I've got a whole city to hold down

March 25, 2004

The Austin Adventures of Lazlo Hollyfeld (cont.)

Chicagomuzikblog's roving correspondent collides with South by Southwest, part 4 of 4.

Day Four: Shake it like a jalapeno pancake

Saturday 3/20
Continental Club

No roosters being thrown from the stage here this morning. But there is a throng of close to 100, many of them already boozing. I decide to start the day with a Bloody Mary.

Onstage is the Allen Oldies Band, a seven-piece covers outfit. The guys, all in their 30s and 40s, are decked out in suits, the lead singer in a tux. In front of the stage there’s a curvy blond dressed in a French maid’s outfit and serving up jalape±o pancakes from a mini-skillet. I grab a short stack and watch her shake it to “Sugar, Sugar.”

Still at the Continental, we’re treated to an intense noontime set by James McMurtry. The place is at near capacity and he doesn’t disappoint, turning out compelling, literate songs like “Levelland” and “Too Long in the Wasteland.” The descriptive lyrics may be his birthright, but don’t forget what a great guitar player he is.

Yard Dog

Jon Langford is milling around on the sidewalk with a circle of admirers. He already looks well pickled.

We’re back here for the third straight day, dropping in on a party thrown by Harp Magazine and Yep Roc Records. Magnolia Summer leaves no impression, but Tel Aviv’s RockFour sure gets the crowd’s attention with its Zombies/Byrds infused rock (why yes, I do love me some 12-string). There’s a good 20 feet or so between the stage and any bodies, so front man Eli Lulai (who’s wiry with a Stipe-like shaved head and similar spasms) leaps down from the stage and sidles up to some onlookers while singing.

Emo’s Annex

After leaving Yard Dog we pinball past a few other joints. First the attitudinally Converse Guy bounces us from the nearly-empty Fader. Then we drop by the Delilah’s party at Casino El Camino, but it’s claustrophobic. So we head to Emo’s Annex, where Lucero is onstage. My pal Squeaky Pete is in the crowd. He says Patterson Hood just called and wants the Drive-By Truckers' shtick back.

Red Eyed Fly

This small indoor-outdoor venue is jammed, in part because too many people are sitting on the floor in little sewing circles. Thanks, folks, for thinking only of yourselves. Anyway, Anders Parker is onstage, backed by Centro-matic. At set’s end they break down their equipment and yield to Mendoza Line. I find a sofa that’s strategically placed so I can see a TV inside (showing Nevada’s NCAA hoops upset of Gonzaga) and hear the band outside.

Emo’s Annex

All hail Ted Leo! This is something like the 7th or 8th time I’ve seen him in less than two years, but it never gets old. And right now there’s about a thousand others under this tent who’d agree with me.

At one point Leo says, “Not to get all rock star on you, but I’m really displeased with our hotel.” He proceeds to invite the crowd over for a post-set pool party, “just to piss them off.” He closes by pulling four kids onstage; one, a young dude in a Dropkick Murphy’s tee, sing-screams out “Ballad of the Sin Eater.” The other three join in on the choruses. Yes, it’s killer.

Yard Dog

Will Marah entertain us, or wallow in self-indulgence? Put it this way: We’re in the back corner by the alley—about as far from the stage as you can get—and yet Marah’s Serge Bielanko twice walks past us while performing. First time he’s doing some 15-minute monologue (in falsetto) about ordering Freedom Fries. When he comes back during a harmonica solo, it’s all Squeaky Pete can do not to openly mock him. (Instead Pete waits until Bielanko is walking back to the stage, and only then at half-volume).


I mentioned previously that my sidekicks Lawyer Boy and Bald Willie became big M’s fans at the Schubas party, so they’ve made sure we’re in attendance at the band’s official showcase. Our local heroes have been blessed with a prominent 6th St. location and slotted right before Robyn Hitchcock, which ensures that a lot of critics will have spilled in by the end of their set.

Despite stumbling out of the blocks (some sound issues as they kick into their first song), the boys handle things well and hold the crowd’s attention for their full 40 minutes.

I make the mistake of deciding to stay for Hitchcock. Robyn’s a genius, but since he’s solo acoustic I can’t hear a thing over the hum of middle-aged biz types who like to hear themselves talk.

The Parish

Looking for skinny white boys? This is the place, ‘cause it’s Anticon night. Bald Willie, who didn’t even want to hear the words “indie rap” when the week started, enjoys Dosh’s guitar-based act, and he’s completely enthralled by the experimental compositions of Restiform Bodies.

Club DeVille

We’re here for Consonant, aka Clint Conley of Mission of Burma’s other band. What is not to love? I’m outdoors, enjoying the next best thing to MoB, and Bald Willie and I have found a couple of comfy sofa chairs to collapse on. Oh, and they crank Burma’s new one, ONoffON, between sets.

It’s up to our feet for the midnight act, Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Buck 65. Dude looks like Jimmy Fallon doing Weekend Update, sounds like he gargles with Drano, and opens with a capella ode to the size of his schwantz. (Excellent!) Next he’s joined by a three-piece backing band, the highlight of which is the steel guitar. And he delivers my best non-David Cross-induced laugh of the week with an impression of Mick Jagger’s on-stage prancing, complete with analysis of what Mick must be “visualizing” while doing it: He opens the curtains. Sees a child playing on his lawn. Scolds the child. And closes the curtains.

Pecan Street Ale House

Strangest venue of the week. You enter it from a deserted alley, the main floor is below ground level, and there’s a weird balcony lining one side of the room. We grab a table and settle in for the last showcase of the week. I let Bald Willie pick, and having been won over this afternoon, he wants more Israeli rock, so we wind down to the sound of RockFour. I chase it with bourbon and rest my dogs. At two, as we stumble into the alley, Lawyer Boy and I complete our annual ritual: The ripping off of the SXSW wristband.


Sunday 10:45am
Las Manitas restaurant

For anyone wondering, apparently Wayne Coyne always dresses like that. This morning, when I peer across my migas and spy him at the door, he’s styling in an off-white suit and unbuttoned funky dress shirt. Certainly a better sight than the one at the next table: Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke talking and eating at the same time.

Sunday night

The depression is setting in. Everything seems to move very slowly in the first couple of days after SXSW, when I always worry I’ll be bored by real life. By the time this diary is posted, my annual week of rock and debauchery will just be a dream. Which is why I’ll see you at the Austin Motel again next March.