THANK YOU to everyone who made this trip possible. The entire FOD team in every office, every brand who paid for every party and every drink, all the great musicians, Uber, HUF, Lone Star, Whataburger, Joel, Mandee, Antonia, Darryl, Dan, Nate, Patrick, Kellyn, Caitlin, Matt, Marfa, Pitchfork, Christian, Pittman, McGinn, Rachel, Ally, Kat, Betsy, Big Boi, Connor, Farah, Mike Rosenstein, Ashley Nichols, Chris Garcia, Danl, Ben, Val, Ian, Jerrod, Giuls, Spencer, Teddy, all the cool people I talked to, everybody who let me take their picture, Mophie, Anne, Mobile Fomo, Tagged, that sushi place, Inge, Gary, Leona, Texas, Boiler Room, Angel, Dru, Sophie, Perri, Larry, Terry, CMP, Meg, Vi, Mike the cab driver, Jake from Verizon, Angelo, Franki, Lustre Pearl staff, Bill Cosby, Wellington Chiu that bartender who put me on to ginger beer and anyone else I forgot to list. Everybody. Thank you.
My alarm went off at 4am on Friday morning and I had 30 minutes before the cab was arriving to pack for 10 days in Texas. I checked the weather forecast in Austin (it said definitely cold and probably rain) then crammed a mountain of sweatshirts, jackets, socks, underwear & shirts into a bag. A pair of backup pants in the event of an unforeseen pants emergency. One bathing suit with the optimistic hope that I’d make friends with a pool. The plan was always to grab a nap in the taxi, but it was just too exciting. It felt like I was driving into Christmas. I brushed up on my ability to make conversation with a cab driver and braved the pre-dawn scene at LAX. Multiple people at the gate were wearing Google Glass.
The good people at Tagged (it’s a website) have a service where cars pick you up for free from the airport at SXSW. When you land there’s a girl at baggage claim holding a Tagged sign with your name on it and she takes you to your car. It’s a nice way for them to take care of their friends and, bonus, if those friends have any social media channels they will 99% post about it. When I got to my sign I bumped into two people I hadn’t seen in years, my old bosses Larry and Terry from Fanscape. They seemed very impressed with the size of the sign that had my name on it and the obvious success it implied. When I went outside, I saw the modest vehicle that Tagged sent to greet me.
I made it to 6th Street (if you’ve never been to SXSW, 6th Street is like Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras or the Thunderdome from “Mad Max”) and ventured towards the FOD condo to check in. Found out I couldn’t check in for another two hours, so I killed some time in a bar getting lunch thinking maybe I should count the number of beers I have on this trip. What a fun thing to do! What an angle on this developing story.
A group of guys walked in, all of whom were wearing giant orange foam hats, neon green sunglasses and eating popsicles. I wondered if the same booth was giving them all out or if they made three different stops. The only thing I knew for certain was they did not pay for the hats or the sunglasses or the popsicles. By the time the condo guy came to let me in, the beer count was at 1.5 but I scored it as a 2.
When he gave me the condo keys he was VERY adamant that we were not to have ANY parties, make ANY loud noise or smoke ANY weed. I nodded, but the fact that I was wearing a hat covered in weed leaves and carrying two boxes of DJ gear did not seem to reassure him of my intentions. I spent my afternoon picking up my badge then used the SXSW app to sniff out free food and drinks at daytime tech parties. WARNING: If you go to these day parties, they do have free food and drinks but you might have to sit through an analytics platform demo from a guy who is wearing a shirt that is just a very bad shirt. I complimented him on his shirt, but I think he knew I was overcompensating for my real feelings. I saw my cousin who lives in Austin, texted a local weed dealer I met a year ago and regrouped with the FOD team to see a live Big Boi performance presented by Verizon.
(photo: Ally Hord)
Big Boi was phenomenal and, not wanting to be done with the night, we marched back towards 6th Street where a modest scene was developing. Tech folks and local alcoholics alike were embracing this opportunity to wander the blocked off streets with a stomach full of Lone Star. We bought a whole pizza, ate all of it in less than 2 minutes as a team building exercise, went to a bar with delightful 80’s music and a little before 2am I decided it was time to call it. Being up for almost 24 hours was starting to take its toll (the afternoon nap I had planned to take alluded me) and I said goodnight to the team.
