End of An Ear is a small, somewhat hard to find record store in Austin, Texas. It is also home to one of the great memories of our South by Southwest (SXSW) week. After much searching and driving, not to mention a few phone calls, we found the little shop. We milled around the premises for a little while and then headed inside for the main event. We were going to see Phosphorescent perform and it was going to be amazing. We stood about four feet away from frontman Matthew Houck, along with a handful of other people. We took in his soft voice, cracking with guitars, trumpets and percussion that accompanied him. The sound was incredible. Just another day in Austin, Texas, at SXSW.
Sounds amazing doesn't it? Well, guess what, it was. Do not go to SXSW—we repeat—do not go to SXSW if you hate fun, music or happiness of any kind, because we're telling you right now folks, it is impossible not to have wonderful time. As you walk down Red River and Sixth Street you are bombarded with the many sounds streaming from bars and venues. Music has brought most everyone to these streets and there is incredible feeling of togetherness ... that is, when you're walking. Driving down these streets is another story. You need to use every dirty trick in the book to get pass the vans unloading and loading instruments, the mass quantities of people and cars. Basically what we're getting at is drive as little as possible. Luckily for us, we were staying in a house with 22 people and twice that many walking in and out at all times, so it was easy to find a ride.
We know what you're thinking, “abuhh, did they say 22 people?” We certainly did, and with only one shower it was a bit crowded. Going back we wouldn't change where we stayed for anything, for fear of missing out on the family dinners or the live music playing in the house throughout the day. The next thing you must be thinking is, “Why 22 people. And what the hell is going on?” Relax, take a deep breath. And awwayyyy we go!
We left Albuquerque at 10:30 a.m.—much later than any normal people would if they had to drive 12 hours, but that is what happens when you get three slow, procrastinating females with poor time-management skills together. Of course we got a little turned around—it isn't a road trip without going two hours out of the way and then driving down a dirt road for 50 miles in the Texas heat. Yes, we said it, two hours and yes, we all feel very awkward and embarrassed about it, so let's drop it. When we finally arrived in Austin, we pulled up to the house and met our new roommates.
The cast of characters is as follows: First, our gracious host, David, and his six roommates. These guys are perhaps the most relaxed, easy going people in the world. Add that seven to the five people from Salt Lake City in town for the interactive computer festival. One of these little bloggers was a vegan cook named Bookis, who whipped up a delicious vegan cake for us and his trademark treats, "Bookies". The band Gem also was staying with us in the house. Typically, you would expect a band to have “rocker” attitudes, you know, throwing chairs out windows and burning cigarettes out on the carpet, that kind of stuff. This band was the opposite—from the moment we met them they were polite and personable. We went to their show very excited and not knowing what to expect. And the rocking began. We watched the lead singer climb on amps and swing to the ground from the ceiling in awe. Were they possibly conserving all of their rock energy? Who knows? The five members of the band and their savvy manager brings our number to eighteen. That leaves one lone wolf, Alan, and along with the three of us girls, makes the happy 22.
After becoming acquainted with our hosts and living area we headed down to the Austin Convention Center to find our press pass and free bag of stuff. From that moment on we were off to absorb as much excitement, booze and performances as three human beings can in six days. By day we crammed as many day shows as possible and by night we carefully selected bands based on time location and popularity (popular shows are hard to get into). I am sure you are wondering how we pulled this off, especially considering our aforementioned poor time management skills. Well, we constructed a spreadsheet to ensure everyone was able to see at least five of their favorite bands and then some. It was extreme and completely nerdy, but in a way, necessary to fulfill our musical needs. SXSW is overwhelming and stressful if not well planned.
Still, some great shows we happened upon were a complete fluke. That's the beauty of SXSW—the next great show may be just around the corner, planned or not. After watching Jolie Holland's unique Southern twang performance, we were feeling hungry and took off for a slice. There, out the back door of the pizza joint arose the sweet sounds of the Two Gallants performing in the back lot. Two Gallants were on our list, but we were dissed at the door the night before and didn't think we would have a chance to see them. It looked as though the SXSW gods were on our side that day. The next night, we had some time to kill before seeing Art Brut at the Parish, so we figured why not check out the band that was playing down stairs? To our pleasure, The Vampires had just begun their set. These guys were, in a word, eccentric. While their music wasn't much our taste, they still kept us entertained with their hilarious interludes and graceful dancing. It all ended with both of the band mates in their unmentionables.
It just goe to show you, if you don't want to spend time making a schedule, you might be fortunate enough to end up eating pizza, listening to music and seeing sweaty rock stars in there underwear anyway.
Our last night in Austin was reserved to take in the local musicians, a secret show was in the works (V.I.P. only) but no wristbands or badges were required. We parked outside an abandoned warehouse for an impromptu show that consisted of musical performances by a few of our hosts and their friends. Someone brought soup, and since there was no electricity, the whole show was acoustic by candle light. Then, just as things began to get wild, as only folk singers know how, the cops swarmed the place and made everyone leave. Instead of calling it a night, we simply relocated to our house and continued the party on the front lawn into the wee hours of the morning. The next day, we awoke to rain and clouds; the weather reflected our feelings as we packed our bags, hugged our host and started on the long road back to Albuquerque.
The week proved to be something that can never be recreated again, the people, places and music produced an unforgettable series of events. We will almost definitely go back to Austin, Texas, for SXSW. However, we have a feeling nothing will come close to our first time there as three best friends, adorned with a flashy press pass courtesy of the Alibi and the house full of rock stars (musically inclined or not). As we apprehensively made our way back to the land of enchantment we felt overwhelmed, exhausted and maybe, just maybe, a little cooler.