As an antidote to my previous rambling posts, here’s a quick fire ‘photo story’ of my SXSW / Austin snapshots, all from my phone and not really processed / cropped. WYSIWYG. There’s other pics in my posts, but I might include them all here with captions too.
I got back into the British music embassy a bit later than expected (it’s taking me a lot longer to get places than I think it should) but just in time to meet a Canadian publicist and Australian design agency director at a speed networking event. 2pm quickly comes around and the venue is packed for Gulp’s first SXSW show – for the fist gig of the day, it packs a punch with some great sound engineering in the mix. My visuals run as expected and initial feedback seems positive. Gulp’s new label manager asks if they can be put on a memory stick; sorry they can’t. A part of me was hoping she’d ask me along for the LA gig the band are heading to next week, but no such luck (one day!)
I spent a few hours that afternoon in the convention centre taking in ‘flatstock’ the annual gig poster exhibition. This is a collection of a who’s who of poster artists and designers with the big names of current poster design such as Methane studios and DKNG sat at booths hawking prints, stickers and t-shirts. I picked up a small print for burning red and got lost amongst the swathes of A2 papers and smell of acrylic ink. Admittedly much of the work almost blends into one – there is undeniably a ‘gig poster style’ which is exciting at first but does begin to feel a little generic. There were a handful of studios making some genuinely fresh work, and these really do stand out – however particular names right now escape me. I added to my business card collection (I’ve got a rather large pile which will need some serious sorting when home) and after a quick visit to south of the river on congress it was time to drop my gear off at the hideout theatre ready for the night’s gig and met the band for a pizza and glass of wine. Having a pre-show coffee in the coffee shop at the front of the venue, the familiar faces of the Cardiff bands turned up – gruff, sweet baboo, Mr. Hawkline and Cate le bon all in the house. At least there’d be an audience!
It seems that the midnight hour wasn’t in tune with the gulp party. Gwion had to improv a drum kit without toms, Gid’s guitar didn’t have the sound he was looking for, a synth went wonky and half way through the set, I think the wound engineer accidental nudged the space that’s projector had been balancing on, sending it tumbling. I got it back up and running to a degree for the last few numbers but it did put a dampner ony last evening in Texas and the climax of why I was there. But hey – for all intents and purposes the show was a success and after bidding everyone goodbye I got back on the night owl bus out East for the last time.
SXSW Day 5. Late Pancakes, Springs and Welsh Music in a church
I’m hoping that my body clock and sleeping patterns are so thrown up and sideways right now, that when I get back to the UK, I’ll sleep so well I’ll be right as rain for work Monday morning. Stranger things have happened. Which is how I had a 2pm breakfast (despite waking at 9am) in the Kerbey lane cafe, a typically Austin take on the American diner – all fresh juice, responsibly farmed produce and tacos on the menu along aside French toast and burgers. I was proper stuffed after my short stack of buttermilk pancakes 🙂
Checking out the Guadalupe road area around the university campus, I found a few decent thrift stores and an arcade bar playing punk rock in amongst the coin-ops. Seeing as I’d had a 2 o’clock breakfast I headed south to take in some of the south of the river vibes at Barton springs — a natural spring that is open for a short period every year for the public to swim in. Unfortunately the pool was shut for cleaning, but there was an area a little along that had people paddling and soaking up the sun. Feet all refreshed, I had to get downtown to get some music in me. I wanted to catch up with gulp and some of the contingent Cymraeg, so I went along to the turnstile records party at the st. David’s epistle church. It is a bit odd going all the way to Texas and hang out having a drink with a room full of people from wales, but it was a good night. Gruff Rhys played a lovely set accompanied by kliph Scurlock on drums, and Cate le Bon blew me away, despite having seen her a number of times – the sound and energy the band produced was great.
SXSW Day 4. Mary, Meetings, Cameras, Fans & Tradegy
South by takes over this town, for good and not. It clearly brings an overwhelming focus and celebration of creativity to the town and generates a huge level of excitement and revenue, but also it seems a strain on the area and it’s resources.
