Come with me on a magical recap of a magical week in a magical place called South by Southwest! A land filled with special badges, honky tonks, big stages, excellent cheeseburgers and more sunshine than I have seen in years.

We were late to the party. We woke up one day and said “We should play South by Southwest!” and all of our team said it was, sadly, far too late for crazy dreams like that. “What’s the harm in asking?” we asked, assuming there was no harm in asking, “What’s the harm in asking.” “Well, (they said) let’s see what we can do. Maybe we could at least do a panel on a subject we are experts in….” To our surprise, they agreed. I suggested “The use of Pro-tools in animal husbandry,” Georgia suggested…..oh I don’t remember…something girly…sewing or knitting or something, and Kenny we could NOT wake up to engage in the conversation.

They decided on “Indie at Any Age” (or, as I like to call it….”composing while decomposing”). We could talk about having the audacity to think we could have something to contribute to the music industry after the age of thirty. Sounds like fun. I pictured an audience of people who eat soft foods.

A funny thing happened. Once word got out that we were going to be at SXSW (I will be using the acronym from now on because every time I do, I save three seconds. When this blog is done I will have three extra minutes to live at the end of my life) we got more offers. “How would you like to play at Rachael Ray’s party at Stubb’s?” We would like that very much. “How would you like to play on the roof at Whole Foods for AmazonMP3 and Quantum Collective?” We would like that very much. Soon we had four full band performances and three trio shows. We also now had a reason to bring our band, crew, management AND label to Austin where the nearest available hotel room was in Idaho. We ended up renting houses. People in Austin all leave during this week and rent their houses out to people like us. That is a very kind gesture that allows us to put their children through college. In an aside… is it that there are no rooms available but when Prince suddenly shows up with a 22 piece band, they find rooms for all of them? Just askin’.

So we get to SXSW and we do our panel. They listed it in the program as “Indie at Any Age” with Blue Sky Riders. They didn’t list our names so anyone from Nashville who might come to see Georgia and me would not know we were talking. What’s worse…they didn’t list Kenny’s name so people who would like to bring their Pooh dolls for signatures had no idea he was there. Maybe they think we are more famous than we are and everyone knows who BSR is. Maybe we ARE more famous than I think we are?! Naaah. Still, it was a nice turnout and we had a lot of laughs and a great deal of alleged knowledge was shared by all.

Next gig….full band at midnight in a church sanctuary. Midnight. We assumed this was some kind of test. “Wanna be part of SXSW with a million bands full of twenty year olds? Think you can survive? See you at midnight.”

We only had fifteen minutes to set up our gear. Normally that takes an hour but our crew assured us that they could do it in probably….an hour. We tried to explain that if it takes longer than fifteen minutes we could only get to play one and a half songs. They got it done in forty minutes. We have the greatest guys in the business and it could not have been done in one minute less. Fifteen minutes my ass. No sound check, no nothing. Guess what? We rocked the joint. Can I refer to a sanctuary in a church as a joint? I’m not saying we were especially great…but I even saw Jesus’ feet tapping…and THEY were nailed to pieces of WOOD!! Too soon?

We learned “Nowhere Man” as a trio to sing at a Beatles Tribute for The GRAMMY Museum. It was very cool to hear so many different interpretations of their songs by so many different acts.

We played the AmazonMP3/Quantum Collective rooftop show at Whole Foods with gale force winds blowing at us. I actually screwed up the a cappella intro to ‘Rider’ cause Georgia’s hair was in her face and I couldn’t see her lips. We have looked at the pictures people took and I look like the professor in the Back To The Future trilogy. But we…wait for it…yes…rocked it!!!

We played Rachael Ray’s Feedback Party at a BBQ place called Stubb’s that has three enormous stages set up in the back. We followed a rapper who everyone seemed to know but me. He actually sounded pretty fun and entertaining. Not negative like a lot of the “rapping music” the kids enjoy these days. I keep saying that maybe what our material needs is more talking in the middle of the songs and less actual…well, … That being said…we rocked it…again. The band right before us was a heavy heavy metal group called Eagles of Death Metal. They were very loud and fun and the crowd loved them. You could not pick a band more opposite of what we do. It was so cool that when we played our show, they all watched us from the side, and when we were done they told us they thought we were amazing. They were the nicest guys. I hope we share a bill again with them someday if we ever do a show on Bizarro World.

Our last gig was the gig that was closest to home for us. Rebel’s Honky Tonk in downtown Austin. Mechanical bull. Free beer at the door. My people. We had been trying to reach the stage manager for three weeks. He finally called us back four hours before the show and told us he didn’t have most of what we needed to put on our show. There would be no keyboard. No graphic equalizers to make the voices audible. Not enough lines for all the instruments. Our head guy, Wayne, came and told me that this show was going to suck and let’s just try to get out of the building alive.

But…we rocked it…yes…AGAIN. Best show of the week. We lowered our heads and our expectations and played like the nuts we were and it was great. The crowd jammed the front of the stage and didn’t want us to leave. Unfortunately, the same guy that never called us about the equipment pulled the plug on us and would not allow an encore. So we had THAT going against us…which was NOT nice.

The perfect thing happened as I was leaving the club that gave me my fondest memory of the whole week. By the front door of the honky tonk they had a container of beer and a guy standing behind it giving them out to people entering the joint. Behind HIM was a punching bag machine for drunken cowboys to measure how hard they can hit an inanimate object. Well, this cowboy puts in his quarter…rears back and swings with all his might. After the bag goes flying, his momentum carries his punch into the kidney of the poor guy selling the beer and almost knocks him down. The beer guy says “Damn! Got me AGAIN!”

South by Southwest….you are an enchanting mistress.