Sunday, March 29, 2015

SXSW 2015 Report: Day 1

And so it begins.

Wednesday March 18, 2015

Day 1

2 gigs, Thunderosa at 12:30pm, Adrian Conner official showcase at 1am. Long day ahead...

Woke early to catch the bus to play with Thunderosa at DirtyFest at the Dirty Dog Bar on 6th Street. Awesome place.

What was not going to be awesome was trying to park there. So, DD provides backline. I was on bass for this one. So I was able to take my gigbag and a backpack with pertinent cables and pedals. BAM! No driving, no hassle!

Of course the bus dropped me off at 4th and Lavaca, and I had to walk to 6th and Neches. Google map it. It was a jaunt, but a nice day for a walk!

Thunderosa played at a disorientingly early hour (12:30pm) but a quick turn and burn set. They had the other lead player Jason doing this one, and was nice to finally meet him haha (as in, "Hi, nice to meet you! OK here we go, 1-2-3-4" and play)

photo by Armando Reyes

But the show was a blast, we drew in a decent number of people from the street. And tear down took literally 3 minutes. Which gave us plenty of time to deal with this situation:

So glad I wasn't driving haha!

Calm before the storm, 6th Street on early Wednesday afternoon

Walked all the way back to Lavaca to catch the bus home. Rested briefly (slept off the Jager I mean) and decided to catch part of the Heavy Metal Pool Party at the Metropolis Apartment Complex (nowhere near downtown).

Glad I made an appearance, lots of musical friends and family involved or in attendance. Was also warm enough this year the people could actually get INTO the pool haha. So yes, lots of lovely tattooed rocker ladies in bikini this time.

Caught up with Heather Webb and Clinno (both ex-Bug Girl and co-founders of the HM Pool Party), Debbie from Bexar County Bastards (talked to her about joining Ocean of Stars but she couldn't), good friend Teresa Kay (who has been kicking the shit out of breast cancer the past year), many others that I can't recall at the moment. But good times and good bands.

Home again to rest up before meeting Adrian and Armando at the rehearsal place to take Vincent Van Go right into the jaws of the beast (downtown during SXSW).

Being she was a showcasing artist she had a pass to get through the barricades, if that would help get us any closer to the club. We showed up probably around 2 hours early just to see if we could grab parking, even tho the itinerary said load in 1-hour before set time. We were playing at the Trophy Club on 6th Street, which I only know as the place next to Dizzy Rooster with the mechanical bull. We were trying to convince Adrian to ride it mid-song, but that didn't come to pass. And not because she didn't want to, but I jump ahead of my tale.

So we pull up to the barricade at 7th and San Jacinto and pull over. Armando runs to the venue for recon on gear situation and load-in. I go and talk to the guardian of the barricade. I see that they have beefed up the barricade situation since the fatalities last year. Even if we got through the barricade with our fancy pass, it would only get us 5 feet closer to a load in door still 100 yards away and downhill.

Guardian of the barricade was really really nice, and yes she could let us in if need be but also was in agreement that it wouldn't really mean fuck all in getting us closer to the load in door haha.

Armando also returned saying load in is through the back door. Well that is good, fuck wheeling gear through the crowds on 6th Street proper.

At this point I see that the paid parking lot right behind the venue we need to load in has several open spots. And for $30 we got parking there all night, and could leave our gear in the van until it was time to load in.

Victory is ours!!! $30 might seem steep, because it is. But better to pay $30 to park a stones throw from aforementioned load in door and be able to leave our gear safe within the van, rather than load our gear in then pay same price to park several block away and have to watch our gear all night.

So we popped our heads in the venue for a quick look-see. Trophy Club is bigger than I thought. Stage was set up in a back room I didn't know existed. Which was unfortunate as (1) not much access to mechanical bull and (2) kind of secluded so wouldn't be much foot traffic coming in to see who the hell was the tiny blonde dreadlocked maniac rocking on a mechanical bull wearing a short shiny dress and a Gibson SG. Well shit :)

So I suggested we go to Valhalla (former Room 710) for a pre-showcase beverage).

The madness has set in

One of the perks of doing the freelance work for SXSW is they hook me up with a platinum badge. Don't bother looking up how much they cost. You don't want to know. They allow access to all trade events, seminars, and SXSW sanctioned events. Awesome in theory, however I AM ALWAYS TOO BUSY PLAYING SHOWS TO USE IT FOR ANYTHING!!! Doh!!! It's a nice gesture tho haha.

