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.

IMG_4445

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

Advertisements

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.

IMG_1360

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.

IMG_1323

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.
Back to Top

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.

Stepping up

I haven’t updated the blog in a long time – not since way back on January 8. It is now the middle of March, and I think I can officially say I’m in my travel season. Last week, I was in Lexington, KY, Hopkinsville, KY, and Nashville, TN; and this week, I’m making what has become my annual trek to Austin for South by Southwest (or “South by” for those in the know).1 I have what seems like an endless amount of Stuff to Accomplish before heading to the airport tomorrow night, which fully explains why I’m choosing RIGHT NOW to blog.2 

In the I-really-did-finish-my-degree news, I received the actual degree in the mail. I’ve signed many an email as “Dr.” or the preferred “, PhD” after my name, not to mention I’ve judged a few pre-college piano events, and have had many opportunities to practice the official signature.

But for the past month of Sundays, I have really, really, really wanted to post a post-Sunday post. Why, you ask? Well, because the week when a bird was flying around inside the building during services seemed like a pretty good story. Or the week the lights went out in the middle of a service. And then there was the week that I had a stereotypically crazy morning, and stumbled up the stairs, kicked the wall, and made loud noises during the sermon. But really, it was the week that our drummer nearly fainted on stage, walked off the stage at the exact moment the timer read 0:00 in the second service, and the band did a whole set without drums… that was the one that I thought belonged on the blog.3 

But then there was the third service hour that day. Drummer was still unable to play by the beginning of this service. We have only one room for this service, so OBVIOUSLY Sanctuary Worship Leader asked Worship Pastor (um, right before the service began) if he could play the drums. And of course, Worship Pastor posed the question to the third-service attendees from the stage as the service was starting, and the attendees were enthusiastically all for it. Thus, Sanctuary Worship Leader sat down and played the drums for the set in that service. Though I’ll admit I was a lot a bit nervous for him (and the rest of the band, for that matter), he stepped up and did a fantastic job.

It all worked out and certainly made for a very memorable Sunday, but I’d prefer to keep everyone healthy on stage going forward.

 


1. I have written about my first trip here and here. Unfortunately, last year, I was a complete slacker too busy writing the dissertation to do a full-blown post-South by post. Maybe this year…


2. Not that I need any excuse to procrastinate, but I have written most of this post whilst waiting for items to upload, update, etc. My computer likes to be nice and slow in its relative old age (aka 2009). One day, when I have a bunch of free time, I plan to do something about that. One day.


3. Eh… after I stopped panicking, and yelling at no one in particular over the headset about what was going on. I *did* go check on Drummer. He wasn’t dying, but he definitely wasn’t great.

Guitar Slide Wednesday and Other Stuff…

According to that calendar over on the right of the home page, I updated this blog twice in March and once in April. To keep the bar low, here’s at least one post in the this lovely month of May. And in the interest of efficiency, here are some things I would be writing about here on the blog, were I not at least moderately concerned with writing a dissertation.

1. Writing a dissertation and the exciting adventures of revising chapters1 

2. My second trip to SXSW that happened way back in March

3. Alumni weekend at my undergrad alma mater. I went because a.) it was my 15th year reunion (!!! #oldlady) and b.) our choir director/music history prof of 41 years retired & we had an alumni choir.

Finally, since it’s Wednesday, here’s a guitar slide for you. This song is called “Kerosene” by a band called Big Black, and the big guitar slides occurs at 1:05 and 3:45 or so.2  You might not be probably are not familiar with Big Black, but this band was a hardcore punk or industrial or post-punk band out of Chicago in the 1980s, and one of Steve Albini’s early bands. Albini is a Chicago-based musician and recording engineer, likely most famous for recording Nirvana and the Pixies, but has done, you know, lots of other things. This song appears in my dissertation, and I say a lot more about it there, but I know you only care about that guitar slide.3  http://youtu.be/HuO3wwLuF0w  


1. Just kidding. The process is pretty miserable, and I’m certain you don’t really want to hear/read about it at all.

2. As I write this post, I’m imagining the sort of feedback Advisor might provide and how she probably would disagree and/or not like it. This might be a sign I need to graduate soon. If you would like me to update the blog more frequently, perhaps you could let Advisor know that she should let me graduate in August.

3. I have listened to much of this song at least 200 times in order to transcribe it, well, because apparently, that’s what musicologists do. I really should have been a journalism major.

Happy Friday Gratitude!

