By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
He was good company so we kept talking, moving lazily, swapping sundry slurred philosophy about the beauty of this place, the people, the loopy, lovable vibe of a city with gift shops peddling tie-dye shirts with the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” Soon we drew near I-35 and the mess of shadows and abandoned train tracks zig-zagging beneath it. Friends had already warned me not to cross the interstate, but every so often life needs to be approached with an attitude best expressed by a little film I like to call Risky Business: Sometimes, you’ve just gotta say, What the fuck?
Suddenly, my new associate stops dead in his tracks and whips a joint out. I produce a lighter and his eyes light up, and right there, in that weird window between darkness and light, we blaze.
“Are you sure this is a good idea? What about the cops?” I say, with visions of newspaper headlines reading, “Alternative-Weekly Writer Arrested for Consumption of Drugs With Vagrants.”
“Relax, ain’t no cops around.”
We smoke. When I mention my previous inability to obtain the sweet chiba, he stubs the joint out and hands me the roach, telling me to save it for later. I slap $5 into his palm, thank him profusely and inquire how and where I can get more. My new friend snaps his fingers twice and a menacing-looking guy on a bike emerges from the shadows and zips over. He asks me how much I need, and I tell him I only have $10. He tells me to wait here and zooms away.
The two of us are left there again, posted up like the two sketchiest dudes in the universe: I, longhaired and red-eyed; he, poised somewhere between Red Foxx and a homeless Eddie Murray. He introduces his girl, who waits at the bus stop with sad, round eyes. She gives me a polite wave and he explains their story, about knowing each other since high school, looking out for one another despite the increased costs of Austin life, and how despite everything, “it’s still paradise.”
Finally, our man shows up and informs us his woman has sold their last two bags. He tells me to meet him back here in an hour.
“I can’t. I’ve got a show to go to.”
“Devin the Dude.”
“Devin the Dude? That’s my n—a.”
“You wanna come?”
“No doubt. I’ll meet you there in an hour.”
We all say our goodbyes and I navigate the run-down stretch fully expecting never to see either of them again. But lo and behold, an hour and a half later, with Devin and the Coughee Brothaz midway through an incredible set, I turn around to see my man on the bike waving his arms in front of the entrance. Exiting, he follows me high up on a hill overlooking the show and we perform the transaction, watching for free along with others who couldn’t get in.
Then Devin screams to the crowd, “How many of y’all smoke weed? If y’all like smoking weed, throw your blunts in the air!” Lighting up a bulky J, my new friend and I bond under the mutual agreement never to argue with a man nicknamed “The Dude.”
“That man is the truth,” he says, passing the joint.
I agree, and we watch and talk and smoke until “Doobie Ashtray” ends the set. Bobbing our heads to the beat, we consider for a moment what a strange and wonderful place this is. Then we walk down the hill and say our goodbyes and he bikes back out into the riot of the Austin night and I walk back into the party. (JW)
Saturday: A Sound to Explode John Cage’s Head
There’s a feeling that arrives at the climax of SXSW, which for me always takes place on Friday at midnight rather than Saturday. The vibe doesn’t hang so much on the Sixth Street jugular, which at the festival’s peak is more like a celebration of stupidity than of tapping into the creative wellspring. Down Red River at 1 a.m., however, the beats float into the street from a hundred different bands in a hundred different bars and combine to create this unplanned symphony of competing rhythms in different time signatures and dozens of bass lines rumbling our innards, and screamers harmonizing with folkies competing with rappers eclipsed by the jumbo sound of Blue Cheer riffing on “Summertime Blues.” It all touches the eardrums, all enters the same two holes in opposite sides of our head, each note swimming through our ear canals like spermies on a mission to fertilize our minds. On Red River, as I walk past Emo’s and Stubb’s and Club de Ville and Mohawk, lines tangle down sidewalks and people march from here to there and back again, while this big-ass accidental symphony rises from the street and fills the world with music, music, music. It’d make John Cage’s head explode.