If I had to guess, I'd say that about 70% of what you see with your eyes is just noise. We are constantly distracted by whatever shoots through our periphery, completely pulled away from whatever amazing shit is happening right in front of us. Maybe that's just the cheesy stuff I say when I'm off three hours of sleep, but I really believe it.
After regrouping this morning, my new bud Chris and I hopped on a bus in North Austin and sputtered downtown. At the bus stop, he sweetened my water bottle of peach tea with some Tito's vodka. Sipping and standing there next to this guy in a denim shirt and big old cowboy hat, I became a southerner for a hot minute.
When I got downtown I popped back into the VIP entrance to the Hype Hotel (yeah those security guards and my buddies now) and then made my way backstage because I had a date with young redhead/white gurl rap darling Kitty Pryde. I know she doesn't use the Pryde part anymore but it's got such a nice ring to it doesn't it? I had absolutely zero expectations. Really, I just wanted to get some ice cream.
Kitty Pryde chowing down on some fro-yo.
The first thing Kitty said to me when I walked backstage and shook hands with her and her boyfriend Nick (who you might know as producer Hot Sugar) was "We've been worried about you!" Apparently Kitty, (who also writes for Noisey from time to time) has also been reading my tales of gradual mental and physical dissolution, and was worried about me. Aww. I guess she thought I was waist deep in some kind of depressive downward spiral, but she could have just been projecting her own discomfort here in Austin. Am I really such a Debbie Downer? I reassured her that at the very least my editor was supporting me well and that he was pretty good about calling me in the morning to make sure I'm still alive. Nick good-naturedly took off to meet some friends, and Kitty and I strolled out the back exit to get some fro-yo, yo.
Two things immediately struck me about hanging out with Kitty; first, how pleasant and easygoing she is, and second, the fact that people actually yell really mean shit at her all day long. Granted SXSW is a lion's den of jaded music freaks who (let's not kid ourselves) are all vying for attention in some way or another, but in two blocks Kitty endured at least a few nasty or snide remarks, mostly from assholes who just kept on walking. She shook them off, but I was shocked and all the more endeared to her for it. She told me about how once in Brooklyn she literally had a girl rip out a hair extension.
We talked about what it means to develop a thick skin and why its so necessary. Kitty summed it up in quite a relatable way: "When you stand out, people always feel the need to comment or prove themselves somehow."
Kitty had loaded up a cup with basically every flavor and topping combo, and luckily no one at Berry Austin was a 14-year-old girl or nerdy 30-year-old man (Kitty quotes this as her main audience), so we weren't bugged. Dishing, shooting the shit. It was totally normal, except that while I was wandering around lost in East Austin last night, she was hanging out with Macklemore. I heard about what it was like to have your long time, girlhood hip hop crushes like Danny Brown or Yoni Wolf actually hitting you up and flirting with you. She told me about a recent festival in Mexico that lied to her about a plane flight to get her to do the gig (after she played, all Kitty and Nick were given was a couple Greyhound tickets from Monterey, Mexico to Austin -- that's how they got here). We talked about her BFFs like Chippy Nonstop, the charismatic, geeked up twerkaholic from my own town of Oakland. Mostly, though, I just got a keen sense of all the shit she takes, both online and surprisingly in person. After an hour and a half or so, Kitty had to go because she was worried that her (real) boyfriend was mad she was ignoring him. So we parted ways and honestly I was bummed to see (lol, hear?) her go.
Time was a-wastin' though and the future was calling. Specifically Future was calling, not on my phone, but from the dramatic, utopian landscape of the Fader Fort. On the way I got a text message from a friend back home urging me to see Haim, the L.A.-based, Fleetwood Mac-owing sister outfit who've been honing their raucous R&B sound all their lives. I didn't have time to figure out where this was happening or wait in line, but luckily I walked right into it on accident. Sometimes things just work. Front-lady Danielle Haim is a charmer and a force to be reckoned with, and will be doing big things for a long time to come.
Future absolutely destroying Fader Fort during "Same Damn Time."
But I'd made it my mission to breach the walls of Fader's ominous, booming hip hop Elysium, and with a little help from some high-up homies I was on the list for the expedited line and then inside the walls. Security was high at the Fort (get it?) and really just grossly incompetent. But that was fine with me because there's nothing quite like hearing "Same Damn Time" live, and Future everything he had to a sprawling, electric crowd. As I was lounging on one of the Fort's many furry white couches, surrounded by ping-pong tables and alluring, I-think-well-dressed rap fiends, I heard something unmistakable and angelic. It was the opening strains of "Climax." At first I didn't pay much attention, but then I thought, "what if..?" I got up, walked right up to the big screen TV live feed on the wall. Yeah, it was Usher. And wow, if you have never seen Usher live before that's really something you should try to make happen in your life.
Here I also fell in with a group of goofy but charming fellas from New Jersey who I had met at the Hype Hotel earlier in the week. They were, in a sense, doing what I was doing: Trying to scam their way into every official event they could, and have pretty much had nothing but success. I'll be honest, they really loved me, and spent a long time grilling me about my eyes, my philosophies, and most of all how I tell if a girl is hot or not. I told them about my Theory of Voice, a whole other subject entirely, and my secret rating system so that my friends can tip me off if there's a looker in the room without anyone picking up on the code (I'll never tell). These guys were good people and hopefully you'll hear more about them by the time I crawl back to California. Funny enough, they got into the Fader Fort by telling the dunce-y security that they worked for VICE! Big ups, guys.
