"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."-Hunter S. Thompson
"What you gonna do when the people go home/ and you wanna smoke weed but the reefer's all gone/ And somebody had the nerve to take the herb up out the doobie ashtray/Why they do me that way?"-Devin the Dude
If the going hasn't gotten weird by the third day of SXSW, you clearly haven't been trying hard enough. By now, it's make or break time, you've finally surveyed the lay of the land and begun to accept certain inalterable realities: the crooked spine that feels like it needs to be re-aligned vertebrae by vertebrae, calves that feel like someone has slit cement in the back of, and not nearly enough time to properly convey the bizarre phenomena of this admittedly wonderful excuse to do for nothing but go to shows, drink, and eat burritos (often all three at the same time). You'll have to forgive me--if these posts feel rushed and ill-thought out it's because they are.
There's a thin line that separates artists, the media, and the fans here. After a few days, it's little surprise to see Jim James walking down 6th in a purple suit on his way to presumably blow the minds of people at the Austin Music Hall. Or watching El-P successfully run game on a very attractive female inside of a make-shift roped-off, VIP section at the Def Jux party, surrounded by Del tha Funkeehomosapien and half of Hiero, smoking beadies. Which was where I ended up last night, after watching Islands open up the Anti Party with an absolutely mind-blowing set that I can't even begin to talk about, lest I go off on another 1,000 word ramble.
Leaving, I took a long slow stroll down 4th. It was one of those perfect Austin nights, 80 degrees, clean air, and everyone darting in each direction as the far as the eye could see. Thousands of people staggering down the streets, one drunken flood of humanity, sprawling from show to show past me as I walked alone in the opposite direction, sipping an Iced Coffee and inhaling all this frazzled energy. Suddenly, a slightly loony but wildly likeable homeless dude sidled up to me and apropos to nothing started telling me joke after joke. I assumed he was just trying to hit me up for money, which was fine by me, considering I'm an easy mark for homeless people. Give me one sorrowful stare and I'm half-ready to dump the contents of my wallet into their cup. Plus, he was good company, so the two of us kept walking down 4th, one crazy person to another, trading life stories, he waxing slurred philosophy on the beauty of Austin. Me agreeing, nodding, laughing, slowly making our across the other side of I-35, a place that I had already been warned not to cross by friends who obviously knew better than I. But to quote a little movie I like to call, Risky Business, sometimes in life, you've just gotta' say what the fuck.
DeMornay Be Thy Name
Suddenly, my new friend stops in his tracks, whips a joint out of his pocket and gives me a nod. I pull a lighter out and right in this weird window, on a still fairly crowded block, he proceeds to light up.
"Are you sure, this is a good idea, what about the cops?" I say, with visions in my head of headlines of "Local Alternative Weekly Writer Arrested for Consumption of Drugs with Vagrants."
"Relax, ain't no cops around."
So we smoke. After all, I'm going to see Devin the Dude show and if you show up sober to a Devin show clearly you haven't been paying enough attention. When I mention this fact to him, he puts out the J and hands it to me, with the sacred weed-smoker bond and tells me to keep it. I hand him $5, thank him profusely and then inquire if he knows where and how I can get more. After all, there are two days more of this thing and unlike the rest of the functioning universe, SXSW operates in a sort of arrested development, where there appears to be no consequences for anybody's actions. Sort of like college, or the Bush Administration.
Christmas At at the Copeland House.
My new friend, Robert, snaps his figures twice. Immediately, a menacing-looking guy on a bike pops out of the shadows and darts over to us.
"How much you need."
"All I have is 10."
I'll be back. He zooms off into the night, leaving me and Robert there, on the corner, looking like the two sketchiest dudes in the universe, me, long-haired and wild-eyed, he somewhat reminding me of Richard Pryor in Brewster's Millions. I meet Robert's girl, who waits behind him. While we wait, he starts telling me their life story, how they've known each other since high school, the ever-increasing high cost of living in Austin and how in spite of it all, he still thinks this is paradise. And I have a hard time arguing with that. It really is one of the greatest cities I've ever seen.
Finally, our man shows up and tells me his woman has sold his 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."
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Everyone says their goodbyes and I continue walking literally down the other side of the tracks, fully expecting to never see those guys again, but at the very least enthused about the gift that inevitably will only help aid in my understanding and appreciation of the music of Devin the Dude.
Devin the Dude: Proof the War on Drugs Should Never Be Allowed to Be Won
But lo and behold, about an hour and a half later, with Devin and the Coughee Brothaz mid-way through an incredible set, which followed a similarly great Del performance, I turned around to see the go the dude on the bike waving his arms right out in front of the entrance. I followed him up out of the party on a hill overlooking everything and performed the transaction, both watching the show from afar.
He lit up another J right at the moment as Devin screamed to the crowd, "how many of y'all smoke weed, if y'all like smoking weed, throw your blunts in the air." And I have few rules in life, but one of them is never argue with a man who goes by the nickname, "The Dude." We nodded our heads at each other in solidarity and the guy just looked at me blankly and said "that man is the truth." And I had little to add to to that, so we kept on watching and smoking until finally, "Doobie Ashtray," ended the set and there was nothing to do but bob our head to the beat and consider what a strange and wonderful place this all is. Finally, after saying our goodbyes and he biked back up out into the dark night, I walked back into the party to watch El-P absolutely kill it, with herb once again in my doobie ashtray.