Not March, Not SXSW, and other non-things
Oh fuckin eh. Is it May already? And mid-May at that?
I had hoped to get to this sooner but see I been holed up in a tiny rural Oregon music classroom that my husband n I painted purple back in ’10 on the hottest day of the year with 5 gallons of Walmart’s finest. I had heard that purple has a calming effect and that it inspires creativity.
Yeah, I’m a music teacher. Battle hardened and pissed.
We got an 80% poverty rate in our school district. Best horn player I ever had just got moved into his second foster home in just as many weeks. The last thing we need is about the only thing we got and even that is slated to be cut. I have electrical tape stitching together the lead pipe of my trumpet; I have elmer’s glue holding down the G key of my alto. A local professor came by to run through a song with my choir and near about fell off his piano bench. He said: “is it always this cold in here?” I said: “Oh hell no. It’s spring time now.”
But I escaped. I got away back in mid-March. As a matter of fact, Wednesday March 13, I directed my high school choir at the county invitational and Thursday March 14 4:00am I packed my bags, said my prayers, and headed to balmy Austin, Texas for SXSW. I am not sure which was worse; trying to tame 17 year old boys at a formal choir festival or flying United. Regardless, we landed.
I had never been to Austin before and I never realized how damn sick of the West Coast I was until we got there. Sun, Mexican food, music, and Texans. Let the good times roll. We had three music showcases at the G & S Lounge which, according to my brother-in-law’s Yelp app, is “the biggest dive in Austin” with a “beer Nazi” at the helm. Well giddy-up, sounded just about perfect. We got there, wilting in the Texas sunshine at 70 degrees and found the place packed, all there to see the esteemed Carper Family; badass Austinites with a keen sense of harmony. From the first note, I was a believer. Not only in the Carper Family magic but in the magic of music– beer and music, people and music, sweat and music, life and music. It all started to make sense again.
I didn’t even know that I had lost my faith.
Shortly thereafter I met John Conquest, fabled creator of 3rd Coast Music infame and the organizer of NotSXSW. The man named me last year’s “Female Artist of the Year” alongside hot damn Dayna Kurtz and Tif Ginn. My album was among his top six of the year. Needless to say, I was terrified to meet him lest he find out the truth. (He didn’t.) But Conquest is brilliant. And a pisser. The man does not hold his tongue and that’s what you gotta love about him. At least, that’s what I will love about him until he tears a Sunday hole through my Saturday best. (New album slated for release early 2014.)
Conquest’s NotSXSW line up was a complete knock out so we spent the majority of our time at the “biggest dive in Austin” drinking a boatload of beer and taking in some of the world’s best music. All day. Every day. Name your price. Fantastic.
Now since it’s taken me months to write even this much, I’ma have to cut to the chase and narrow the NotSXSW experience down to my favorites… which is hard enough to determine in and of itself with line ups that included Zoe Muth, BettySoo, Slaid Cleaves, Carrie Rodriguez, T Jerrod Bonta and the AM Band, the list goes on and on and thankfully on….
Gurf Morlix. Intense and hilarious, tragic and commanding, his performance had the room in knots, willingly knotted around every word, every stomp, every strum. After we watched the hysterical Psycho Blues: Quest for Nacken Morlix played the entirety of his “feel good album of the year,” Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense. And so did we, happily.
Baskery. Austin’s Hank Alrich turned to me at one point during their set and said: “Damn. If only I was 25 and could speak Swedish.” No shit. Those girls were hot sauce. Now, I will admit that I was a bit worried at first by Baskery’s cute lil matching outfits n sweet demeanor thinking that things could get very nice very quickly but I immediately dispelled that from my mind. After all, this was Conquest’s show. His performers would never be cute by way of music because if they were, Conquest would be the first one out the door. No. Baskery kicked some serious Texas ass. Really, anyone’s ass for that matter. I, at one point, overheard someone say: “the Rolling Stones USED to be the best band in the world.” Innovative is the only word I can think to describe Baskery. They played as though the rules did not apply to them. Seriously, at one point the banjo player was playing harp, slide, and drums. At. The. Same. Time. How do you say “Mercy” in Swedish?
These are but two act at a music festival that is rife with astounding acts, music that would knock your socks off all day, day after day. If ever in Austin during March’s mayhem, be sure to find yourself at one (or all) of Conquest’s events.
And as for me, well, I am back at ‘er in the purple classroom, hangin tough and teaching music to a room full of sweet lil artist/misfits who play too loud on trashed instruments. Creative hearts, falling down histories, and faith.
It’s rock n roll, yall.
Photo by Richard Banks