Thursday, March 15
"No wonder Austinites hate SXSW," Abe says as city traffic delays our PA system pickup. "You can't get fucking anywhere in the city right now."
We drive for two hours, listening to a jazzercise mix CD a friend made for Abe, as we keep getting snagged on side trips. Eventually, we get to Breakaway Records where our buddy G. lends us his gear. But our afternoon free time has evaporated.
Our first show is at Taos Cooperative, a student housing building for University of Texas. We walk past Jimi Hendrix lookalikes and shirtless bros grilling burgers and down the stairs to Taos' basement.
I don't remember any of my college dorms having basements you could drink, smoke, and throw concerts in. Maybe UT is just different/better that way. The crowd, our youngest yet, gets 110% behind our set (although many don't seem to recognize the Celine Dion cover). Free home-brewed beer doesn't hurt the mood. Hopefully, the positive collegiate energy at Taos is good omen.
We want to hustle to our next show, so the six of us [including J. and Q., a friend of mine
who's joined us via Tucson to take photos and party] into the Kia. This is with the PA system stuffed in the trunk [spoiler: We won't even need it] and band gear jammed in the back seat, 16 limbs tangled around it. Jazzercise motivates as we grip seat backs and wizard's robes during sharp turns.
Treasure MammaL hasn't quite double-booked, but we'll be cutting it close. Luckily Katie Rose, point person at Wardenclyffe Gallery, pushes up our set so we can make it work.
This venue is my favorite so far--a small house on the outskirts of town that's being converted into a concert venue and art space. Impromptu murals splash across the white-paneled walls. Tangled grass embraces empty Lone Star cans.
We also drink the free coconut water (or Jim Beam, depending on personal preference) and take advantage of the elaborate projector inside to film for the upcoming "Dream Girl" video.
Outside, concert-goers sit on blankets, smoke cigarettes, and eat granola. Of course, here as elsewhere, there are the expected music fest antics: Oh, look, that dude's smoking a blunt in public. And pretty sure that girl to your right is dropping acid. But you definitely don't need an altered state of mind to appreciate the intellectual exchange going on at SXSW, and many of us here know it.
Our set falls smack dab in the middle of Wardenclyffe's all-day drone electronica showcase--perfect location for a Treasure MammaL death strike. The crowd is also ideal, a mix of fans and newbies, age range between 18 and 50. Strangely, the older folks get more into the show, dancing in front and letting me undress my costume onto them. A couple of indie youths (from Oregon?) quietly sneak out the back. Megan and I start dancing by the door to prevent more defections.
This is also one of Abe's best shows of the tour. Already in his 30s, Abe still rolls around on the ground and screams like an ancient warrior. "On the Computer" makes Wardenclyffe's thin walls ripple. I don't know how his voice doesn't go out. His unitard is ripped to shreds from years of touring. There's only one explanation: Jim Beam + coconut water = swag.
We have to drive straight to our next show, at the Austin home of Ryan Patterson. This man is amazing: Last year, he built a shed in his backyard just so out-of-state acts could play in his backyard for SxSW. This year, he bought a PA system for The Dead Shed. Treasure Mammal is his favorite visiting band, and Abe takes credit for "literally laying the foundation" for The Dead Shed's existence.
"That's some Field of Dreams shit," Abe concludes.
Ryan also feeds everyone at his party, slaving away at the grill all night. He and our own hostess J. have taught me a lesson in Texas hospitality.
Before us are acoustic/beatbox sets by Arizona natives Run-On Sunshine and Hug of War. Both acts perform without fear or pretension, and break down the Fourth Wall between crowd and audience. All the Phoenix natives I talked to agreed that it was Jason Krone's best performance ever as Hug of War.
Next up was Cuckoo Chaos, our bromance from San Diego. They're a five-piece that seems to be rejecting their old island-pop sound, incorporating darker melodies and drum samplers. But their songs are still held together by a six-pack tight core of bass and drums, and their live performances are outstandingly composed. These guys have all-star potential if/when they learn to combine their older, lighter sound with their more complex ambitions of now. (I call music journalist dibs on coining the "dark island" subgenre.)
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SHOW ME HOW
Treasure MammaL plays last, at around midnight. The Dead Shed is one of the best shows I've ever been a part of, period. It was more than a performance. Over 40 people crammed into 20 square feet, locked the door behind us, and danced so hard we couldn't breathe. (No joke: We had to reopen the door for a couple songs so nobody suffocated.) Abe finally gets a chance to play a full set, and we go for over an hour. This is the first Treasure MammaL show I think I may not make it through. The only time I've been more tired is after running a half-marathon, and The Dead Shed is a close second.
Tomorrow night we'll play the house party of a local record producer, and tonight we go over to give everyone a preview. There's a party, but not a huge crowd, so Abe only plays a few songs. We're too exhausted to "bounce"; I'd more say we "bobble" from the party.
I'm only looking at a few hours' sleep on an air mattress before getting up before everyone else to type up my notes. I'm pressed against the car door by sweaty bodies. Jazzercise is still miraculously playing on the radio. This is one of the best days of my life.