The Odyssey, SXSW Chapter: Days 16-19

March 16th – 19th, The Concluding Chapter, Days 16-19 of The Musical Odyssey

Day 17:

Land in Austin and am excited about how much the airport celebrates live music let alone SXSW. It’s exciting, and I’m happy to be there. I get a cab around 7pm and go to the condo I’m renting with Sasha Lord, awesome chick that books all the shows at Comet Ping Pong. Once I’m there, I get on the phone to get a cab into the downtown area where the festival is, and I soon discover it is impossible to get a hold of any of the cab companies. I feel stranded. As if by a miracle, I get a text from Jamil Hamilton, i.e. DJ Jahsonic who throws the Monday party at Marvin, asking if I’m at SXSW. He saw my post on Facebook and thought he’d say hi. I tell him I’m stranded, he asks where exactly I am, and it turns out he lives 2 miles away from me and can pick me up on the way to the festival! Sick! A SXSW miracle! Things are already looking good. We drive in and I link up with Lijia in the heart of things – at 6th and Sabine. Since I have to walk from the East side to the West and cross under the highway that divides two of the main areas, I get a good feel for the layout from the beginning. Mimi, her and Chris are in an alley drinking, happy. We walk the main strip checking out the vibe, filming the live music on the street, and get some dinner from a street vendor. We link up with some of the extended BAMM family and walk around trying to get into the Brooklyn Vegan party, and consider other options like Shangri-La, Scoot Inn, Green Garage and other showcases on the Red River strip. When I realize that a bunch of people I know are going to the Wax Poetics party, I leave Lijia’s crew and start my trek back to the other side to check out the Scoot Inn. The walk is really fun, and I get a sense for how overwhelmingly huge, busy, active and fucking MUSICAL this festival is. It’s fucking crazy. Really just music everywhere. Guitars, misc street drums, bums playing a shaker, people playing banjo, live orchestras in the street…the works! And so many food trucks! LA and Austin love their food trucks. I would always pass these parking lots along the way and there would be tons of creative options…once I saw a truck for Korean BBQ tacos and I thought… “only in America.” Pretty amazing.

From there I made it to the Scoot Inn, where Wax Poetics was hosting its party. There I run into Jamil, Maestro, Rhome, Ancient Astros and Gina. Sick ass DJ!! His name is Chico Mann from NYC and he is killing it. Gorgeous pop synth background while he sings deep, melodic, chant-like phrases in Spanish. I loved it. It was the first thing musically that I was into since I had been at the festival. All the 4-some indie bands that were playing the same shit over and over again (and really…walking down 6th street, all the bands seemed to sound the same to me…) are really not my thing. And unfortunately SXSW is all about that kind of music. There were definitely some creative groups that I will tell you about later…but there were also just tons and tons of 4-piece all-male indie rock bands that bored the shit out of me. Give me a break! Do something different! Long story short it was really good to come across Chico Mann and more of my scene at the Wax Poetics party.

From there, Jamil, Rhome and Maestro and I piled into Jamil’s car and drove over to the Green Garage, where ESL was doing a showcase hosted by Kalani. I really liked that party too even though it was pretty low key. I guess because it was slightly more inaccessible, it had less of a natural flow in and out like a lot of the other bars had. That said, that place also had soul! An actual green garage with bluish lighting and golden Christmas lights. I had just missed Funk Ark and Frank’s showcase. Franca was drumming with two other guys I didn’t recognize. He is playing everywhere these days, it’s pretty amazing. And I love watching him play. He holds the sticks really lightly and it’s pure butter. Smooth. I need to get to that level. Be a smooth butter drummer at 25…goal!! I also run into Natalia and Hash there, it’s so nice. I touch base with Will Rast about load in and other details surrounding tomorrow’s show…It’ll be sick to play another gig with Funk Ark and I’m looking forward to it. Jamil takes me back home. Bed around 3am!

