SXSW, Take 5

I started this SXSW recap WAY back in March… like, in a very timely manner. Good intentions and all that… but I’m still a procrastinator at heart. So as I gear up for my second AmericanaFest with Bloodshot in September, let’s throw it back to March.

2017 marked the the FIFTH time I’ve been to SXSW! Fifth. As in, five years.

Like last year, I opted to go wristband-less; unlike last year, I was not showered with gifts and love by Airbnb.1  Instead, I was greatly concerned about transportation since Uber & Lyft were voted out of Austin this past year. Thankfully, many companies have stepped into the ride-sharing vacuum, and for the most part, I was able to get around town without any trouble.

The awesome thing about having four part time jobs is that there is a great deal of flexibility in one’s schedule. The downside is that you generally have to make up anything you miss, and/or you don’t get paid. This means, I opted to teach my Tuesday morning class and stress myself out getting to the airport on time for my flight. I made my flight, and got to Austin (via St. Louis) in time to catch a few things Tuesday afternoon/evening. And then, the week was in full swing.

The basic components of my schedule are now standard, including the Bloodshot showcase at the Continental Club on Wednesday, the TwangFest/KDHX Day Party at the Broken Spoke on Thursday, and Bloodshot’s Yard Dog Day Party on Friday… and whatever else I can get to in-between and around all that. This year, I was pretty pleased with the “in-between” stuff I managed to get to.

  • Tuesday
    • Ha Ha Tonka at the Back Alley Bash by Tequila Mockingbird
    • Jon Langford & the Far Forlorn at the White Horse; I caught a few songs by Corinne Rose before Jon went on.
    • Roky Erikson at (Historic) Scoot Inn2 
  • Wednesday
    • I finally made it to one of the best restaurants in the world: Bouldin Creek Cafe. And then headed to El Mercado to catch Whitney Rose & Sunny Sweeney. They’re both great, but I loved Sunny Sweeney.
    • From there I landed at a super hip coffee shop, Seventh Flag Coffee, to get some work done (including filling out my brackets).
    • The Bloodshot showcase featured: Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Ha Ha Tonka, Banditos, The Yawpers, Scott H. Biram, and of course, the Waco Brothers. The Wacos played well past 2 a.m., and folks were still there and totally into it
  • Thursday
    • I need to just come to terms with the fact that I will never see the opening bands (or more) at the TwangFest/KDHX Day Party at the Broken Spoke. This year, I missed Patrick Sweany, Ha Ha Tonka, and High Plains Jamboree, but DID catch Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Band of Heathens (although I wasn’t entirely paying attention to their set, because food…), Secret Sisters, and Lillie Mae.
    • I left the Broken Spoke and booked it over to Yard Dog to catch a solo Cory Branan set, and then I made my way to the Saxon Pub to catch a band called Churchwood, and to interview Bill Anderson, who happens to play in that band, but was also in the Bloodshot band, the Meat Purveyors. I interviewed Bill, on the record, and then after some much need late-night food, headed home.
  • Friday
    • The Bloodshot Yard Dog party start with Zach Schmidt (Nashville-based guy, cute, and charming as heck), followed by The Yawpers, Ha Ha Tonka, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Cory Branan, Banditos, and last, but certainly not least, the Waco Brothers.
    • After a quick stop at Guero’s, we headed to the New West showcase at Cooper’s BBQ, and caught Sara Watkins, the Deslondes, Andrew Combs, and Aaron Lee Tasjan.3 

A few items of note….

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers are the most recent band (at the time) added to the Bloodshot family. And they are great. I met Sarah in Nashville at AmericanaFest, and though I didn’t hear her play then, she was highly recommended by a friend & former Bloodshot employee, so I took his word on things. He was right.

I always meet new folks during this week, and this year, I met a few people with connections to Bloodshot, and a couple of gals who are good contacts for my academic and scholarly pursuits. But I also got to hang out with all my Austin pals, and got to share some music & a drink with folks that I know from ICMC!

South by generally affords a few (or more) wild and crazy moments, (of varying degrees). This year was no exception. For instance, I found myself in the backseat of a car with Jon Langford (which is exciting in and of itself, and no, we were not making out; but I’d totally support that rumor…) listening to a track off his upcoming album (Four Lost Souls recorded in Muscle Shoals) from his iPhone.

