SXSW diary by Laura Mendoza of White Shag, part 1
When we knew that Detroit’s White Shag was going to be performing a few different sets at SXSW, we grabbed front-woman Laura Mendoza and requested that she send us a regular diary of the goings on. Here’s the first installment…
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 – SXSW Week – Austin, TX
I finished up some vocal tracks in the morning for some impromptu recording we decided to do at our friend Seth’s studio who is also the owner of the house where we’re staying. Seth is a great friend and is always greets us wearing his White Shag trucker hat. We had a full night of shows to hit up including some bands who are friends of ours here in Austin. But before anything, I had to talk to Duggan Flannigan first. Duggan is a music aficionado here in Austin. He supports all genres and is really connected with the music scene and even beyond that. So needless to say, I had to get the lowdown from him on what was good. His recommendation that night was to check out Acoustic Minds at the Red Gorilla showcase which is an unofficial SXSW showcase. They were playing during another one of the band’s sets we were going to see later that night so we decided to see them later in the week instead.
Another must was to hit up Andy Siron. Andy spends a lot of time helping bands out with managing, booking and such in Austin. He helped get us one of our showcases this week and is also a great friend so we definitely had to check out what he was brewing for the evening. We hitched a ride with our friend Sabrina downtown. We didn’t want to worry about parking or having anything stolen. And just an FYI to bands who are headed to SXSW, don’t ever leave your van parked with your equipment unless you absolutely have to in any area. If you’re not playing, get a ride downtown or take a cab. Your equipment will be safe and you’ll be carefree if you’re just partying.
Sabrina dropped us off on the Eastside around the Hotel Vegas area on 6th street and we walked up to the Loft 718. It was an interesting walk to say the least. All the locals call the 6th street area that’s blocked off “the shit show” and that it certainly was.
On 6th, there was music EVERYWHERE. It was mind-blowing! My ear had a horrible time trying to focus on one thing. Everywhere you turned there was a band playing or someone offering you no cover and free drinks. There were a TON of unofficial showcases going on that didn’t require a badge at all. Yes my friends, you do not need to buy an $800 pass to enjoy SXSW. You can see just as many bands and drink for free or almost nothing just by showing up.
Another thing that was really cool were all the people hanging out on the street just trying to get attention. People in only their underwear or a diaper (I kid you not), people busking out of a mini P.A., people turning their lowriders into a dub-step party- attention seekers, this is your haven.
Upon entry to the Loft 718 it reminded me very much of City Club. Very artsy and industrial. This was certainly off of the beaten path of SXSW but would be well worth it regardless. Andy really wanted us to stay and check out this band he was working with, Knifefight. Once they started their set the floor shaking below me was reminiscent of Corktown Tavern and the music just as loud. They were definitely what I would call industrial electronic rock and they did it well. The lead singer was reminded me of a classier version of Iggy Pop but regardless had everyone on their feet immediately. The laser light show accompanying their show was killer too. I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m only sorry their set was only 20 minutes.
Next up was the Dirty Dog Bar to check out our friends Austin locals, Not in the Face. We hadn’t really seen them play yet even though they crashed with us in Detroit this past summer. I’d heard a lot about their show and was pretty excited to see them. The Dirty Dog was a great rock bar. Imagine the New Dodge twice as big but without the balcony. This was the Dirty Dog and it was my kind of place. They started their set and upon the first chord played they had everyone’s attention immediately. Somehow, these guys managed to take americana and mix it with stoner rock and douse it with gallons of high-energy. The audience was entranced. They high-kicked and strutted their way across the stage every which way possible and threw their instruments left and right. Joe could not stop saying “this is how bands used to be all the time in Detroit!”
The last stop of the night was Hotel Vegas to see A Giant Dog play. We made our way down and stopped for pizza along the way in one of the many food truck parks that Austin has to offer. You have not done Austin properly if you haven’t eaten at one of these spots.
Hotel Vegas is definitely more of a favorite among the locals in Austin. It’s a great spot. There’s a huge patio in the back with a stage and another stage inside next to the front door. Austin has such nice weather you can always count on the back patio being open most of the time (this year might have been an exception).
I didn’t realize that A Giant Dog had already started performing on the inside stage so I bolted to the front stage as soon as I heard it. Sabrina, who gave us a ride downtown, is the lead singer of A Giant Dog. If there’s any front woman I admire, it is Sabrina. They had the place going wild right away. I made my way up to the front with my neat whiskey which started flying everywhere. This proto-punk power pop band had everyone going NUTS and it was wall to wall packed. Their songs are very high-energy and catchy so it was no wonder why they are an Austin staple. I poured the rest of the shot down my throat as best I could and began to participate in what I would call a non-violent mosh pit. This, considering my small stature, was something I could handle. I bounced around through the whole set until I got knocked across the room by some guy about 4 times my size. I figured then was probably a good time to stop and 2 songs later they were done.
Hotel Vegas has a great strategy to kick everyone out. Have you ever noticed everyone hates the sound of sirens when they’re drunk? Well, the guys at Hotel Vegas certainly know that and their megaphone conveniently equipped with the loudest sound was enough to drive all the cattle out of the entire state of Texas. I was ready for bed anyway. We had our first show of the week the next day and I wanted to make sure we were rested up for total White Shag annihilation.