About a month ago a friend asked me to come down and visit her in Austin for South by Southwest, or more commonly referred to as "southby" for the trendier, flannel wearing crowd. At first I thought she was crazy, but decided it was a brilliant idea. Of course, being so close to the actual event, I couldn't find tickets for less than $700.
Thus, my bright idea to drive to Texas on the great-American road trip. Knowing there was absolutely no way I'd make a 2o-hour drive alone, I commissioned my wing woman to make the journey with me.
Our trip started Wednesday evening after I finished a full work day. We departed Milwaukee around midnight in hopes of getting to Austin at a reasonable time. We stopped at gas stations along the way and managed to beat the GPS estimated time. When we hit Tulsa, Okla., we were in serious need of a bloody. We drove into downtown easily and stopped at a blues bar for a quick drink. Guitars lined the walls and the ceiling was covered with skylights that flooded the room with gorgeous sunlight. From there, we braved hellish traffic in Fort Worth and finally made it to Austin by 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Even though our hostess had to work the next day, she still took us out to see a few shows. The first bar we stopped at was less than amazing. There was a weird metal band blasting eccentric guitar riffs at a crowd of five people. We grabbed a drink, but none of us were very impressed.
At the next venue we were able to catch the tail end of a show by a band called the Electric Sons. The venue was fairly packed so we danced our way through the crowd and close to the stage. After their show the band members signed CDs for us and took pictures. They proved to be the most personable band I met in Austin.
Next up was Hank and Cupcakes, this was a crazy duo that rocked the bar. The lead vocalist danced around like a slithering (yet sexy) snake and made out with the guitarist in what we all agreed was one of the hottest kisses ever seen. Thursday evening also brought on the first celebrity sighting. Posted up in the corner of the bar was a slightly intoxicated Adrian Grenier from "Entourage." Although not totally rude, he definitely did not want to be bothered by fans. I supposed I can’t blame him for that.
Friday morning started off with a quick ride on the metro train into downtown. I'd like to point out the whole ride took under 30 minutes and cost $1. My love affair with tacos began during lunch when I devoured two cajun shrimp tacos and sweet potato fries.
We headed over to Cedar Street Courtyard in an attempt to get in for a show that started at 5:30 p.m. The venue was hosting one of the Filter parties, which we had RSVP'd for, and the wait time to get in was minimal. Standing in the sun all afternoon took a toll on my Wisconsin skin and resulted in minor sunburn and mass water consumption. I wasn't really feeling the first band, but there were only two more to sit through before Haim took stage.
The next band to play was the Neighbourhood and I was completely blown away. Their stage presence had every girl in the place swooning. I was completely smitten by the entire band. It was like wonderful stoner-baby makin' music that gently rocked your soul. My heart was officially stolen. My girl-crush band Haim closed out the show and did not disappoint. The three sisters from L.A. rocked so hard and easily bantered with the audience. During this show, I had my second celebrity spotting: Pharrell Williams was near the VIP lounge, rocking out to Haim, as well.
After coming down from the excessive endorphins of the show, we had patio beers and decided to venture about Austin. We made an attempt to see the Flaming Lips, but were too disappointed to stay the whole show. Our night concluded roaming around Rainey Street, a street filled with homes converted to bars, and food truck pizza.
When I woke up on Saturday, I was surprised at how not hungover I was. Our group of ladies slowly got up, made breakfast, and made our way back downtown. After a few failed attempts to get into shows we wanted to see, we ended up at Red Eye Fly to see Mike Love, a reggae musician from Hawaii recommended by one of my hosts. Although set up seemed to take forever, it was the perfect afternoon show. Everyone grooved around the bar, which also happened to feature $3 beers.
Two of our group members were bummed that they missed the Neighbourhood the day before, so we made our way over to The Belmont where they were to play another show. This show was slightly less packed than Friday's and allowed us to get closer to the stage. Apparently most of the crowd was waiting to see Third Eye Blind. Again, the Neighbourhood's 30-minute set rocked my socks.
From The Belmont our group split up and a few of us headed to the Mohawk to wait in an excessively long line to get in for the evening show featuring XXYYXX. We somehow scored some serious good luck because the cut off for the line fell just two people behind our mini group. We grabbed drinks and explored the venue a bit. What was the most striking about the Mohawk was the stacked seating arrangement that allowed every spot the ability to comfortably watch the shows. All the bands were heavy on synthesizers and electronic production. This resulted in some serious gyrating most of the evening.
When Sunday rolled around, we all decided to keep things a bit more chill. That plan may have gone out the window a bit when a large leprechaun asked to bite me and a round of Irish car bombs followed. After all, it was St. Paddy’s Day. We did a bit of day drinking and migrated over to Stubb's to catch another show. From there, we headed to South Congress to grab a bloody and people watch.
By that time, we all realized how hungry we were. In search of the best BBQ Texas had to offer, our hosts drove us out to County Line BBQ. This was by far the most orgasmic meal we had while in Texas. I ate my fill of ribs, brisket, baked potatoes, potato salad and beans. It was heaven. The restaurant is situated along a river, which conveniently allows locals to pull their boats up and dock while they eat. We ended the evening with a bit of wine and soaked in our last few hours in Texas.
Around 6 a.m. on Monday it was time for me to get back on the road and the other out-of-towners to catch their flights. The biggest perk to leaving so early meant that we hit absolutely no traffic along the way. The biggest negative, we had 2o more hours in a car.
Along the way we stopped at Del Rio for Mexican in Oklahoma and Steak N Shake for fatty burgers in Illinois. I finally arrived home at about 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. I'm missing Texas already, but I've found some great new bands to help me survive the rest of our freezing Wisconsin winter.
As a self-proclaimed aficionada of dive bars, Lisa Simonson knows a thing or two about drinking and our city’s bar scene. She now calls Milwaukee, one of America’s drunkest cities (coincidence?), home after growing up in world-famous Port Washington (“Step by Step,” anyone?) and spending time in both Minneapolis and London.
Now, back in her favorite city in the world, Simonson blogs about her adventures in Milwaukee, one bar at a time. Although her primary focus is sampling the best the city has to offer in beer, wine and whiskey, when not abusing her liver, Lisa can be found cruising on her bike, obsessing over Adobe products, jamming to her favorite bands or attempting to teach her cat to walk on a leash.