DAYS 9 & 10: Softball Reigns Out and E. Badu Carries Through

And now it’s over, I’ve procrastinated on my final blog, the audio piece is postponed until sometime this week and it might just be rolled in to a single video project. Its all iPhone 4S capture.

Yeah, so today is Monday and yesterday closed out the festival softly. Saturday night was truly a bacchanal of happenings and the energy capped like a nuclear cloud of love and exhilaration; things are peaceful despite chaos and overpopulation in the streets. There were a lot of sirens going off and I’m sure some people got hurt but nothing was too alarming. Marijuana fills the air and paper plates pollute the streets from drunken pizza and gyro wolfing. Every ten paces a different band competes with the previously heard band, rhythms colliding and phasing. South by Southwest in Austin Texas, hoot and holler! This is a true music city for every kind. It’s an oasis of liberality in an otherwise oppressively Texan state. And this festival is in so many ways a Republican event with Democrat speakers. Sunday night was a far cry. Only one music show wrapped everything up. The streets were not empty; in fact some venues had lines out the door for shows that were not SXSW. And what gave me closure was the softball game. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The day started with a visit to the music gear show. I enjoyed the “Rock it Van” for touring musicians. I met a company called Infinite Response that manufacturing and hand builds all of their keyboards right in Austin TX, they believe they are the only company in the US doing that. After that, I saw a showing of Small Apartments, a strange film about a weird guy in a gross apartment with a surreal set of circumstances in a dramatic world. The low budget picture features Billy Crystal in yet another good role as a fire investigator whose called to a murder case involving our protagonist (Matt Lucas) who appears exceedingly docile. Johnny Knoxville brings a strong presence to an aimless yet responsible college dropout. I would recommend it; the absurdist and surreal humor mixed with mainstream actors and guest cameo performances makes for a strong film. You’ll laugh, but you won’t cry. For the rest of the day, I wrote my blog, got some drinks and made the following Facetime interview.

It was another jam-packed night. It’s an ADD festival; I hardly watched any music performance from start to finish. The music started with a rumor that Erykah Badu would be doing a show. Of course, I was surprised because it wasn’t in the schedule. With a new friend, Renee, we went to the stage and waited, but 8pm wasn’t the real show time, so we left to see Donovan. That’s right mellow yellow, Donovan was playing a solo acoustic show at the same festival as Erykah Badu, only he was playing a small, quaint venue down by the freeway. I couldn’t believe it, here was a legend performing classic hits and only a small gathering was present. Of course, there are tremendous shows happening everywhere! All the oldie fogies of Woodstock times were there in exuberance with their new leather jackets and gold watches, drinking micro beers in the bottle and singing along. I sang along too.

As soon as his set was over, Renee and I hoofed it over to Nas. Renee is a new Austin resident that plans to do some schoolin’ at UT and volunteered about sixty hours for her Platinum badge. We bonded over a conversation about women because she can analyze them like she’s a guy, but she’s not naïve like a guy. So anyway, we cruise down to Moody Theater and make it to the balcony. I’ve never been to a hip-hop concert in a theater. Nas dressed up the stage to look like a big city projects scene, any projects, and he would enter and exit from a subway station stairwell. This theater is brand new and state of the art, the beats cut through and the lyrics are clear — although I’m notorious for ignoring them and getting lost in how they sound – and Nas was killer supplying a real groove and going for the big sound, everyone bouncing with him. Pretty soon, my friend bailed for the night and then I spotted another new friend whom I had on Facetime a few days back, Ximena Estrada. We said hello and then I bailed on through to the next show.