Day 2: The Vacuum Mission
I woke up to a lot of text messages I sent myself the day before, trying to keep count of every beer I had. It was a good system, but it was not airtight. I tallied the score and decided the end result of this game would be depressing and probably kill my phone battery. It’s also pointless. It’s as pointless as counting beers at SXSW. So pointless you could use it as a metaphor to describe other pointless things.
I went to the FOD Clubhouse (a local bar we rented along with Facebook who had a popup HQ there) for an event that I’ve been helping plan for 7 months with a lot of very smart and hard working people. The 2014 Funny Or Die presence at SXSW 2014! And what a presence it was going to be. Three very full days of events, all free and mostly open to everybody, but the first order of business was to shoot a celebrity filled video in all corners of the venue before doors opened. This particular event was not open to the public, or even FOD employees who weren’t necessary personnel, but the fact that we had a celebrity shoot going on and everyone was moving quickly to get it done felt very FOD to me. Really bringing our work culture to Texas. I had to do a double take when I saw Pittman at the bar with what appeared to be a loaded firearm.
It was a prop gun. Here are some pictures of the rest of the stuff that happened that day. It included an excellent mariachi group, a live Q&A with the cast of “Neighbors” that Facebook helped make happen and a lot of cool people who saw our sign and wanted to come in to party even though it was raining. Or maybe they wanted to come in because it was raining? Here are some highlights from the FOD Instagram account:
It started to rain heavily and the “Neighbors” premiere party we were supposed to host was in danger of being a very wet time for our guests. Patrick from our marketing department got on the phone with Home Depot to try and secure several high-powered vacuums for purchase at 8pm on a Friday night to clean up our backyard. They had enough vacuums in stock, but the new issue was how do we get a van big enough to transport them. My good friends are in a band called Incan Abraham and they were booked to play the premiere party that night. I realized they were on tour and ran out during their sound check to ask three very important questions: “Did you get here in a van? Is it empty right now? Can we borrow it?”
They learned the stakes, realized no vacuums might mean a weak crowd and without any kind of hesitation or frustration just stopped their sound check and grabbed car keys. The guitarist Teddy drove Patrick to some Home Depot to buy a bunch of vacuums that could allegedly make puddles disappear. By the time they get back, the party was about to start and the weather let up. We no longer required the suction fleet, but I guess better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Incan Abraham played a great set, Patrick told me Teddy was the most relaxed person he’s ever met and at midnight I learned it was Giuls’ birthday. Giuls is another guy in Incan Abraham that I’ve known since adolescence.
At some point towards the end of the night someone ran up and handed me a brand new skateboard with very cool wheels that light up when you spin them. They got a few extra as promos, and because I’m an FOD employee here who would cherish it, this was a special gift for me. I blurted out, “It feels like it’s my birthday!” next to Giuls and instantly felt bad since it actually was his birthday. All he got for his birthday was a few free cans of Lone Star and a gig where he couldn’t sound check. I handed him the board right away, it felt like the right thing to do. I later learned that he no longer skateboards and reclaimed the board from some random dude he passed it off to. Giuls, understandably, was probably just tired of carrying it.
We ended the night on a magical vehicle called RVIP. RVIP is an after hours RV with a karaoke machine, a full open bar and a lot of people looking to have a good time. It drives all around Austin during SXSW and you have to pick it up at random locations then roll the dice on where it drops you off. Rachel, the pied piper of RVIP for the FOD team, summoned this vehicle to a corner and I finally got to see this glorious thing I’d heard about for years. The rest of the group was less enamored; they already rode this creature the night before when I bailed after the 80’s music bar. We had a few free beers, absolutely crushed “This Is How We Do It” by Montel Jordan, drove around downtown for a bit and got dropped off where we were picked up. Miraculously, I was still holding the skateboard.
Day 3: Chocolate Mini Donuts
I woke up and emptied the contents of my pockets out of curiosity. A blank notebook, a Fandango coupon for a coupon and a free sample of cologne. I could not recall actively taking any of these things, but people at large festivals trick you into mindlessly taking free products you don’t want. And it only gets easier as the festival goes on. I thought of the guys in the orange hats and green sunglasses with the popsicles. I wondered what their night was like for a bit then decided it was time to head to the FOD Clubhouse to do some work.
