See also: Treasure MammaL's "The Real Talk Diaries: The Road to SXSW" Fort Stockton is one of those small towns that takes you completely by surprise with its personality as you drive through it. The kind of place that makes road trips special.
We drive out of town and toward Lyndon B. Johnson's birth town, blasting Hot Chip remixes, and pass a neo-hippie van from Oregon, packed with bongos, guitars, and sexy, unshaved indie youth. Our passengers wave to one another. A cute girl with dreads and a nose piercing lights a cig without rolling down the windows. Maybe we'll all meet again in Austin, but probably not.
After several hours of lazy driving, we stop to take pictures at an emu and buffalo ranch. Reinvigorated, we continue to Austin, mood bouncier and radio music louder.
Entering town, we pass a promising-looking Goodwill, kabob shoppe, and "Counter Culture Frozen Yogurt" (because FUCK MAINSTREAM FROZEN YOGURT! THIS IS AUSTIN MOTHER FUCKERS!). Traffic is terrible, but it's fun to look into windows of neighboring cars ("Is that a Sikh?"). We pass the Oregon Indie Youths again--twice. Abe tries to honk at them, only to realize now that the horn doesn't work on our rental. What the fuck is going on?
As Abe winds through Austin side streets, the rest of us take in the kooky neighborhood architecture and cyprus trees. Abe improvises some lyrics: "No more grid format/in this city/hipster on a fucking bike/I wanna see my friends/I wanna see my friends."
We're crashing the whole week with an longtime buddy of Abe's, who we'll call J. It's an old white house with overgrown-but-luscious grass, a guest loft and sparse retro furniture. We can't enjoy the "Welcome to Austin" moment for long, though, because our first show is supposedly in less than an hour. We unpack, suit up at J.'s and head out immediately.
On the ride over to Club 1808, packed six to a car, we ask our host J. if there are any bad parts of Austin.
"Yeah, just one ... the one we're going to now."
It's true, the perimeter of Club 1808's block is flanked by centurions of crackheads, but they seem to appreciate our style and even cheer as we walk the block from our parking spot to the venue in spandex and western wear. That's a good sign, right? I think to myself. Crack heads have got to be harder to deal with than indie youth ... right?
The back of Club 1808 is literally a backyard with plastic tables and a stage (two more stages are inside). The promoters are crazy disorganized; the set list is a spiral going off in random directions with bands written alongside the lines. And the crowd is more than a little pretentious. I've never seen so many indie scowls.
It takes an hour to force the promoters (there are several, all stoned) to pin down a time for our show. They admit there's at least three more acts before ours--and we were told we'd start an hour ago.
Again, no free booze--everyone's in a band, so I understand from the venue's point of view. Our Wednesday gig is off to an inauspicious start.
Over Dan's left shoulder floats, like an indie apparition, a medium-built dude wearing a backpack, Nikes, and an Expos cap. Dan loses his shit, gushing to the guy for a minute or so and introducing our band. Cool Expos Bro gives us an ear, but soon excuses himself to talk to a sound guy.
I lean over and ask Dan what all the fuss was about.
"Dude ... that's mother fucking Cadence Weapon."
This is the very, very best thing that could have happened to Dan tonight. The appearance is so unexpected and cool, we forget about the annoying promoters. I'm a fan, too, so we get up close as Cadence Weapon kills it for six songs on the backyard stage. [A whole crew of Canadian acts rolled there together, including Doldrums].
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This is definitely the highlight of the night. An hour later, Treasure MammaL performs to about 20 people on a small indoor stage. We only get five songs. The Club 1808 point man keeps "helping us" by adding tons of reverb and delay to Abe's vocals. These promoters are killing me. Maybe I'm learning what it's like to be a musician.
After the set, I see a guy wearing a "Maximum Ames" t-shirt. My family is from Ames, Iowa, so I go chat him up. Turns out Chris runs a big fest in this Midwest town. He saw us at Bröötal Sunfest (and played there as well, with his band Mumford's) he offers a slot to Treasure MammaL this year.
That random conversation is exactly the point of SXSW, I think to myself later, falling asleep on a trampoline, watching the clouds move.