Punched in the face and 5 observations from a SXSW first-timer

by Woody on March 28, 2009

alberta Cross

Alberta Cross

The following is an essay from HearYa reader, friend, single guy and Tom Cruise body-double, Via Chicago. This was his first trip to SXSW. The photos are mine – Oz.

I’m sitting in a cab in Austin, about to head back to the hotel after spending a long day and night at HearYa’s Stimulus Package party. I’d seen 15 bands, drank 43 Rolling Rocks, and ate Beer Nuts for lunch and dinner. Having only slept for 2 hours the previous night, I’m somehow on a high after my first SxSW experience. Still, I’m ready for some shut-eye so I can get up and do it all over again…for 3 more days.‚  Then it happens. I get punched in the face.

Some indie hipster, desperate for my cab, removes his fist from my face as quickly as he punched it and takes off. I’m left bloodied and dazed, the cabbie put the car in gear and got me the hell outta there. Then he rummaged around the front seat and produces a used, crumpled Wendy’s napkin to stop the bleeding. Not the way I would have wanted to end my first ever night of SxSW. Now, however, it feels like a fitting way to end a truly monumental day. Over the course of the next few days I took in about 40 shows and learned a few things along the way:

1. It’s all about leaners.

Drinking Buddy asked me what my greatest off the field athletic feat was. At the time I didn’t have an answer, but I now realize that it’s SxSW. There is no sitting. It’s 12-15 hours of standing in the sun while maintaining an average 1.8 beer/hour pace. Every night I woke up with excruciating cramps in my legs and profuse nightsweats…it felt like I’d run a barefoot marathon in the Sudan. If you’re gonna make it, you’ve got to find a leaner. It can be a railing, a post, a wall, whatever…as long as it takes the weight off your feet you’ll be good to go.


The classic leaner

2. Girls in cowboy boots & skirts appear twice as attractive than they really are.

I’m anything but fashionable (I wore womens sunglasses for most of the trip after leaving mine in the seat pocket on the airplane). I’m not sure if this boot/skirt combo is a legit fashion movement, but it’s surprisingly hot and I hope it catches on here in Chicago.

3. These bands are some of the hardest working people around.

I’ve misjudged musicians. When you think of the rock n’ roll lifestyle, it seems like an endless stream of perks. But, when you see these bands lugging around their own gear from show to show (some of these guys played 6-7 shows over 2-3 days) after driving in from a show in Nebraska the night before, you realize that this is anything but the easy life. And most of them couldn’t be more laid back and cool, unlike the a-hole rock stars we see played out in the media.


Dante from Hacienda

4. The only thing hotter than a smokin’ backstage groupie is a smokin’ backstage MILF.

I never would have thought this until I met Noah’s Mom backstage at the Jason Isbell show w/ Oz and Drinking Buddy. I later found myself scanning the crowd for babies at Home Slice Pizza. I would call this a low point.

5. There’s a subtle difference between a good band and a great band.

I’ve always known this, but nowhere is it more evident than SxSW. The fact that you see so many shows in such a short period with such small crowds means that you have a wide basis of comparison and an up close and personal perspective. There’s not much room to hide when there’s a 25 person crowd and you’ve only got a 1/2 hour set with no time to sound check. When Justin Townes Earl stepped onto the stage at HearYa’s party, he owned the crowd. His confidence in his songs was obvious and his ability to yuck it up on stage with his multi-instrumentalist drew the crowd in. It’s more than musical inclination that makes a great act. There’s no better place to see that played out than at SxSW.


Justin Townes Earle and Corey Younts

It’s now 5:30 a.m. on Sunday and Woody and I are sitting in the airport. I hate my life. I feel as if I’ve just been open field form tackled by Ray Lewis. But amidst the self loathing and hazy memories, I smile and think about the week that was. As bad as I might feel right now, I realize that when SxSW punches you in the face, you take it like a man, smile, and start looking forward to doing it again next year.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody March 28, 2009 at 6:40 am

I couldn’t agree more about your assessment of the musicians. Of all the musicians, I have met since we started this venture, I can really think of one that I didn’t really like. In fact, I consider many of them to be my friend.

As for your cowboy boot/skirt combo, you are 100% correct. But I really don’t want that popping up in Chicago. That only belongs in my happy place which is Austin during SXSW.

However, I am shocked that you failed to mention the Ambercrombie & Fitch model who was getting ready to eat your lunch at Club DeVille. How does that not even get a mention from you or Drinking Buddy is beyond me?

Mark March 28, 2009 at 8:16 am

Girls in skirts and boots are SUPER hot.

Ronatron March 28, 2009 at 10:30 am

Yeah, I’m also gonna agree with the boots/skirt combo being totally hot. We’ve been seeing a lot of that here in VanCity too and I really hope the trend continues.

This post was a great read, I got sucked in by the title… hope you’re face is feeling better!

NaterTots March 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm

‘i got punched in the nost for sticking my face in other people’s business…sounds like a country song’. great post. i’ve seen these indie hipsters, they can’t hit that hard plus it makes for a good story. hope the face feels better regardless.

oz March 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm

The punch did very little damage, but left Via with an abrasion next to his lip that could have easily been mistaken for a cold sore.

And I agree about the bands and people in general at SxSW. It’s a great crowd of good people. Most bands really are busting their asses to try to make a living. I had side conversations with several folks, talking about the money aspect of music. It’s only getting tougher for indie musicians, so next time you see a show and find the band mingling in the crowd, say hello and offer to buy ’em a round.

el March 28, 2009 at 3:48 pm

great review..hilarious…wish i was there

viachicago March 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Yes, the punch did little damage. Though who knows what was contracted from that napkin—that’s the real damage.

Woody- As for the A&F model–once he realized that I was a running double in the classic courtroom thriller ‘The Firm’ he backed off.

oz March 29, 2009 at 4:40 pm

The A&F model was a dude? I did not know this.

Woody March 30, 2009 at 8:29 am

Dude does not do him justice. His hair was spun gold. Drinking Buddy and I couldn’t take our eyes off of it. Our hero, Via Chicago, was in a tight spot but upon receiving my text message he rushed back to save the day.

The A&F model was unfazed as he moved on to the next young lady who was more than happy to get snuggly with him and his flowing locks.

Drinking Buddy March 30, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I actually got an incredible close-up of this guy’s hair between bites of ViaChicago’s lunch. I’ve posted a picture of the male model’s hair here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36903766@N02/3400854178/

Some fine camera work if I do say so myself.

oz March 30, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Amazing that you set up a flickr account just to show off that pic. You’re the only guy in Austin at SXSW taking pics of diseased arms and dudes’ hair.

Drinking Buddy March 30, 2009 at 9:00 pm

And don’t forget buttcracks…

viachicago March 31, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Man—that hair really is breathtaking. He told me he was taking pills that trainers usually give their show horses to improve their mane…it worked. Despite his attempts to eat my lunch, he was alright.

Jorts April 8, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Most amazing thing about this tale is that you were able to find a cab in Austin at 2am. Also I will punch you if you don’t post pics of the boots/skirt combo.

“I’d like to formally apologize for anyone I wronged last nite. I don’t remember a f***ing thing after the Yard Dog yesterday.”
– Jon Langford ( Waco Bros.) before starting their 12p set at Jovita’s on Sat.

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