03/16/2012 Austin, TX, Sidebar
My heart raced as I sprinted through the streets of Austin, TX. Dodging leisurely SXSWers, locals and cops alike, it was literally five minutes before we were supposed to play the label showcase this tour was built around. And we were not only late, but I had to park our tour van in the middle of one of the biggest parking boondoggles of the year. Fantastic! With this accomplished, I dashed through the doors of the Sidebar, and leaped on to the stage. My guitar was already set up and plugged in by my bandmate Evan. Magic time:“Hi We’re Victory and Associates from Oakland and San Francisco, California. This is our first song. It is literally about the idea of a good time and it’s called Plausibly Wild.”
Switch on, suckers.
So how was the show? We played pretty damn well. A good mix of V&A album tracks fromThese Things are Facts and new stuff that we’re super thrilled about. Good crowd filled with labelmate bands, casual show attendees and whatever randoms happened to drop in. We play our songs extolling the praises of sincerity itself, perseverance, disavowing the cause of noble apathy, and ultimately close with the song that posits that good work and deeds live on even if you don’t. Every single line means something. And then that was it. It was over.
I was left heaving and winded, drenched in sweat, every inch of my soul poured into the art, only to have the next act come on stage to do their thing. There is an assembly line-like efficiency to a SXSW showcase: no time for prima donnas or self-involvement. Set up as fast as you can, do your thing, break down and make ready for the next act. It’s a little dehumanizing at best, and the more cynical among us can opine about its very point altogether. If music is reduced to such passive entertainment, a series of epic busks if you will, is that really the way it should be?
There were no Big Money Bubbas waving contracts to sign, no enraptured groupies throwing their pliant and taut bodies at us. But that wasn’t what we even expected or wanted. (Well, maybe the latter would’ve been nice.) It’s almost impossible to get across for anybody that doesn’t live the lifestyle, but those that do this for money, or even to feed fevered egos rarely last or achieve. You do it because it’s a calling.
I feel reasonably comfortable in saying that 90 percent of the acts playing SXSW have no business playing music. There is an overabundance of dangerless pablum that has been foisted, in an Emperor’s-New-Clothes sort of way, on the music-listening world. There are a whole lot of people sitting around waiting to be millionaires, and not many willing to put in the kind of work necessary to make it happen. When we play, we throw it all down on the stage. We aim to make it important, triumphant, an event of note, even if the factors are stacked against us. It’s what we do.
We hang for the rest of our label showcase, rocking out to the Kentucky riff rock of Trophy Wives, who nail it against the wall in a for-serious manner, outshining their Denton set by leaps and bounds. Then the dark cabaret-esque post punk of Nervous Curtains, whose Fake Infinity record has been getting many a play by me of late. Both are fine examples of the aesthetic put forward Latest Flame; it’s not genre music so much as a workmanlike ethos coupled with absolutely raw, mainline-to-the-soul connectors. Or, as others have put it: it's less of a label, more of a street gang.
The day marches on and we get up to some SXSW activity. I eat some delicious Stubb’s BBQ with my friend Mike White, a guy I know from the incredibly nerdy and addictive turntable.fm website. A hip-hop show breaks out below us as we finish eating. Incredible. Later, we end up missing Future of the Left at the Grackle by mere minutes. Disappointing, but the tacos consumed were totally worth it. Torchy’s Tacos. Recommended.
We cruised over to the Spider House, where Annie Southworth from Panache’s party was raging on. Filled to the brim with gorgeous ladies and rad folks, we slip in the door a few minutes before the Blind Shake storm the stage, with enough live intensity for twenty of the average bands playing SXSW. The Blind Shake’s dark surf caveman stomp from the future is one of the best live acts in the USA right now. We see a few more acts, including local SF heroes Thee Oh Sees, a hardworking troupe of rockers that are seeing some awesome payouts from their many years of hard work. We sink into the crowd. It’s a great, great party, exactly the kind I wish we were playing. All we have for the next day is a bunch of vagaries, a few promising leads and competition from every other swinging dick that has converged on this town.
Lucky for us, we’re Victory and Associates. We chew up pennies and spit dimes, son.
This isn’t the last chapter, I’m turning the pages back.
Jams in the van:
AC/DC — Powerage, Led Zeppelin — III, Poison Control Center — Stranger Ballet, Opeth - Deliverance, George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (Hare Krishna), Rolling Stones - Some Girls
Stuff we sold: Nothing. People be drinkin’, y’all.
Setlist: Plausibly Wild / Get Tough, Get Through It / Exasperated Inc. / For Serious / Funundrum/ Noises, Voices, You / You Can’t Stop The Signal
This is the seventh installment of Victory and Associates' South by Southwest tour diary, which will continue to be published right here this and week. For more about the band, visit their website, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook. For the first six parts of the series, click here.