However, little did we know Valhalla (which stopped having bands officially when it stopped being Room 710) was an official SXSW music venue. Whoah. Good thing Adrian had wristbands for her and Armando and I had the fancypants platinum badge. We would have had to pay cover to drink in a place that usually doesn't have a cover charge.

So was crazy to walk into Valhalla like it was back in the 710 days, with bands playing only we didn't recognize anyone there except Jason Craig working the door. We got Lonestar Tallboys and headed to the upstairs loft. A band called Nightmare Air onstage. They were good.

Again, good to hang out with Adrian and Armando as friends. Again, felt like we were in a gang haha

Room 710, err Valhalla loft, photo by Armando Reyes

Back to the venue. Band before us onstage, can't recall the name but very good. I recognized the afro-wielding bassist, remembered seeing him at the convention center Tuesday evening when I went to pick up my platinum badge. Thought: "He plays in a band. And he's probably awesome." He was both \m/,

To get our gear into the back hallway in prep to take the stage we had to overcome a series of obstacles, including a 4-foot concrete embankment and 2 separate sets of stairs. SXSW proving gorunds:

Waiting to go on

The place had kinda cleared by the time we went on, but fuck it. Some shows look better on your resume than they do in practice (this is Adrian's first official SXSW showcase performance.)

So we blew into our set and blew the minds of the few people there at the beginning. But if filled up a bit as the night went on, people watching the mechanical bull action invariably got curious about who was making all the racket in the back. So they walked in on this happening:

Adrian on the bar, getting some service haha


Fun set, fun time.

End of the night began loading out the back door, and out back was a guy and a girl, and the guy was cradling another girl in his arms who was obviously partied out and possibly in need of medical attention.

Back in for more gear. Came out, girl had vomited several times, and service industry people were suggesting to angle her head to keep her from choking to death.

Back in for more gear. Came out, and people were starting to get on their phones and calling paramedics.

Back in for more gear. Came out, and the guy and girl were gone (earlier overheard the guy saying he didn't even know who the girl was, they had just met her), but unconscious girl was still lying motionless on the concrete, surrounded by waiting police officers and a puddle of puke.

Back in for more gear. Came out, and paramedics on scene, putting unconscious girl on a stretcher. The leisure at which they did so gave indication that they weren't worried about losing her. That's good, I guess.

Wrangled our gear up over the 4 foot embankment and into Vincent Van Go, eager to get the hell out of there before there were any more SXSW casualties.

Day 1 over.

SXSW 2015 Report: Day 0

Tuesday March 17, 2015

SXSW Day Zero

Ordinarily on this day there has been a Tuesday SXSW Kickoff party at Red Eyed Fly and has been for years and years. Unfortunately with the ownership of REF changing hands, it didn't happen this year.

Which was very sad, it was a show I have been going to for years and years, and last year (2014) marked the first official live appearance by Ocean of Stars. That was a huge honor.

Left with nothing to do, I was trying to decide to stay in or do something.

Doing something presented itself with band chatter among Adrian and the Sickness. We decided to meet up at Adrian's new place and go to a similar kickoff party at the Lost Well (no where near downtown, awesome!). Our friends Sabbath Crow were playing, as well as the band Mos Generator, whom I'd always heard about but have never seen.

What fun! It was great to hang out with Adrian and Armando outside the confines of playing a show or rehearsing. Just hanging out. Felt like we were in a gang :)

Crimson Devils

House Harkonnen

Mos Generator (everything everyone has been saying about them for years is absolutely true. Wow)

Sabbath Crow

What a great night of music. Had the same kind of family reunion feel that the Red Eyed Fly kickoff always had. Very awesome. I miss going to shows, and I miss seeing my musical family.

Wish we could have stayed all night, but alas a crazy busy week was about to begin and we were already very tired.

SXSW 2015 report: Prologue

SXSW 2015 has already come and gone. Hell, it's almost April.

In general, this was a really really good SXSW for me. And seems like most others I've talked to also had a very positive experience. For those who live here, SXSW is a double-edged sword. Was glad this year was free of that always one incident that threatens to negate any other good times that were had. You can read some of those in SXSW reports from years past.