Initially I couldn’t make it to town for a networking breakfast due to my bus running almost half an hour late (I was running late anyway) and I just about managed to make it to the convention centre for 11.30 where I was due to meet the band I’m tagging along the coat tails of, Gulp in order to pick up my music wristband. It turned out I could pick it up on my own, as as they were running late, was just as well. Without any coffee or breakfast and rather tired from however many nights little sleep it’s been now I walked past Jarvis Cocker who looked like he’d just arrived – of course I recognise him so I gave a friendly nod, smile and hello. A momentary glimmer or recognition from him faded into a confused scowl. I forgot his doesn’t know me. (but he’d probably like to).
I got to the dregs of the network breakfast and freeloaded on coffee, croissants and the strongest bloody Mary I’ve ever had (these Texans do like to free pour). A coffee shop meeting also failed to happen, so I spent the time drinking a cappuccino skyping with my wife.
At a bit of a loss, and deciding to save music for the evenings, I went to the Charles Long exhibition at the Contemporary Austin. I place of solace away from the crowds and a space to consider the impact humans are having on the planet due to our greed. An ode to Catalin – an early toxic forerunner to plastic and how our hunger for cheap and ‘safe’ substitutes has lead to the slow destruction of the ocean and our need for air conditioning and a comfortable life errodes the ice caps. There’s nothing subtle about this show, but that’s probably a good thing, and the 3D ‘datamapped’ iceberg sculptures have an ephemeral delicate beauty about them that certainly helped to centre me ready for main Congress. Towards the West or downtown, I took snaps of the area and visited Book People, local bookshop who’s had a who’s who of visitors from Simon Pegg to Timothy Leary (their photographs adorn a celebrity wall). I read a book on some interesting sketching techniques which gave me a little inspiration to get drawing (one of my personal aims of being here) . It’s not a library, so after browsing for a good hour , I bought a postcard, some chocolate and left. I LOVE American indie bookshops, well any bookshop really, I could spend all day in them browsing and feeling rejuvenated by the wealth of ideas, cover designs and knowledge (even if I’m terrible at actually getting to read of the bloody things once I buy them)
Across the road was Waterloo Records, one of the larger records shops – not first on my list as I was holding out for a smaller place, but I went in anyway, as one doe and left with a few cheap second hands: A Willie Nelson (I’m in his town afterall), A solo Todd Rundgren, and the new St Vincent album. I had a fantastical vision that if I did, somehow I’d actually get into the gig tonight and she’d be happy to sign it for me.
Another juice later (it’s all I seem to be eating and drinking here as I’ve lost my appetite in the heat, travel and sleep dysfunction) and I went into Hut’s Hamburgers, an old style joint from the 30’s with authentically delicious grass fed Longhorn burgers to match. Nothing mind blowing, but how I imagine a very good all American burger should be, with fries that have their skin on. Whilst eating I Met an LA PR agent who’s been doing SX since the 80’s. She’d had a few glasses of wine as it’s her day off, but we got on well and she insisted on walking me out to where she was heading. I drew my first band of the day, and headed to town.
The NPR showcase was tipped to be a good one, and some of the crew Cymraeg where at the venue. I discovered that they don’t allow ‘Cameras’ into the venue (more on my thoughts on this in a another post), and I pleaded and tried to work out a solution with the security and venue staff to let me in as I never take (digital) photos of bands these days, and how I was only out tonight to see St Vincent, but no. The man at the gate took a photo of me on his cameraphone and said I’d be able to jump the VIP queue if I came back after stashing it, which was really good of him. thanks to the sound engineer at the British Music Embassy, I stowed my cameras with him and heading back to Stubbs and saw Kelis then St Vincent play live. It was fantastic, despite the crowd taking lots of pictures with their cameraphones after being asked by the woman herself beforehand not to and afterwards I wandered backstage unhindered to see if she (St Vincent) would sign my record, but she was clearly upset about something and apologised before being hurried away by her people. I was the only person there, Vinyl and sharpie in hand, but no. Wandering lonely around 6th Street, a homeless tour guide told me where to get pancakes near my house and about the oldest jazz bar in town – literally underground called the Elephant, so called because they found a wooly Mammouth bone while building it. I wasn’t sure if I beleived him, but sure enough there it was after everyone else had dumped me. I sat at the quiet bar drinking a nightcap of local bourbon on the rocks and a Spanish Austinite told me about the best burger joints in town and some super local tips as well as where Willie Nelson was playing tomorrow.
