(One of our KB writers, Ilan Baril, arrives in Austin today – Friday, March 19. If you’re at SXSW, watch for him on the dancefloor or at a bar near you.)
Tell me a story, something awesome, something I’d pay to hear about maybe. You can’t, can you? You want to, I know you do, you want there to be a story full of flamethrowers and plane rides and crazy people, brimming with the bits and pieces of a great movie. But for the life of you nothing comes up. It’s okay, happens to the best of us, and seems to happen to me all the time.
But then there’s Austin. Man oh man, Austin.
I’d love to say that I’m from there, to be able to lay claim to all the coolness that Austin embodies, but I’m not. I’m from Dallas and live in Denver now but still, like a chickenshit trying to lead off first base in a slow pitch softball game, have my toe touching Austin.
I have been there dozens of times, grew up with kids who had family there, went to college with kids who lived there and have traipsed around the town getting myself into trouble with friends from all over the place who just wanted to be there.
My friends who live there now are always amazing hosts, treating me to an array of experiences from food to frolic that make me want to stay. I know it wouldn’t be the same, a citizen of a city always sees it one way, while a visitor sees it quite differently, spinning the prism on the kaleidoscope just so – and taking it all in. At the end of these trips, when I start my talk of yearning for a home there, they respond with the whispered admonishment, “it’s hot as hell for four months out of the year,” and then I’m back on a plane.
Austin, out of all my travels, is the one spot that draws me back the strongest. I’d like to say I make my way there at least once a year, but in truth it’s a mere desire I’d like to make true. My almost-annual pilgrimage is timed to coincide with the arrival of 1,500+ bands and all their accompaniments, and it’s on purpose.
This year, for the third time, I’m going to SXSW for the music weekend. I go down there with plans man, plans that are almost always really the lack of plans.
I don’t go down there like a most people. I do plan on seeing loads of good music, and with my press access this year, maybe even meeting some rock stars. But I go down there to hang out with my friends, all music lovers and big life livers who never have a shortage of interesting could-be’s at the ready. With them in Austin I will see more, do more, dance more, eat more, and drink far more than one should respectfully expect.
I’ll eat drunken fajitas and drink Micheladas at Polvo’s. Definitely gonna need Migas at Magnolia on South Congress; the perfect hangover food. I’ll eat barbeque and pho and green chili and red chili and more. I’ll drink 400 vodka sodas and 230 whiskeys and, if there’s a “specialty drink” or a promo shooter somewhere, I guarantee I’ll get into that too, most likely with regrets.
I’ll walk down the middle of the street with my friends, wondering what we’ll hear next, stopping at the open windows of the bars of 4th, 5th and 6th street. I’ll have that look on my face people ask me about, looking like I’m the cat that ate the canary. I will have. I’ll buy t-shirts for bands I’ve just seen and wear them for the world to see. I will drunkenly speak with an earnest set of singer-songwriters, thanking them for telling us the stories and wondering out loud to them how they weaved the words into the song.
I will hear the next Killers, the group that wants to be the Killers, and maybe the real Killers, and they’ll all probably be pretty damn good.
I’ll spend a night at Lanaii, dancing to thumping base lines of music I’d not normally choose but will that night because that’s what we do, one night we go out and dance. I’m no good, but I do have the special pants with the rhythmic pockets into which one must load loads of booze before they work.
And I will spend one more night in town before I head back to Denver, sitting with friends at the San Juan Hotel and thinking about what a lucky fucker I am.
I don’t expect to set records for our escapades on this trip, that’s a lofty goal, but I do know that I won’t remember all the bands we see, all the bars we go to, all the drinks we drink.
But I will remember this, when I’m ready to leave, that’s when I’ll realize I’m not at all ready, and I’ll wait for the whisper.
I love it.