SXSW 2013 Guest Blog: Churchwood Sip Bloody Marys, Reminisce About Shane MacGowan + Go to the Circus
[Editor's Note: To help us capture the sights, sounds and smells -- good and bad, we're guessing -- of SXSW 2013, Diffuser.fm asked several artists to help out with guest blog posts. One band nice enough to accept the invite was Austin's own Churchwood, a punkafied, poetically minded, hard-rockin' blues outfit whose left-field take on American roots music has earned them comparisons to Captain Beefheart and Nick Cave. In his first post, frontman, college professor and poet Joe Doerr share his experiences -- and even a video -- from day one of the festival. Enjoy!]
After the usual hassle of finding friendly parking along with what passes for the quiet place in myself, I set out with my wife, Cat, to join the long line of SXSW 2013 registrants ready to present the wrist of their choice to one of the many miraculously cheerful staffers who, after verifying I.D., would award the patient pop-culture vulture with the coveted plastic manacle.
We resisted the urge to queue up among the throng of fanny-packed badge-holders (the Star-Bellied Sneetches of the festival) who were waiting hundreds-deep for the chance to eavesdrop on a conversation between Nick Cave and Larry Ratso Sloman as part of the “Film Convergence Panel.”
We’d be waiting in line soon enough to catch Mr. Cave and the Bad Seeds at Stubb’s the following night, we reasoned, and opted instead to take the rough edges off of our experience of being puffed, cuffed and rebuffed by heading to Casino El Camino on 6th Street for our traditional post-registration Bloody Mary.
Casino’s Bloody Mary is a work of art, the kind of drink that because “it has food in it,” might have sent Freddie King to an even earlier grave. It comes with an entire celery stalk, pickled okra, and two or three big Spanish olives. If you have the occasion to order one, get it extra spicy.
A daylight walk up already crowded 6th Street (closed to traffic for your strolling pleasure), past the giant 62-foot-tall Doritos vending machine/stage (yeah, it’s back again this year) looming over this carnival tableau, is the perfect way for the uninitiated to scope out venues -- official and unofficial alike.
When the sun sets, the real show begins. Perhaps driven as much by a kind of musical migratory memory as nostalgia, Cat and I found prime parking that, twenty-something years ago, would have put us within a bottle’s throw of the now-defunct Liberty Lunch where we once walked through the back alley on our way to a show and were surprised to find the star of said show, one Shane MacGowan, puking out the backstage window. Ah, memories, like the coroner of my mind…
Our path down San Antonio to 4th to Colorado to 6th then on to Red River gave us a chance to find our way in the dark to the front doors of three of the six venues Churchwood will play this year -- Karma Lounge, the Ginger Man and the Side Bar -- and hear partial sets by the likes of Icona Pop (Stockholm), Adam WarRock (Memphis), the Devil Rides (Austin), Brass Bed (Lafayette) and Fetsum (Berlin).
Our big figure-eight took us back to the Moody Theater, where we caught the last couple of songs by the Divine Fits (Los Angeles) and then settled in for a nightcap of Cirque du Soleis. At the show’s end, as we donned our complimentary red foam-rubber clown noses and made our way back home, Cat and I agreed that the Cirque brought to life what is perhaps the most appropriate image for SXSW: the voyou or criminal clown whose dance defies all order but frames his deepest desire -- to create one perfect moment of systematized confusion in which the intersection of the sacred and profane is achieved, thereby contributing to the total discrediting of the world of reality. It was a good opening night.
Watch Churchwood's Cirque du Soleis Video