But yeah, this on was busy for me (6 gigs with 3 bands in 3 days) and was preceded by much busy-ness: RPM Challenge during February, went on the road with Bleu Edmondson for 5 days the week previous. Then after SXSW did my years post-SXSW vacation on the coast with my family. Which I had to cut a day short to return for a video shoot then another gig with Bleu.

So here's the gist of my tale.

March was in generally busy as fuck so we'll have to rewind a bit.

First week of March: Deann Rene played a short set at a benefit March 1st, the afternoon after the final Hundred Miles Gone fiasco. Rehearsal with Taking Back Thaxton Mar 3, rehearsal with Ocean of Stars Mar 4. Ocean of Stars at Gypsy Lounge Thurs Mar 5. Crowd was understandably thin due to a late season arctic front but we still had fun and played well. Thunderosa rehearsal Fri Mar 6. Sat Mar 7 was Thunderosa on the Dave TV show followed by a gig in Killeen. Both went well and were fun.

With Deann Rene and Kyle Judd. Photo by Cata Cagle

Thunderosa with the man himself, Mr. Dave TV (pictured being kissed on the cheek by AJ hahaha)

Thunderosa Live on Dave TV:

Mon and Tuesday March 9/10 I did some freelance work for SXSW, driving a shuttle van to pick up and drop off crew members. Wed March 11 Bleu Edmondson Band shipped off for Thurs Mar 12 in Kansas City @ Knuckleheads, Fri Mar 13 in Lawrence Kansas at Granada Theater, and Sat Mar 14 in Joplin MO at The Venue.

Bassist Tony Valdez's beard sees all:

Hotel room window, KC MO

Across the street from Knuckleheads, they are turning this into a theater-sized venue

Granada Theater, Lawrence KS (bumpy van window filter)

Sound check (photo by Hec Rivera)


Good times with good people: Hec Rivera, Clint Litton, yours truly, Tony Valdez

(alternate angle)

Was a great weekend of shows. Have played Knuckleheads many times with The Mother Truckers and Eric Tessmer Band, so always great to be back. The Granada Theater in Lawrence I am still trying to remember if it's the one I played with Ryan Bales Band opening for Pat Green. I still don't know. The show in Joplin was fun as well. All fun crowds and great sets. Really starting to feel like a band rather than just a collection of players. Feel I'm settling into guitar nicely as well.

Got home Sunday Mar 15, tho there was a slight delay when we ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Oklahoma. Dear Oklahoma: Build more gas stations.K thx, Bleu Edmondson Band

Mon Mar 16 was rehearsal with Adrian and the Sickness for the 2 (which turned into 3 gigs for SXSW). Ocean of Stars couldn't squeeze one in, but we were pretty damn tight the previous week so I wasn't going to worry about it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

(Belated) RPM Challenge update, Busy Weekend/End of February

Very belated RPM Challenge update:

I didn't finish by the deadline, so thats a bit of a bummer. Will go more in-depth on the making of the album in a future post.

I was going to try to finish it up (enough to submit, at least) by Friday night (gig that evening) but no dice. Saturday I would be booked all day, so that day was out.

Got halfway through mixing and hit the wall, as I still needed to name most of the songs, generate album artwork, as well as put in a good 2 hours prep work on music for a gig in Houston Saturday. I could have made it work in theory, but my body tapped me on the shoulder and said "You need to rest."

So, I will be reviewing the mixes that I've done, fixing a few things on guitar, and will have a new solo album ready for at least a digital release by SXSW, the follow up to last years "Automatic Writing". I may have lost the battle, but I will still win the war.

Pretty happy with what I came up with musically. More songs than any other year (10 full songs and one bonus track), but also they are generally shorter and concise arrangements as opposed to the wide, epic, abstract canvases I've favored in years past.

Didn't get to use my JCM800 stage rig for any tracking, but I could still remedy that. The tones I've gotten from the Epiphone Valve Standard 15w tube combo aren't too shabby as-is.

Experimented with more ranges of  guitar tones as well. In addition to my usual DIY-Keeley modded Boss Blues Driver, I used a Creepy Fingers Harikiri Fuzz on one track (guitar AND bass \m/,). Others I used a TS-808 Tube Screamer clone as well as a "Brown Sound In A Box II" (JCM800 preamp simulator), both DIY builds.

