The local news stations and newspapers have been talking about how “dangerous and crowded” it was at SXSW this year. Yes, there was a mini-riot at the free Strokes show on St. Patrick’s Day, but SXSW on St. Patrick’s Day is always a gigantic clusterfuck. I remember in 2007 that it was so crowded and annoying that I decided to stay in my hotel that night and order room service.
When I went last night, the crowds were not that bad. I know there was a huge line to get into the Perez Hilton, Fader Fort and Vevo parties, but I wasn’t about to start wasting my time there. Without a badge or a wristband (or even an RSVP), there was no way I was going to get in. Personally, I think those parties are overrated. Perez had a shitty lineup this year – the biggest name was Taylor Momsen. I was at Perez’s party in 2007 and it was a great lineup (Mika, Amy Winehouse, etc.) but this year’s was nowhere near it. Yes, Vevo had Kanye, but I bet he does a tour and I can see him then with less hassle. And Fader Fort is the refuge of every hipster who wants to act like they read Pitchfork and actually care about the ratings.
I had my plans for the night: I wanted to get some free food from Rachel Ray’s party, and try to see the Dead Milkmen. I also wanted to try and see Doug Benson (The Benson Interruption) and Donald Glover/Childish Gambino, but it turned out that those two events were happening at the same time as the Dead Milkmen. I also was hoping to catch Sean Lennon or Anamanaguchi afterwards (again, they were both playing at the same time).
The thing about going to SXSW when you haven’t got a badge a wristband or a pot to piss in is to just go with the flow. If you can’t get into what you planned for, have a backup plan. You can just walk around and you’ll find something interesting going on eventually.
I did the old park and ride, taking the bus downtown. I didn’t want to pay $10 to $20 to park. Instead I paid one dollar and rode a bus for fifteen minutes. I am definitely doing this again when I go to SoCo because I can’t ever find parking there which is why I never ever go there.
First thing I did was go to the Austin Convention Center and check out the Flatstock poster show, and the StyleX (Style By) show. Yep, now there is a fashion aspect to SXSW. The fashion booths were not that great, but there was an America Apparel flea market if you’re into that sort of thing. I am not into that sort of thing so I made my way out. The poster show was really great. I saw a ton of posters that looked amazing, but I didn’t want to carry them around and ruin them so there was no way I could buy one. They should have a shipping option for people who can’t carry the stuff with them. The poster show closed at 6pm so you’re basically fucked.
I was getting hungry, so I went to Stubb’s to get some free grub at the Rachel Ray party. Her parties are known for having amazing food, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were some awesome tacos and “tosta-chos” which was like a taco and tostada combined somehow. Whatever, it was delicious, and it was free.
The best part was that the lines were really short and I got in right away. They weren’t
even checking RSVP’s, although I did have one. The even better than best part was that Wanda Jackson was playing a set, and I got there right when it started. My friend A. has told me about how amazing Wanda Jackson is, and she was right. She has a voice like a wildcat in heat, despite the fact that she’s 73 years old. She’s famous for having made out with Elvis but there’s more to her than that.
Once Wanda’s set ended, I figured I should head to East Side Drive-In and the Mess With Texas Party. The Dead Milkmen were scheduled to play in three hours and I was starting to freak out and wonder if I was going to get in. I decided to skip seeing The Bluebonnets (featuring Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s) because they are a local band and I’ll have another chance to see them.
There was a huge line at the East Side Drive-In, but there was no way I was going to be discouraged. Luckily, after about 15 minutes they started moving the line again and I got in. The DoDos were just finishing a set, and from what I heard while I was in line, they are a band I need to learn more about.
East Side Drive-In had two stages, and the Dead Milkmen were set to play the outdoor stage. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much grass on the grounds and so a constant cloud of dust would hover over the crowd while the bands played. The first band I saw, OFF!, was a hardcore punk band. The people near the stage started a very scary mosh pit. Bodies were flying in the air, things were thrown, shoes were flying around, and the dust got even worse. I was choking and saw that I wasn’t the only one covering my mouth and nose with the front of my shirt. It was pretty miserable but I wasn’t going to abandon my post.
Next up was Surfer Blood. Thankfully, they are a power pop band so the hardcore punks stayed put. I really enjoyed their set and actually bought their album today on emusic. They just do some straight up pop, and remind me of Weezer or Vampire Weekend. I’m not ashamed to say I enjoy this sort of thing unironically. Definitely worth a try if you also enjoy it.
I was really getting tired and was still choking on dust. The next band was !!! (chk chk chk). All I knew about this band was that they were the darlings of the hipster/Pitchfork/hypem set for years and I had studiously avoided them. The more something is hyped, the less interested I am in finding out more about it. As soon as the band hit the stage, I regretted my snobbery.
