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SXSW 2013 Guest Blog: Churchwood Thirst for Blood, Interview Alejandro Escovedo About the Fest

Churchwood Alejandro Escovedo SXSW 2013
Theresa DiMenno

[Editor's Note: Boy, are we glad we asked Churchwood to guest blog during SXSW 2013. The Beefheart-esque bizarro-blues unit hails from Austin and knows the town and festival better than most, and throughout the week, singer Joe Doerr -- a poet and college professor who's welcome to write for Diffuser.fm whenever the mood strikes -- has regaled us with funny and insightful tales of rock 'n' roll, Bloody Marys, European salmon and other tasty things. In his final dispatch, Doerr finds a new "SXSW girlfriend" (not in the way you're thinking) and chats with legendary punk-turned-troubadour Alejandro Escovedo about the true meaning of South By. Doerr even shot video of the interview -- check it out at the bottom of the post!]

The other day, a friend of mine named Rob Patterson, writer and editor at the Austin Post, shared a favorite SXSW memory on Facebook. About twenty years ago, he wrote, a young woman approached him somewhere in the maze of “South-By” ground-zero, took his hand, and declared Rob her “SXSW boyfriend.” For the duration of the festival, the two were inseparable stalking the streets of A-town together, catching many the showcase, and doing the things that one assumes good boyfriends and girlfriends do.

That memory of Rob’s serves as a shining symbol of what most of us are after in a SXSW experience: We all want the stuff good stories are made of: a thrill, a chill, a killer moment when the world feels right and your body knows it before you do. When that happens, your blood rises and sends you the word in a welcome physical semaphore. You know what I mean. We want that — the rose of mysterious union. We want blood.

Occasionally, we’ll get it in musical form. And if there were a band this year that stepped out of the shadows, took my hand and asked me to be its SXSW boyfriend, it would be the Mighty Stef. Now don’t get me wrong — my full-time, long-time and eternal SX-girlfriend is my lovely wife, Cat. She always has known how to get my Irish up (and I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of raising one’s ire; if you know what I mean, and I think you do). But as Cat and I huddled in to the already jam-packed Continental Club Saturday morning around 10:30AM to catch some of Mr. Nixon’s annual “Mojo’s Mayhem” along with Pat Collins (bass player for the LeRoi Brothers) and his lovely wife, Michele (my enablers for this occasions), it was plain to me that something electric was about to happen.

And then it did. The Mighty Stef from Dublin took the stage, and Stefan Murphy began our morning with an anthem that stirred my Bloody Mary for me: “We want blood,” he sang, “Let the scarlet red river turn our city into mud — we want blood.” At its heart, this is a song that acknowledges disappointment, runs it through the sweet mill of the imagination (the human body’s answer to “Fix-it-up Chappie’s peculiar machine”) and cranks out a new kind of Sneetch, one with brains and a bad attitude — one who knows the score and ain’t about to play the game any longer. At that point, singing along with Murphy was my perfect SX moment.

Then came another: when Stef played later that day as part of “Alejandro Escovedo Presents at Maria’s Taco Xpress,” I again got the chance to sing along with Mr. Murphy. And then, because Al, his brother Javier, and I go way back together in the big scheme of the Austin scene (when the LeRois and Rank and File were teaming up at places like Club Foot), I got the chance to sit down and interview the brothers Escovedo who were gracious enough to share their memories along with some of their own thoughts and observations on the bloody monster that is SXSW.

From Maria’s, Cat and I humped it over to the Dog & Duck Pub to see more of our good, old friends and survivors of the scene: Kim Longacre, Cindy Rae Toth, John Croslin, and Garrett Williams of the Reivers. The Reivers are still riding the high wave of a musical renaissance, having just released their first album in twenty-two years, ‘Second Story.’ The crowd at the Dog & Duck was a good indication that Kim, Cindy, John and Garrett still have their finger on the pulse of a zeitgeist that continues to haunt this town.

Our night concluded with Churchwood’s fifth show this week — a set at the Grackle in the wake of the “Peelander-Fest 2013.” While I didn’t catch Peelander-Z that afternoon, I could still feel their presence that seemed to hang like the smoke of a weird benediction just under the ’70s-era acoustic tiles of the Grackle’s low-slung ceiling. Most, if not all, of that vibe was quickly replaced when Homer Henderson struck up his one-man band and proceeded to draw blood (and much adulation) from the young, mostly hipster crowd. “Lee Harvey was a friend of mine,” he sang authentically, and when he looked me with those wild, Jerry Lee eyes and howled like he’d just made another payment on that deal he’d made at the crossroads all those years ago, I was sure glad Homer was a friend of mine.

By the time Churchwood took the stage at midnight, the crowd was well-oiled and ready. We gave them hell in a five-piece band. We wanted their blood; they gave us all a sample, and let us bandage their willing wounds with two smooth offerings from the Money Shot Brass.

Saturdays don’t come any bloody better than that. You should have been there. You’d have wanted it, too.

Watch Alejandro Escovedo Discuss SXSW

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