As an old lady, it is inevitable that at some point I find myself thinking that SXSW might not be worth it and/or I’m just too old for it. But of course, looking back at the great music I experienced throughout the week, along with all the folks I get to hang out with… I’m guessing you’ll find a similar recap here next year.


1. I did have a heck of a time booking a place to stay, including TEN confirmed bookings & NINE cancellations via Airbnb, but that’s another story for another blog post… one that likely won’t get written.
2. I was only vaguely familiar with Roky, but it was pretty cool to see him perform at this super cool and historic venue.
3. I admit that due to being an old lady, I left before Aaron’s set was finished. However, I managed to catch him playing in Athens at the 40 Watt in a New West Athfest kickoff show. I was greatly disappointed that he was not wearing a cape at the 40 Watt show.

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Aaron Lee Tasjan sans cape/fancy suit at the 40 Watt

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Another year, another South by


Since I have all but abandoned the blog, I’m not sure why I feel so compelled to post an update of my most recent and fourth SXSW experience.1  But I do. And it appears to be happening.

Perhaps it’s because I feel like I’ve got the South-by thing down now, and I want to brag about it. Or maybe it has to do with my crazy experience with Airbnb that resulted in me realizing a company can totally buy my love (through great customer service and well, buying me stuff). Or possibly because this was the year I felt most like an insider & realized how many people I know only through this annual trek to Austin. Likely, it’s all those things, along with the fact that I should be writing a conference paper.2 

This was the first year I went without a wristband of any sort, and the second time I did not rent a car. I did not miss the wristband at all, and thanks to a $50 Lyft credit that was available to new users during SXSW, I spent around $90 in transportation (including getting to/from the airport). Last year, I got a great deal on my car rental, but with the rental fees plus parking fees, I spent over $300. Even without the Lyft credit, $140 is way more manageable than $300!

I booked my Airbnb & flight pretty early this year, and was SO pleased with myself – great deals & a great location! And then… at the sort of last minute, my Airbnb host cancelled on me. Like any good disgruntled customer, I tweeted about it & tagged @Airbnb. Nearly immediately, Airbnb customer service contacted me via Twitter, email, and a phone call. They offered to find me a replacement place, but as soon as I could, I started searching for another place & eventually found something pretty close to my price range, and in an OK neighborhood. Airbnb customer service followed up again, covered the price difference between the two bookings, and then gave me a $100 credit towards my next Airbnb. They also had a gift bag waiting for me at my place when I arrived in Austin, gave me $200 towards a pair of boots at Allens Boots, and a free two-stepping lesson at the White Horse. Consider my satisfaction and love bought, Airbnb.

Enough of all that – how’s about the music?!? For the past couple of years, my South-by plan has been go to all the Bloodshot things I can, and then hit anything else, if possible. This year, I did the following (pics to follow):

  • Tuesday
    • El Mercado3  for James McMurtry, Robbie Fulks, and the Grahams
    • A bit of the Swollen Circus at the Continental Club
  • Wednesday
    • Gingerman for the Blurt showcase, including Freedy Johnston, Brett Harris, Robbie Fulks, and the Supersuckers
    • Continental Club for the Bloodshot Records showcase, including Al Scorch, Banditos, Yawpers, Lydia Loveless, and the Waco Brothers
  • Thursday
    • Broken Spoke for (the last song by the Wacos), Luke Winslow-King, Robbie Fulks, and Corb Lund
    • Gingerman for the Wacos, Banditos, it’s not true to say I really paid attention to Churchwood, but I certainly heard some of their stuff, and a song or two by Bad Luck Jonathan
    • Thursday night, I may have gone to watch the UK-Stoneybrook basketball game & made friends with some folks from Kentucky who now live in Austin.

And of course, Friday was the Bloodshot Yard Dog party, with Possessed by Paul James, Rosie Flores, Robbie Fulks, Luke Winslow-King, Lydia Loveless, Al Scorch, Banditos, the Yawpers, and, of course, the Waco Brothers.

Some general thoughts? Any time the Wacos play it’s a blast, and I’m continually amazed that Jon Langford always remembers me. I saw Robbie play a solo show, but the rest of the time, he was playing with a full band, including pedal steel, and it was all awesome. The Yawpers are crazy. Like, seriously crazy, and you need to see them live. Al Scorch, another new Bloodshot signee, is just as charming as heck. The Banditos have gotten even better since I last saw them. At Ginger Man, when they played their cover of “I Put a Spell on You,” Mary Beth ended up singing on a table in the middle of the crowd, and we were basically all dead. It was possibly one of the best live songs I’ve ever seen.