The fuzz is obvious as hell, but the other dirt pedals may or may not go unnoticed.

Weekend recap:

Played lead guitar with Thunderosa at Bull McCabe's on Red River Friday night (Feb 27).

That was a ton of fun! Have never played there, and have maybe been there once briefly. One of the last remaining bars on the old Red River block. And one of its most decorated veterans, Houston Richardson, was running sound that night. It's good to be among musical family and in good hands.

Photo by Teri Flemming Underhill

Good to see the Beat Dolls finally as well. they are awesome. Caught up with the singer/guitarist Angie after the show. We met at Headhunter's (RIP) a few years back. Whenever it was that you could still smoke inside.

I had dropped my cigarette onto the floor and went to stomp it out, but missed as it rolled under someone's bass cab. She came up and firmly explained that it was her BF's bass cab and I could have set it on fire. I was very apologetic, which wasn't going over so well, until I pointed out the Ironclad sticker on the side of said cab and said that was one of my bands. She instantly warmed up as she was an Ironclad fan, and felt better knowing that I'm a fellow musician who's cig just got away from them rather than some random drunken schmoe who didn't respect other peoples' gear, haha :)

Former Headhunters location, 8th and Red River St.

Angie apologized for being so firm at that time, but it was all good (and rather deserved haha!). So that was cool. Lotta good people in this town.

Saturday morning went with Heather to a taping of "Overheard" in the KLRU studio (former home of Austin City Limits) with Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, promoting her new memoirs "Girl In A Band." That was awesome. Def inspirational for sure! Will get the book when I can.

Not a great pic, but you get the idea

Drove home briefly before departing for Houston to play the Houston Rodeo Cookout with Hundred Miles Gone. It was a one-off with them and was fun. Until the end of the night. Not going into it but this would be my official last show with them.


Sunday afternoon I played with Deann Rene Band at the benefit at Freedom Oaks in South Austin for David Cassles. 

David recently passed, and tho I didn't know him personally, I know lots of people who did. A huge supporter of music til the end. He built the stage and most of the buildings at Freedom Oaks. Sounded like a truly great individual.

Our set was super short (two songs) as Deann had to run to Saxon Pub to play with the John Gaar Band. Played "Not Crying Today" and "River Song", and during the outro solo Deann hastily packed up her guitar and had to split, as Ric Furley, Kyle Judd and myself kept on rockin. Haha!

It was awesome. Great sets by Leann Atherton and several others. And lots of musical cross-pollination. Ric played drums for Leann, and Kyle played guitar with the next two or three acts after us, and another band or two later on. Bad ass. And a really great time.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but was pretty beat from the overnight drive back from Houston.

Coming up this week:

Lots of cleaning and housework, making up for spending most of February working on the RPM Challenge album haha. Rehearsal with Taking Back Thaxton Tuesday night at Jason Patten's place. Wednesday night Ocean of Stars rehearsal in prep for Thursday night: playing the Gypsy Lounge again with The Baffles and PetCatMan. Friday is Thunderosa rehearsal in prep for performing on Dave TV saturday afternoon and a gig in Killeen/Harker Heights TX that evening at the Twisted Wrench.

Busy Busy Busy.

Awesome poster for Gypsy Lounge show by Ricardo Acevedo of PetCatMan. (I was too preoccupied with RPM Challenge to put up posters as well. Hell, any band business went by the wayside during February...)

2nd week of March Bleu Edmondson has a several-day run to Missouri and Kansas. 3rd week of March is South By Southwest. May the Gods of Rock let me survive another one of those haha!

Looking to be a slower SXSW this year (tho I say that every year).

Possible Tuesday March 17 night gig on 6th Street with Bleu (waiting on word if it's him solo acoustic or full band). Wednesday March 18 Adrian has an official SXSW showcase, details still pending. Thursday March 19 I'm doing double duty with Ocean of Stars (5pm) and Adrian (?pm) at the Key Bar. Saturday March 21 I'm in Ft. Worth TX with Bleu. Sunday March 22 I come back (hopefully) in time to play the Saxon Pub with Deann Rene Band.

Looking like the Red Eyed Fly Tuesday Kickoff party that's been going on for 14? years is finally not happening. That really really sucks. One of the shows I looked forward to attending every year, and was finally honored to play in 2014 for Ocean of Stars' first live appearance.

Well shit.