SXSW Day 3: Pissed Jeans, Valet, White Rabbits, Thurston Moore, and an impregnated brain

Last night. Last night? Umm, last night ... What the heck did I do last night? Wait. Where the hell am I? In a hotel room, okay ... yeah ... good. At least I'm safe. Okay, now, what the hell did I do again? Jeez. Think. Flashes is all I got, and one grainy image on my cell phone. A half a taco on my bedside table, chomped sloppily. A few sparkles of memory burned into my happiness that no amount of Chimay can diminish. A pile of something in my head. But more than anything, what stayed with me into this morning is a feeling.

See the quality of this picture? This captures the blur of Friday night.

It was there at midnight when you're walking downtown. Not so much on 6th, which on the street is more like a celebration of stupidity than of tapping into the creative wellspring. Down Red River Street at 1 am, however, this palpable excitement is in the air like a mist, and 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 basslines 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 ear drums, 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. And so on Red River walking 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.

The flashes of memory: Pissed Jeans conjuring images of the hardcore 1980s. Glen David and the Lazy Six, of New Orleans, at The Elephant Room tapping traditional Big Easy rhythms and bellowing in gruff Louis Armstrong tones "I'll Fly Away." Valet, of Portland, Oregon, sending unresolved washes of guitar and drum. Deciding to see Sunburned Hand of the Man on Red River, walking through the accidental symphony, and then hearing, in the distance, one of my favorite songs of last year, "Kid on My Shoulders" by White Rabbits. It swims through said ear canals and impregnates my brain (no really, my brain's pregnant, and getting bigger and bigger. I'm scared, sure, but incredibly excited). I followed the sound, possessed, until I found the band in the last round of the verse, the crowd bobbing their heads, the band sweating with glee, all of us consumed by rock & roll. The Rabbits finish, and I walk next door to Mohawk, thinking I'm going to see Sunburned, only to find Thurston Moore onstage. What a pleasant surprise.

I'll leave you with this image, the one that will be burned into my memory until my last breathing moment. After watching Moore for a few songs, I walked outside. It was 1:15, and you could still hear the music, it being outdoor and everything. Inside the chain-link fence, which was the kind with plastic red criss-crosses to prevent cheapskates from getting a free show, you could barely move. Outside, however, just as many people were standing in the street listening. Fifty feet above, on a roof overlooking the stage, dozens of people lined the rail. Stage left, another bevy of fans figured out a view of the show from another property. Across the street, people sat on a wall, which offered a good sight-line of Moore and his great band, and listened. And along that red chain link fence that separated in and out, people peered one-eyed through peepholes like Norman Rockwell boys outside a baseball stadium trying to catch a glimpse of Mickey Mantle at bat. We are drawn to the action, the skill, the sound, the excitement. Like pigs to a trough, like moths to a flame, the beat, the rhythm, the pounding pounding pounding. Whine all you want about the state of the business. Who cares when you've got so many people enrapt, feeding at the Glowing Trough of Music? We lap it up, lap it, hungry. Pregnant. Hungry. Pregnant. Mixed metaphors be damned! I can't wait for tonight, and I don't even know what I'm seeing yet.

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