[Singer's account of Wednesday and Thursday at SXSW can be found here.]
Friday, March 15
4:29 pm, Burnet/Penny Bus Stop
A chatty local named Todd and his girlfriend offer to slide over and give me a spot next to them on the bench, provided I don't mind listening to some local music coming out of an external speaker he's carrying. It's old-school, creaky-voiced honky tonk by an apparently legendary Austin singer named Dale Watson. Todd tells me Watson hosts Sunday afternoon bingo at a dive-y saloon right along the downtown bus route, in which the numbers are determined by a live chicken shitting on a square. Naturally, it's called Chickenshit Bingo. He tells me I should go, and after spending three days wallowing in the corporate bullshit of SXSW, some authentic Austin chicken shit sounds like a nice respite. Alas, I'll be gone by then, but Dale Watson is playing Pickathon. And he sounds pretty rad.
4:50 pm, Auditorium Shores
"No chairs?!" exclaims an exasperated older couple after reading the long list of restrictions in front of the entrance to the giant park along Lady Bird Lake, where the Flaming Lips will later perform. "You mean all you got for us to sit on is grass?" they ask of the pimply-faced volunteer. I wandered down intending to see Divine Fits, but the sight of a massive stage and food trucks makes me come to my senses. I turn around and head back over the walkway downtown.
6:49 pm, Austin City Hall
Around the corner from where the mob scene is currently gathering to see Green Day, a band from Peru is dropping some chicha—essentially a Peruvian variant of cumbia—in front of the city hall steps, and sparking a mid-afternoon dance party. One older gentleman is twirling in front of the stage with a permanent, almost cartoonish smile on his face. After staring at him for a while, it becomes vaguely unsettling. He's either the happiest man in Austin, or there's someone chained up in his basement right now.
7:38 pm, 5th and San Jacinto
In Austin, they have topless pedicab drivers. Or at least one, who's posing for photos with a recent customer. Get on it, Portland.
8:04 pm, Holy Mountain Backyard
Multi-culti electro-funkster Chico Mann is spinning heavily percussive salsa and cumber jams in an empty courtyard. I suspect most attendees are distracted by the free gumbo they're spooning out on the front patio.
8:15 pm, Texaco
"Can you get Monster with food stamps?" a woman of the Juggalette variety asks the clerk. The clerk nods his head. Looks like her baby won't be going hungry tonight.
8:17 pm, Red Bull Sound Select
I follow the sound of Dr. Octagon's "Blue Flowers" to a fenced-in parking lot where legendary hip-hop crew Ultramagnetic MCs are performing. There's a windscreen on the fence, but I can see that Kool Keith is wearing some sort of sparkly do-rag. I can only make out vague details, though. This is a bit like watching scramble-vision porn as a kid.
8:23 pm, 6th and Red River
A weird soul-rock band from Columbus, Ohio, called the Yeah Babies is playing in the middle of the street. They have the most cumbersome set up for an unofficial performance I've seen yet: bass, drums and a big, rolling, four-sided platform affixed with various keyboards, a drum machine and a PA system. Hope it was worth it.
8:40 pm, outside Flamingo Cantina
Austin's version of Times Square's Naked Cowboy is a hairy dude with a long beard dressed like Uncle Sam and outfitted with a particularly revealing star-spangled banana hammock. Party girls are happy to pose for photos with him. He seems extra molest-y.
9:24 pm, Rebel's Honky Tonk
The elevated stage at this spectacularly douchey fake country bar—which, I'm told, used to be a gay bar—is nothing but a blurry, swirling mass of long hair, giant beards and even bigger guitar riffs, courtesy of '70s-style German space-rockers Kadaver. The band finishes, and the bar immediately blares some slickly produced new country over the house speakers. It's an odd transition.
10:55 pm, Rebel's Honky Tonk
I'm enjoying the juxtaposition of girls in sparkly shirts riding the mechanical bull to the sounds of Kinski's noisy, Sonic Youthian guitar squalls. Only at SXSW, I suppose.
11:22 pm, 5th and Colorado
People are gathered on both sides of the street—some blocking traffic—to watch an outdoor performance by Third Eye Blind. When a zillion people flood the streets to watch a band that hasn't been popular since 1997, you know SXSW has become untenable.
11:52 pm, Hype Hotel
A group is gathered at the front of the bar, using their complimentary drink tickets to purchase sweetened vodka shots and holding up the rest of the line. A dude next to me tells them to please move, and we bond over their rudeness. He offers to buy me a shot, and I think he's joking. He seems slightly offended when I end up ordering a whiskey shot for myself. It tastes like microwaved maple syrup.
12:30 am, Hype Hotel
Once again I'm here much too early, so I have to sit through Rudimental, some typically British, U.K.-chart-topping pop group mixing shiny drum'n'bass beats with overwrought R&B vocals and a lot of empty energy. I slump against the wall, just thankful my feet aren't throbbing like they were this time last night.
1:42 am, Hype Hotel
Solange Knowles doesn't have her sister's voice, but she makes up for it with a warm, earthy charm Beyonce could never dream of possessing. Her and her band faultlessly recreate the light '80s dance-funk pulse of last year's EP, including the fantastic single "Losing You," which unfortunately sparks a horribly off-key singalong from the crowd.
2:16 am, Hype Hotel
"If you show me your tits, I'll show you my dick," offers some asshole from backstage who commandeers the mic after Solange leaves the stage. (Shockingly, this is only the second or third douchiest thing I've heard come out of some dude's mouth in the last few days.) The house lights come on, but Solange returns for an encore, I'm assuming to make sure that shithead doesn't get the final word on the night.
2:30 am, Night Owl bus
Well, on the one hand, that was the easiest time I've had yet catching the Drunk Bus. On the other, it appears the screen on my two-year-old Droid decided to go out with one more day of SXSW left. And tomorrow is also St. Patrick's Day. Should be…interesting?