If the vacuum parable was any indication, our jobs at the clubhouse as FOD employees were diverse and never really over. Christian from our team decided this afternoon would be a good time to grill up some burgers for our guests.
It was a really sweet sentiment that resulted in him setting his eyelashes on fire.
The rest of the day was equally eventful. Hard to pick a single highlight, but cradling a HUVr board for the first time (I don’t know why I waited this long to touch one, I think still wanted them to be real) and watching Jerrod Carmichael do standup were definitely up there. As a matter of fact, that should be Jerrod’s slogan. “Jerrod Carmichael: My comedy is as good as holding a hoverboard.”
The festivities at the FOD Clubhouse wound down and I followed a guy I just met (Nick) who runs a music blog I like (ThisSongIsSick.com) towards an after party that he said would have good music. Sure, why not. On the way we bought some pizza and he tried to purchase a water bottle from a stranger walking down the street. The stranger said no sale, but he mercifully poured some water into Nick’s mouth to help him swallow his pizza. This is the interactive portion of the festival.
The after party was great! I was pleasantly surprised to see another pair of old friends performing, Ian and Danl from a DJ group called gLAdiator. Just some good ol’ fashioned trap music at 1:45 in the morning. Everything ended about 15 minutes after we got there, I finished the Lone Star that was in my hand and headed home.
I actually made it home, too. Even took off my jacket. I know this because I took a photo where I noticed my jacket matched my bed sheets. But then I got a series of texts letting me know it was time to get back on RVIP and I didn’t hesitate much to reapply my jacket and journey outside. We had another wonderful time aboard the bus, here are some pictures including one guy who was sleeping with his neck at a really interesting angle.
When the neck guy finally woke up, we tried to give him a trash can in case he had to throw up. I have never seen a human being become so sincere about the fact that he was not about to vomit. For some reason I believed him. In that moment, I might’ve even let him drive the bus.
RVIP doesn’t always drop you off where it picks you up. The vehicle is kind of a free spirit. So suddenly it’s 4am and we’re stranded in a parked RV very far from home base at the whim of a party that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. We disembarked, eventually managed to get an UberX and made it downtown. I bought some water and chocolate mini donuts from a convenience store, saved the receipt because technically this was dinner, and found a working stream of the “True Detective” finale to watch in bed. I fell asleep 10 minutes in, surrounded by chocolate mini donuts.
Day 4: Shark Tank and Cosby
My alarm didn’t wake me up this time. Instead it was a series of texts and phone calls from my friend Anne at 9:15am who was talking on a panel with me. It was a panel presented by Samsung in a steakhouse they converted for the festival to be a blogger lounge. It would be hard to make any part of that up. Anne informed me that our panel was starting 30 minutes earlier than expected, so I grabbed whatever clothes were within arms reach and ran down there. I choked down half a breakfast taco for energy when I arrived, opted out of the free bloody mary bar and jumped on stage.
I do not get star struck often. And when I do, I can usually contain it. But when all the panelists were being introduced, and I found out the guy sitting next to me was on “Shark Tank” I felt a measurable increase in my heart rate. “Shark Tank” is my favorite show. When his introduction continued, and I was informed he was the only person on “Shark Tank” to ever get all five sharks to invest in his business, I pretty much had to call security on myself. It was, without a doubt, one of the best “Shark Tank” moments of all time. Charles Michael Yim. I was sitting next to a legend. I asked him for a photo afterwards, I think my slumber deficit was starting to show.
As much fun as this panel inside a converted steakhouse next to a guy from “Shark Tank” was, I had to return to the FOD Clubhouse to do more worky work. I was running a little behind schedule, so I decided to try and ride my new skateboard there to save time. This was a bad choice. Though the light up wheels and shiny blue plastic deck looked cool, this thing was not so good to ride. I fell off it several times and eventually gave up and walked. What followed was another great day at the FOD Clubhouse.
But this was all just a warm up for the main event! The culmination of our SXSW presence! The hottest ticket in town that night! The one and only Bill Cosby live in concert! Lines were forming all around the venue. The Cosby thirst was so real. I told my friends to get there crazy early if they wanted any shot at all of attendance. Miraculously, they all listened and almost everyone got in before the show started. Dr. Cosby was still sharp as a tack and put on a performance the likes of which SXSW has never seen.
