SXSW 2013 Guest Blog: Tumbleweed Wanderers Nix St. Patty’s Day, Shed a Tear for the West Memphis 3
[Editor’s Note: The smartest thing Diffuser.fm did during SXSW 2013 was enlist bands to guest blog from throughout the festival. Our participating artists were nothing if not witty and insightful — no matter how drunk and/or exhausted they might have been — and in a final dispatch from ’60s-leaning Oakland rockers Tumbleweed Wanderers, singer and guitarist Jeremy Lyon describes the partied-out vibe of his final day in Austin. There’s even a video — watch it above!]
The fact that Saint Patrick’s Day felt like a quiet Tuesday afternoon only attests to how much of a riot SXSW was. Anyone that went to the festival was not looking to spend a Sunday afternoon getting day-drunk on overpriced Guinness. This was a day to relax, recover and realize that sadly, the rest of my life was not going to solely consist of zig-zagging across Austin chasing an endless supply of free music and booze between playing shows in bars and hotel lobbies. SXSW is like ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ on steroids, crack, acid and anything else you can think of. For one week only, every nook and cranny turns into a secret show Mecca where all the rumors are true. Prince is doing a club gig, Flaming Lips are playing at a bar, and Erykah Badu is George Clinton’s special guest at a garage concert. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to get in, but what can you do? What’s even more insane is that despite all the big name acts, us and our friends could play a bar at 2PM on a Thursday or a hotel lobby on a Saturday afternoon and it would be packed and awesome. I’ve done enough hotel lobby and off-night bar gigs to know that this does not happen in real life.
It’s kind of strange writing about Sunday at SXSW because the festival was over and Austin was well on it’s way to becoming a (somewhat) normal city again. I strolled down a desolate 6th St. to the Flamingo Cantina to catch the set of an Austin native that sang Brazillian folk music accompanied by a ukelele and harmonica only to find the venue closed and no indication that there was ever going to be a show there. As it turns out, she was playing at a Farmer’s Market and had been at the Flamingo Cantina the night before. I took this as an opportunity to explore Austin and hang out with a friend from Vermont who I’d run into Tuesday at what was slated to be a Middle Brother reunion show until Matt Vasquez got chased out the club by a giant bouncer for climbing up a forty foot lighting rig and crowd surfing after the sound guy turned off his microphone when Delta Spirit played over the house music that cut their set short, but that’s another story.
I had a few hours to kill in the afternoon so I went to a movie theater called the Velvet to cool off. It was then I noticed that my arms were pink as rare meat, turning white every time I poked them before quickly returning to their unnatural hue. In the ginger kingdom, the first burn is to be celebrated because it signals the beginning of spring. So I rejoiced by watching ‘West of Memphis,’ hardly a movie-hopping kind of film. Balking at the $13 ticket price, which would have emptied my wallet of its last dollar, I snuck in all too easily. I knew nothing of the West Memphis 3, and the documentary did an incredible job of thoroughly and empathetically telling the tragic story of the brutal murder of three 8-year-old boys and the subsequent wrongful imprisonment of three teenagers, what it took to get them released and how f—ed up the Arkansas criminal justice system is to prefer saving face over a wrongful conviction and unfair trial at the expense of three innocent teenagers and their families than to bring the actual killer to justice. Spending a Sunday afternoon alone and crying in the back of a movie theater definitely was not what I’d envisioned when I woke up that morning.
I walked across town to Stubb’s only to find that the band before us hadn’t shown up, so we had to go onstage right away. Setlist-less we quickly set our gear up and ran through one of our rowdier sets. Our friends got kicked out for bringing cheap beer into the back patio so we left with them, capping the night off by celebrating the end of a seven-week tour with our brother (and sister) band Swear and Shake my favorite way: eating a giant breakfast with good friends at a 24/7 diner at two in the morning.