Music in Austin

Posted By on March 22, 2009

“So a guy, his friend, and six Scotsmen walk into a bar…”

.: My mom works in Austin but lives in New Braunfels. Her commute is about 45 minutes, and sometimes she just doesn’t want to drive the whole stretch after a long shift. She also happens to have a lot of excess furniture in need of a storage. As an occasional remedy to the former and a more permanent remedy to the latter, she rents a small apartment which she calls her crashpad.

.: Since she doesn’t use it often for sleepovers, and since Waco is a fun-suck on the weekends (and weekdays, but there’s little I can do about that), I’ll occasionally stay in the crashpad for a night or two — provided I ask for permission in advance, clean up after myself, and not throw wanton debaucheries.

.: This weekend, for my sanity, I needed to get out of Waco. I also needed to return a pair of gloves and pay the hotel bill to my step-dad for last week’s adventures, so the crashpad was a convenient stopping place.

.: The whole drive down I imagined the glory awaiting me in the apartment’s freezer: a half-eaten tub of Candy Jar flavor Blue Bell ice cream still likely delicious from the week before. My sister, demon dream-eater she is, saw fit sometime in the intervening week to eat both my dreams and my ice cream. For this transgression she will not be forgiven.

.: I arrived sometime after noon on Saturday and spent the next few hours unwinding and watching a terribly awesome movie with Sean Astin and Louis Gossett Jr. The plot was basically Die Hard with plucky, rebellious teenagers who, surprise!, become heroes and save a captive school from terrorists. Those years of snotty, dickish behavior are, as the tag-line helpfully explains, about to pay off.

.: Afterwards I met up with Hunter, Chris, and several rowdy Scotsmen at Stubb’s. The Scots, members of a band called We Were Promised Jetpacks, were in town for SXSW, and Hunter and Chris were their gracious hosts for the week.

.: I found them in the basement in the middle of an unusual game of pool. The cue, eight and one other ball were missing and the six and fourteen balls had duplicates, bringing the total number of balls on the table to one short. To compensate, new rules were developed: if whichever ball they designated as the cue ball scratched, then the next player got to assign the new cue ball; and the four ball was the new eight ball.

.: Before we left Stubb’s, Hunter wanted to take a group picture of everyone. One by one they jumped into the picture, and soon a problem of all group pictures surfaced: how will the person holding the camera have their picture taken with the group? The Scots, rowdy sociable folks they were, conscripted passersby to solve this problem, but being too sociable they soon wanted the passersby in the group photos as well, reestablishing the problem they wished to solve in the first place.

.: In all the excitement, I accidentally knocked a can of beer from an equally enthusiastic participant’s hand. Honor-bound to correct for this wrong, I offered to buy her another drink. Reader, this is the point in the narrative where normal people meet future spouses, so you will no doubt be disappointed to learn that the ten minutes I spent waiting in line with her at the bar amounted to nothing more than her saying, “Thank you so much, I really appreciate you doing this!” and walking away. To add insult to my chickenshit-induced injury, the bartender shortchanged me $3. And that’s the story of the first drink I ever bought for someone.

.: Hunter announced to everyone the existence of a party on the other side of the highway, and we slowly dispersed. I managed to find a decent parking spot a few blocks away, so Chris asked if I could give him a ride to his car. On the way to my car we were accosted by a short but stocky Mexican who, after asking if he could use our phone, mentioned that he just got out of jail. I will try to recreate the story he told us, but as it did not make any damn sense when he told it I will not claim responsibility for any errors that creep in.

.: The guy needed to call a friend at a bar to get a change of clothes. The shirt he was currently wearing (inside out, no less) was apparently not late-night-Austin-bars-on-sixth-street-appropriate. When Chris offered to dial the number for him, the guy changed his tone and said he didn’t know the number. Chris then tried GOOG411, and while he navigated their directory the guy turned his attention towards me. He explained how he just got thrown out of an Irish bar and spent two nights in jail. He demonstrated what transpired in the scuffle with a quick swing of his fist, and I realized just how helpless I would be to dodge one of those if directed towards me. Chris cut the guy’s story short to say that the bar’s phone wasn’t answering, and we scuttled off without saying goodbye.