Day 18:

Breakfast with Jamil and his friend Sandra and her assistant Ashley at an awesome Mexican joint. He tells me how much he is looking forward to eating all this Mexican food while he’s down in Austin, so I don’t really have the heart to tell him I don’t like Mexican till later. I make it work with some eggs and a really delicious tostada and I’m set. Horcahta in Coffee. Awesome. I post on Facebook that I’m drinking Horchata and playing “Horchata” with Funk Ark later tonight. “SXSW 2011, Immerse.” Sandra Condito is intense…and fucking amazing. She produced some of Quentin Tarintino’s films, and her assistant Ashley is pretty cool too. We talk about Texas and Austin and the festival and two hours later we all roll out. Lijia and her crew are at the BAMM showcase at Beauty Bar and so Jamil and I go meet them there around 2pm. That bar is the bomb! Amazing outdoor tent and gorgeous inside and two stages. I try to meet people but it’s really not as easy as I had hoped it might be. That said – there are highlights from that party: I love the band Esben and the Witch – female front singer who rocks a floor tom and cymbal in front of her. The coolest part is when all three members of the band come around the floor tom and cymbal and each play a different rhythm on the set-up simultaneously. Pretty amazing because it sounds rad and it’s only a floor tom and a cymbal!! I also liked that the sound engineer for the event is a chick too. Obviously. I would have liked to interview her but she was busy doing her thing.  From there we walked down to the Fader Fort to pick up our wrist bands. We got them after 30 mins of waiting in line (not bad to the horror stories we had heard of 2 hrs+ in line…), check out another sick music spot on the way back to Beauty Bar, and I split with Jamil really quick. He and I go to the Austin Music Hall to get stamped for Erykah Badu later, but the line is nauseatingly long and we retreat to Beauty Bar. I catch the end of Michael Cera’s band and then Mimi, Lijia, Jamil and I pile into his car to find food. We settle on misc food trailors and then make our way to the ESL Showcase at Roial.

The ESL Showcase is the highlight!! The venue is this gorgeous and spacious rooftop with amazing lighting and cool furniture. Ocote soothes my soul. Amazing to see Martin and Adrian again. Wow. I get ready to play with Funk Ark. As I am setting up my percussion, someone taps me on my shoulder – it’s Michael Zakarin!! He came out to say hi!! I was texting him earlier about when The Bravery was playing, he fronts the band, and told him where I was playing in case he could stop by. He stays for the first song, shows love, and mouths to be in between songs while I’m on stage that he has put me +3 on the guest list for his show tonight at 2am. HOLY SHIT!!!! Just a couple years ago “Believe” by The Bravery was the song I was jamming out to as a freshman, and now Michael has come into my life as a mentor and supporter. Really was amazing and generous and felt really good. He graduated from Georgetown and has been helping me along various stages of my music endeavors. He’s amazing. The Funk Ark set is the fucking bomb. When we play Diaspora I am in heaven and play straight shekere like no body’s business. I love the misc percussion break downs we have – since we are a 3-piece perc section (bells/shekere, drumset and congas), we rock it every time and it’s super fun. Franca gives some love at the end and says I sound good. Sick. I love that music and love that band and had a blast. I’m also happy to get to see Jazz from TruThoughts there as well. We had met in LA earlier in the Odyssey and now it’s full circle since TruThoughts is co-hosting the event.

From there, I pack up and roll out with Jamil to the Black Milk/Kokai/Talib Kweli show at Scoot Inn. Jon Laine, drummer for Kokai and good friend, puts me on the list and we head inside. It’s great to see everyone and hang out and chill. I’m really exhausted though I’m willing to push to catch Erykah Badu and then The Bravery’s show and maybe even the afterafterhours event with Beats Antique. Jamil is dead tired too though and since he is my ride home and is willing to take Sasha home too, I respect his schedule and we roll back to our condo.

Day 19:

This morning I have an informational interview with Amanda Marks, EVP/GM of Universal Music Distribution Group! A big deal! I’m nervous and excited for this meeting, which is happening at 9:45am in the lobby of the Four Seasons. I call a cab, which is late, and I start getting really nervous. As though a mind-reader, Jamil tells me he’s in the car on his way to come get me. Damn dude. Really he’s like an ambulance. A gorgeous soul. An amazing and generous human! He gets me there early! I wait in the lobby and watch all the execs and important musicians walk around and it’s tight. The meeting is really interesting and informative. It’s intense, but it should be. This is Universal, the biggest label out there right now! And Amanda Marks is inspirational. She’s a Georgetown grad and you can tell she’s a hardworking, humble genius. She treats me to breakfast and also lets me interview her for my thesis on women in the music business. After we break, I notice that BMI is hosting a private event on the patio and I sneak in, scout out the scene, take some magazines etc, and roll out. I don’t like feeling like I’m not invited…soon enough I’ll be there in my own right! Jamil and I catch breakfast at the Bouldin Café. Yum. I have a Michelada! Cioffi recommendation. Delish. You should get one. I want to find them in DC.

