Fast Heart Mart and Some SXSW Alternatives
By Roblyn Crawford (aka Fast Heart Mart's drummer)
There were so many big name acts from all over the world in Austin for SXSW 2006 that the new, young unsigned groups from the little 'ol Southwestern U.S. (for which the festival originated so many years previous) had no chance of being heard.
"Hey! You major label successful acts! Stay home! Stick to your usual touring schedule and leave the regional festivals to the unsigned acts from those areas! Give someone else a chance!"
Upon learning that badges for SXSW were $525, Fast Heart Mart was certain we wanted nothing to do with that organization. But I remebered the parties in Austin being a really good time. Although, I had heard of alternatives to this souless, bloated old event, the only other one I tracked down online was the "Seventh Annual Heart Of Texas Quadruple Bypass Fest"(HoTQB).
This festival hosts bands more underground than Morrisey or Neil Young, and charges a mere $40 for the week (SXSW badges get in free.) HoTQB were in their seventh year, so we paid our $15 submission fee and three months later (after writing them repeatedly) discovered: we were in. We never received any official notice of acceptance. Our name never appeared on any posters or promotional materials. We weren't even listed in the weekly paper, The Chronicle, by the venues in which we were booked. Due to mysterious club fires, we were moved three times to different bars. Our name did appear on the schedule at the festival's website, but they never added a link from their site to ours. Despite the slack attitudes of the HoTQB festival organizers, we were happy to have gigs at venues right on Sixth Street. (That's the main drag for music in Austin—the city even posted permanent green and white signs along the strip proclaiming the right hand lane of traffic as "Musician Loading Zone 6 p.m.~3 a.m. Permit Required".)
Arriving a week early for our shows at Treasure Island and Nuno's, we began our tactical flyering and relentless street gigs. Fast Heart Mart is a street band first, and the circus-like atmosphere of Austin during SXSW/spring break was a street musician's mecca—but the pigs were making a strong stand. Our first big night out, we were told by one cop that we needed a permit for our tiny battery operated amp. This lead us on a chase through City Hall for an Amplified Sound Permit, which would actually only allow us to increase our sound output from 75dB to 85dB (the difference between one person's normal speaking voice and say, their boisterous laughter). This permit is $11 per day. We decided instead to purchase a dB meter and play Miff the Pig. When a cop came along, we could pull out the dB meter and show that, where we stood in silence, the sound level from the clubs was alraedy 105 dB! There could be no way to prove we were above the alotted 75dB under those circumstances!
As our VW tour bus diesel engine had blown up, we were sleeping in my '85 Toyota Tercel Wagon with 206,000-plus miles, and after replacing brakes and repeated flat tires on the road, our next challenge was parking. We soon discovered a short dead-end street five blocks from the strip with only a deserted warehouse on one side and a vacant lot on the other. Down the hill was a coffee shop with free wi-fi access. We had our bikes for transportation, so as the population in Austin swelled, we just left our car parked on the unnamed street—to protect our rare and precious parking space.
As days passed and our bodies ripened, we found our way to Barton Springs ... a 500 yard-long, crystal clear, unchlorinated natural wonder not 10 minutes from "home." We washed up there and fell asleep naked, vowing to rise and shine to play the streets by the time the park closed at 10 p.m. At 1 a.m. we were awakened with a blinding pig-light and floundered to cover our bare-assedness. Christ on a cracker, we were pooped.
The next night we visited the New Mexico at SXSW show at Las Manitas Café to see our friends of god and science, who were at the top of their game. We also saw our pals from Unit 7 Drain, Foma, The Dirty Novels and Darlington Horns. As a bonus, Darlington Horns expressed some punk-ass attitudes about the media. Those guys are the real deal. We were also glad to finally meet 100 Year Flood, Boris McCutcheon and Joe West. It was obvious: Our hometown boasted some of the sickest bands in attendance.
One morning, three DJs from London's Radio One found us busking in front of a closed down bar and interviewed us. Then they recorded us playing a new song called "Hate Job". They aired the piece the next day. That was worth the trip to me.
Our bar gigs were desolate, but our street performances were wild affairs. We made money in tips and sold out of CDs, but we were trampled on St. Patrick's Eve by drunken, overzealous new fans dancing and shouting the words to the Fast Heart Mart song "Limbo".
and no jobs!
No one gonna drive me crazy!"
"Fast Heart" Martin loved it and laughed as he sang. I felt cornered and started swinging at people, threatening them with my drumsticks if they didn't give us some air. On the street at 3 a.m. during SXSW/Spring Break/St.Patrick's Day can be a dangerous place for performers! Next time, we're packin' an air horn.
We saw bands coming out of our asses. Some of the best were street musicians. It was difficult to force ourselves to stay inside any venue. The band's were all too stupidly-loud and derrivative (except for Austin's Billy Harvey at Treasure Island and Albuquerque's adorable Gingerbread Patriots at Love Joy's). The other two bands at Love Joy's, The Ills and Slip, were awesome too, but so loud I had to stand outside the club to listen.
Throughout the week, dorks with badges paraded up and down Sixth Street ... trying to look jaded ... plastering their glossy posters over the tops of everyone else's ... handing out flyers on every street corner ... grasping for an advantage. Tacky heavy metal, tired southern rock and lackluster '80s dance music blared from every building for 10 blocks as a warning to "Keep Out!" as drunken Spring Break patrons—mostly tourists—milled, stumbled and fell in the handbill-lined, garbage strewn streets.
Then, on our last night, a local on his bike lead us at last to Austin's underground. Almost accross the street from our sacred parking space, at a location known either as the Typewriter Museum or maybe the Typewriter Sanctuary, we were privvy to Fuck By Fuck You! This fest is organized by Austrailian Cattle God Records. It is in it's ninth year. Fuck By Fuck You is always free. The beer there is awlays free. The Typewriter Museum was packed, but with enough room to move and breath and enjoy being there. Folks were civilized and although loud, the noise level was mostly tolerable. The two stages were covered, but the central area was open so the smoke didn't kill you. DMBQ and The Emeralds (Japan); Parts and Labor and Shell Shock (Brooklyn); Todd (London); Attic Ted and Juanita Family (Portland); Gorch Fock (Austin?); my favorite The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band (Indianapolis) and others played shredding, uncompromising and un-selfconscious sets. We wanted to play out front after the last band, but the rain had other plans.
The next day, we drove home sore, broke, filthy, exhausted and happy. Yes, darn it, happy. Happy to have reached so many new folks from around the world. Happy that we were able to eat at Mother's and Veggie Heaven. Happy that we took the long way through Big Bend National Park and to see The Mysterious Marfa Lights. Happy, also, to have found the Fuck By Fuck You! festival where Fast Heart Mart will be found next March! (Next year we also hope to find the elusive My Backyard By Your Backyard festival.) If you're around come say, "hi". We'll be the two people playing in front as you're coming up the alley. ...