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SXSW 2013 Guest Blog: Tumbleweed Wanderers Stay Hydrated

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[Editor's Note: Because SXSW is such a huge event, Diffuser.fm asked a bunch of cool bands to help us cover the fest by filing guest blog posts. Among those who said yes: Tumbleweed Wanderers, a genre-blurring Americana crew from Oakland, Calif. These dudes conjure sweet memories of the Zombies, CSNY and other '60s faves, and in this dispatch from Austin, drummer Daniel Blum talks about beer, Foxygen and beer.]

Beer is not a suitable substitute for water. No mater how many people tell you this is true, no mater how many bars say it’s true, it isn’t. We want to believe it, and some people try to prove it daily by forcing it into their gullet till shirt buttons pop, but these individuals’ efforts are wasted. Beer is not a suitable substitute for water.

The crowds and venues at SXSW don’t give a s–t about this truth though. It gets tossed aside with a careless laugh and wave that says, “Hush child, let the adults talk.” The beer here flows like the chocolate river with churning waterfalls in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ and no matter what time of day, area of the city or crowd in attendance, concertgoers will shimmy up to its shores and lap it up. At SXSW, beer just might be a suitable substitute for water after all.

It’s day three in Austin, and the vibes are getting better. Before my arrival, I, and many like me, went through the countless number of blogs, apps and friend recommendations trying to find the best bands to go see in a need to precisely plan my day and not waste a single minute.

There are so many stages (100 official, many “unofficial” at the local bars, some number of official private parties and an unknown number of house parties outside of downtown), so many bands (last year there were more than 500 official bands; who knows how many just showed up), so many people (more than 30,000 badges and wrist bands sold, and I swear every college student in Texas and then some) that making sure you have a schedule with exact routes mapped out between venues to minimize loss of time (due to random groups of blond girls stopping and deciding which dive bar to awkwardly get hit on by guys) is very important.

I also just didn’t know 95 percent of the groups coming out. So I made my list, headed into town and forgot about sleep and health in my pursuit of great live music.

Most of my efforts were in vain, though. There are many things to b—h about in life, and SXSW is no exception. But I’m here to talk about the great things I saw. But before I move on, I have to give out one warning: Foxygen are like a combination of Jim Morrison and Justin Bieber, with less sex appeal and a lack of bielebers to support them.

After realizing my mistake of keeping a schedule and trying to see everyone all the blog thought was cool, I decided to see the bands I knew were going to be great, stay in one location and drink lots of water — delicious amber-colored hoppy water.

Band one to talk about, Red Baraat: Mix a New Orleans brass band with New York hip-hop served in a highball glass of Indian music ranging from all parts of the country and from all styles (Bollywood being a good feature). They call it “some kind of ethnomusicologist’s academic dream.” I say it was a damn good whiskey that made me drunk enough to dance (dance being defined as “making an ass out of myself by oddly moving my limbs with no rhyme or reason”). I may also have been drunk off the “water” I had been consuming for the past 12 hours. Everyone was jumping around feeling every drum hit and brass smack (note: It’s always cool when a sousaphone plays all the bass lines). The power of music is its ability to move people physically and emotionally. Red Baraat succeeds in blending new genres of music (cue buzzword “globalization”) and forcing us in the audience to enjoy it.

Band two to be in love with: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. She owns everything she does onstage: guitar, slide guitar, mandolin, dancing, singing, rocking the f–k out, making you want to become her soul mate. No joke, after mentioning her name to many concertgoers, all are in agreement that she must be our future wives. I can’t go into overly effervescent descriptions of her band because words do a disservice to the music and performance. Go see them, go dance to them and feel emptiness when you realize the set is done and you have to wait until  the next show to see them live again.

It’s amazing that through the water-induced haze of my 15-hour day I can remember the swagness of the events. SXSW is a Jelly Belly store with every flavor sorted for your convenience. Don’t worry about trying every single one. Sample a few, stock up on the flavors you enjoy most and remember that you can always come back for more. Oh, and if you’re thirsty, drink the water. It’s delicious.

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