From there I make my way to Tom Tom Fest!! The venue is great…misc garage space near where the Weds night ESL event was with an indoor and outdoor stage. The bands here are my shit. Obviously because of the chickvibezfemaleempowerment thang but also because so many of these bands were doing something different…it wasn’t about being a girl in a band, instead it was just about showcasing a creative project and they happened to be girls. My brand of feminism. I caught three acts that really did something for me: SuperCute!, Prince Rama and Sex Hair. The first was a trio of superskinnysupercute girls who were 12-17 yrs old, dressed in crazy handmade pink and blue sequins skirt outfits with random awesome things in their hair. They played tiny guitars, sang really creative songs about New York City (about things like Pidgeons…pidgeon song was my favorite because it was absolutely genius and hilarious) and were so organized and good at stage banter. Their merchandise was all handmade and creative…each CD came with a lollipop and they made these really awesome magnets with pictures of old singers on them and random babies. I can’t really describe it…all I know was these girls were subtle genii and totally in control and playing off of the stereotype of “little girls”. The second band was Prince Rama…two sisters creating trippy Indian infused chant drone music with a synth, computer, amazing Bollywood qualities and a rad percussion set up. They also had another girl, who wasn’t indian, dressed in full-on traditional indian garb and dancing classical indian dance. Wow. Amazing! The music sounded so good. I was inspired by her massive percussion set up and need to hook that up for myself for sure. The last band was a Riot Grrrl inspired band. 4 chicks my age from Portland Oregan, kicking the shit out of their instruments and singing about misogyny and singing songs that said FUCK YOU to sexism and sexual harassment. I felt at home and was lucky enough to interview them afterwards for my thesis. I love that their front singer was so in tune to women’s issues and had the guts to confront it full on and be honest and political with her music. It really was a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed it. I don’t like head banging music but when the lyrics are about something that is deeply important and emotional for me, I can definitely get into it. Their band name was Sex Hair…in my opinion, the best, most perfect and most satisfying band name I’ve heard in a really really long time. I love that name so much. YES!

It was around 4pm and Jamil and I went to get something to eat. From there we decide the Fader Fort is too long a wait and we decide to walk to the Convention Center. I really enjoy seeing all the different stalls and eventually make it to StyleXSW which is a convention of a bunch of fashion start-ups. I honestly don’t find any of them that great but I think it’s cool that American Apparel is hosting their flea market and there aren’t that many people in it by 6pm. Jamil wants to go meet up with some other people and I really want to see a film that is showing at the Convention Center so we split.

I buy my ticket to the premier of HIT SO HARD! This is an independent documentary film about the drummer for Hole, Patty Shammel. OH MY GOD THIS MOVIE CHANGED MY LIFE. It’s so emotionally charged and Patty herself is at the premier to answer questions with the filmmaker afterwards. The film is a documentary that traces her on tour with Hole with Courtney Love and Kurt Kobain in the late 80s/early 90s. It highlights what the tours were like, the creation of the band, the changes, the politics, the dynamics and shows them in various U.S. cities and also in Japan and Australia. Fuckin amazing life at age 25-27. It then takes a turn and shows how heavy she gets into various drugs and traces the band as it enters problems when a new producer comes in and fires her. She quits the band, moves into a house in the forest of L.A. and relapses hardcore 24/7. She ends up on the street. When I watched the movie, I thought it was a metaphor, but she literally runs out of money but is so addicted that she lives on the street with other dealers and sells herself from money and describes how she keeps waiting for the next amazing high which never comes. I’ll never forget in the movie when she talks about how she was gay and was therefore perhaps more able to disconnect from her body when sleeping with men for money. To me, I find that hard to believe. I would imaging that if your body is rejecting the construction of man dominating woman by nature, how could you ever endure something as fucked up as prostitution? It really struck me and made me very emotionally charged and worried and nauseated and uncomfortable. In a good thought-provoking way though. She pulled herself out of it by calling Courtney Love and her family and is shown at 3, 5 and 6 years sober. Now I think she’s 7 years sober and is married to this beautiful woman with a baby! Her brother, whom she is really close with, is the donor. At the New York (or maybe LA?) premier, she will reunite with the rest of her bandmates from Hole for the first time in 13 years. Fucking crazy. It’s amazing to see a film that is pure reality and then have that person be right in front of you. I went up to her after to talk to her and started to tear up uncontrollably. It was so embarrassing and I wasn’t expecting it at all! I had to stop my gushing sentence short because I really didn’t want to come off as one of those annoying fans…I wanted her to understand that I’m a drummer and that I get it and that I think she’s the fucking leader of the revolution. Instead I settled for just hugging her and taking a picture with her.

