Eric & I woke up early Thursday morning, March 14th, in the van that belonged to people we’d just met, and took a couple long, hot, and relaxing showers in the public bathroom at the RV park. It felt so nice to get clean after the past couple of sweaty days of the festival.
We had a plan for Thursday: Two of our 4 showcases were happening down on 6th Street, and we had armed ourselves with knowledge of the area and a game plan for how the day would go, battling crowds, expensive parking, and time constraints. Once downtown we quickly found a space in the $20 parking lot (down from the $25 parking lot up the street) only a block up from our first showcase, at the Thirsty Nickel.
From there we had a couple hours until our first show at 3:00, so we hiked up a couple blocks to where Eric had scoped out a band he was interested in seeing. We were early, so we treated ourselves to a late breakfast on the front patio of an adorable French-themed cafe, enjoyed some mimosas, and wandered East Side, inspecting mosaic murals.
The band we saw call themselves Miracles of Modern Science and consist of 4 strings and a drummer. Eric had first heard of them when they posted this video, mashing up Bon Iver with Bon Jovi. They played a fun set and were friendly to talk with afterwards.
We hiked back down to 6th Street after the show and hung out in the Thirsty Nickel for a bit, watching a couple of the bands that performed before us and slowly beginning to realize that, despite the hundreds of people streaming past the entrance of the bar every minute, we were the only audience these bands had, not counting the scattering of already intoxicated people leaning against the bar with their backs to the stage… Our expectations of our show sank even lower.
The atmosphere of SXSW breeds the shortening of everyone’s attention span. We even saw it within ourselves, which was discouraging. Thousands of bands from all over not just the country, but the world were performing all over Austin, but mainly along 6th Street. I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say it was chaotic. Most people seemed to use SXSW as an excuse to party and get intoxicated by 11:00 in the morning, and the people who actually were there to see some live music couldn’t help but flit from venue to venue, stopping for 30 seconds here, maybe a full song there, before moving on to see what they might be missing out on at a different venue. People were constantly looking around to see what else was next, instead of njoying the show directly in front of them. Or, worse yet, they were on their phones, trying to find the next interesting thing. Experiencing the moment and being happy in it were completely out the window. If nothing else, SXSW is the festival of discontentment. It’s not a “great opportunity for small bands”, but it did feel like some kind of hazing process…
We loaded in, sweaty as we carted our gear up and down the hot crowded sidewalks in multiple trips. We performed our show, struggling to be heard over the pounding sounds from venues all around us. Then we packed up and carted our gear back up the block, past a large topless woman yelling at someone to keep their hands off her stuff. You know, in the context of the SXSW festival, it seemed completely normal.
I painted a lizard-headed woman. No one bid on it, and we gently cleared a space in our trunk on top of the piano for it to lay and dry. It was the second show in over 200 where the painting hasn’t sold, and it was our very first show were we actually didn’t make a single cent. I surprised myself though: After the first show where no one had wanted the painting I’d gotten very depressed, and the anxiety of it happening again stayed with me for practically every show afterwards. But maybe because we’d set our expectations for SXSW so incredibly low, the fact that this painting didn’t sell and we were packing it back into the car didn’t bother me. Well, I guess I’m growing up.
We pulled out of our parking space just about as the $20 ran out, and headed a couple blocks down to Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar. We were able to find short-term hourly parking for just a couple bucks, and we wandered up and down 6th Street for a bit, being sure not to stray too far away. We happened upon Miracles of Modern Science performing at their second show of the day, and stopped to watch them again (getting a nod and smile from a couple of the guys).
After a veggie quesadilla from a taco truck, we headed back to Lucy’s and hung out on the back patio, again watching the other bands perform before us. After the Thirsty Nickel show our expectations of tonight were rock bottom, but Lucy’s actually surprised us. The show was far from amazing, but there was a scattering of people, a helpful sound guy, and a friendly girl in charge of making sure everything ran smoothly. Plus, they sectioned off an outdoor VIP area for the bands with some free food and drinks. Nothing fancy at all, but definitely welcomed after the earlier part of the day. I painted a woman with a caribou head, and was surprised to see that a couple of the guys enjoying drinks on the patio wanted it. I’ll be honest, I wondered how we’d possibly fit two wet paintings into our car.
I began to wonder if I should abandon the animal-headed women. They didn’t seem to be going real great.
After our show we smoked in the VIP area to relax a little after the chaos of the day, before packing up and heading out. We considered calling up the SCM Electrix guys again to crash in their van, but we were so exhausted we decided to just find a Walmart parking lot and sleep in our own car again. Day 3 was over, and to be honest, we were not super excited about Day 4…
[Disclaimer: I’ve mentioned here and there that we’ve spent money on breakfast, mimosas, and quesadillas. Those of you who might follow us or know us personally might find this odd, considering how careful we tend to be with our finances. You’re right, normally we wouldn’t spend money like this. But we decided beforehand that we would be going in to SXSW for the experience, just hoping to break even. Hence, spending money we normally might not, in order to live in the experience of the festival. Alright, that’s all.]