SXSW travelogue: Morning Clouds do laundry and play college flophouse

Good Morning, Austin.
Good Morning, Austin.
courtesy of the Morning Clouds

Thursday, March 15: Thousands of bands were packed into stages around town, fans were going nuts on every street corner. How'd the Morning Clouds spend their off day? Doing laundry. We're pretty rock like that. With piles of clean undies and non-smelly socks back in our room, we managed to catch a glimpse of some pretty cool bands: Deerhoof, Finn Riggins, Japandroids, Lucero, Of Montreal. That last group, as expected, brought out some of the best fans at the festival: Dudes in dresses like it's a 1994 James concert, young girls with war paint on their faces and all manner of substance abuses. What a great way to recharge your batteries.

Yep. Pretty sure this is a fire hazard.
Yep. Pretty sure this is a fire hazard.

Friday, March 16: What a difference a day makes. Friday was our first of two two-a-days at the festival. Our day opened at Townhouse Mixology, a place where you can get bartenders to make you a drink by mashing cucumbers, jalapeños, raisins or other vegetables in a pestle, provided you want to wait in line twenty minutes. We didn't, so had to take the stage dry, saving fancy drinks for after the show. The highlight wasn't the frou-frou drinks, though, but a rap freestyle battle that busted out on the street outside of the club. It drew way more listeners than we did.

The night's show was totally off the hook. It was held on the University of Texas campus at co-op apartment complex ran by students for students. It was as ghetto as it sounds: pans caught water dripping from leaks in the roof, the common area smelled bad, even by college flophouse standards and the whole place seemed like it was pulled straight out of Soviet Russia. In short, it was the perfect place to rock out. Adding to the awesome factor, the place was overflowing with students, drunk on house-party all you can drink beer. We set up close to the pool, and rose to the occasion, playing one of the tour's best sets yet, even overcoming a power outage caused when someone kicked out one of the fire-hazard power strips that fed us power.

We stuck around for a while, enjoying the college mayhem that surrounded us. Skinny dippers. Hipsters. Burned-our creepers that float around the edge of every college gathering. Good times, indeed.

Page down to read Morning Clouds's previous SXSW travelogue.


In the middle of a harrowing experience at a taco shack in Texas.
In the middle of a harrowing experience at a taco shack in Texas.
Morning Clouds

Tuesday, March 14: The Morning Clouds are no strangers to late-night fast-food stupidity. Or so we thought until we had to resort to eating dinner at a Taco Bell in Stockton, Texas because it was the only place we could find to eat in hundreds of miles. Except it wasn't that late -- like 9 p.m. -- and this wasn't a Taco Bell. It was apparently a new reality series that crossed Hell's Kitchen with Oz.

As we place our order (and were strongly advised by the manager not to try the Double Down), a woman stormed out of the back, apparently walking off the shift. Not too weird. Labor relations are pretty crummy at these places even in the best of circumstances.

While we wait for our orders, the manager gets into a small shouting match with another hulking and dull-witted employee, named Josh, and we keep thinking he's shouting for our singer-guitarist to return to behind the counter instead of wandering the lobby.

During their discourse, which was held across the heads of a slowly growing line of locals who seemed to be frighteningly used to this sort of scene, Hulking Josh reveals he's disgruntled because corporate refuses to make him a manager just 'cause he's a convicted felon. Nice.

As this sordid look into West Texas minimum-wage employment unfolds before us, John has to return his order not once, but twice because the concept of "substitute beans for meat" is so foreign that it can't be communicated without a full-fledged memo sent back to the joint's head chef. Again, not really that far from the ordinary encounters with the unemployable or otherwise economically damned who man Taco Bell counters in most normal parts of the world.

Words simply fail in times like this.
Words simply fail in times like this.
courtesy of Morning Clouds

While we wait and wait and wait for John's order to be made, the labor dispute between gigantic, felonious Josh heats up, to the distress of patrons. Manager decides he can't really afford to let another employee walk off the shift and takes the perfectly reasonable route of locking the main doors.

By this time, we'd seen enough and were just trying to get the hell out before the gunfight broke out among factions of aggravated yokels. As we're struggling to find the taco assembler with the proper security clearance to unlock the door, we overhear a customer telling the manager, who's now working the register, that if she can't get a KFC chicken pot pie she will "cut his face." Luckily for the Clouds, we, mange our escape before a full-blown hayseed gang battle erupts.

But, hey, we're en route to SXSW! After total immersion into the world of hipsters, bloggers, rockers, starfuckers and jaded shoe gaze bands, we'll probably be missing the normalcy of methland Taco Bell near altercations. Onward to Austin!

Page down to read Morning Clouds antics and adventures from day two


Things to do in Denver Texas when you're dead... tired.
Things to do in Denver Texas when you're dead... tired.
courtesy of Morning Clouds

Wednesday, March 13

Ever go see a rock show so early that the bar hasn't even opened the beer taps yet? Don't worry, most people here in Austin haven't either. After a flat tire delayed our arrival to Austin until 6 a.m., we were up and at 'em to play the Lefse Records showcase at Skinny's Ballroom, nice and early. As one of the earliest bands showcasing -- playing at 11:30 -- we were ready to get the music rolling.

The crowd was totally SXSW, though. With the ever-present free beer flowing, we managed to catch Gauntlet Hair before running through a day with Youth Lagoon, Ganglions and Field Mice. We also scored free cans of the worst energy drink on Earth, watched some total dumbshit put fingernail enamel on his teeth and spent more time in traffic snarled by pedestrians, some dude on stilts and a guy dressed up like the grim reaper. Bang bang rock and roll. Or something.

After being awake for thirty hours or so, we turned in early. Going to bed at 10 never seemed so rock'n'roll.

-- Morning Clouds

With this year's South By Southwest going down this week, a grip of Denver acts have made the trek down to Austin to showcase their wares. We've tapped a bunch of them to keep a travelogue and share all their antics and observations from what always ends up being one the most memorable times in music all year. Keep it locked here on Backbeat. We'll be posting their dispatches all week as they come filtering in.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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