On the bus home, we drove past a street of police cars where an hour earlier a drunk driver ploughed through a crowd killing 2 people and injuring dozens. A sobering end to the day.
Waking up I promised myself no migas taco for breakfast. So I hopped on the metro rail ( unfortunately not a monorail as I had initially thought) after the ticket machine swallowed up 7dollars of my change and went in search of city treasure thrift. It was underwhelming, so I decided to stop in Cisco’s for breakfast. Supposedly an Austin institution where political deals have been made and broken it seemed a good cultural stop. I didn’t realise it was Mexican.
2 (good n spicy) migas tacos and a large coffee later it was time for the premiere screening of American interior , the new gruff Rhys film. Directed by Dylan Coch who also made Seperado with gruff and produced by Catrin Ramasut it follows gruff on a journey across America as he traces the footsteps of a supposed long lost relative called john Evans who first went to the new world to discover a tribe of native Americans that spoke welsh and along the way inadvertently helps to map the path to the pacific, and determines Canada’s border. It was a funny, heartwarming and enlightening film and rounded off with a special performance by gruff and kliph Scurlock followed by the magnificent Keith bear who talked about identity and played his hand carved flutes.
I met some old and new friends at the screening and accompanied them back to their house in the hot and sunny Texan afternoon which was great. It was a very ‘chill’ afternoon drinking iced mocha, supping corona while schedules and plans were made.
Following my new welsh/uk contingent back into town to latitude30 , where the British music embassy was hosting Huw Stephen’s uk music showcase, I had to watch the first half of sweet Baboo’s set from outside as I still didn’t have a wristband. Luckily Huw let me in through the stage door and I spent the night watching Alice Wolf, Prides, Bi Polar sunshine and Jungle. All in all a good evening with great company, decent music and some rather large rum and colas.
So, although I intended to get an early night, I couldn’t get to sleep until 2 am then woke up again at 4 until finally passing out at about 7. I’m not used to insomnia and pulling myself out of bed at 11am was a struggle. I don’t normally get jet lag going back in time, but somehow the day has been more of a haze than Sunday. More migas and coffee on my morning amble took me to bannau’s coffee shop . So hip it hurt, but a good friendly hurt with old sofas and chipped crockery. Almost everyone was sat at their laptops or iPads, everyone. The complimentary power supplies hanging from the roof do encourage it though. My cappuccino was a bit disappointing but the pizza slice was darn good.
Again I walked to downtown with camera in hand soaking up the east side atmosphere and ended up in the empire club, a re-appropriated auto garage and went to a VJ meetup in the main dance floor. A handful of local beamers we’re taking about their techniques and I met Topher Sipes, a local media artist, born in Bedford, raised in Texas. He’s projecting for scrillex on Thursday night in the garage – so if I can’t get tickets to lady gaga playing in the BBQ next door (unlikely) I’ll try my hand there instead.
I met up with a friend from town who I met at a wedding in Italy last year (it’s a small world) for some margarita and tequila before he and his wife and friend had to get the ‘last’ train (at 6.30!) back up to the northern suburbs . Bleary eyed and a little legless I wandered the streets looking for my RSVP’d parties. I couldn’t get into he Wes Anderson talk and screening of Budapest hotel ( no surprise there) and I missed the party at the Jones centre contemporary gallery. Tired and disillusioned I west eastward where I’ve found the onion party in the Mohawk club. Chet faker on the decks and cymbals are out back. I thought I saw Donald Glover in the audience (it wasn’t) but it’d be fab to see him play this week. I’ve been told he’s doing an afternoon party on Wednesday, so I’ll try my luck if I remember. Now it’s bed time for reals.
