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Spitfire Austin – Ilan Takes on SXSW 2010


For every band I saw in Austin at South By Southwest 2010, I missed 100, at least.  That is a really depressing thought until I take a minute and think about who I did see, with whom, and under what circumstances.

The only real problem with the trip isn’t really a problem, but more of an embarrassment of riches.  I know so many people in Austin, most of whom are really connected, so a trip there always involves me completely releasing the reigns, something i always find difficult to do.

Before I headed down for my spitfire weekend, I jotted down 23 bands I wanted to see on Friday alone, setting the over/under for seeing them at 6.  Want to know how many I saw?  I can tell you, because I just looked back at the 3 little note cards with all their hopes and dreams.  One.  Just one.  The Pirate Signal.  Now, did I see good music?  Drink good whiskey drinks?  Meet girls from the Rose? Stumble happily down 6th Street with a shit-eating grin on my face?  Yes, yes, yes and yes.

I hadn’t bothered to make music-to-do lists for the rest of the weekend, presuming that I’d see how Friday went and go from there.  Like I’ve said before, most of the plans I make for Austin take off like a skittish mockingbird as I reach for them.



SXSW 2010 – Friday, March 19

After sitting on the tarmac in Denver for long enough to need 2 de-icings, I arrived in the midst of a Crayon (my partner in crime, consigliore, monster truck enthusiast, band leader, friend) flurry of activity that included picking up some equipment, dropping it off, concealing a dead body, getting a drink, making some work phone calls (Crayon sells shiny rocks, yes, even in this economy) finally making it into the aforementioned Mile Hi Fidelity ( show with Derek, another friend who often seems just steps from a flight from authority.

This show, a South By staple, took over Habana Calle 6 for this episode and they tore the fucking doors off the place.  Stages inside and outside gave Austinites a glimpse of what Denver has to offer, with the Pirate Signal (MC Yonnas, and DJ A-What throwing their souls into the tightly packed crowd on the smaller inside stage on that Friday afternoon – seriously, it was 4:30pm and the sun was WAY up and they were tearing peoples’ faces off), Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, The Rouge, The Wheel and more and more and whiskey, oops. Denver’s Stranahan’s sponsored the party and they’d brought their own hired guns with them, tapping the crew from Steubens as their barmen and women du jour.  It was odd and fantastic to see these friendly faces far from home and to get washed over by all this Denver noise, and the afternoon spun by quickly.

After leaving there and heading down the block to the Blind Pig for The Rooftop Riot (, a showcase set up by The Viper Room and Supergood Music, literally running into Andrew WK as he headed out after his set, I met back up with the crew and we went to Pure Volume, a venue that’s taken over the Copper Tank Space of legend, where we finally ate.  It was good, warm, home-made Mexican food and I was happy as a clam.  Okay, I’m kidding here. The damn party was sponsored by Taco Bell and I hammered back a couple of chicken tacos knowing I wasn’t gonna see any more food until it was probably too late.  



Leaving there we headed to The Ranch, a venue close enough to walk to but far enough away to make me less of a fan of my old school cowboy boots.  We saw the end of a show from Talib Kweli who, after he finished his set, told management to go screw themselves because he wasn’t stopping, and then proceeded to freestyle for several minutes. Artistic anarchy.

I convinced the crew (about a dozen strong at this point) to head into the Belmont after that Talib show because it’s one of my favorite spots in Austin, a funky cool retro lounge/patio mix that’s always putting something sick out into the ether.  We walked into a free show with Street Sweeper Social Club, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine’s new crew.  They blew the place up, playing their own tunes and killer covers of “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “Paper Planes.” 

After the live music was over for the evening we hit Union Park to drink and dance, and I was officially given too many shots and was eventually taken home to the couch.


SXSW 2010 – Saturday, March 20

Oddly enough, I woke up rested and ready to go the next morning, so I was off to square away some SXSW logistics.

I headed downtown on this oddly and uncomfortably cold day to meet up with the boys, dipping into the Convention Center for my press pass and SXXpress Pass for Pretty Lights, which I ended up not using for the reasons enumerated below.  I stopped into a press tent for Bar-b-que and beer (Lone Star and Shiner!), found the guys and we headed back to camp for rest and recovery.  The plan was to be back in the game after the recharge to grab passes for Perez Hilton’s party, then to a couple of side street shows and some dinner.  And then we got to the Perez venue and saw the line.

I had gotten media access to Perez Hilton’s One Night Only Party ( in a hopped up warehouse downtown.  There were already hundreds of people in line at 6pm so I, thinking I was more important than I am, went in to speak with someone about where I was supposed to be. I actually got ushered into the artists’ lounge while they were still setting up.  There was a bar and I was tempted to get a drink, but knew if I did the spell would be broken and I’d be ushered out.  It did break, and I was ushered out (should have gotten the damn drink), but headed back in shortly after with my very pretty and skilled +1, who successfully leaned in and procured our rightful wristbands, disregarding the crush of people behind us.

Many others didn’t fare as well as well, some waiting 4 ½ hours only to be denied access, or so I heard. We were inside from 7:30pm to 3:30am, staying on-site throughout for fear of a capacity issue later that would preclude us from getting back in.  In that eight hours we experienced a UK sprite with an amazing operatic range named Marina and the Diamonds, along with Macy Gray (who very impressively covered Arcade Fire at one point), Snoop Dogg (maybe the highlight, as he was in top top form), Courtney Love and Hole who I would have bet against but who rocked mightily, playing their own stuff and covering “Gold Dust Woman” as a fucking rock song, and “Sympathy For The Devil,” maybe my favorite rock song ever, plus a mixed bag of deejays and pop groups. 

While I’m sure there were tons of famous/infamous people in attendance, the only ones I saw that I recognized were on stage, except for the short time that Macy Gray spent in the photo booth goofing around happily with her band mates as they put on costumes and mugged for the camera.  The vodka (Tito’s, one of my favorites) flowed freely, but there was no food, except cupcakes.  Good, but really?  Eight hours of vodka red bulls and cupcakes made me a very twitchy boy by the end of it all.  

SXSW 2010 – Sunday, March 21

Today was the only day that we got to eat any of the things that I miss when I’m not in Austin.  Crayon and I blearily made our way to Chuy’s for lunch, where we drank Michiladas and ate the Elvis Special, a chicken fried chicken breast with green chili and melted cheese.  Then back to the house for some college hoops and on to South Congress to hit Doc’s for their bad-ass burgers and local brews.  I’d spent the weekend happily following friends from venue to venue, stopping intermittently to sleep a little, but this was nice.  I saw some friends, soaked up some South Congress vibe and ducked into some of the spots I love to stock up on vintage shirts to notch up an emo cred or two.

That night Crayon and I got VIP’ed (because he’s “in a band,” a truth that he slings around like kosher salt) into a Sunday night show at Republic Live to end the weekend with Pretty Lights, Colorado’s kickass local beatmonsters.  They thrilled a 600+ person crowd until far past midnight even as the city of Austin seemed to take a collective sigh of relief that they’d made it through another South By.

Photo credits:
Minh Tran
Peter Tung (as noted on the photo)


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