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Here’s a version, if you’re curious, but that day at Ginger Man was way better. I promise.

Finally, when I saw the Supersuckers play at Ginger Man, I noticed their bass player looked a lot like Danny, the bass player for Banditos (or Danny looked a lot like him). When I heard that the Supersuckers had been added to the guest list at the Continental for the Bloodshot Showcase that night, I knew what I had to do. I put a few folks on the lookout, and managed to snag a photo. It was as awkward as you’re thinking it might have been, but the guys were pretty good sports about it.

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And finally, finally, one of the best parts of the week was seeing all my Bloodshot pals and South-by friends.


1. My previous SXSW blog posts had been sad and sorry excuses for updates, but there are some photos. You can check them out here, here, and for my first year, here and here.

2. Yeah, you know it’s really because of that… professional procrastinator and all that.

3. You should not be surprised to know that El Mercado is a Mexican restaurant with a venue in the back.
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Oh, hey there!

I think it’s safe to say things have been slow here at the blog. A long time ago, I started a post-SXSW post, but… didn’t finish it. Good story, right? It seems dumb to recap all of that in detail now since it was so long ago, but some pics/highlights are below.

***Regarding the Talkable Vegetables, you can watch a video here.

Upon returning from South By, things got hectic fast. I know I have been way busier other times in my adult life, but for some reason, the second half of this semester seemed more challenging. Maybe it’s because I’m an old lady, or maybe it’s because I’m still recovering from the dissertation.1  In any event, everything pretty much wrapped up this past weekend, and I’m glad. Also, there’s still a hole in my ceiling, which will hopefully be repaired in the next year month.

In addition to the ceiling, I have one more project to complete that I’ve been putting off for months. Of course, my plan was to knock that out tonight, which is why I’m blogging (er, professional procrastinator, anyone?). ICMC is at the end of the month, and I’ll also head up to Kentucky to see the Very Tall Nephew graduate from high school (!!!). After that, it will be the first summer in many years that I won’t have degree-required academic work to do.

I can’t wait.


1. It is just as likely that Kentucky’s loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four was to blame. Sigh. Go Cats.

SXSW, part two

I went to South by Southwest a couple of weeks ago, and I wrote about my first couple of days here.

On Thursday of SXSW, I headed out to the Broken Spoke on South Lamar for the Twangfest Day Party. The Broken Spoke is a honky-tonk dance hall, that (according to their website) has a history that dates back to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. So much about the Broken Spoke is remarkable, but it’s certainly curious to see high-rises in construction on either side of this meeting hall/barn-like structure. On the inside, not much has changed at the Broken Spoke. It’s a restaurant, a bar, and a music venue with a huge dance floor. I saw Kelly Hogan, Bruce Robinson and Kelly Willis, and Dale Watson there. I also caught a bit of the Carper Family and Ron Sexsmith in the small restaurant-like front room.

When I arrived, I wandered around to check the place out, and eventually sat down at a table on the edge of the dance floor. Shortly thereafter, I was joined by an older couple who were Austinites and regulars at the Broken Spoke. Thanks to these nice folks, I got a thorough history of not only the table at which we were sitting, but also the property, the room, the repairs to the ceiling, etc., the owner, and the way things usually work at the Spoke. They were generally appalled and irritated that folks were gathering on the dance floor as Kelly Hogan was taking the stage (there’s a sign, and eventually the dancers cleared out the standers). These folks were so nice and informative, and introduced me to other regulars and friends — it was like my own official tour! But the best part was that I got to dance my first official two-step. I’ve gushed about mentioned that I love the Empty Bottle on Fridays, but I certainly fell in love with the Broken Spoke on my first visit!

Thursday night, I went down to Sixth Street with plans to see Rodney Crowell, Shonna Tucker, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, and Emmylou Harris. I saw Rodney Crowell and Shonna Tucker, and was pleasantly surprised to see Shonna’s band is mostly Athens guys that I know. I was heading toward Antone’s to catch Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale when I got a text saying that the Waco Brothers were doing a surprise/secret show on the rooftop of a very random bar. I changed directions, and went to see the Wacos. The stage was quite small, which didn’t quite suit the Wacos, but they made the most of it. And there was a fog machine, which was fun and funny.