It was across the district over to 7th and Red River. Along the way, even though I was cutting in to time a bit, I figured I’d go up to 8th and see if E. Badu was performing, and yes, she was! For some reason they cut off the entrance, so I jumped the fence like it’s Woodstock. I’m glad I did, the stage looked awesome and actually there was a ton of room! I was able to get about fifty yards from her without any effort. As I stepped closer she was scatting to a fast beat, I wasn’t sure if it was she, but yes it was. Her band is groovin’ and the lights are pulsing with some fun visualizations; pretty good for a makeshift operation! This wasn’t even on the schedule, so I must ask, what other city, what other festival has so much happening and then adds headliners in like it’s an afterthought? You can be walking down the street and just happen yourself in to a free Erykah Badu show? Here’s how it happens: Red Bull pays for it. That’s all it takes. So, she did it. On stage, she mentioned that she broke her first record deal in 1993 when she played SXSW the first time. Knowing damn well I’m getting a great show and I’m stoked, her voice with carries as good as ever, with real soul, but not always on the right note. “But my music was never about notes anyway” she sings. She was good, but I get on going again to the thing that was also not to miss, if you love electronic beats: Deadalus.

I could not believe my ears and body during Deadalus. The half-circle outdoor room resonates the deep bass and releases it, making an ideal resonator where all the people crammed in and moved to the complex interweaving sounds put to hard grooves and mad beats, so I anxiously ordered and shot down a whiskey and Lone Star beer so I could get to dancing. It sounded phenomenal, the bass getting in to my gut and pushing the noise through my legs, only for about ten minutes and the set was over. Of course I was busy watching Erykah Badu, so I wasn’t bummed.

I had time to see Mobb Deep even though my body was ready to call it a night and I only stayed a little while. This band is much more intense than Nas or E. Badu, as you could imagine. A fierce-faced dude with scary eyes demanding that we be stoked on Mobb Deep or, by my impression of him, we wasn’t gonna be happy and if he isn’t happy, none of us will be happy. With his introduction, the Mobb takes the stage and people go wild. The beats are pounding and rappers all in an entourage, audience members smoking bong rips right on the side of the stage. As much as I enjoyed this for about twenty minutes, it was time to go. I walk back to my secret parking spot and get in the car. The streets are packed. People are drunk. As I’m cruising down Cesar Chavez I notice a few guys waving at cars with cash in their hands, well, I’ll be a cab! I’m a professional rideshare driver anyway, so I take their $15 and they ride literally a handful of blocks from where I’m going. Awesome.

The next morning is the softball tournament with barbeque and beer, free to players and registrants alike. What a perfect way to end a big festival like this! I made it to the online/radio/volunteers team. There were only three online/radio people including me, so it was largely the volunteers’ team. This was a three round tournament with six teams and we beat Staff in the first round and were knocked out by the soon-to-be winners, Print Media. But, we enjoyed our third place trophy and accepted the loss when rain struck the first few innings of the final round. It was fun to watch and relax. My body is sore though! It feels good, and bad, but now that I’m about to embark on a 16-hour drive, I would bet it’s going to get a little sore.

Also, I made it to see my friend Krista Muir one last time. How nice to make new friends. Like an idiot, I fuddled around with RAM in my Macbook, which seems dumb because it should take 4 GB! Anyway, she performed as Lederhosen Lucile and I wasn’t hip, thought she was doing what I had already seen. Oops.  I will produce a show for Lucile in the future, you’ll see. Also helping close out the festival was Bombasta, a San Antonio Latin Rock group that wears sunglasses in the dark and brings the funk with the rock with the traditional Mexican sound too. They were great. But nobody was there! It was dead. After a Saturday night like that, it’s understandable. Those who did see Lucile seemed stoked; new fans crowded her when I walked in the club. After driving Krista (Lucile) home and saying goodbye, “see you soon”, that was truly the end of the festival. It was already Monday morning, 1am or so, and time to think about going to Denver to see my sister and of course a great city. Austin is a great city and the friends that I made here are totally going to get me over here again. Blessed is thee who makes good. Thanks everyone!

Okay for real, I want to thank Kat, Zach, Maggie, KBOO, SXSW, Ximena, Cody, Renee, and anyone else who helped make this an awesome time. I’ll update this if I remember you or you gently remind me.

Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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