!!! is the most amazingly funky band of white boys that I have ever seen. I didn’t know
any of the songs but I danced the whole time, and got my second wind. The singer, Nic Offer, was wearing short shorts and voguing unashamedly. He danced so strangely that he made the crowd feel okay about dancing weirdly, too. The dude in front of me was a big old hippie and he just swayed back and forth the entire time in some sort of stoner ecstacy. !!! did a Prince cover, and I was blown away. I can’t remember which song it was because I am terrible with song titles, but it was something obscure. Nic Offer kept jumping into the crowd and dancing with the audience. He was being hugged and grabbed and he loved it, I think. I saw a girl hugging him, with the most fiercely joyful expression on her face.
Her lifetime goal had just been achieved. I definitely want to see this band again.
I was sad to see them leave the stage, even though it meant that the Dead Milkmen were next! That’s how good they were.
Most people were there to see the Dead Milkmen, who are a legendary punk band from the 80’s. I have never seen them play live because they didn’t come to Phoenix very often, and I was afraid of the types of crowds who would go to see them back then. (Skinheads and that type) I definitely knew that I needed to stay away from the mosh pit section I had seen earlier. I am old and fragile, so that sort of thing wouldn’t work for me at all. Still, I was close enough. When I was in high school, I had a little
crush on Joe Jack Talcum, who sings Punk Rock Girl. He’s still pretty cute in a silver fox way, but now I know he is gay so it’s even more hopeless. (I was confused by the fact that he sang about a girl, I thought he liked girls back in the day.) Rodney Anonymous is now a real skinhead, mainly because he’s bald as hell.
After watching this video, I just realized that Dean Clean was the guy who sold me my tee shirt last night. I couldn’t see the drummer on stage at all so I didn’t put it together until this moment. I am really bad about seeing famous people and recognizing them. Rosanna Arquette was right in front of me at the Antony & the Johnson show at Coachella in 2009 and my friend had to point it out to me. I wish I had realized that it was Dean Clean at the merch stand. I am feeling like a big bowl of fail right now….*heavy sigh*
Once the Dead Milkmen hit the stage, the crowd went nuts. I am quite sure that the Dead Milkmen cow balloon got popped within the first few minutes. I thought it was really cute.
The show was frenetic and insane, and everything I wanted it to be. The weirdest thing that happened was that they played a cover of the song Cars by Gary Numan. During the 80’s, the Dead Milkmen were always railing against New Wave synth music and saying that it was the worst thing that ever happened to the music industry. Hearing them play an 80’s New Wave classic anthem was almost like having an out-of-body experience. When the song was over, Rodney said that they had just played a song by a classic Austin, Texas artist, Gary Numan. I was laughing my ass off but I don’t think the kids standing around me got the joke at all.
I am really bad at remembering set lists, but this is what I remember hearing last night (not in this order, necessarily):
Tacoland, Tiny Town, Methodist Coloring Book, Serrated Edge, Cars, I Walk the Thinnest Line, VFW, Right Wing Pigeon, Punk Rock Girl, Smokin’ Banana Peels, Surfin’ Cow, Stuart, Bitchin’ Camaro, Big Lizard
Ugh I totally forgot something important, I know it. Oh yeah! They played some brand new songs because they are going to release a BRAND NEW ALBUM! I am excite!
Some of you may have heard the stories about the people at Morrissey shows who line up politely at the edge of the stage and wait their turn to gently hug their hero. The Dead Milkmen have a similar tradition. Punks aggressively make their way on stage, make a spectacle of themselves, and then leap into the crowd to surf. In this case, it was the same three or four people doing this over and over all night. The band didn’t seem to mind but I did start to get annoyed seeing the same people doing it over and over. You’d think it might
get old after a bit, and obviously they weren’t watching the band. I don’t understand punk etiquette, so maybe this isn’t rude, but I thought it was a bit rude.
The dust cloud really started forming during Bitchin’ Camaro. So many bodies were flying around, and so much dust was raised, I couldn’t even see the stage. I couldn’t breathe either, and my contact lenses were feeling like shards of glass in my eye. Once the dust settled, I felt like I was covered in an inch of dirt from head to toe. I felt like a giant dust bunny that could walk and talk. The show ended and I tried to return to reality and figure out how to get back to 6th Street.
All I could think about was buying a Jim Jim’s Water Ice. It had been my mantra for the past hour. Once I got my water ice, I was as happy as a dust-covered clam.
I was so tired from being in a dust bowl for three hours, the rest of my plans for the night were shot. Plus a chill wind started blowing and I felt like I was freezing to death. It wasn’t that cold, so I think that being tired made me feel colder.
I saw some freaky stuff on 6th Street, but even that didn’t lift my spirits enough to stop me from walking to the bus stop and going home. I was home by 11pm. So much for carousing at SXSW!
It was totally worth it to achieve my decades-long goal of seeing the Dead Milkmen live. I would do it again in a minute.
Oh and as far as seeing any fights and riots, I didn’t see any. However, I did see a kid with a black eye and bleeding lip walking through the Driskill Hotel lounge…