I really miss Bill and Morgan, but especially Bill. After my first week in Austin, I drove out to the country to Couchsurf with Bill in Manor, TX (pronounced Mainer) I really didn’t know what to expect as I drove out of the city and across wide-open fields divided by barb-wire and giant rural electric towers. Bill said he had two Couchsurfers stay with him for over a year and I wouldn’t want to leave. I turned down one cracked country road to another, until I ended up on the dirt.
In a gravel drive I walk up among trees and weeds to what looks like a very tall mix between a house and a sculpture. I am greeted by a short, round man with white hair and I follow along the warped pavers. We enter an antique door into a formal dining room. Hanging on the walls and propped up on the floor are oil paintings, mostly nudes. Bill is quite the artist and gourmet chief. “Is this house historic?” I ask. “Oh, no I built it myself about fifteen years ago. I was going for 1890s.” “Oh, you seemed to achieved that well.” Yes, I was very throughout in keeping to the time period.” “Did you use reclaimed wood?” “Let me show you around.”
I walk upstairs to gaze out of the bathroom windows. Windows wrap around half of the bathroom. A claw-foot tub shines brightly as the sun streaks over it onto the wood floors. My room is up the third set of stairs. An air mattress has been set up in the middle of the room. Windows and unfinished art work surrounds me. I an eagle in a nest also known as the artist studio.
I spent two happy weeks walking around the 25 acre land co-op in Manor, cooking dinner with Bill and Morgan, a girl who lives in his guest house. Bill makes everything from scratch. I got to learn how to make pizza and Shrimp Diablo. It was so cozy, our family eating around the dining room table when Morgan came home from work. No wonder his guest don’t want to leave.
I did commute into town quite often to leave the peaceful rural life and attend SXSW music. I was volunteering at the Elysium, a club that normally is a little gothy, but for SXSW held a different genre every night. My first night, Monday, was K-Pop night.
Jammed full of Koreans, the highlight of the night was the entrance of F(X), the “Korean Spice Girls”. I spent most of my night guarding the entrances and exits as a Korean boy following me around like a lost puppy. After paying me the biggest compliment any of the guys could’ve paid a girl that night by telling me I was just as beautiful as the girls from F(X), he declared, “You know you’re just what I’m looking for, I really like you.” It was too dark in there for him to see my eyes roll, “Stop being so silly! You know you’re the third guy this week to tell me that!” He wanted to take me to Korean/Mexican fusion, but I snuck out of the club without saying goodbye.
Here’s F(X), so you understand what I’m talking about.
The next night I got my Korean/Mexican fusion with a different guy. The game founder and I decided to go out and catch some music. The line for the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs was around the corner of the building and for badge only, so we went to see some lesser-known bands that I enjoy, The Virgins and Local Natives. The venue was pretty fun, he was able to get in with a cover and they had a backyard area that was packed. The bar looked like it was in a crazy house party with the historic wood house as a bar. Both bands were really good, but I was a little disappointed that The Virgins didn’t play the song “Rich Girls”.
After the bar we headed over the capital building and walked around. We both had to grab a drink out of the historic water fountain, well now replica, apparently it wasn’t a very good water fountain as they had to get rid of it after the Clean Water Act. We looked around at the people near to try to find to get someone to take our picture and gave up. We weren’t gonna trust a camera to any drunk kids, so we balanced the camera on the side of the building and posed a few times. At least one came out well. The next day he left to go back to Boston. Unfortunately he couldn’t stay longer.
Thursday night at the Elysium, I just wanted to fall asleep. The music was all electronic and there were some really cool videos that went along with it. It all put me in a trance though. You’d be sitting there watching the video and listening to the music zoning out and falling asleep. It was my most difficult night. I was particularly embarrassed because I yelled to a girl, “Dude you can’t go in the ladies room”. In my defense she was wearing boys clothes and she did have a crew cut, plus I was asked specifically to watch out for a guy in a green shirt trying to go in the ladies room. Of course she was wearing a green shirt. She turned around and said “What?” and I turned so red, I almost melted. When she turned around I saw the soft cheeks. The “what?” was also soft and feminine sounding. Bill reassured me I didn’t offend her, he thought she probably took it as a compliment, as she was obviously hoping to look like a boy.
Friday night I had off from volunteering and I decided to catch Steve Earle in concert. Parking was crazy. So crazy that I had to park super far off in a neighborhood, where people were selling their backyard for extra cash. Luckily one of the home-owners felt bad for me and offered to give me a ride into town. I walked upstairs of this older bar, spacious and filled with wood trim. This concert was a mixed aged concert with younger people and older people alike in the crowd. We all gasped when Steve Earle told us his actual age. Murmurs and head shakes filled the crowd, “Man, he looks like he’s in his 70s.” All in all it was a pretty fun concert, we all whooped when he started singing about “burning the Wal-Mart down” and then he finally did played the song the crowd wanted to sing-along to “Copperhead Road”.
I decided to hang around for the next show. I grabbed some cider and made my way in front of the stage. It’s obviously going to be a bluegrass show as a fiddle, mandolin and a bass violin sat above me. I’m stopped by an extremely outgoing young biker with a beard and a reddish blond pony tail, “Hey, do you dance?” “I… guess… I’m not really good, but I can…” “What kinda answer is that?!” “Well sugar, you’re gonna be my partner and we’re gonna do-se-do all ’round this place! Now, where are all your hot friends?” “I came here by myself.” “Oh, well I respect that. My buddy Church and I came here by ourselves as well. We just met in line!” He motions back to a clean-cut heavy-set guy who looks like he hasn’t changed from the office. “We’re both from Austin!” Church smiles and whispers to me, “Can you believe this guy?” The biker dude asks, “So you like The Devil Makes Three?” I respond, “I’ve never heard of them, I came here for Steve Earle.” “Steve Earle! Girl, you must have some daddy issues! This band is my favorite! I love this band so much I’d f*ck all of them. And I’m not even gay!” The music begins to start and the whirling begins. I twirl arm and arm around with Biker Dude and then I trade-off and take Church for a spin. We end up making friends with an Aussie girl also and letting her join in on the fun. Outside the bar, we try to get into another venue for dancing, but they won’t let any new people in. I agree to drive Biker Dude home. I’m parked so far away, that I wouldn’t mind having someone to walk with me. When dropping him off he shows me his motorcycle, “It’s very pretty.” He smirks, “It would look even better with you on the back of it.” We talk about maybe meeting up later in the week to go thrifting. He tells me, “You’d look great in one of those side-zipped leather jackets.” I have wanted one of those for a while, but they seem hard to find. We ended up not seeing each other again, he had to work 12 hour days the next week to make up for taking off for the festival.
The Devil Makes Three
The last night of the festival turned out to be the best night of the festival. We got to really know the bands we were helping, because they had so much equipment. Our first job of the night was to stand by an intersection and quickly unload a van once it pulled up to our part of the street. We yelled at the crowd, “Move out-of-the-way! Coming through!”, as we carried merchandise and instruments through hoards of staring bystanders. Yes, the more we yelled the more they just planted their feet firmly in the ground and stared at us like a herd of stubborn pack animals. The rest of the night we watched the equipment, as there was too much to fit backstage and then we helped load onto the stage and store the cases off-stage. We really got to know the bands Austra and The Soft Moon. It was a good end to the week.
The Soft Moon – The view from backstage.