SXSW travelogues: A. Tom Collins checks in from Austin

Tarantulas, Fireballs, and Doppelgängers - SWSX Day One: I had heard a story from a friend of mine about driving through west Texas in the pre-dawn hours. He recounted that after about nine hours on the road heading south from Denver, just before sunrise, he and his co-pilot encountered hundreds, maybe thousands, of black, hockey puck size objects crossing the highway. After squashing several under the wheels of their rental car, they stopped for a closer inspection. What they discovered was that they were driving through a spectacular tarantula migration.

It was about that same time on our own journey from Denver to Austin, in the middle of West Texas, just before sunrise, as I was recounting this story to the rest of the band, when we encountered another wonder of the arid plains of the state you don't mess with. On the side of highway, just outside of Lubbock, a small building was on fire. All evidence pointed to an exploded meth lab. Raging inferno, burning objects surrounding the building, shack outside the city in a 'dry' county...

While the authenticity of my friend's tarantula story is questionable, we are sticking to ours. So next time your heading through west Texas in the wee hours of the morning, keep your eyes open for some of the region's unique natural wonders.

Austin is always a sight for sore eyes after weathering the mild and dark Colorado winters; the lush greenery and fresh-budding wild flowers are a brilliant contrast to the browner, drier parts of the state. It is a beautiful Texan oasis, the home of great food, great music, and of our dearest Party Lawyer, a servant of the law and savant bringer-of-the-party.

After a couple of minor setbacks, we arrived for better or worse, and napped the nap of the dead at our gracious hosts' house, played with the dog, and caught up with our favorite public defendant who has recently acquired a ping-pong table. The house residents were more than happy to school us several times before we had to saddle up the Big Janky and headed over to Charlie's house to play.

Charlie is a long-time supporter of Austin's arts and an all around standup kind of guy who throws a show every year that we were again invited to play. Sharing the bill with some fifteen acts, we were most impressed with a trio of saucy, soul singin' ladies from Brooklyn who wow-ed the crowd with some salty harmonies and dances moves. The crowd at Charlie's was interspersed with neighborhood kids this year, and two little girls and their dad opened up a late night taco and cupcake stand that was a hit. We played a smoky set, triple distilled, with a nutty finish and were well received by the folks at the show. It is always a pleasure to play for appreciative people.

Everything after that is lost in a fog, but Aaron made it into a limo with Varlet drummer Willy Dynamite, and the rest of us ended losing what little dignity we had left at the helm of our ping-pong paddles. Now off to see our buds in Bad Weather California at Cheers. Tonight we play the Pearl St Co-Op pool party!

-- Alex Hebert and Robert Col Sackett

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.

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