After being woken by a bird (I presume) that sounded like a Guinea pig, and not being able to figure out how to use the coffee machine I headed out to explore the ‘hood. I picked up a coffee and a migas taco and walked west toward downtown via the Blanton museum of art. Housing a permanent exhibition of art from the Americas, the contemporary galleries displayed a refreshing Latin (and female) perspective on the rise of American abstract expressionism. The temporary exhibition was a retrospective of Eva Hesse and Sol Lewitt’s drawing experiments and how their relationship spurred each other on to challenge themselves. The musum’s main Atrium houses a commisioned permenant installation by Teresita Fernández made up of thousands of tiles of incandescent turquoise, giving the space an almost Mediterranean or Arabian feel.
A postcard later, I pushed on downtown to see if I could so some sxsw. The chaos of sixth street pushed me into the halcyon coffee shop for a recharging snack of Nutella crepe and an iced coffee before wandering about the ‘interactive’ trade show in the convention centre hall. I thankfully managed to pick up some free t shirts ( I didn’t bring enough) and some temporary NASA tattoos.
As the sum went down, I went to the river to watch the bats fly in and out from under the congress bridge. They squeak a lot.
I don’t eat them as often as I like, but my weekend breakfasts certainly have a ellipsoidal shaped space for them.
Commonly on Saturdays I’ll go for a fried egg in a croissant for breakfast – sounds odd, but I urge you to try it, an American play on fried egg sandwich, the sweetness of the pastry and savoury egg combo is a winner. Sunday, is more a louche poached egg on toast vibe (the secret is not to let your water overly boiled and add a cap-full of vinegar to the water before cracking the egg in, don’t worry about creating an otherworldly vortex – it’s a myth.
However, since working only four days a week, Friday’s have become my boiled egg day.
The simplest of recipes, yet with enough nuances, Delia Smith needed to write a book about it to encourage people back into the kitchen in the 80’s.
Doing a quick internets search, there seems to be as many different techniques as one can realistically invent, and while most are variations on a them (put egg in water and boil it), it is surprisingly varied.
My personal method ignores Delia’s good advice (although I might try it next time to see) and goes on my gut instincts, so if it doesn’t work for you, I’m sorry. This method does not guarantee a perfect soft boiled egg, and I take no responsibility for hard boiled disappointment, but this is how I roll.
Put your egg into a small saucepan.
Just about cover with water
bring to the boil (many chef say simply simmer, I would say go more than a simmer, less than a roll)
as soon as it’s bubbling, set the timer for 2 mins 30 seconds
Put your toast in the toaster (Soughdough if you can get it is preferable)
Time’s up! – quickly put your egg in an egg cup, while you butter and top your toast (Marmite for me please)
Bash, Slice, Peel – whatever you need to do to get into your egg.
Fingers crossed the yolk is runny and the white solid, NOW EAT!
Here’s a quick video I made a while back illustrating this, with sound by PhantomHead
After a hearty night’s sleep, we awoke to a gloriously bright day. Meeting up at the train station (some of us stayed at a hostel, Joe and I crashed at Ads’ place – after recently moving to Utrecht to do a masters), ate breakfast and set off. Thankfully, the pace was more easy going than the previous days mission, making it from Utrecht to the outskirts of Amsterdam in about 2 and a half hours. I think 40km is my stint limit : about 15 minutes before the we reached our ‘yoga house’ accommodation, I really began to hit a wall. A quick stop for tea and cake probably would’ve helped, but that ain’t how these cats roll. Our apartment is really comfortable, albeit a fair way out if town. There’s 8 of us sleeping in the mezzanine top floor, and three shy high boys on the ground floor of an eighth floor flat in a block. There are radiators ten feet up on the walls. The evening was spent in a bit of drunken dissary. After one of the best burgers, milkshake and early evenings of surreal banter and nonsense with old friends one could hope for and several rounds later, we seemed to fall into a peculiar habit of cycling to a random bar, having a rushed drink before restlessly moving on. Somehow this happened all around the north of the town along with all the other tourists – despite not being naive teenagers any more. Thankfully, half of the man group don’t seem to remember ending up in an Irish pub.This is probably for the best.