Lots of parts about graduate school pretty much suck (and by graduate school, I mean specifically a doctoral degree in the humanities). The bureaucracy, the seemingly arbitrary hoops to jump through, the reading, the writing, dealing with difficult professors, etc., this stuff just isn’t very fun. Add to that all of the woe, wailing, and teeth-gnashing regarding the job market, work loads and such, and one must wonder why anyone would subject themselves to such experiences. Well, for me, it’s the other parts that make it worthwhile, such as learning gross amounts about something that I find fascinating and compelling, the reading, the writing, dealing with brilliant professors (often the same individuals who are difficult, of course), and commiserating with folks who are equally compelled by similar interests.

As much as I would like to end up with an academic job, I have no idea if I will ever get one; but I do know that I have (mostly) enjoyed the past seven years. The actual experience of earning this degree (assuming this actually happens in August) has been worthwhile. If nothing else, I will have spent seven years of my life Thinking about, Reading about, and Writing about Music in (mostly) new and different ways, which I think is better than just about anything else I could have been doing for that time.1 

I spent a chunk of time this morning with a producer/recording engineer. We listened to an assortment of Bloodshot and non-Bloodshot tracks and talked about what they sounded like, recording and mixing techniques, and other such details. And it was great – interesting and super helpful for me.2  As I walked away from that meeting, I was reminded again of how much I like music, and how grateful I am that I get to write a ton of pages about music that I really, really love (even if the actual thinking and writing part is Really Hard). And of course, I was overwhelmed (yet again) by how nice and helpful so many folks have been to me through this whole process… and all of this on the eve of SXSW – where I will attend again as an “artist” (make that ROCK STAR, at least in terms of wristbands)! I’ll get to see more live shows than you can shake a proverbial stick at, and get my fill (and then some) of great music.3 

I’m not finished with my dissertation just yet, and I’m in a relatively challenging place in the journey right now. However, I have moments where I’m beginning to believe that I might actually one day finish the dissertation, and after that, graduate. In the dissertation, I will get to write a page of acknowledgements to thank folks and publicly proclaim my gratefulness to specific people, but for now, in the middle of a not-always-fun part, I’m pretty glad for some reminders of the fun parts.


1. Enjoy the journey, value the process, and all that… Besides, in the “real world,” when it comes down to it, wouldn’t seven years be considered a pretty good run at a job? Not sure how my committee members might view this perspective, though…


2. Here’s one of the tracks we listened to – Robbie Fulks’ “The Buck Starts Here,” from his Bloodshot Records debut, Country Love Songs (1996).


3. I absolutely cannot wait to get back to the Broken Spoke!

Some stray Bloodshot/SXSW/research thoughts before I post a bunch more photos

I have officially been researching Bloodshot Records since I took a class in radical American history with the nicest rising scholar/rock star I’ve ever met. She was kind and supportive, and stretched the range of the final paper project to let me write a paper about cowpunk and alternative country music. It was in this paper that I first wrote about Bloodshot’s first album, For a LIfe of Sin (1994), and revisited a lot of music and bands I listened to, well, back in the ’90s.

It wasn’t until late Fall 2010 (after finishing comps) and early Spring 2011 that it became clear that the focus of my dissertation would be Bloodshot Records. In the summer of 2011, I went to Chicago knowing absolutely no one — certainly no one associated with the record label. Times have changed, of course. Last week, I was in Austin, TX, for SXSW, sold merch for Bloodshot at their two events, and was really happy to see some friends/acquaintances I know from my time in Chicago. Having spoken with at least twelve of their current/former artists and musicians, and having spent a not insignificant amount of time in the Bloodshot office, I shouldn’t be surprised when I meet someone and, after explaining myself (who I am, why I’m there, working on a project on Bloodshot, etc.), that I’ve heard “Oh, right, I’ve heard about you.”

Once the folks at Bloodshot agreed to talk to me for my project, I found myself doing some extensive ethnography; interviewing and meeting a lot of folks, and in turn, interviewing and meeting a lot MORE folks. With all this interaction with Real Live People, my project became muchmuchmuch more ethno than I ever imagined it would be. I’ve always thought of myself as a musicologist, and for the most part, I still do. Even though it seems like my project fits in with Ethnomusicology more than Musicology, I still don’t think I’m at a point to use capital-E ethnomusicologist to describe myself. And I’m not sure it really matters right now.

Nevertheless, regardless of what disciplinary naming convention I follow, I am certain my dissertation will be much more interesting because of the words of these talented and interesting folks, and my interactions with them. Added bonus? The research has been fun, interesting, and helped me to grow (figuratively 🙂 ) as a person and scholar.