In 2011, I volunteered for SXSW. I was on the podcast team (which basically entailed me running around the Convention Center and pressing “stop” and “play” on a series of recording devices). My reward for volunteering was a platinum pass to the festival that got me in to just about any show I wanted to see. I found myself with access to all these shows and no one to go with.
So, I forced myself to go alone, and I found out that I actually enjoyed it. With no one else to demand my attention, it was just me and the music; I could dance my ass off and no one even noticed. I have seen some truly amazing shows since then, sometimes with other people, but often alone.
Here are some of the ones that stand out:
Jonathan Richman // Hole in the Wall
It was wintertime, and it was pretty damn cold. I still lived in West Campus, so the Hole in the Wall was just a short walk from my apartment. I went to the show alone, unsure what to expect. It was in the back room, which felt cozy and was lit with dim red lights. It was just Jonathan Richman and a drummer on stage, and JR was like this sweet trickster guru, bathed in golden light and leading us all through his hilarious songs. I will never forget it.
Crooked Fingers // The Mohawk
The Mohawk is by far my favorite venue in town. I have seen so many great shows there—The Raveonettes, Jens Lekman, Father John Misty, Future Islands (with Ed Schrader’s Music Beat opening. Oh sweet lord, you should check them out if you like avant garde punk rock music!)—but my top show at the ‘Hawk was Crooked Fingers on the inside stage. I was right up front, and despite some lame girls who talked the ENTIRE time, it was phenomenal. I want to marry Eric Bachmann and Liz Durrett and have their babies.
Jeff Mangum // ACL Moody Theater
Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was a huge influence on me. When I heard that Jeff Mangum was playing shows again, I really wanted to go, but the tickets sold out super fast. My best friend Hari went to the show in L.A., and she described the entire audience singing along, nearly brought to tears. I was pretty bummed that I wouldn’t get to experience it myself. Then, the day before the show in Austin, Hari called and told me that she had gotten me on the list. I was absolutely floored. The guy at the ticket window asked me if I was on “Jeff Mangum’s list” and I got to say, “Why, yes. Yes, I am.” The show was everything I hoped it would be. I will always be grateful to Hari for that experience.
Donovan // SXSW 2012 // Palm Door
Compared to the previous year, my SXSW in 2012 had been a dud. I had barely been to any shows, and I was feeling over it. Then I went to a day party on the East side (by myself, of course.) I was planning to just stop by, but I ran into my friend Stephanya, who is a powerhouse music fan. She told me that Donovan (THE Donovan! From the 60s!) was playing nearby. We had no badges and very little money. It was a longshot, but we went and got in line anyway. Not only did we get in, but it was only $10. The crowd was so into it, and Donovan was glowing with excitement. At one point, Eric Burdon from The Animals came on stage too. Stephanya and I kept looking at each other, like, is this for REAL?
FunFunFunFest 2012 // Santigold // Run DMC
I went to FFFFest with some of my best friends here in Austin, Sarah and Amy. We rocked out all day to bands like Diamond Rings and Astronautalis, but when the sun went down, I found myself packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowd of neon-clad teenagers, barely able to move. As Santigold took the stage, the energy was overwhelming. And THEN Run DMC came on and tore the place apart. I am one of the many, many white people waving their hands like fools when they put the light on the crowd.
Neal Morgan (Joanna Newsom // Bill Callahan)
If you have ever seen Joanna Newsom or Bill Callahan playing with a drummer, chances are pretty good that it was Neal Morgan. I have to admit that I first noticed him because he is SO FUCKING CUTE, but when I lightly cyberstalked him after a Bill Callahan show, I discovered that he makes his own music too. I ended up ordering a copy of his latest album, In the Yard, on vinyl. It was like nothing I had heard before—it is spoken word and drumming interspersed with ethereal harmonies. The more I listened to the album, the more I was just blown away by the courage and the honesty that it takes to make real art. When you see him play with Joanna Newsom or Bill C., he is so restrained and attentive, so calm and zen-like in his dedication to their songs. But his own music is raw, brave, beautiful, gutteral, wrenching. He is a true artist to me.
Borrisokane // The Parish
Finally, just a couple weeks ago, I ran across this local group doing a show for Free Week and I completely dig them. Check them out if you get the chance!
Random bonus tip
You might be thinking, “What is this, 2001?” I am not sure what it is about The Strokes and Austinites, but I have danced more to this album than any other since moving here. And it has been magical.