It was an honor to get a photo with Dr. Cosby before the show. It’s something I will take with me forever, and talk about to anyone who will listen.
When Dr. Cosby was done with his legendary performance, I got to be the house DJ for a bit before Chromeo came on stage and closed the party out. A friend from Uber was at our event the night before and put me on a special Uber Lux list that gave me access to free luxury cars at SXSW through the Uber app. I hadn’t had an opportunity to use it yet, but I was carrying a lot of DJ gear and this seemed like a good time to test the waters. I clicked the Uber Lux button and a Rolls Royce showed up five minutes later to take me home. On my way back, I realized I forgot my new skateboard at the venue and instantly made peace with never seeing it again. We simply weren’t meant to be together.
Day 5: House Parties
My alarm went off at 9:05am. We had to be down at the convention center for a tech run through of our official SXSW panel, so I groggily floated there with my coworker Darryl and met up with Carolyn who does our PR. It was a very big day for FOD, and not because of some panel. President Barack Obama’s episode of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis was now live on our site and spirits were high. We did the tech run through, which was pretty much just handing over a flash drive with videos and asking if they were equipped to play “Y’all Ready For This” over the PA, and headed back to the condo to clean and pack. Checkout was at 11am and our panel was at 11:15am.
Cleanup was actually pretty easy considering we didn’t have any parties, make any noise or smoke any weed in there. That condo guy’s once bummer parameters turned out to be the keys to success for making a hasty departure. We made it to our panel in time and we weren’t terrible. Thanks everyone who came out, it’s been amazing to see the crowds grow every year for people who want to hear FOD staff members say anything.
(photo: Ally Hord)
Caroline Chapple in the crowd actually drew two cartoons that summed the whole panel up! Really nice stuff, thank you Caroline for tweeting this @ us.
The panel ended and all my official FOD business in Texas was now concluded. From here on out the mission was about meeting people, hearing new music, learning what works in terms of marketing and events so we could use it for next year and also to have a good time. Oh, and if I could write an article for the site at the end that would be good too. We used Uber Lux to call a Bentley and headed towards the HUF House where our friends were hosting a BBQ.
First, let me say thanks to HUF for everything. I got a free hat from them a year ago at SXSW, wore it every remaining day of the festival, and it started a wonderful relationship both in terms of me wearing hats and loving their brand. They are genuinely cool dudes who like to have a good time and take care of their friends. Unlike the FOD Clubhouse, the HUF House was an actual house and not a bar. It wasn’t hundreds of people, it was just four or five dudes hanging in the front yard listening to some music and cooking food. There was a security guard with a gold grill in his mouth. They welcomed the whole FOD team and gifted us with a plethora of hats, shirts, sweatshirts & socks. Basically anything we wanted. They make really cool weed leaf socks, I noticed a few pairs were actually covered in small crumbs of weed.
Unfortunately the neighbors and local authorities did not appreciate the chill front yard hangout vibe that HUF was going for. A few people with badges showed up to inform the HUF team that pretty much everything they were doing was not cool. Bummer. My friend Mike and I each called an Uber Lux and while we were waiting for them we used an iPhone camera attachment Mike bought at the convention center to look at the weed on the socks at a microscopic level. Mike’s Bentley got there first, but he wanted to wait for our Bentley to arrive so they could be friends. I really do love Mike because he just has the kind of brain that sees these opportunities for moments when nobody else does. Shout out to Mike.
We took our Bentley to the house we were staying at for music week about 8 miles outside of downtown. Anne, my friend from the Samsung panel who reps a blog called Mobile Fomo, graciously offered to host the FOD team. She was throwing a Mobile Fomo house party there that night, complete with a limo bus shuttle making trips to and from downtown presented by Tagged. We hung out for a bit then went downtown on the limo bus to hear some music. I saw a really excellent show with RAC at the Hype Hotel, and was once again surprised to see an old friend performing on a SXSW stage: Spencer Ludwig from Capital Cities.
I also saw this guy in a diaper with a cane who I didn't realize only had one arm until I revisited the photo.