After the Wacos show, I went to grab a bite to eat with a friend, and as we were eating on the back patio, apparently Ice Cube, LL Cool J, and Public Enemy were performing just on the other side of the patio wall. We were able to catch glimpses of the performance on the building-turned-gigantic-vending-machine-turned-screen, and we were certainly able to hear them. And with that, I called it a night.

SXSW, part one

I went to SXSW and survived! This survival is due in no small part to the kindness and hospitality of Piano Friend and his Roommate. Piano Friend let me have his room (and car) even though he was out of town most of the week, and Roommate (having met me briefly one time a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting) was so nice and helpful… and even made me coffee in the mornings. I know, right?!? Seriously, these are just two more folks I’m blessed and privileged to know, and can’t say enough how much I appreciate them!

I was lucky enough to get an artist wristband, but really, I only needed it a few times. In some respects, it was kind of wasted on me, but I certainly felt cool wearing it all week!

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Why didn’t the wristband get used to its fullest? Because at any given moment there were at least 3 million Things going on, and only 1 million of those Things were official. I regret that I never made it to any of the panels in the convention center, nor did I take advantage of the Artists Lounge.

So what DID I do all week? I pretty much stuck to my plan, and here are some highlights…

Tuesday

What I learned on Tuesday is that having a car greatly enhances one’s South By experience. I may have waited a couple of hours for a bus, which kind of negated my “don’t stay out too late” plan. I know South By is the exception, and it’s probably an unfair comparison, but Capital Metro is no CTA. Since Piano Friend had left me his car to use, on Wednesday, I did some driving.

Wednesday

Wednesday night was the Bloodshot showcase at the Continental Club on South Congress. Another great venue, I heard from some Austinites, this is a club with a lot of history, and the owners have kept it up quite well. It has a nice retro vibe, and a great sign behind the stage, and classic neon sign outside. The Bloodshot line-up was strong: Luke Winslow-King, Murder By Death, Deadstring Brothers, Lydia Loveless, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, and the Waco Brothers.

Post & Pre-Texas

It’s kind of strange to be visiting a (non-Chicago) place twice in one month, but that’s what’s happening. It’s also strange that I wasn’t at church on Sunday (last year, I missed five Sundays), but I was told that all was well–not surprising since our team is pretty much awesome.

Last week, I went to Austin, Texas for a conference at the University of Texas, and next week, I’m heading to Austin for South by Southwest. Back when I was considering grad school for a piano degree, I applied at UT and reallyreallyreally liked Austin. So much so that I was convinced that I would end up there for a DMA in piano after my Masters (once the money didn’t work out for a UT Masters).

But things change. And Athens, Georgia won me over. And teaching piano lessons full-time did not. So my second visit to Austin, Texas (this time as a musicologist), I was appropriately impressed with the city, but not completely swept off my feet. Granted, I didn’t see a TON of the city, but I did get to go to Veggie Heaven, and I got to see Bertha (a very large bass drum made for the University of Chicago and later purchased for $1 for the Longhorn Band). It’s a lovely, hip city, and I’m sure I’ll have a better feel for it after next week.

The conference was great. I presented, and got some good feedback and ideas for my research. I also got to see a few conference friends, not to mention fun times traveling with two great musicology ladies. Plus, we got to visit with a formerly-of-Athens piano friend who is now in Austin (who is also providing lodging for my Austin 2 trip)! Piano Friend also directed us to a great Thai food truck (there are lots of food trucks in Austin), and an amazing Indian restaurant.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any official tours, but here are a few photos from my trip.

Plans

So says Hannibal Smith of A-Team fame. 

I’m currently planning three trips: one to Charleston, SC, and two different trips to Austin, TX. Charleston is for a conference, Austin 1 is for a conference, and Austin 2 is for South by SouthwestFor each of these trips, I’m working with friends (that I haven’t seen in a long time) who live in these locations to meet up and catch up, including my first Athens, GA roommate and the Grand Master of Discourse! It’s very exciting.

In spite of all of this excitement, I find myself in a familiar place… checking flights obsessively, and not willing to commit. I always think my plans might change so I should wait a little while longer, and then I think the prices just might be cheaper tomorrow. Or the next day. However, I have a feeling that flights to Texas will not get much cheaper than what AirTran and Southwest are offering right now, so I KNOW I should just go ahead and book the flights. But I’m also a professional procrastinator, so maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.