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I wake up on a mattress in a friend’s bandmate’s house in Austin. Though I am a dog owner, a vegetarian and, at least in the presence of animals, a genial fellow, a pit bull mix two rooms away has decided, for reasons that she has chosen not to disclose, that I am an evil creature whose life should end in her slobbering jaws. While this Texan Cerberus slumbers, I flee my temporary refuge as soon as my laundry is done to search for greener pastures.
I pick up my band and we play a SXSW day party at 1:45 p.m. The event has been sponsored by a company that makes coconut water and the company that makes “Rock Star” energy drink. Both fluids flow freely. With little regard for potentially dangerous coconut/”Rock Star” chemical reactions that may or may not wreak havoc on their black T-shirted, tattooed bodies, fearless concertgoers cross the proverbial streams and drink both. Though I don’t see any double-fisting—-coconut water in one hand, “Rock Star” energy drink in the other—-I can’t say definitively that it didn’t happen.
I fall in with a woman who works for a digital music streaming service. She needs a ride downtown and, with little to do, I give her one. On the way to 6th and Red River—-the spiritual center of SXSW, if it has one—-she reveals that she has just become godmother to her niece (or nephew?), and must attend some kind of intensive Catholic training for the paperwork to go through with Pope Benedict et al. I reveal that my own godmother is not only divorced, but has left the church. Is this schmoozing?
The sun sets. With no shows to play for 24 hours, I wander the streets of Austin and fall on hard times. I walk halfway across town to see The Shins, but then decide that the show is too far, especially since I wouldn’t be able to identify any of the band’s songs. I sit alone in a sushi bar and read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. McCarthy’s relentless descriptions of scalpings, gangrene, and carrion birds do not put me in the mood to get in line to see Tenacious D. Instead, I see a band that I used to play drums for perform at a showcase. I confirm that their new drummer is better than me. Amy Ray, half of the Indigo Girls, is playing in another band at the same showcase. I resist the urge to corner her in the small, half-empty bar and interrogate her about the composition “Closer to Fine.” (“Ms. Ray: When you go to see ‘the doctor of philosophy,’ who do you mean?”)
I walk a few blocks to see John Doe of X, but then realize that I have read the map wrong and that this show will begin before I can get there. I get in line to see Tenacious D—-Blood Meridian be damned—-but then realize that the line is too long, and I will never get in. Thus, I attend the only event of interest that I am able to get into—-Jimmy Cliff at a stage in downtown Austin sponsored by Taco Bell. I get a free bean burrito, and the man himself takes the stage.
Cliff looks enlightened and wise, but also wizened—-not much like the young reggae roustabout that charmed Robin Williams and the cast of SCTV in the 1986 film Club Paradise. He sits down while he plays guitar. Silently, I shed a tear for Cliff. Sitting down while playing guitar, like the Hanged Man, means the end is near.