On the way back to the limo bus at the end of the night, Anne called asking us to stop at Whataburger for the people who were still partying at her house. It seemed like an easy enough request to fulfill, and the driver didn’t mind, so we stopped at Whataburger for $84 dollars of cheeseburgers, chicken strips, fries and onion rings in the middle of the night.
Anne had a professional photographer named Michael O'Donnell shooting the party while we were gone, here are some of the spectacular images he took. Looks like we missed a pretty wild crowd.
We all consumed all of the food and promptly fell asleep.
Day 6: “Are you ok?”
No alarm clock needed today, I slept on a couch in the living room so it was pretty much a self-regulating wake up of sunlight and ambient human noise. I handled some FOD related job stuff and then went about the process of emailing myself every possible flyer and set time for anything I might want to see that day/night. It’s organized chaos during music week, and the more information you can give yourself to attend stuff the better. We got a cab and ventured downtown.
Hungry despite our late night burger run, we visited a familiar food truck lot and tried to make some quick choices. There was an “Anchorman 2” truck handing out free chicken, so it wasn’t much of a choice at all for me. Two free tiny buckets of chicken, please! Sustenance. We migrated towards the Pitchfork day party. After a quick conversation on whether or not we should call a Rolls Royce, we just decided to walk it.
In true Pitchfork form, there was virtually no Pitchfork signage for their sprawling event anywhere. I guess they’re too cool for it. I kind of get, but it made it hard to even know if we were at the right place. Beats by Dre and Twinkies had signs all over the place. I grabbed a free Twinkie and some water then charged my phone at the Beats by Dre charging station. We listened to some very cool futuristic music from SOPHIE and Cashmere Cat while I occasionally snuck off to quiet corners for work related calls and emails.
I got a picture of my cousin holding an amazing dog on our way out. The dog’s owner handed me a card and encouraged me to follow the dog on Instagram. I did it immediately and have not regretted the decision.
We headed back downtown to see Incan Abraham play in a bar with Sports Center in the background then caught some bassy beats in a basement next door courtesy of my new friend Nick from that blog. I was fascinated by how hard people were partying down there on a Wednesday afternoon.
Kanye West and Jay-Z were performing that night at a Samsung party, which was definitely the hot ticket in town. None of us were cool enough to get in, but we managed to finagle our way into the GOOD Music showcase instead. Rumor had it Kanye was supposed to perform, and the rest of the lineup was tops, so we posted up and enjoyed the show.
Somewhere in between Big Sean’s stellar performance and me taking a picture of a dude’s Robotussin shirt, some really scary news started to spread. We heard about a car accident over at Mohawk. A drunk driver crashed through a barricade, killed some people and injured a lot more. I immediately started texting every single person I knew in town to see if they were ok. My phone exploded with people checking in on me. It was very scary, very dark and very sad. We were no longer concerned with hanging out to see if Kanye West would surprise us with a free show. Partying felt wildly inappropriate and it was time to end the night.
I realized the only thing I ate that day were two free chicken strips and a Twinkie. We quickly consumed some Thai food around the corner and opened Uber. A message popped up. In the interest of getting everyone home safe that night, Uber made every car free for everybody. Very cool of them to do. We got a car and went home in silence, each of us sending texts to check in on our friends and answering friends who were checking in on us.
Day 7: The Austin–Bergstrom Incident
I woke up to so many calls and texts from people asking if I was alive. It was comforting to know people in my life cared about me, but it was also a grim reminder that there were people getting these texts who couldn’t respond because they were in a hospital or dead. I was in a very dark place, unsure what this meant for the rest of my time here. Still, I emailed myself every flyer and set time I could, handled some mobile office work then tried to call a cab to get back downtown.
After over an hour of trying, it was clear that a cab wasn’t going to happen and we were too far from the epicenter of downtown to use Uber. A local friend offered to give us a ride downtown and we instantly took him up on it. Someone in our group was bringing luggage downtown because he had a flight later that night. This is where the day started to turn.
Despite a conversation that we were heading downtown, and roughly where downtown we were headed, our local friend drove us to the airport because he noticed the luggage. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the airport on accident for no reason. Most people live their whole life and that never happens. The absurdity of the whole thing got us as we pulled up to the airport and we all started laughing. And it felt really good to be laughing again. I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to great music at the Nylon Magazine party and Fader Fort, riding a rollercoaster of reflective sadness and giggles over an accidental airport run.
