Monday, March 15, 2010

Spontaneity and Nudity: Our trip to SXSW to play a film premiere afterparty

Not to worry, there are no pictures of nude BB to be found in this blog. You can keep reading.

As you may know from our last blog, BB was invited to play the movie premiere afterparty of “The Weird World of Blowfly” at SXSW. Though we hadn't booked a tour around the event due to it being later-minute, we managed to get another show in Houston, and were up for the adventure, like pioneers heading West, but also South.

This was one of our rare 'tours' without Syba. Perhaps feeling the guilt, Rob bought Syba a "Big Bite" before we left.

Guilt diminishing, Rob played keep-away. But not for too long; our girl's got clever chops.

Also before leaving, Rob plowed our back and front yard, then went Little House on us and built a fence entirely made out of our old willow oak tree (pictures of fence to arrive soon on Sloping Band House).

You might be wondering what I was doing while Rob played, plowed, and posted fences. I planted a peach tree then helped plant a vegetable garden in our front yard (starters courtesy of our neighbor Tyler). I also Judged the fence. (It was Good.)

Feeling all Green and gardeny, we set off for our riduculously far gas-guzzling not strategic mini-tour to Austin, driving until Birmingham. As Rob can be somewhat “protective,” I'll call it, of who drives Weston, I offered to and did relieve his tired gas-pedal foot alternately.

In Birmingham, we visited with the friendly, sweet, intelligent as all heck Keith, a Physics student we met at my screening last year. After leaving the screening last year, I kicked myself, mentally (hurts just like the real thing) for not interviewing him. He has an amazing story, which I taped this time around using Flippy (flip video) on his porch, and will be posting on a new series to be announced shortly.

But first, we met up and all leafleted Samford University, and then, we headed to the Bottle Tree to have some delicious vegan food including peanut butter pie.

Keith and Rob outside the Bottletree in Birmingham.

This establishment is also a venue ½ run by one of Man or Astro Man? I believe. We'd like to play there next time. As we ate, the song In Our Talons by the Bowerbirds came on and we felt like home.

After hanging out with Keith and interviewing him on his porch, we went onward to Houston, driving fiercely and madly toward our destination only stopping for fuel. Weston began to make a noise near his rear foot, which was originally attributed to our music gear. That was hopeful.

After a call to our favorite VW shop in Durham, Lonnie's, it was apparent that the CV joint, not the cymbals, was the cause of the rattling. We decided to keep going and hoped we could make it back.

Meanwhile, we arrived to Super Happy Funland in Houston to play the SXSW overflow fest!

They painted all our names.

I can't repeat enough how kind these folks are. This was our second time playing this venue. They even made free vegan chili for everyone.

The show started early because there were four bands and one 90 minute movie of pure bicycle porn. More on this later. First up was Joe Firstman from Los Angeles (originally from Charlotte).

Next were our favoirte favorites, the Midtown Dickens.

Here I share with you a new song that we loved, Elephant.

Midtowns know how to merch.

And eat. How many bands do you know that roll their own (veg) sushi?

Next we played what ended up being our “first” set for reasons Blowfly. After our set, the 90 minute bicycle porn film fest began. To get us prepared (foreplay?) for the fest, a local bicycle advocate pedaled through the establishment nude:

This is a high res photo, feel free to zoom in.

What followed were various short films of people and bicycles in numerous combinations, but to sum up the bicycle seat serves well as phallic substitute, there is a lot you can do with bicycle chains and pedals besides crank your bike, and these films made a unique opener for BB's second set.

After the fest, only half the members of Blowfly had arrived due to some chaos and hotel booking problems. The down time led to a large gap between the fest and their set. The sound person asked us to play again, so we set up again and returned to play about four or five songs until the arrival of the entire band.

Besides Clarence Reid and Tom Bowker, the band was entirely new. Two weeks before their tour, while we were staying at Tom's back in Miami, most of the band quit. He assembled the rest in about a week, including the bassist for Little Richard.

Little Richard, at a Rest Stop

His playing made it quite evident he had been doing this for some time. When he was performing a bass solo, Rob pushed aside about four naked dudes to go watch. So you know it was good.

