SXSW travelogue: Take to the Oars checks in from the streets of Austin

There is a place somewhere in the pacific ocean that is essentially a cesspool for plastic waste and various other bits of debris and man-made trash. The rudimentary physics and science behind this collection is that all ocean currents from all over the world eventually whirlpool and cycle through the area. The plastic deposits are broken down to such small particles that they are basically omnipresent in the water.

I know what you are thinking: "Dude, you're, like, totally bumming me out, and there is not an apparent connection to whatever the hell is going on down in Austin." Fair point, but I guess what I'm trying to say -- and here comes the metaphor -- is that with over 5,000 bands descending upon Austin from all over the place, it kind of has a whirlpool effect.

No matter how big or small of a band you are, the annual Austin voyage has become an all important rite of passage. Also, it needs to be noted that this year, there are laser beams, mounted on the top of buildings, that shoot out over Sixth Street...so we got that going for us, which is nice. The scene at night feels like Blade Runner meets that weird rave-party scene in the crappy Matrix movie (not the first one; that is still pretty impressive, and i'm not a huge Keanu fan -- although he slayed in Point Break). In fact if someone from 1985 was magically transported to the heart of Austin during SX, they would seriously lose their shit. The future is now, brother!

I'm obviously a bit scattered brained and running on fumes at this point. I'm also, currently, in terrible need of a shower. Friday was yet another epic day in Austin. We played our last show at 9 p.m. at Peckerheads on Sixth Street. The great Kyle Simmons and Sarah Slaton joined us on stage for our closing song, and I think it must have been 150 degrees in the venue at that point. When is the last time you remember your knees sweating? The second annual Illegal Pete's Showcase was jam packed with not only faithful Denverites, but also industry folk and other sweaty lovers of music trying to get a front row look at the scene coming out of Colorado.

Take To The Oars was honored to be part of such a great line up. The energy and camaraderie was uplifting and infectious. I have to give a shout out (like rappers do) to Pete Turner of Illegal Pete's, Ben Desoto, the Vinefield Agency and everyone else who made this happen. I said it last year, and I'll say it again. I've never been a part of music scene that supports each other as much as Denver does. It's pretty inspiring and makes for a great party! Fairchildren, Nathaniel Rateliff, Flashbulb Fires and the Epilogues, amongst others, weighed in with amazing, well received sets.

Before the Illegal Pete's showcase, we had quite the full day. Sarah got our brand new video for our song "Bar Talk" reviewed and critiqued by a panel of industry people, including Andrew W.K. He is famous for a few things, including hitting himself in the face with his microphone until his nose bleeds. I can't wait to see his notes.

Meanwhile the rest of us caught a set by a band called the Suicide Bitches. Seriously! -- and here's the thing -- they were pretty good and also from Chile. The afternoon really got started with a couple free beers and blistering sets by Ft. Collins band Common Anomaly, followed by Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. A text came in from a buddy that The Black Angels were playing a free-no-badge-required party nine blocks east of where we were. We hoofed it down there and caught the last twenty minutes of their reverb drenched show.

Kyle Simmons has three broken toes, so we decided to spring for a pedicab back to the heart of Sixth Street to get ready for our show. I can't believe there isn't anything doctors can do for broken toes -- it just seems odd to me with how technologically advanced we are as a society. I guess the moral of the story is: It just doesn't get much better than free music, sunshine and a cold beverage.

- Ryan Gombeski

Page down to read the previous SXSW travelogue entry

If the world truly ends as its scheduled sometime in 2012 -- and let's face it, facts are facts -- at least a couple hundred thousand people will be able to say they experienced a banner year for SXSW. Here we are again and I'm trying to sort through the haze of the past 48 hours while simultaneously plotting out the next couple days.

This is the third year in a row that my band Take To The Oars has ventured down to Austin to help cover the city in stickers and other rock and roll paraphernalia, lug gear for blocks, support the local and national bands we love and to musically connect with as many people as possible.

Talk about a full plate...all this while in search for free food, free and/or cheap beer, and of course, the elusive record deal that allows you to quit your day job, grow your hair out, get a super sweet neck tattoo, and birddog hot chicks on the road. When I say "PAR"....you say "TY"...

Here's a very rough timeline of happenings since we arrived in town on Wednesday evening:


9:30 p.m.: After cursing incessantly about lack of parking, we shell out the big bucks to secure a spot in a garage and prep for the six block walk to the venue of our first show. We check in with the sound guy, stash our gear and get some time to absorb 6th street in all it's glory and nuttiness. This has to be one of the busiest years, attendance wise, ever. For a Wednesday night the place is just teeming with people.

Every bar is blaring live music through open windows and doors onto the street, sonically battling against various impromptu street performers. A DJ spins records atop a makeshift sled that is being pushed through the masses. A preacher screams into a megaphone about "impending doom for all us sinners." Everyone films everything. There is already puke on the street.

12 a.m.: Feeling good about the first gig and having sold some merch, we are all a bit restless and ready to hit the streets. Turns out that four doors down from where we played, Corrosion of Conformity is launching into the second half of their set. The sound is a bit rough, but the band is still slaying it. Here, we meet up with some more peeps from the Denver scene. It's metal bombast, cold Lone Stars and smiles all around.

1 a.m.: Further down the street, we catch a great set from Texas Instrumental band This Will Destroy You. It's probably one of the loudest concerts I've ever been too. I'm not sure if I'm swaying to the music, the exhaustion of the days drive in, or the beer.

2:30 a.m.: We finally get back to our friends place, where the band has successfully taken over every room in the one bathroom house ("guys piss outside!!" -- reads a hand scrawled sign on the counter). Quickly fall asleep with hand in a bag of Doritos.


7 a.m.: Wake up for daily band meditation session and bible study....just kidding.

2:30 p.m.: The streets are already starting to fill up as we finally get downtown. Technically we have the day off from playing, but my our backpacks are full of stickers, download cards and info about our Illegal Pete's showcase on Friday night. Our manager is in full work mode and has her afternoon scheduled out. Half the band heads to the convention center for a vintage rock poster exhibit and free beer, while the rest of us case out some new music.

On a random corner, we catch up with the gentleman of In The Whale, My Body Sings Electric and the Photo Atlas amongst other Denverites. Hugs all around. Girls in bikinis, atop of double decker bus blaring Kid Rock, throw new food products to the outstretched arms of hungry musicians. The lyrics "...and I'm proud to be an American" come to mind as the sun breaks through the mid day grey.

3:30 p.m.: Using my ninja-like skills and the power of diversion ("Oh my goodness!! Is that Scott Stapp?!"), I'm able to sneak into the Hype House, which is hosting some big names throughout the festival. I eat a free taco bell burrito and immediately regret it. Catch a blistering set from Alabama Shakes. It feels like a Saturday night, and it's all just starting.

6 p.m. - 2 a.m.: It's difficult to pin down any specific times. In no particular order, we did all of the following: ate mediocre pho, watched Denver band and tour mates Eldren crush their first showcase, take shots, run into Kyle from the Sword, fail to get into a Fiona Apple showcase, use a porta-potty, drum up some hype for the Illegal Pete's showcase, hang out with LoveDrug, watch Wyoming band Zelazowa, catch up with the Epilogues and almost get hit by a pedi-cab.

4 a.m.: Struggle to finish first travelogue.

- Ryan Gombeski

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.

See Also:

- SXSW travelogue: Morning Clouds check in from Austin with terrifying taco experience

- SXSW travelogue: Wheelchair Sports Camp checks from Austin

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