Wednesday, March 16: 2005 SXSW BLOG

Posted March 17, 2005 in
So we saw Chase walking into the convention center on Wednesday morning, went in, picked up our SXSW badges and spent about three hours checking e-mail and writing yesterday's BLOG. It took us awhile to figure out the computers too, because you had to go digging deep, deep into the Mac hard drive to find Internet Explorer, and other various such things.

[Billy Idol contemplates the actuality of eyes without a face]Angela and I then took a cab to Waterloo Records, the coolest CD store on the planet. The cab was driven by a man named Austin from North Africa, who, after Angela said she'd love to visit Africa, said that Africans actually love America. And I thought the whole world hated us after all the underhanded things we've done globally. Silly me! Angela and I perused the aisles at Waterloo for about half an hour, taking in CD packaging that would make the most jaded artists cry arranged neatly on pale wood shelves, quaint little leatherette bags with art-mod designs on them, books of Icelandic fiction, women in rock and obscure rock personality biographies, even more obscure box sets beautifully done that were like a brick in your hand, and cutting-edge listening stations. We congratulated ourselves on not buying anything, then went across the block to Whole Foods, a health-food store that just moved into a space about the size of a Giant WalMart and was about as crowded, energetic and heated as a South American soccer game playoff. Seriously, you could barely move; I felt like forming a mosh pit. I ate half a chicken, sweet yams and O' Graten potatoes and Angela ate a rice bowl with orange juice. The scavenger birds used to picking up crumbs from soft-hearted customers fought and bickered in the arbor above us. We called another cab driven by, Nicholas, a blues/rock drummer that has been touring with big-name blues bands for like, 13 years.

Back at the hotel, we gathered our senses, put away our food, nibbled on some peanut-butter chocolate-chip cookies and left to go to an interview roundtable with Billy Idol (after our hotel couldn't find an important envelope that had been overnighted to her). On the way, we sang "Rock the cradle of love," "It's a nice day for a ... white wedding" and "Dancin' with myself, I will be dancin' with myself" on the way there. We got situated at the unlikely, diner-like Mexican restaurant where the interview took place, complete with red-leather metal chairs and uneven, Formica-top tables. During the course of Billy's interview, one of his publicists, Jody, brought out a glass of water in a cheap clear, scratched plastic glass from the Mexican restaurant, and I thought, "Does Billy Idol drink out of glasses like that?" He did.

Angela took pictures while I sat at the table, a little bit afraid of asking a dumb question in front of Fox TV. (If you don't know, a roundtable interview is when a group of journalists sit around a table and you go around and each one gets to ask one question). Angela wanted to ask a really interesting question about if, as a male, Billy ever felt the pressure of getting plastic surgery as many older female celebs do, and I wanted to ask him which song he was most sick of performing. Instead, when my turn came I bounced off one of the comments Billy had said earlier. He had said he felt like a lot of his music had a "punk-rock attitude," so I asked what it was about the punk rock movement or its attitude that had had the greatest influence on him. He said that as a teenager growing up in England, he had been influenced by Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, etc. and he would listen to the radio underneath his sheets at night and imagine himself onstage, performing to a crowd. He said for most youth growing up in England, there was no future, it was very difficult to get a job; it didn't matter if you had a degree or not. He said punk music provided an opportunity for him and others like him to create an alternate world, another world in opposition to the world that surrounded him, and that punk rock had given him a future and a career in music. Well, it doesn't do that for everyone, but Billy still had a lot of that original passion and however cheesy it sounds, light in his eyes when he talked about how punk rock related to him personally. Now a dissolved marriage and many many drugs later, Billy carries himself like he's been through a lot, like he's weary, and when he smiles there's pain behind it, but he also gives off an air of valiantly trying to remain cheerful and optimistic despite everything. I liked him, he still had his good heart and fiery passion about him, and at the ripe old age of 50, he's still unbelievably hot.

After Billy, Angela and I went back to the hotel, found the lost envelope and then went to the Red Bull house to upload the Billy Idol photos off her camera and eat BBQ. It was great, and Angela left a Billy Idol photo on one of the computers as the desktop image. Ha ha.

[Bad Brad & Zach Parrish (just sleepy, or stoned?) at the Huberg Sumlin show]

We went to meet Bad Brad Wheeler, who had just flown in that morning with the Legendary Porch Pounders, at Antone's, where we saw Huberg Sumlin play (from Greenwood, Miss.), who used to be Howlin' Wolf's guitar player and played with Muddy Waters for a bout, too, and Pinetop Perkins, who's in his 90s now and was the pianist/keyboardist for Muddy Waters. Sean Costello played guitar. We hung out with Bad Brad and ran into, of all people, Zach Parrish! From the long-lost Zach Parrish Blues Band in Salt Lake City. He's studying English at a college in Austin now, said he thought he was done with music when he first arrived in Austin a couple or so years ago, but after a month, started experiencing withdrawals and started playing again.

[Huberg Sumlin (left) and Steve Costello (right)]

[Pinetop Perkins at the keys]

We ran into Randy Harward, music writer for City Weekly, as we were leaving the club, and went down a back alley way to ... talk, of course! We hurried over to try to see the A-Frames at Emo's Main Room after running into Randy, missed them, and went to see Modey Lemon at Club Deville. Modey Lemon were fantastic. I leaned against an amp; Bad Brad sat on a chair in the background, and Angela took pictures. They spewed out very defined, chunky riffs laid over powerful drumming and a certain beat that was a dance/rock hybrid. The lead singer was cute as a button, and the keyboardist peered at me from behind a shaggy blonde fringe of bangs, looking very unimpressed. I left my business card and a flyer for the Legendary Porch Pounders show on their amp.

[Modey Lemon]

Next we went to see The A-Frames at Emo's and arrived just as they played their last song. We chatted with the violinist for the Album Leaf and hit the long line at the ladies room and headed out to catch Billy Idol at Stubb's.

[Chatting with the violinist for the Album Leaf]

[Long line at the ladie's room at Emo's Junior. Hold it baby!]

In line I talked to a boy named Quentin Ellison (hope I spelled that right) from Queensland, Australia, who runs an independent rock station in Queensland called 4zzz FM (, the only one of that genre in the region. We went in, saw Billy Idol caterwaul, stayed until "Eyes Without a Face" (the best ballad ever written; I'll argue it with you) then left to go try to catch Hella at Emo's Junior. We miraculously got in, even though we almost bailed because of waiting in the cold (it musta been, like 45 degrees by now), and saw Hella's jazz/noise fusion with keyboard buzzes, sneaked through the back and saw about two minutes of Sleater-Kinney's set, and this is what I thought: "They could beat the Donnas in a sincerity match any day." Here's a "girl group" that formed, not to fit into marketable commercial niches and straight into the hearts of 15-year-olds everywhere via Teen Beat and 17 Magazine, but to start a revolution and express what was deepest in their hearts. That "straight from the heart" stuff, in a non-Bon-Jovi way, makes a difference.

On the way to see Hella, we passed Scalper Chase's motorcycle (see Tuesday's entry) on the side of the road, took a few pictures and left a couple business cards underneath his gas-tank in a recurring, dream-like repetition of events and people that taps into Jungism, surrealism, Andy Warhol pop art and neo-Christian beliefs that "there are no coincidences." With that, we went back to the hotel at 3 am and fell almost immediately asleep. -Rebecca Vernon

[Rebecca Vernon on Chase's ride]