After the second time seeing Chromeo in four days, I went to check out a band called HAERTS because they spell their name cool and then to the Boys Noize Records showcase. My friend Gary, who goes by Destructo, was playing and I introduced him to the people from yesterday's daylight basement party. One of them had Gary's company tattooed on her foot, so when they asked him for a picture there was only one obvious choice.
Suddenly it was 2am. I walked towards the after party to regroup with my friends. It was an all trap music after party, which seemed like a good idea when we made these plans, and despite a massive line out front we managed to get in thanks to my friend Sophie. Once inside, the bass vibrations were rattling my brain to the point where I kept forgetting where I was. We went to the bar to get some water, the only thing they were selling after 2am, and a girl tried to sell us some molly. We politely declined, so she escalated her sales pitch and offered to flash us if we bought her drugs. It was a really innovative marketing approach, but it didn’t move the needle on our interest. It actually made us get the hell out of there. I got a picture before we left of Mike’s HUF sweatshirt, which read like the ramblings of a group of dudes camping in the woods on mushrooms.
Mike used Uber to call a Rolls Royce or a Bentley, I honestly don’t remember which, and we asked the driver to stop at Whataburger before taking us home. I immediately fell asleep in the front seat of our luxury car and was handed a bag of chicken strips and a chocolate shake when we arrived at our final destination.
Day 8: Angel in the Outfield
I woke up next to an untouched bag of chicken strips and a room temperature chocolate shake. Eager to seek refuge from brands offering me free food in exchange for mental real estate, and still very hungry, I went to my cousin’s house for a home cooked meal where she and her boyfriend prepared a feast for Darryl and me. They also had some really cool stuff on their walls. I snapped some pictures of my cousin’s dog (named Marfa) and was informed that Marfa has her own Instagram account. I followed her post haste, the second dog I followed on Instagram so far this trip. Unaware of the huge solid I just did her, Marfa tried to eat my cheeseburger two seconds later. I forgave her.
We called a Rolls Royce and headed downtown to see my friend Chris’ band, The Young Rapscallions. They rocked thoroughly then I jumped out the door to catch some more acts around the corner. I suddenly became very aware that all the cool shirts I was seeing were just corporate logos and copyrighted material reappropriated illegally, often for no reason or agenda. This quickly became a lot more interesting to me than any music. I also saw a guy in a panda costume.
Equally interesting was this text conversation I had with a friend I bumped into at a bar. I showed it to a lot of people for the rest of the trip in hopes they could translate, but nobody could crack the code. Human beings never cease to amaze me.
I saw my friends gLAdiator perform one more set, caught a little bit of Green Velvet down the street, dodged some skateboarders while trying to take a picture and walked over to the HARD showcase. I am always blown away at what people wear to these events. I saw a guy dressed like a Ninja Turtle in the crowd then a shark using the bathroom.
When HARD ended, the people I was with had left and I was now up to my own devices to find my remaining friends at an after party. This was an increasingly common scenario on this trip. I walked towards where I thought the party was for about thirty minutes before getting a text that informed me I had gone completely in the wrong direction. Then my phone died. I looked around and realized I was alone in the middle of nowhere. Panic set in.
I found a gas station that fortunately had phone chargers for sale. My lucky day! I picked one up and plugged in to the wall on the side of the gas station. I looked up and it was like the universe was telling me something. This might not be my night to continue partying.
I charged my phone until it was brought back to life and started walking back the way I came. The only pedicab driver I had seen since I left downtown pulled up next to me and asked if I needed a ride. Four years at SXSW and I had never been in a pedicab once. I said yes like she was the last helicopter out of Vietnam. I asked her to take me back to where cabs were downtown, but I knew this was just the beginning of the struggle. A cab after midnight at SXSW is hard to find, but let’s just focus on one problem at a time.
We started talking. Or I guess talking as much as two people can talk when one is in front of the other peddling a bicycle. She asked what I was doing so far out and I explained my story. It’s the end of her shift, and she understood how hard cabs are to find this time of night, so she offered to drive me to the after party I was looking for if I would throw her some gas money. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Do not accept rides from strangers. This is a dangerous and stupid move. But she seemed nice enough, and it felt like I could be murdered out there either way, so I accepted her offer.
