rest and relaxation.

Our first show of the day was at 4pm at what I found out was a shot bar on 6th st. named Cheers. Now when I think of Cheers I think of that old TV show with the fat mailman and that pleasant piano song. The reality of Cheers on 6th was punk ass doormen and rude bartenders. You know it’s going to be a quality venue when they offer you $1 you call it shots served in plastic beaker tubes. The show took place on the upstairs patio where our good friend Kevin Bronson from Buzz Bands LA greeted us. He had put us on the show earlier in the month. Thank you Kevin! Surprisingly we found ourselves playing to a packed patio by the time we entered the second song. I kept asking myself as I played, “Where the fuck did all these people come from?” either way in the midst of our set the monitors literally shut off. Early into the second song and suddenly I couldn’t hear anybody’s voices. Not a huge deal when you are doing 3 and 4 part harmonies. I looked over at the sound guy and he literally just shrugged. The kind of shrug that says “I am a stupid hippo man who doesn’t know what’s going on. My giant hippo hooves can’t seem to turn the dials at all? Whoopsies” Reality was that I think the amp blew a fuse so we proceeded to do the best we could given the circumstances. After all this was SXSW and we were lucky enough to have even gotten this far without sound issues. We finished up and I think for the most part people enjoyed themselves. I know I did. Oh yeah, I almost forgot as I was talking with some people at the bottom bar and some dude accidentally dropped his cocktail glass form the top patio on to my head! The tonic water added some much needed volume to my sweaty hair.

Earlier in the year we had passed through TX and met a great bunch of lads in a band called The Eastern Sea. They had offered us a show with them at a bike shop a little off the beaten path and it sounded like loads of fun. As we pulled up to a street packed with more fixed gears than a LA swap meet, I remember seeing out of the corner of my eye a band doing a photo shoot across the street.

They had two kegs tapped out back and a small but very tall boxed room where we could set up. I’m smiling to myself right now thinking of how we managed to cram all of our bodies and equipment into that corner. Taylor is known to get a little energetic during our sets but I think he only accidentally hit me once, which is good. What a fun show. Everyone seemed to be there just to have some fun and hear some new music. They were very receptive to our sound and just good people all around. There was a lad in the back corner that I swear I knew from somewhere but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I greeted him after the show and came to find out that he wasn’t only in the UK band named Wild Beasts (which we are all fans of) but also was in the band I saw taking photos across the street earlier. Just one of the weird times where things come together in odd ways. We were originally billed with them at The San Jose hotel show and were all very much looking forward to checking out their set. Last minute things changed and I was bummed when I didn’t see their name on the bill. Whatever the case, here they were and they seemed to really be into our set. I think we will be seeing them again soon. I have to apologize to the Union Line for leaving the bike shop early during their set. They are great friends of ours and we all just felt a little guilty about leaving early but we had to meet with someone right after.

DAY 4:

I pride my eyes open with a wrench, chugged down some coffee and were off to meet with our new lawyer at The Rio. We talked, we ate, we talked, Kelcey spit up a little bit and we talked some more. It was safe to say that everyone gave our lawyer and new friend two giant thumbs up if we indeed had giant thumbs.

I had been in contact with a guy from the UK for a few weeks now and he offered us a last minute show at The Wave on 6th. We had a few hours to waste before we had to be there so we split the band and tried to get around to actually see some music. Myself, Amanda and Matt headed over to Latitude to try and catch Wild Beasts while Kelcey and Taylor drove over to Daytrotter to try and cram in a hello. It was Ryan’s Birthday so I think he was at the local strip club doing coke off of girls asses…..actually he had some family in town and wanted to grab a bite to eat with them. Mission Accomplished: We caught up with Wild Beasts at their show and were really blown away by them live. Kelcey and Taylor did get a chance to say hello to the Daytrotter family as well.

The band reconvened at The Wave in time to find the place completely empty…….until we heard music coming from upstairs at which point we proclaimed ourselves retarded and headed up to the patio. I don’t necessarily believe in Dejavu but good god damn another rooftop patio, another packed show and another day of monitors not working. The stage itself was on a riser, which served better as a trampoline then anything else. We bounced around on stage and had a grand ol’ party. I kept screaming to the other guys that the bouncing was causing the amp’s reverb to make noise, but I don’t think anyone heard me. I had some great conversations with some great people and eight shows into it meant only one more to go.

Being completely honest, the thought of cramming into another small room at some random guys house party for our last show was not sounding too appetizing right after the crammed show at The Wave. We were fortunate enough to catch an incredibly satisfying dinner at PF Changes with some new friends we met that work at a PR company. With new fuel in the stomach and after a quick look into the house we were playing at in just a few hours I am happy to say I was exactly where I wanted to be. I can’t tell you how it good it felt to be away from the 6th St. madness. To simply be in a small house just a few miles away. People were grilling outside, there was a full bar set up and we could actually hear ourselves talking to each other. My tensions broke loose as I looked up to see Ben Kweller and his steel guitar playing waltz up the house looking for “Local Natives?”. I guess he lives in the area and had heard some good things about us? He was an all around great guy that we got to know. We played til we couldn’t see straight that night and my ears were ringing in a great way. We had come to SXSW and I think we did a.o.k.

The shows were finished, our voices shot and it was apparent to us all it was time to let loose. We didn’t let Kelcey yell the whole week to save his voice (which if you knew him you know he is a crazy screaming son of a bitch) and upon loading up the van I witnessed him chug a cocktail in two seconds and let out a scream that would make a full-grown Chimpanzee jealous. Suddenly I realized none of us were driving home and here I stood staring at a 16 person passenger van sitting in the middle of the street blocking traffic….we had to leave and we had to leave now. I quickly found a willing acquaintance of a friend of ours who didn’t want to take a cab home and was willing to drive us back into downtown. Long story short that “acquaintance” ended up bailing and now gets moved back into the category of “weird guy who ditched us”. Lindsay was there to save the day. I think the thought of driving around our large van scared the crap out of her but she pushed through and next thing I knew we found ourselves back at a hotel room in downtown. In a hazy blur of bar hopping and show stopping we ran into our friends in The Little Ones, our friend Kat from KROQ locals only and somehow Ben Kweller managed to find us again. I had a delicious veggie sandwich at 230am and Taylor ending up dancing in the streets. SXSW was now over.

I think back just days later and I know I am forgetting tons of details, events, people etc….but I don’t want to retype anymore. We had so much fun the entire time and thank you so much to everyone who managed to make it out to one of our shows. I was blown away at how much music was out there and feel very lucky that people would take time out to see our set. Done and done.

Local Natives


Sandra Joy said...

Wow, sounds like SXSW was a success! Great summary...I enjoyed reading all of it, I'm very happy for you guys.

mollypool said...

I don't have myspace, so I can't add you there, but I did my part in getting the word out about you guys...