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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I’ve had a PhD for ten months. Now what?

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Smith’s Cove Grand Cayman Island

I haven’t written anything in quite a while – unless you count tweets or incredibly witty & clever captions for photos posted on social media.1   I finished my PhD nearly ten months ago, and have absolutely no interest in writing any words or furthering my research – unless you count listening to Bloodshot bands, which I’m totally still into. I have applied for many academic jobs (and continue to do so), though I find myself lacking the wherewithal to really care about them. In fact, the sole reason that I’m blogging at this moment is to avoid the ten tabs open in Safari representing ten jobs I qualify for and should apply to.

I cannot decipher if my apathy is related to a) the post-dissertation/graduation slump, b) I really don’t care all that much about musicology and the somewhat insular world it represents anymore, or c) the chances of getting an actual musicology job are slim for me. Certainly, it’s a combination of these things, although the latter is a certain reality. I have seen many of my (infinitely more talented & awesome) friends deal with the academic job market for years with little to no success, while also witnessing several awesome folks choosing non-academic jobs. Yeah, I know. I’m still less than one year out, and it’s too early to be giving up on the job market/academic job possibility. But, it would be stupid to not consider the option.

Since I graduated way back in December, I have been teaching music appreciation at a community college, teaching piano lessons, and working my church job. Along with some gigs here and there, I am financially fine – making the least amount of money I’ve made in my adult life, but I can pay my bills and then some; and I’m pretty sure I can continue this trajectory indefinitely (Lord willing, as we say). What I’m wrestling with is what I’m going to be when I grow up.2   I really enjoy teaching college classes, and that’s what I thought I’d be doing – as a full-time instructor/professor. I’m really good at a lot of things, but my CV, experience, and nearly nonexistent publishing record don’t make me an outstanding candidate for many academic jobs. So perhaps the moral of the story is that, for now, I should simply appreciate the fact that I am making a living doing music-y things. And I should probably apply for the jobs sitting in all the surrounding open tabs here.


1. I went to Grand Cayman to visit a friend in July, and as that photo indicates, it was beautiful. I also visited a few distilleries on the Bourbon Trail back in May. I wouldn’t mind going back to these places.

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Maker’s Mark Loretta, Kentucky


2. This is supposed to be ironic or maybe funny. By most accounts, I’m an old lady.

A second blog post in the month of May!

It’s a procrastinating miracle – this is the second post for the month of May! I returned home from the best conference ever (that happens in one of the best towns ever) on Saturday night. I had entertained the thought of not attending the International Country Music Conference in Nashville because, well, because I’m lazy, and I didn’t want to write the paper (which just so happened to be a section from a dissertation chapter that *really* needed to be written). The thought of seeing some of my favorite people was a strong motivator, and I made the good (and good-for-me decision) to suck it up, write the section/put together a presentation, and I headed up to Nashville last Wednesday.

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The conference was (as usual) a great experience: I got to see and catch up with some of my academic idols, favorite scholars, and smart friends; I was inspired by some really great research and presentations; I met new, interesting, smart folks; and I got some feedback on my presentation that was helpful and encouraging. I’m very, very, very glad I went.

I have a (terrible? lazy?) habit of not really paying attention to the lyrics of songs when I’m listening for pleasure, which is only made worse, of course, if I’m doing something else AND listening to music. I had a list of bands/albums to check out from recommendations and/or presentations at ICMC, so as I was washing dishes tonight, I had pulled up a few albums on Spotify. I was thoroughly enjoying the new Sturgill Simpson album, and in my (slightly) mindless listening, I caught the phrase “I’m sorry but I’m just thinking of the right words to say,” and of course, it sounded really familiar.

The song is called “The Promise,” and was originally recorded in 1988 by the British band and one-hit-wonder, When in Rome. Considering that my presentation at ICMC addressed covers, the concept is still swirling about in my head, and I could say lots about this cross-genre cover version by Sturgill Simpson… but I should probably be thinking about my dissertation instead. In any event, I will say that Simpson’s approach to the song is languid and subdued (obviously lacking the insistent dance beat of the original), but it falls into its own little groove once it gets going.

