Friday, March 29, 2013

SXSW 2013: Wednesday March 13

The morning began (at 1pm) with a flurry of activity on my iPhone.

Many band chatter texts to catch up on, mostly congratulatory. Huh?

Turns out ETB did rather well this year in the Austin Music Awards poll, the results of which had been published by the Austin Chronicle that morning. Hell, we kicked some ass!

Eric Tessmer Band landed #4 Blues Band and #8 Rock Band (up from #5/#10 last year). Eric Tessmer ranked #2 Guitar Player underneath Gary Clark Jr (up from #5 last year). Eric also placed #8 Austin Musician of the Year. I placed as #5 Bass Player. And surprisingly, Rob's name was absent from the Drummer list. That was weird. Rob was very philosophical, tho Eric and I feel he somehow got shafted (votes for Rob Williamson and Robert Williamson placed in different piles?). Damn.

But wow. My feeling? Validation.

Validation that while last year was very hard on Eric, Rob and myself, all the toil and hard work we did has paid off. I've placed once before in the Bassist category, #8 in 2009 at the height of The Mother Truckers, and that felt pretty damn amazing. But if I can be honest right now, lately it had been feeling as if maybe that had been my peak. And that had me very worried.

The amount of rejection and (especially) self-doubt musicians and artists deal with on a yearly/weekly/daily basis can be crushing. No wonder depression, substance abuse and even mental illness can be rampant in our circles. While some players need their egos stroked, what most musicians need is validation. That what they are doing is what they SHOULD be doing. That all the self-sacrifice and hardship involved in pursuing music or any art as a full-time career have been indeed worth it.

Combined with the momentum we were already feeling from the last few shows and the overhauled business model, ETB felt VERY strong going into SXSW this year. And that felt very validating for us all.

But in the meantime, Triniti and I finally readied ourselves for more music: The Bug X Bug Fest Heavy Metal Pool Party!

BXBF was an event organized by our good friends BugGirl, Australian siblings Amber Saxon (guitar/vox) and Clinno (drums) and Heather Webb (bass) who also plays in Adrian and the Sickness. During the planning their contacts at the Wacken Festival in Europe came aboard, and a modest pool party at a quirky South Austin apartment complex (The Metropolis) metamorphosed into a full-on outdoor mini-festival featuring bands from all over the world.

Unfortunately we missed BugGirl whom we really wanted to see. But pulled into the Metropolis gate and found easy parking at the spot that Clinno suggested. And wondered about the 3-4 cop cars we passed on the way in, parked by the pool area. Did they see the words "Heavy Metal Pool Party" and beef up their security, expecting trouble?

These are the things we pondered as we walked through the Metropolis apartments, following our ears to the music (turns out there was a previous altercation in the parking lot, which eventually dispersed). But a little about the Metropolis: it is a quirky-in-every-sense-of-the-word apartment complex geared towards musicians and artists. Garishy painted, weirdly decorated, oddly designed. Because why the hell not? Keeping the spirit of old South Austin alive.

Climbed the stairs to the pool area and bumped into our good friend Heather Webb (AATS/BugGirl bassist), one of the co-coordinators the the event. We congratulated her on the Chronicle Music Poll. She didn't know what we were talking about. We let her know that AATS placed at #2 Punk Band, and two other projects she is involved in also placed top ten in their respective categories. She laughed and thanked us, had been too busy with BugFest to check the listings.

Caught the rest of Crucified Barbara from Sweden. Metal/rock, tight and professionally executed, great hooks and harmonies, great music. All performed by 4 beautiful women. Having been in several mixed gender bands and being friends with many female players, women in music often have to prove themselves twice as much and work twice as hard to get the same respect from some of their male counterparts. Then on the flipside there are some female players who rely on their gender for exposure, a gimmick. The former always have my utmost respect, the latter I find unfortunate and doing a disservice to the former.

Anyway. Heather Webb acting as MC and did a great job getting the crowd going during set change for Hell's Belles, rallying them and throwing Mardi Gras beads, daring them to jump into the pool ("It's a POOL PARTY!!!) but it was still a little too cold for that...!

Hell's Belles is an all-female AC/DC tribute band, and were one of the pioneers of all-female tribute band trend. They feature BugGirl guitarist/vocalist Amber Saxon as Bon Scott/Brian Johnson and Adrian Conner of Adrian and the Sickness as Angus Young. Amber is a more recent addition but Adrian has been a key member for 10+ years.

And they are fucking amazing. One of THE best AC/DC tribute bands around, and have met AC/DC themselves. Adrian is an absolute monster onstage, Amber nails the vocals, both great performers, and the rest of the band lay down the foundation like a concrete slab. Fuck yeah. At the end of their set Amber carried Adrian on her shoulders around the pool as she played, then Adrian handed off her guitar and jumped in. Thank you and good night! Crowd went nuts, and still nobody else jumped into the pool, heh.

I had shows and dealing with downtown during SXSW to rest up for, so we unfortunately checked out early after Hell's Belles was done. Gettin old, heh.

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