I linked up with Lijia from there but felt a bit depressed from the film and still really emotionally charged. I can’t describe it. I think I just wanted to be the drummer in a really rad female punk band that performs in front of thousands of screaming fans around the world that get it and that say fuck you to gender norms and that believe in you and subscribe to what you’re doing. I love the name Hole. It’s so genius. It’s really fucking brilliant. Hole. Not vagina, not genitalia, not respectable. Just a hole, and that’s what it’s seen as in society. Seen as a function, not as a glorified thing in the same way we have so much penis glory in this society. It was such a brilliant commentary with a one-syllable word. And although Courtney Love has done some fucked up and detrimental things, she was also the leader of a really important revolution during a really important era of women’s history. I think I was nostalgic for that era and jealous that I was 5 when it was happening. I want to see it again, I want to be that leader, I want to fucking rock out and fuck shit up and say fuck you to gender norms! But I think I am not as angry and drug-induced. No, my last name is Gandhi, and like him, I tend to have a more peaceful approach to ways that I intend to change the world. My way would be more all-inclusive. To create a movement that is in men’s best interest too. To bring people of all backgrounds together that want to rock out to a female-friendly genre of music. To celebrate good, healthy, amazing Deconstructions and Reconstructions of all types of sexuality.

I walk over to the SF condos and chill with Gina, Chris, Alex Denny, Lijia, Mimi and newcrew Esther. Those condos are gorgeous and right on 6th St. Nice. They booked in August though! That’s nuts. We throw back red wine and make it out to the ESL/Bastard Jazz event at a sushi spot. I run into Nickodemus which is awesome. I follow Lijia and crew out to another spot, and after 30 mins of walking around and not really know where we are going, I find a cab and roll back to my condo at midnight. I do this because I have to be at the airport at 3:30am and will literally not be conscious if I don’t get at least three hours in. Jamil stays out and catches Little Dragon (so lucky!! But at least I’ve seen them so I don’t feel too too terrible about missing it) and scoops me to go to the airport. From there, I make my 5:30am flight, layover in Houston, then onward to Boston Logan, and then a van shuttle and cab to get to Ms. Olson’s (now Mrs. Fay’s…WTF!!??) wedding in Keane, New Hamshire.

All in all, I wasn’t the biggest fan of SXSW. It was a big party and I was hoping to learn and meet people. It was chaotic and exhausting and tough to find people. I also think I like the star treatment and being behind the scenes and running shit and being treated with some prestige rather than met by grunge. I don’t like grunge. I know maybe I sound bratty or elitist but I also am not really into shitty indie bands and hipsters that look the same – which was a lot of the festival panned out to be. Tough to find pockets of real soul, though I definitely did find them at the Wax Poetics, ESL and Tom Tom Mag showcases. The next time I’m down there, I would want it to be through a company that provides me with access to the industry parties and panel events. I should have invested in the badge, yes, but I guess I couldn’t really put down that much. I also figured I might not actually need it or could buy one there. All in all, I’m glad I went to check it out for myself, see that there were so so many women rocking out in various musical shapes and sizes, learn about a few good bands and start-ups and to be with good friends and crew.

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