What really sold me on the song, though, are the final two choruses of the song after the guitar solo/instrumental (3:16): Simpson sings the second of these choruses up an octave (3:40). I am a total sucker for this technique pretty much whenever it happens.1  I think it’s especially satisfying on this recording due to the fact that the vocal delivery for the bulk of the song is so understated. The added intensity of the delivery in this chorus, the upper range of Simpson’s voice, and the slight melodic alterations provide a great payoff, in my opinion, and also recall the original version of the song’s chorus. I have had this song on repeat most of the evening.2 

Sturgill Simpson – The Promise

And here’s the original…


1. I’m sure this happens in songs from all genres, but I am most familiar with it in contemporary Christian praise and worship music. It’s very common in these songs, and it happens at least once pretty much every Sunday at my church. And I still think it’s awesome every single time. Not as awesome as guitar slides, but pretty darn close.


2. Also, randomly, there’s a little motive in the strings (do-ti-re-do) in the second half of the second verse (1:59) that is the primary instrumental hook for the Cranberries song, “I Will Always,” off their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? from 1993. I seriously doubt there’s an intentional quotation here, mainly because the motive is relatively simple and likely common; nevertheless, the two songs have the same feel, and are not too far apart in terms of narrative.

 

I fail! I win! (again)

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California Closets – hopefully I’ll end up with more than one organized shelf…

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m a WINNER, thanks to a grand opening contest from Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse. My prize is a “closet solution” from California Closets up to a certain amount of money.1 I signed the legal paperwork agreeing to accept the prize (and pay the requisite taxes, of course), so now I’m waiting for my California Closets consultant to contact me to set up an appointment.

The impending professional organization consultation has motivated me to do a bit of pre-emptive cleaning out, and I took a few boxes of clothing and various other items to the Habitat ReStore today. Plus, an “organizing solution” couldn’t come at a better time, since I currently have a roommate, which means I had to move shoes Stuff from my walk-in closet (aka spare bedroom) in to my bedroom.

In the losing category, I’ve been applying for academic jobs, and I received my first official rejection email.2 Let’s be clear here: I fully expect to not get offered an academic job for 2014-2015 (yes, the whole academic job process is long and drawn out and quite unlike the real world). In fact, I have not even emotionally prepared for the possibility of being offered a job and subsequently leaving Athens. Nevertheless, the first rejection email (of many, I’m sure) seems worthy of mention. I didn’t really want to move to Kalamazoo anyway.

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1. Based upon this company’s website and likely price points, it’s possible that I will receive a three-shelf bookcase for my winnings.
2. Academics who wish to teach at the college level are generally at the whim of the academic job market. That is, getting a job requires a match of schools needing a musicologist, particularly one who specializes in a particular area or time period, and a location that the prospective employee would be willing to move (because it’s generally not the place one earns his or her PhD)… and no, there really aren’t that many, and yes, it actually works out sometimes (I think).

Three Years

Three years ago yesterday (three years!!!), I was in Jacksonville, FL, with Violin Doctor at a sad and sorry football game. I texted her after yesterday’s game: “Our presence in J-ville three years ago really turned the series around.” Since we were there, the Dawgs have won three straight against that other team.

EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL (2010)

EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL (2010)

Know what hasn’t changed since that game three years ago? I still don’t have a phd. I know, right? It’s not that I haven’t been doing trying-to-graduate-things since the two year compsiversary, mind you, I just haven’t finished… yet.1 I am MUCH closer to graduating than I was a year ago, but I still have some Things to write, and Lots of Things to re-write and revise. 

In the past year, I’ve applied for fellowships, traveled to new and not so new-to-me places (New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Charleston, Texas and SXSW, and of course Chicago a few times), found my time with the Writing Intensive Program officially come to an end, and moved out of my office at school. I’ve also written a lot of words and many, many pages.

But then, my dad died in August, which puts all of these things in a different perspective. Life is moving on, but I have found myself less willing to freak out about school, less willing to sacrifice sanity for school, and less willing to make school the Most Important Thing.2 I decided to forego attending any national conferences because the thought of them (the stress, travel, and all those academics) seemed completely overwhelming to me.3 While this might not be the best academic decision, I will call it a successful season once our family makes it through the holidays.

So unless something unexpected intervenes, I will write a dissertation. I will finish the requirements of my degree, like I said I would. I will graduate in May 2014 (MAY!!!). But for now, even though three years since comps seems like a LONG time (and plenty of time in which to write a dissertation), I think I’m just where I’m supposed to be.

