Everyone complains about SXSW, how bloated it is. You don't have to go. You can do anything. You don't have to go do some stupid, expensive thing. The organizer of Sux by Suxwest for three years now, Johnathan Cash, all he did was say yes. No matter...
A red, crying lady picked me up at the Austin airport. We were looking for the Baptizer who had flown in from somewhere else for the Sux by festival, too. He does Christian power electronics; I believe he is against abortion.
Turns out he looks like this:
We drove to a bunch of bands’ house party that was the first day of the festival. A police helicopter was circling the house. And I'd noticed the police cars traveled in packs. I asked my hostess, Hazel, why. She said, "Because this is Texas. They're everywhere, by land, water, air. I'm just so used to shit being everywhere." Hazel was a real debutante when she was young. She looks like this:
Right at the door, I learned something new. "Chonies" are underwear when a man throws his at another man and he catches them.
Dogs wandered leashless. People drove drunk. Everyone I met offered me drugs within the first minute. "Do you need some marijuana? Most people need to get high as soon as they get off the plane here." If they asked me if I wanted a beer and I said no, thank you, it was like I'd spoken in a language they didn't understand, and they gave it to me anyway. After a while I just said OK. Another thing they did not understand was that I don't eat meat. In fact, their hamburgers were only hamburgers. No bun, no tomato. Hazel had to drive me across town to find something meatless. I was taking so long looking at the menu at the cafe, I asked the two gentlemen behind me if they were ready, and wanted to go first. The one on the left said, "Lady, I was born ready." I've always wanted someone to say that to me in real life.
I saw these great wheels and this lady came out on her porch and I think she would have beat me up if Hazel hadn't come out and explained, "She's a Yankee, she doesn't understand." I guess there's a code out here that a man doesn't take a picture of another man's car. It was time for bed.
In the morning, Walter took me to Threadgills for grits and sweet-potato pancakes. A gospel band, the Stapletones, got up on the little stage and started singing. They talked about sweat and how that means you're working for the Lord. They sang about laying your burden down, and I think that's the best sentiment I've ever heard. No matter what you're worried about or trying to do or not do, you don't have to keep carrying your worry or your trying—you can just lay your burden down. I think it's probably easy, like slipping down into a warm bath.
We bought earplugs here:
A clown was supposed to meet me for lunch, but he didn't show. I got stood up by a clown. Still, the fact that there WAS a clown around to stand me up at all was kind of miraculous. That never happens at home.
We went to Ginny's for the chicken-shit bingo.
Instead of a guy rotating a clear ball with all these other balls inside with numbers painted on them, then reaching in to grab a ball, like in regular bingo, here the numbers are painted on the coop floor, and the chicken picks which numbers get called by where she defecates.
Dale Watson was performing. He's this singer with a slide guitar and an easy, natural way of saying and singing things that makes you feel like you're easy and natural, too. He alternated his country songs with short songs celebrating Ginny's free hot dogs. I interviewed Dale years ago over the phone, and it was pure chance that he and his enormous tour bus pulled up to Ginny's the very day I came. I want to live in Texas.
The 14-hour main event of Sux by Suxwest was at Club 1808, in a part of town that had just been written about in the newspaper as having the most crack whores per square inch. Everyone who owns or works at 1808 is black and wears white. Everyone who played or attended the noise festival is white and wears black.
looking at this guy:
This fellow is ready for anything.
This is a good look:
This is a good look, too. This is Mohammed. He's the doorman.
I love it when guys take their shirts off. I don't care what's under there. These guys don't either.
I was out back by the dumpster, practicing my terrible act. It was all covers of heckler-created comedian meltdowns. I'd been last minute trying to memorize it on the plane, and I hadn't written out the N word because I was afraid the TSA would be interested.
I was feeling tremulous saying these things out there by the dumpster when this big black bouncer caught me. He said, "Just say it. Say it hard and say it fast. If you're telling a nigger joke, TELL a nigger joke." He was so forceful. He was impressive.
