The first time I attended SxSW, the mega-music fest in Austin, TX, I was a 19-year-old intern at High Times and was flown down to produce a streetwear fashion show as part of the magazine's annual party. I had no idea what I was in store for. Between party planning, model fittings, self-medicated tangents enhanced by the dozens of bats circling the high-rise hotel party room—plus seeing acts like Clutch, Wesley Willis, Iggy Pop, Karma to Burn and Red Aunts—I was definitely not ready for the madness (not to mention the following week's Comparative Political Systems midterm I hadn't studied for).
Over the years, I've gotten the SxSW experience down to a science. Being familiar with the 6th Street clubs and knowing all the fun locals usually helps; and it's absolutely crucial to have a forcible partner in crime. Enter Merilee 666, aka Zombie Kitten. Together, our bitch powers exponentially strengthened and our ability to talk our way into—and, sometimes, out of—situations created a legacy and more than a few funny stories.
Granted, I've probably forgotten more crap that I've done at SxSW than I actually remember, which is sometimes for the best. But before my memory's shot for good, I wanted to count down my Tex-ass adventures. Some are goofy, a lot are medicament related, and then there were a few really f'd up things that happened—like Merilee jumping into traffic on the then-undeveloped South Congress Ave. and giving herself a concussion—that just didn't seem right fitting under "awesome." But since she's the one that reminded me of that day, fuck it, read about it under #5. And please, I know it's hard, but don't trip on all the names I dropped. (I may be an asshole, but at least I'm self-aware.)
Of course, I'll be doing it all again this year... and blogging/Tweeting about it. So before I get caught up in this year's whirlwind, here's my run-down of SxSW moments from years past:
1. Meeting Mastodon & Kicking Them Out - For a while there, Merilee and I toyed with the idea of starting a company called C.W.I. And though we could never get a good business plan going for it, we knew our core mission had something to do with tray wares and role reversal. Enter Mastodon's Brent Hinds, who was one of our earliest adapters. He, in turn, invited the rest of his great unwashed band to our hotel room for a demo—and the then-unknown act presumed that they'd be crashing with us that night. Not so. I kicked their asses out. The boys were not pleased... and over the next year, each of them took me aside and individually chewed me out for my bitchy behavior. Well deserved, I suppose, and thankfully we got past it way before they became poised to take over the rock world (when are those Vans coming out, Brann?).
2. Lemmy & The Yellow Rose - My good friend Wes has been following around Lemmy Kilmister for a documentary he's filming on the legend, and he didn't have to ask me twice to accompany them to one of Austin's premiere gentlemen's clubs, the Yellow Rose. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the quality of dancers (then again, I'd been living in Atlanta, and it's sort of a huge point of pride there), but there was one showgirl who performed a trick involving her nipple and a lit match. I was intrigued and asked her to show me how she did it, which she did, demonstrating on me. I did it all for Lemmy.
3. Oh, Isaac Hanson - One of my favorite restaurants in Austin is the BBQ mecca, Iron Works. During our first visit there years ago, I discovered a giant Texas-shaped mirror in their womens bathroom and insisted Merilee see it as we left the restaurant. Once inside, we probably tapped a one-hitter to help settle dinner and giggled at the mirror, then stumbled out—right into the eldest of the Hanson brothers, Isaac. He looked at us, staring closely at Merilee's wild 10 lbs worth of dreadlocks (replete with quarter-machine prizes as ornaments), and nervously greeted us. Then, turning to Mer, said, "Your hair is very... cool. You're very brave."
"Right on," she responded casually, handing him an invite to the High Times party. Then, as we left the joint, Merilee turned to me and said in all seriousness: "time to shave my head."
4. Being Stalked By Shat's Jeff Wood - I wouldn't exactly say I was in any kind of danger, but considering my Psilocybin-enhanced demeanor, I was in no mood to entertain date requests from a guy who followed me into a women's bathroom whilst wearing a tie that read, "I [Heart] Cunt." Still, there was something endearing about the Shat figurehead (maybe it's hit songs like "Cunt Flavored Lollipops" and "Vagetarian") that keeps him close to my heart. One day, Jeff. One day...
5. Merilee's First TX-Sized Concussion - After persuading Hank III & Assjack to perform at High Times' party (along with acts as varied as Keller Williams and Stephen Perkins), Merilee and I wound up inadvertently taking off on their bus as they made their way to their second gig of the night at Continental Club. At that point, HT's party was hosted at a venue specializing in making frozen drinks with Everclear and grain alcohol, so we were probably a little hammered when we decided to walk back to our hotel on the unpaved and elevated strip of South Congress that led back to the Embassy Suites. When we came to an impass, we had only one choice: to jump down six feet or so down to the traffic-heavy street. Merilee went first, and promptly made contact with the concrete using her head. Her eyes started rolling into the back of her head and we freaked out a little. Mel and I helped her back to our room, settled her in the bed and made sure Merilee stayed awake and ate some room service fries. As soon as she was feeling better, I went off to my next adventure of the night... getting cock-blocked by Jello Biafro (see below).
6. Cock-Blocked By Jello Biafra - Sure, he's a punk legend and all, but that motherfucker can talk. Especially when he's coked up. And adding more cause to speculation that he bats for both teams, I clearly caught him checking out both me and my date. Paying close attention to the detailing on my boy's custom leather pants, Jello announced that he would thereby refer to him as Shank Skullbutt. That's when I rolled my eyes and thought, "Jello Biafra get the fuck off the bus so I can make out with my boy." But he STILL didn't get it. Be warned, Jello Biafra is a furious cock blocker.
7. Yngwie Who? Yngwie Fucking Malmsteen! - It's kind of a trip thinking about how many different kinds of acts I've caught at SxSW over the years. Last year, my big bragging rights came after seeing the Clipse immediately after headbanging to Motorhead—all before 5 pm. But nothing was quite as trippy as seeing Yngwie Malmsteen at the gratefully dead Back Room (for a long time, all metal shows were relegated to this strip-mall rock joint). Malmsteen, in all his bloated, foundation-wearing glory rocking out. It would be years before he unleashed the fury, but at least we had that one night in Austin.
8. Smoking The Bible - Picture the scenario: A group of us throw our luggage down in our off-strip hotel room, we get our hands on some premium green... and there are no papers anywhere. Then someone (Rob? Derek? E?) remembered that Bibles were printed on rice paper, thereby making the blank sheets inside safe to smoke. It worked in a pinch, but it didn't spark that well. Am I going to Hell? Sure. At least I'll be with all the cool kids.
9. The Meaning Of 'Karma To Burn' - During my very first SxSW, I met (and damn-near adopted) an instrumental trio from Morgantown, WV named Karma to Burn. And in our many years of friendship, I have never met a group—led by charismatic snake-oil salesman Rich "Little Dickie" Mullins—so deservedly and ironically named. There have been a few years between now and that fateful meeting so long ago when I didn't know what they were up (but hoped for the best) and I'm glad we're all around today to laugh about it.
10. Getting Busted - As mentioned above, I was 19 when I first came to SxSW—just two years shy of legally drinking. So what was a girl to do? Get a fake I.D. Little did I know at the time that Texas was super strict about checking licenses, and not surprisingly, I got caught... in front of a bunch of music-biz execs. Thankfully, I still had my official badge and was let in after the legendary Harry Crossfield Jr. hooked me up.
What does this year have to offer? Bring it.