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sxsw2014 Sun Mar 16 2014
Archie Powell & the Exports' Ryan Lynch has Friday's updates for us. Things are a little troubling. But at the center is still some good Chicago love.
"Hey man, how's your testicle?" a concerned friend yelled into my ear while at the Chuggin Monkey this afternoon. "I'm back at 100% now!" was my reply. "Ready to do this whole thing over again today"
My band mates (and wife, Laura via text) have had constant updates on the status of a weird aching man-parts situation I've been dealing with the past 36 hours. Still not entirely sure what the deal was, but possible theories include: sleeping funny on a tile floor, walking too much in tight jeans, rocking too hard, and "bro, you're just backed up."
I'm gonna chalk it up to the physical toll that SXSW takes on every band involved. By three days in, the sunburn, dehydration, hangovers, ringing ears, overstimulation, miles of walking and insane load-in and parking situation at most shows leaves everyone with a 100-mile-stare and desire to be cooked sous-vide in a hot tub until all your flesh falls off the bone like a perfectly cooked pork shoulder.
To avoid a complete meltdown, we decided to start the day with Flatstock, the secret best part of SXSW. An impressive display of the best gig posters in the world, the biggest names in screen printing come together to show their goods. As the band's resident graphic designer and poster artist, Flatstock is a mandatory stop for me, and Adam and Archie are always on board as well. There's something about a quiet convention hall, and turning off your ears while your eyes take over that makes the experience that much more rejuvenating.
The calm doesn't last long as we plot the shows we're going to see all evening. After seeing our best buds The Noise FM crush one at the Chuggin' Monkey, Our group piled into Side Bar to see Stepdad, one of our favorite bands of all time. Archie Powell & The Exports all geeked out over this set, danced and sang every word like a bunch of One Directioners. The opportunity to get stupid at a show and then finally talk to a band that you've been meaning to connect with for a long time is what this whole fracas is all about.
It's a pow wow of all the different music tribes coming together — a beautiful sight to behold if you can stop for a second and take it all in. The put-together LA fashion rockers, the Toronto indie rockers with floppy hair and perfect jeans, neon color-coded rap crews, the tucked-in-plaid Americana guys, the way-too-dapper how-are-you-wearing-a-3-piece suit folk bands, and stoner punks who look like extras from Wayne's World all in the same space for the same reason: we fucking love playing music.
The past two nights, our tribe all seemed to end up at Licha's Cantina for the Audiotree and Chicago Mixtape showcase for nothing less than a giant Chicago love-fest. Our pals in The Kickback, legends of the game Mutts, and our collective tour crush The Damn Choir all played mind-blowing sets. The vibe was less like a concert and more like one of those house shows we all grew up playing in VFWs or basements. We passed around flasks of Malort, wore each other's band shirts and ran into people from the neighborhood. Our friends were playing for each other and playing for themselves.
The cynic in me wants to call out SXSW for being a sprawling disaster — too much effort for too little reward. In the end, though, it was well worth the grueling shitshow, exhaustion and bodily harm (which I'm going to have looked at when I get home) to be able to connect with our city on an entirely new level. If it takes a couple margaritas in a back yard in Austin to get the Chicago scene to finally come together, so be it. I'm here, man.