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1. Thanks to friend and fellow musicologist T for naming the event!
2. I know part of this is the grief and sadness, with maybe a little bit of depression thrown in for good measure, but for now, I’m going to allow the procrastination of Academic Crazy. It’ll get here soon enough. #professionalprocrastinator
3. Also, they rejected my abstracts anyway.

I have the power…

This latest trip to Chicago was productive, enjoyable, eventful, and tiring (I think exhausting probably sounds better, but that might be a bit of hyperbole). I stayed at four different locations over seven nights, and really made the most of my time in the city. The kindness of Chicago acquaintances and friends (both new and not-so-newish) remains overwhelming to me (not hyperbole), and I really do have a pretty fun dissertation topic. Nevertheless, on this trip in particular, I found myself regularly preoccupied with… battery life.

When I visit Chicago, I rely primarily on public transportation, and thanks to my trusty research tool extraordinare, aka the iPhone, plus the google maps app, I can get around pretty well. However, using the map frequently and consistently doesn’t bode well for my (relatively not new) phone’s battery life. I regularly found myself scouring a venue for a power outlet for fear that my phone would die before I managed to memorize the train stops, bus numbers, and directions to get me back “home.” Of course, as I wrote about here, not even having a charged phone and the app can keep me going in the right direction.

Just one of many places I charged my phone

Just one of many places I charged my phone

In (another) one of my less-than-smart moments, I ended up in Chicago for an entire week without my laptop charger. Considering the primary reasons for this trip were to document items at the Chicago History Museum, and to organize and clarify data/photos/documents from Bloodshot Records, the laptop was kind of necessary. After discovering the cost of a new charger was out of my budget ($80!!!), I opted to “borrow” one from Best Buy. The only catch was that I had to be in the store for about 35 minutes, just hanging out next to the macbook display. No one seemed to mind, and only one employee asked me if I needed help… as I was walking out the door! Also, thankfully, I stayed with someone for a couple of nights who also had a mac, so I got another charge there. These two charges gave me enough battery to do what I needed to do and get my work done.

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Doesn’t everyone take their Jamba Juice smoothie to Best Buy’s Apple display?

I didn’t realize until I walked into my house latelatelate on Wednesday night (or earlyearlyearly Thursday morning) how much brain space had been devoted to thinking about charging my electronic devices. Having many chargers and even more opportunities to charge my devices, along with knowing how to get where I’m going most of the time are all luxuries that I am not taking for granted this weekend!

Notes from the “field”

I have mentioned my ambivalence when it comes to categorizing my research as musicology or ethnomusicology (and also what “-ist” I call myself). Regardless, I am in Chicago conducting research of various sorts (hence the quotes around field in the title), and here’s a story based on my 22 or so hours in Chicago so far.

Do you know what’s really helpful when traveling? Going in the right direction. It seems obvious, yes? Well, when I’m dealing with the CTA, it doesn’t always work so obviously. Case in point: yesterday I was trying to get from the airport to my hotel. Thanks to my iPhone (research instrument extraordinaire) and the google maps app, I had a route set involving one train and one bus.

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Part of the journey from inside the airport to the train

The train part was a piece of cake, as there is only one train departing in one direction from Midway. I got off at my stop and proceeded to the street to find the bus stop; conveniently the stop was right out the front door of the train station. Not so conveniently (for me), both the northbound AND the southbound version of this bus arrived at that stop. I did not notice this…. because as I was walking out of the train station, what I thought was my bus pulled up.

I hopped on, pleased with the fortuitous timing. My phone was dying, so once I got on the bus, I put it away; but after a few stops, I decided to check my progress. It was at this point that i realized my blue dot was NOT on the blue line heading north. I tried to remain calm and immediately got off at the next stop. I and my luggage trudged across the street and back north a block or so to find the nearest bus stop for the NORTHbound bus. I waited a solid twenty-five minutes; finally, I was on the bus headed toward my hotel.

The happy ending is, of course, that I made it to the hotel (eventually). But here’s the more interesting coda: There was a man that got off the train when I did. I remembered him because he let me exit the train before he did, and when I was trying to find the elevator, he pointed me in the right direction. When my northbound bus got back to the train station, he was still waiting and got on the northbound bus! Assuming he had been there since we disembarked from the train, my stupidity did not cost me any extra time, only a bit of embarrassment and a slew of frustration!