Clarence aka Blowfly authored the “first rap song” per reports in 1965, Rap Dirty. I taped part of it for you:

For some attendees, the nudity continued possibly and most probably due to extracuricular chemical usage prior to the event.

Meanwhile, Rob and I headed to the back parking lot to pop Weston's top and sleep from about 4 am until 9 am. Due to the proximity of the lot to transportation, it was not a restful sleep:

Tired Rob next to our sleeping quarters.

Reportedly from inside sleepers, it was no better in the venue due to a movie playing until 6:00 am and a snoring symphony from several couches. We did, however, enjoy pancakes, tea, coffee, and Emergen-C with the Midtown Dickens, that is, until we met the Original Rapper and he rapped dirty to us while sitting in Weston's swiveled around passenger chair. It works way better on stage.

Nevertheless, we headed to Austin, where we dropped off a couple of Blowfly members then took Tom to register for the film festival since the movie “The Weird World of Blowfly” was premiering at SXSW that night. Inside, we met Kim Fowley, who I could tell was some sort of back-in-the-day character. He was with a reporter who had interviewed Tom.

Kim was tall and thin, wore a suit, and leaned on a cane due to vertigo. Conversation joking about heroin and Burroughs-like dry wit followed. He and a friend of Jello Biafra's posed with Tom for a photo then discussed different bands. Kim was part of forming the Runaways (and later litigating with them) and since has and continues to score music for films such as American Graffiti.

Rob and I were quiet, since we're not musical encyclopedias and didn't know these folks, so Kim asked us who we were. “Oh, like the White Stripes?” he said, then acknowledged he was only saying this due to the boy-girl duo dynamic.

Usually I don't get taken off guard too often in conversations, but for some reason, his simple request that followed made me pregnant-pause. I'm talking twins or quadruplets.

“Name five of your songs.” Pause. More pause. Delivery of first twin. “Just give me the names of five of your songs.” Rob kicked in, “I was born in a vacuum cleaner!” I added, “I don't like people...” and then quickly named three others.

In retrospect, my brain was trying to grapple with 1) Why is he asking this / testing us? 2) I'd better think of our most interestingly named songs and 3) Which songs are interestingly named? 4) Oh, crap, our songs don't really have very interesting names afterall.

Apparently satisfied at rattling us, he handed us his card and asked us to send him material. I got the feeling he does this with a lot of people. BB = B-.

Onward to the show, we arrived at Beerland nearby to find it closed. The sidewalks were thick with people, mostly younger types boozed up and heading in all directions. We managed to park Weston temporarily, but decided to leave for a couple of hours until it opened. There was not a poster for the show in sight on the venue doors or outside walls. This was our first indication that things might not go quite like they had went in our heads. Let me tell you, in our heads, wow! Someone should sell tickets to that.

Back to outside of our heads, we returned to Beerland later and set up our equipment since we were first. There were some misunderstandings about when we'd start (we thought 10:45 pm, earliest – the club thought 10:00 pm, latest) so they got that ironed out with a few calls to booking agents.

After it was apparent that there was still only a handful of people in the club and it was inching toward our start time, we took matters (or rather stickers) into our hands and gave them out in front of the club, asking people to join us for our show.

I noticed several people go to the door to pay, then turn away after talking to the door guy. It was then we found out the cover was $13 (this is a good lesson in preparing and asking the right questions, folks) AND there was a good free show next door, so we started offering to put people on our guest list. By our set time, there were a few more people in the audience, maybe around 25, but nothing, again, like we expected from our head-previews, where we were body surfing across the crowd, matching shoes flying in the air.

We did set up Flippy and manage to get a recording of our set. I post for you here newer song Some People Think I'm Nuts and older but unrecorded Unification of + and - :

At one point I spoke with the friendly club owner, who has been open for over 10 years. I mentioned how in Durham the same people that come out for a folk act would be at a metal show. He said Austin used to be like that, but 10-15 years ago. As a club owner, even booking different genres together doesn't work. He noted that people come out to see one band but don't stay for the entire show anymore or aren't as open to unknown bands.

There are so many bands and venues, so audiences, he said, are quite apathetic. Is this transition inevitable? Before we left Seattle, I found it to be the case as well. Music “scenes” or communities grow, change, and die like we all do. It just takes time for the image to catch up with the actual state of things. The actual state is somewhat subjective, too.