Back inside, I heard the loop "fuck me heavy, heavy metal--fuck me heavy, heavy metal," which I do believe is the best lyric ever written.
This band reminded me of the Combat Zone in 1987. I like how that guy just walks casually by the guy in the gimp mask beating on a piece of metal with a chain.
1808 is very laid back. The bathroom has no mirror, no lock, no doorknob. But someone left this helpful reminder:
I came out of the bathroom to find this guy just hitting one key on a keyboard over and over and over.
Drrty Pharms is a rainbow in an inky sky with a torrent of stuff to say over his piercing feedback or whatever you call screeching, painful sounds that come out of a computer. He said, "All I got's a big dick and the will to make it fit. I got no morality. They hate me." I don't know if these were lyrics to songs he'd written or if this was just off the top of his head, but he had an endless supply. It was like lava flowing out of his mouth forever, and if he didn't have this club to go yell some of this stuff in, I think his head would have burst.
Everyone was warning me about the final act of the night, Eugenics Council. Apparently they use guns, car batteries, cattle prods, and pipe bombs, and they are Nazis. I guess an audience member's nose got broken before. Someone said I should take pictures of them now and get my stuff together and go before they went on because they would destroy the club and wreck my life. This is Shame or Shane:
That's Hazel's lipstick kiss on my cheek. Shame or Shane had broken his arm on Friday and was waiting until he got back home (Boston) before having it seen. I said why don't you wrap it up at least? He said slings are for pussies. I feel certain that, in bed, he's a slapper and a choker and... I don't know... pinching and Indian rug burning and, to quote Bill Burr, "a whole lot of other horrific shit." Maybe he'd say rude things. Or get up and just leave you there. Make you do his homework.
How my act went, I don't know. I had a white out. I figure it was good, I mean effective, because no one said anything to me after. There was this silence, and people acted like they had somewhere to go when they saw me at first and went the other way. After a minute or two, they got over it.
The crowd ebbed in one big receding wave at a minute to 2 AM (when Eugenics Council were to go on). Some went out the door, some hid in the bathroom. There were fireworks or something, I don't know. It was confusing. It was loud and then it would be silent, and you'd think it was over, then it would start again. I couldn't see because of the smoke. Then this fireball hit the ceiling and burnt the paint off and the smell was so horrible. You could close your eyes and hold your ears shut, but that left your nostrils. I thought it was great. The two ladies following the owner around (they may or may not have been prostitutes) said, "Crazy cracker motherfuckers." Then they just started laughing.
Everyone complains about SXSW, how bloated it is. You don't have to go. You can do anything. You don't have to go do some stupid, expensive thing. The organizer of Sux by Suxwest for three years now, Johnathan Cash, all he did was say yes. No matter what someone wanted to do or say, he said OK. He didn't charge anyone at the door, and he didn't pay anyone to play. He paid the club out of pocket.
He's poor and he's got troubles, but he just laid his burden down. He let me come do stand-up when I never had before, and he didn't even ask me what it would be like. He let Coz The Shroom do a ten-minute rambling intro to a one-minute pop song. Three times.
Another guy had a 30-second burst of total noise, and that was it, that was his set, and then he threw his board down. Johnathan said yeah, come do that. He let Drrty Pharms expose his issues. He let a guy in a cape and a wizard hat do his thing. (Now THAT I could not abide, but I guess that's the difference between me and Johnathan.) He let the Baptizer throw around meat and an American flag, because that meant something to the Baptizer.
No one lets Eugenics Council in venues anymore. Dustin Newman, the founding member, is said to have destroyed his OWN record store with a show. Who would let someone like that in? Only 1808, and, of course, that's the club Johnathan wanted. This is what happens when the gatekeeper keeps no gate. Everything rushes through. This was the best day of my life. Johnathan's a lion among men.
He looks like this:
Previously by Lisa Carver:
He's Not Dead Yet? Life with Gene Gregorits