The Jersey kids tried to get me to go with them to the MySpace party but I needed some fresh air and an escape from the mangled, blaring masses of downtown Austin. Luckily my spirit guide Chris Catalena called to see if I wanted to go out to the countryside. Normally this isn't something I think I would do-- ditch out on Friday night at South By -- but I've learned to trust this dude pretty unconditionally. Sure enough, 30 minutes later we were picked up in a BMW by two beautiful girls and headed to the outskirts of town with a guitar and a cello in the car.
We walked into this house show on an acre-sized organic farm on the outskirts of town, and I immediately knew I was the only person here not from Austin. These homey Texans sat around drinking casually, drawling, and, yes, doing crafts. The host and hostess showed us their newborn chicks, the soap they make, and the bonfire out back. Sure there was some blow, some weed, probably some drama I didn't know about, but to me this was the most mild-mannered and easy-living bunch I'd seen in this great state. Then the ladies we came with sat down and played a show.
If you don't know Jess Williamson you might soon. She's a singer and songwriter with an absolute yet newfound command of her work. Interspersing lofty poetic bars with casual every day phrases (i.e. "chiller"), Williamson comes correct with her own brand of gothic country music that's both haunting and charming. Her stuff invites comparisons on many different levels, though I'll just throw out some names like Joanna Newsom, Joni Mitchell, and Woody Guthrie. She's just recorded her first album, is searching for a label, and I hope to Baby Jesus that she finds one.
Jess Williamson performing an intimate set on an organic farm outside Austin.
We sat around the fire later, Jess and I chatted while the guys in cowboy hats told ghost stories (yeah no seriously). Jess tells me about her time in New York and, get this, she interned at VICE! Small friggin' world, right? She also happens to have shot photos for some of Hamilton Morris' earliest groundbreaking work. Probably could have stayed out on the farm all night, but even at 1:30AM, the city was calling us back.
I got dropped off on Brazos Street and walked down the Central Presbyterian Church, for a reunion of sorts. I waited and finally down the stairs came Bob Boilen and his NPR Music posse, complete with new addition Ann Powers. Three years ago these were my bosses, but now I'm all grow'ds up. They made me sit in on their ritual end-of-night brain dump podcast, and at around 3 a.m., once they asked that oh-so-delicate question "So where are you staying tonight?" I was taken in. So now I'm posted up in the extra bed (!) in Bob's room at the Omni Hotel listening to him like a little baby lamb. I think I'm getting treated to breakfast in the morning (which is good because I think I only have like $45 bucks left) and if you want to hear a bit about my story and the origins of this whole endeavor in my own voice, you can check me out on the All Songs Considered podcast this morning.
Tomorrow is my last day here (assuming I can find a way back to Oakland), and I promise, even if I have to take extreme measures, I will not let y'all down. I suggest you follow me on Instagram, and I'll provide some real #SxBlindGuy entertainment as best I can photograph which is not well but maybe that's the funny part.
Today By The Numbers:
Number of people who refused to give me directions: 2
Number of New Jersey bros wearing matching white sweat bands: 5?
Number of lines waited in: 0
Number of minutes I waited for a single Philly cheessteak: 19
Number of people who gave me directions: 15
To see the rest of Will's blind coverage of SXSW 2013, click right here.
Ace of Base's Secret Nazi Past
Before he founded Ace of Base, Ulf Ekberg was a member of Commit Suiside, a Nazi punk band.
Parquet Courts - "Light Up Gold Road Trip" (Full Documentary)
In this new documentary, Noisey follows rising indie rockers Parquet Courts from Mexico to Texas and London as they tour to support their debut LP, 'Light Up Gold.'
Yung Lean Doer Is the Weirdest 16-Year-Old White Swedish Rapper You'll Hear This Week
Yung Lean raps over pillow-fluffy beats and raps about glory holes and Arizona Iced Tea. Who the fuck is this kid? And why is he like this?
Adam Ant - The British Masters, Chapter 6
Noisey's John Doran talks with the great post-punk pop star Adam Ant about tribal body mods and layering tape.
Photos: Taking Acid at Coachella
When Paley sent these photos in, she included a nice little caveat over email that we've decided to reprint here in full, not only because it's too good to edit, but because her photographs of her and her weird buddies riding the snake are some of the best
R.I.P. Storm Thorgerson (1944-2013)
On Thursday, the hyper-talented graphic designer, artist, and famed album cover creator Storm Thorgerson passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.
The Internet Is Scary
As of six months ago, my Facebook fanpage is like a dojo where hormonal teenagers hone their technique. Here is a heartfelt poem from some kid who wants to rape, kill, and marry me.
I Accidentally Touched Little Richard's Butt One Time
It was in the Detroit airport. After it happened Little Richard said, "He graze my derriere."
Listen to St. Lucia's Remix of The Colourist's "Little Games"
Last month, Cali quartet the Colourist released "Little Games," and St. Lucia just pulled a warm Balearic blanket over the whole thing, sanding away its rough edges with bright synths and lightly gated percussion.
Aaron Montaigne, Godfather of Screamo, is More Interesting Than You Can Ever Hope to Be - Part Two
On surviving combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with the help of magic, 'Bladerunner,' and everything in between.