See also: Alert: SXSW Coverage Ahead
Editor's note: Tye Rabens, a contributor to both our sister blogs Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch, is on tour with Phoenix agit-pop collective Treasure MammaL, heading to Austin for SXSW. He'll be periodically checking in with us from the road.
Fuck. This is a terrible way to kick off a tour. We're booked to headline Bröötal Sunfest, a three-day music fest at Scrappy's in Tucson.
But half our members canceled, and we don't know how long our set is going to be--just that an entire weekends' worth of performances have led up to us.
I'm the only supporting member of the band that could make the trip to Tucson. I'm also the newest member, this being my fifth or sixth show ( Treasure MammaL shows blend together into a slipstream of offensive energy, especially if you're on stage.)
Earlier in the night, stellar acts like San Diego's Cuckoo Chaos and Albequerque's Arroyo Deathmatch get the crowd psyched for whatever we can dish out. Everyone's brought their A-game tonight. Abe Gil, the frontman for Treasure MammaL, looks uncharacteristically nervous for this gig.
Granted, it's a warmup for an epic week-long SXSW tour, during which we will play over a dozen shows in three states.
So naturally, Abe's competitiveness is jacked up. Later, he'll admit that "Even if I love the other bands we're playing with ... I'm sorry, we gotta be #1. End of story."
Many readers may not have heard of Treasure MammaL. If that's you, watch this video and get caught up.
I'm still not sure how to feel about being in this band. First, I feel weird saying "I'm in this band..." when all I do is dance in spandex and get in peoples' faces when they don't grind back. Just thought I'd be playing drums on my first tour as a "musician." That's all I'm saying.
Second, I'm not sure if Treasure MammaL is a wise choice in the "professional" or "long-term" sense. And I remember hating Treasure Mammal the first time I saw Abe play live, as an opening act at The Rhythm Room several years ago. What's changed inside me?
But all concerns disappear as I get ready to perform. I duck behind some old furniture and don my nipple-revealing, baby blue spandex unitard in the back of Scrappy's. I put on my neon green shades. I grab my yoga mat, a large unicorn doll, and a can of Axe Body Spray. My Tucson buddy [whom I convinced to wear our wizard's costume for tonight] walks onstage.
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The mic craps out at least twice. The audience is fighting one another with cardboard swords. Balloons shower down on us. A crowd of 50 holds hands and screams. Nobody likes the Axe Body Spray. Afterward, Abe says Bröötal Sunfest was one of the best shows he's played in a long time: "Dude, there were moments of pure ecstasy tonight." Members of Arroyo Deathmatch approach me after the set, saying how much they enjoyed our performance and how unique it was. Here are earnest, committed musicians complimenting my performance, when I feel like I don't do shit compared to them.
Whatever you want to say about the artistic integrity of such a show, Treasure MammaL seems to touch at something core. It's gratifying and mystical and sad to see all that synth, spandex, Shake Weight, unicorn and universal love, together and spilling off a dive bar stage. You can't resist. You can't get too close.
Abe and I both have work in the morning, so at midnight, we merge onto I-10 West. My 23-year-old self is still obnoxiously alert, so I get behind the wheel for our midnight ride. The night and the road slip by quickly; I get a lot of thinking done. Still not sure how to feel about the band I'm in. At first, I thought this meant I wasn't ready to go on a major tour with them. But now, the night before we leave, I realize this is exactly where I need to be.