(Corporate logos and faces have been removed so this person does not lose their job)
I went with her to drop her pedicab off at the pedicab graveyard and it felt like some “Taxi” reboot located in Austin. Everybody knew each other’s names! “Eyyy, Jim! See you tomorrow?” “Tough day, Rachel? Time to get some rest!” Having been systematically abandoned by all my friends for the night, I enjoyed the comradery of the profession. After a quick stop at a gas station, she drove me home and we had a few good laughs at the thought that either one of us could be a murderer. As far as life mistakes and judgment slips go this could be a pretty big whoopsie daisy. But in a pleasant turn of events, neither one of us murdered the other and she dropped me safe at my destination before driving off into obscurity. She said her name was Angel (not her real name) and she lived up to it.
Day 9: The Final Boss
I woke up disoriented, unsure what day it was. Was it Saturday or Friday? How many days of this did I have left? How many days had I been here? I tried to leave the room I was in and wound up walking into a closet. Everything was outsmarting me and I knew I had to leave Texas soon. “One more day then just don’t miss your flight,” I reassured myself. Not that reassuring when I thought about it.
About 10 minutes later my phone rang. Apparently, fed up with waiting for a cab each morning, drunk me decided to schedule a cab last night before I went to bed. Not sure why I scheduled it so early, but ok. Not about to look a cab-horse in the mouth. I threw on some clothes and went downtown. I realized I didn’t shower when the cab had already left, but fuck it, it was raining. Close enough.
Physically ill from all the BBQ I had ingested in the past week, I went to a sushi place I discovered last year. It has become my lunch strategy to tackle the final boss that is Saturday night of music week. Try to eat a light, healthy meal of fish, salad and rice because at any minute your whole physical ecosystem could unravel. Wash it down with beer and water to keep the train on the tracks.
When I walked in and asked for a table the hostess deadpanned that the whole restaurant was on break. I shrugged and was about to leave before I realized she was messing with me. It is just SO easy to trick people this late in the SXSW game. I ate the first healthy meal I’d had in over a week, left a few comments on Instagram regarding my thoughts on dogs, then headed out towards a friend’s showcase.
On my way, I saw a guy playing guitar by himself in the rain between two dumpsters for nobody. I hope he’s ok.
I spent the afternoon wandering around checking out a few showcases and seeing friends. My fascination with clothing was growing, so I decided to grab a few more photos of cool outfits while I was still here.
Realizing I left my sunglasses at home, I stopped by the convention center to try and pick up some free sunglasses (no giant orange foam hats or popsicles required) but with tech week long gone the scene inside the convention center had changed. Instead of free sunglasses and flash drives I found rows upon rows of gorgeous poster art. It reminded me of Comic-Con and I got a little homesick for California.
I got an email reminding me of a free dinner I RSVP’d to that was presented by Tumblr. It was a few blocks away so I figured I should check it out. Why not? I had no reason why not. The once quiet 6th Street had exploded over the past nine days into a wall of humanity. College students, musicians, street performers, disgruntled locals and well meaning families roamed this zoo. On my way to the Tumblr dinner, I got a call from my dear friend Jake who is a self-proclaimed big dog in the music industry. I found him on a nearby roof and invited him to join me for this dinner. Neither of us knew what to expect, but we both were game to check it out.
When we walked in, there were two rows of tables setup like some kind of last supper, which was actually pretty on the nose for what we were doing. Inexplicably, there were aggressive disco lights running during this daylight hours meal. They seated us right away and proceeded to serve us four courses of delicious food followed by dessert. Jake did not hold anything back when they passed around comment cards.
I parted ways with Jake and walked towards a showcase a friend told me about earlier. Holy Ghost! and Cut Copy performing together at a Samsung party. I called the friend, and asked if he could get me in. He told me to just walk to the back of the venue, find a door, walk down some stairs and I could go right in. Security at the front was very tight, and this seemed like a plan that was unlikely to succeed, but I decided to try it out. Maybe the venues could be tricked as well!