Next up were Foot Patrol, from Austin.

In accordance with their name, this band is all about feet and foot fetishes. The singer is a 25-year old blind man whose talent (in music, not feet) was noticeable to his instructors at the School for the Blind when he performed [insert impressively difficult composition here...I wish my memory was better] at [insert young age like 7 here...again, memory!]. The drummer is one of his former teachers.

Blowfly (caped and masked Clarence to the far left)

Blowfly had arrived from their movie premiere, and closed out the night at about 2:00 am. Here is a clip from Clarence's song Masterpiece:

Since we didn't have a large audience during our set, Tom invited us to play their encore. I objected, since, um, it is their encore...and the audience might be just a little disappointed when BB got up there and played, say, Pumpkin in a Tie or I don't like people. He insisted, reminding us it was the “Weird World of Blowfly” and they did things like this. Weird things.

By the end of their set, after Clarence limped away in his cape, I planned to call it off (it was late and people were leaving), but Tom did an intro for us and made a hoo-ha-ha so we returned to the stage. After Rob's borrowed amp wouldn't start, I began playing, then promptly ended after one verse. It was quite silly and most definitely was not in my pre-show head.

Lesson #2 or 3: listen to your gut. Unless it's growling and the only thing you have to eat is Taco Bell.

Speaking of eating, Tom's tradition after the show is to take everyone out after to some place that he said had vegan options. We were quite worn out and ready to leave, so after payment, and dropping off a few documentaries for Tom to take to the “Filmmakers Lounge” we headed home.

The next morning, at a truck stop, we woke up to a small plane dive-bombing us, or it felt like us, but s/he was actually fertilizing a nearby field. BB will not be dive bombed, or fertilized! We left early but became concerned when we heard the CV joint clunking at lower gears (if this were a movie, you would now hear the voice of our mechanic, Lonnie, quiet but discernible: “If the CV joint starts making noise at low gears, go to a repair shop – immediately!”).

We had two choices. One, find a repair shop at the next nearest city (Jackson, MS) and I'd miss work on Tuesday or more depending on available parts. Two, keep driving until the CV breaks. This is risky since a broken CV = a stranded Weston. And there is a lot of space between “cities.” Choose your adventure!

My instinct was Blind Hope so we went with that, and made it all the way of this writing, we're actually still on the road approaching Atlanta, so I actually don't know if my Blind Hope worked.

Happily, though our pre-formed in our head adventure was different, we still had fun and I had a lot of time to plan while on the road. Here's some things I accomplished:

  • Mapped out our rough tour plans for the next year;
  • Decided on dates to possibly record our fourth album then release it (USB release + album!);
  • Sketched out a Porch Life interview series synopsis & plan;
  • Supplemented our yearly plan with updates;
  • Studied Greek and learned the phrase The Captain has Sunk with His Ship for my new song;
  • Made a couple of new songs up featuring Rob, trapped as the driver, singing backup for harmony experiments (scientific experiments);
  • Decided I didn't like You;
  • And more!

Just joking about You. Though there are some Yous I don't like, those who read this blog I'm most certain I do.

Update: We made it back in the wee hours.


Somerset Frisby - Dawn said...

best blog entry in the history of the universe!!!

Scientific Superstar said...

This sounds like it was really fun and wacky at the same time?. Hope you guys make it back OK.

Michael said...

Rob's all-white outfit for yard work is the funniest thing I've seen in a long while. It killed me. He's like a Southern Gentleman. If he had been wearing red suspenders I'd be in the hospital.
I'm glad that you and Weston made it home okay (Lonnie might give you crap, though).
Considering the insane number of acts going on at the same time in Austin I think you guys got a huge audience. I'd call it a big SXSW win for you, no question.
Send Kim Fowley your CD!

Joe Haptas said...

wow, that's a LOT of crazy weirdness packed into your trip!

Love this: We did, however, enjoy pancakes, tea, coffee, and Emergen-C with the Midtown Dickens, that is, until we met the Original Rapper and he rapped dirty to us while sitting in Weston's swiveled around passenger chair. It works way better on stage.

nothing like some early morning dirty rap with breakfast.