“So . . . that guy just wanted to steal my phone, right?”

.: I couldn’t think of a better explanation to account for the guy’s behavior. When he first asked if we had a phone, I wanted to say no, but who says that in 2009?

“Hey, can I borrow your phone?”

“Sorry, I don’t have a phone.”


.: The party, I found out, was actually hosting a concert by three bands. It was a bit of a high school reunion for Hunter, but I only recognized three faces in the house. I stayed pretty close to Chris throughout the first half of the party, describing to him some fascinating details about herpes after Hunter made note of my cold sore. I was just about to explain how aciclovir works when the first band interrupted us with music that rocked most pleasantly.1

.: They were Mumpsy, and they played six or so songs. The last one, Ain’t It Hard (When It’s Over), was easily the catchiest of the bunch. Not ten seconds after it ended I heard two people at other ends of the room whistling the chorus.

.: The second band, The Wildest Fictions, was a brother-and-sister drums-and-keyboards duo unavoidably reminiscent of Mates of State. (I am almost certainly getting their name wrong since Google is giving me nothing.) I didn’t immediately take to their music as I had with the previous band. The guy yelled at us more than he sang, and the girl’s keyboard was ear-breakingly loud. Whatever my initial misgivings, they were redeemed by one magical moment when, the keyboard suddenly dying at just the right time, they finished their song in a beautiful a cappella duet.

.: However, the unquestionable winner of the night was the band that followed, an eleven piece mini-marching band named Mount Righteous. Sousaphone, snare drum, bass drum, trombone, smith bells, accoustic guitar, accordion, melodica, trumpet, and slide whistle? They had it all. That weird metal bowl thing they used in that one Jane’s Addiction song? They had that too. Imagine a Gogol Bordello without the gypsy or a Polyphonic Spree without the suck.

.: Unlike the previous bands these guys eschewed amps and microphones, but they exuded more than enough energy and good times to make up for it. There were several times when I feared the bass drummer, in his enthusiasm, would soon become enemies with the television set nearby. The house, as large as it was, was not the proper place for this group to perform. (I should also note that the house was a duplex and the festivities didn’t end until 2:00 am or so. At least it was a Saturday.)

.: Naturally, the audience demanded an encore. The band complied with one more song, and when that ended the bass drummer asked if anyone would be willing to freestyle while they laid down a backing beat. Hunter, ever the rhymesmith, volunteered. He rapped about the salient features of Austin, noting that it was not quite Boston but was in fact a city one could get lost in.

.: The party over and the night no longer young, half of We Were Promised Jetpacks piled into my car, and I drove them to Hunter’s place. They had to make a flight in about six hours, but Hunter convinced them that Taco Cabana was a better idea than sleep.

.: Shortly after we placed our orders, a gaggle of girls poured into the restaurant. “Party’s here!” yelled one of the Scots, and the rest clapped and cheered approvingly. The girls were rather non-plussed and unresponsive to this show of European affection.

.: The next group of people to follow were informed by the staff that the restaurant was closed. The doors were locked, they were told, so they should not have entered. Struggling to comprehend how three men could enter a restaurant through locked doors, one of the Scots proclaimed, “My God, they’re ghosts!”

.: Meanwhile, the gaggle of girls remained unimpressed with our foreign visitors. One girl openly doubted the authenticity of their accents! Their standoffish behavior a drag on the Scots’ spirits and the window of time for sleep becoming ever smaller, they all agreed it was finally time to head home.

1) I believe I am the first person to compose this exact sentence.

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One Response to “Music in Austin”

  1. Mom says:

    It is a one hour commute one way when there is no traffic. Add traffic and it is > 1 hour.

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