I walked around the back of the club to an alley, found a door, walked down some stairs and I was in! UNREAL! I texted my friend to let him know his master plan worked. Then I looked around and thought this place is a lot smaller than I imagined. Then I noticed they had basketball on the TV and no Samsung signs anywhere. Then I realized I had just broken into the wrong venue.
It turns out there was a mix-up and my friend was at another show across town the whole time. I was ready to roll with this punch, but before I could make my next move I bumped into my friend Sophie who immediately managed to get me in the front door of this event. Some people can just work magic. It was a really great show and I can’t thank Sophie enough. As Cut Copy wrapped up, I used Uber Lux for the last time of the trip and got in a Bentley. I had completely lost count of how many times I had been in one of these cars.
The night ended with a performance by Four Tet at the Boiler Room party. I don’t think any company on this planet is quite as cool as Boiler Room. Their visual aesthetic, their artist choice, their guest list exclusivity. So cool. They’re just impossibly cool. It was a great crowd and I talked for a bit with some kids in the back who reminded me of a slightly younger version of myself and my friends. I texted a cab driver I met last year to see if he was available to pick me up a little after 2am. I was learning to schedule these things in advance.
My cab driver friend picked me up right when he said he would and he had a cooler of beers in the backseat. I knew I saved his contact info for a reason. I decided against an after party for the third night in a row and requested a ride home towards bed. I don’t know if I’m getting older or more responsible or just more exhausted, but I was happy with this choice the second I got home and hugged my pillow like it had the cure.
Day 10: “Just let me in, I’m on the list!”
I woke up and had a conversation with Darryl about splitting a cab to the airport. We each agreed that would be a good idea. 30 minutes later we go outside to find two taxi cabs waiting for us. Whoops. Guess we should’ve been a little more clear with each other about who was on cab calling duty. Not wanting to watch these cab drivers fight in the street, we agreed the easiest thing to do here was just to take two separate cabs to the same airport for the same flight. We also agreed it would be fun to see them race. Shout out to Wilson in the FOD accounting department, I am not submitting this second cab receipt for reimbursement just because I couldn’t deal with an awkward conversation with two cabbies. It was worth every penny to beat Darryl to the airport.
When I got to the airport and unloaded my bag, backpack and DJ gear from the trunk a guy on the curb came up to me with a soda cup and asked me to sign it. I think he thought I was famous because I had headphones around my neck. I don’t know why I declined his request, it was easily my biggest fuckup of the entire 10 days.
Darryl showed up a few minutes later and we joked about which of the many wristbands we were wearing could get us on the flight. He told me about all the crazy places he went the night before, including a G Pen event with a secret VIP room that was exactly as ridiculous as you might imagine and then some. When I got to the front of the security line they asked me to remove my sunglasses and say my full name twice like I just suffered some kind of seizure. The fact that I was wearing a hat covered in weed leaves did not assure the TSA agent of my good intentions. Another TSA agent asked me how long I had been up. I just shrugged and said, “Nine days?”
Before our plane boarded we went to the apple store, which wasn’t a place that sold computers but a sports bar that also sold water bottles and apples. I bought one of each, finished half of both and almost made it on the plane before a gate rep asked to see if my carry on was up to regulation size.
I walked over to that tiny metal crate they have next to the gate door and start shoving it in there. She was not ready for where I was at emotionally and spiritually. I caught my 28th wind. My wave of energy hadn’t quite crashed yet and I was in it to win it. I was dropping elbows on this bag.
She yelled, “Sir, don’t force it! You’re forcing it!” I wanted to respond with, “Ma’am, the whole point of this tiny crate right now is for me to force it! And don’t think I was going to be gentle with your overhead bins! I’m friends with DJ American Airlines! Just let me in, I’m on the list!” Instead, I quickly cut my losses and just handed my bag over to be checked with a smile. I was back in the real world now and needed to act accordingly. This place has rules and people who don’t compliment you on your weed hat.
I got on the plane and left SXSW 2014 behind. It was a wild time that left me with a greater appreciation for life and what we're all capable of accomplishing when we join together for a common purpose. Human tragedy is an unfortunate certainty, it's the response that counts. But now it was time to go home, get some sleep and write the longest article of my life that nobody will ever read. Oh yeah, I also needed to watch the “True Detective” finale. See you next year, Texas. I love you.