SXSW diary by White Shag’s Laura Mendoza, part 4
Friday, March 14, 2014 – Day 4
Friday we had two separate gigs, one at 5:30 on “shit street” and another one at 10:30 that night at the Spider House. We headed downtown a bit early to pass out flyers and stickers for our shows and then retreated up to the venue where we were playing. The stage was decent sized but then again we’re just a 3-piece so we can fit in a lot of places that other bands don’t.
Our friend, Andy Siron hooked us up with the gig and was more than accommodating. He made sure we had water, towels and anything we needed at all. It felt good to be taken care of. He and his wife Shelby also helped us man the merch table, photographed us with our phones and took down e-mail addresses. The crowd loved us and dug our songs and we got offers to come back next year. I even got to sign my first boob! The only problem was the sound.
It’s times like these that I really wish we could have a sound check before we play. When you play on amps you’re not familiar with on top of having someone who probably hasn’t ran sound since last year’s SXSW, it can be disastrous. Now before you sound men start running your mouths, I am a sound woman myself so I am the first one to sympathize with you. I am one of you, but I’m also a musician too and have been on both sides of the fence. Luckily, the boys and I can roll with the punches and things seemed to work out by the last few songs. It’s all a part of the live show, anyway, right?
After the show we hung out on 6th street and tried to find something good to check out. Every place was packed though and nothing was really enticing us. We decided to hit up the Spider House early and check out the bands that were playing there.
The Spider House is a little northwest of downtown Austin near campus. We pulled up to the venue and got rock star parking immediately which is always a score when you’ve got gear in the van. We could tell from the outside that this was already a really cool spot by the décor which was pretty artisan and consisted of tree posts, wooden chairs and floors in the small cafe/bar part. The patio had lights streaming across it, fountain bathtubs and picnic tables. The patio was 3 times as big as the cafe/bar area and had mini food trucks stationed on the inside in addition to the cafe/bar’s food. There were 2 separate stages outside and another big one inside. There was also another little room with a small bar and mini stage inside by the larger indoor stage. This place clearly took after it’s name.
We loaded our gear in and were immediately greeted by Evan. Evan treated us like kings and said that if we weren’t having a good time, to inform him immediately. Right on. Lucky for him we had a great time the entire night. My friend Sabrina’s other band, Sweet Spirit was playing right after us that night (which was totally ironic, I might add, we did NOT plan that one). She called me over immediately to introduce me to Johnny Galyon, the organizer of the showcase.
Johnny is the owner of American Icon Vintage and president of American Icon Records. He is also a true rock and roll Texan with a slow Texas draw. He was really happy to meet us and have us on his showcase which he cleverly titled the “Texas Rock and Roll Massacre.” From all the bands I had seen that night, it rang true to it’s name. Johnny is clearly a big supporter of stoner rock music and just good rock music in general. Two of the bands showcasing that night, the Last Dancers and Sweat Lodge had albums put out by Johnny’s label. Johnny is a label of the musician.
As we walked in, a band called the Schisms were playing on the same stage we’d be playing on later that night. These guys had elements of punk, psyche, garage and stoner. They killed it on stage and really set the mood for the evening for us. If there was anyplace we should be playing that night, it was definitely at the Spider House.
Next I caught a band play called Tia Carrera. Tia Carrera was another 3-piece but with no vocals. They were straight-up instrumental stoner rock. They had great riffs and were really fun to watch, but the lack of vocals made their songs sound a bit repetitive which got boring after a while. I really liked them, but I could only take so much of the guitarist soloing over and over and over again. They needed another ingredient in my opinion and it wasn’t necessarily a Prince of Darkness.
After setting up the merch table, I headed over to the second outdoor stage to check out Adam Mackintosh’s band, the Last Dancers. Adam and I had trained in Baltimore for the School of Rock two years ago together and had kept in touch in the meantime so I was looking forward to listening to what he had in store for the showcase.
The Last Dancers are a true American rock band. Adam’s voice reminds me of a mix of a young Bob Dylan, Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys (sans the British accent) and Jack White. The style is reminiscent to that of Big Star with a blues/americana edge and Adam’s songwriting skills are reminiscent to that of the Beatles (yes, I said it, crucify me now, super fans!). They’re also a ton of fun to watch live and I’m only sorry I couldn’t stay to see them longer. I had to go set up for our own show.
We started the set off with a bang but I was a bit bummed that we had to cut songs. No matter though, we would still rock everyone socks off with what we gave them and that we did. This was by far the best show we had played so far and it showed. People were singing along to our songs (even though they’d never heard them before), shaking their tushes and raising their fists in approval of our rock and roll debauchery. We finished our set with our own version of “Search and Destroy” and the crowd went nuts. They even started crowd surfing! It was an epic show. Not to mention, a lot of our friends from Austin were in the audience cheering us on and even friends from a Fort Worth band called the Phuss who we hadn’t seen in over a year were there. We all walked off stage proud of the rockness we had culminated and were greeted with smiles and compliments of our performance. Tonight, we were on rock and roll fire.
My friend Sabrina’s new band, Sweet Spirit, was up after us and I really wanted to check them out. The band consisted of 6 people which included guitars, bass, drums and keys. Sabrina was strapped on a guitar for this band and I almost was disappointed considering how in love I am with her stage presence as solely a singer but nonetheless, she won me over and eased my woes once her band hit the first beat. I was impressed. This was a fairly new band and they were very tight. Sabrina reminded me of a much more powerful rambunctious version of Debbie Harry in this group with a guitar slung on her shoulders. It was good stuff and made me shake my ass.
One of the last bands I saw that night were one of the bands I had most anticipated seeing. It wasn’t my first time either. The last time we were in Austin 6 months ago for MEOW Conference, we walked into a little vintage shop where we started chatting up the store clerk whose name was Cody. We started talking about our band and he threw some stuff on the loudspeaker of his band, Sweat Lodge. From the moment it hit our ears we absolutely loved it. Not only that, sonically it was really impressive. I mentioned to him that we were staying at Seth’s house from the band Bobby Jealousy to which he replied “Seth recorded our album!” It was a strange twist of irony and coincidences but that is how and why we found ourselves that night playing the Spider House. That’s also why we ended up recording while we were in town. Small world, isn’t it?
Sweat Lodge is the ultimate stoner rock band. Cody is the second coming of the Prince of Darkness (yes, I capitalized that) and the band as a whole is a 5-piece you’d think were a stoner rock version of the Village People. Upon seeing them for the first time, you notice that each of these guys has their own little personality within the band physically and sonically and are their own little show within themselves. Hence, why they’re so much fun to watch. They’re not just one show, they 5 mini shows in one and occasionally there are moments in each song where you see these guys merge into one solo entity weaving in and out of harmony and rhythm and the result is pure zen. Their songs are elaborately written and hail influences of Black Sabbath (obviously), Red Fang and Monster Magnet but yet they have their own sound. If I were a millionaire, I would enclose these guys in a glass case and make them perform for me 24/7 and preserve them for eternity. A band hasn’t tickled my fancy this much in years.
We stuck around enough to catch a song of Orchid, another stoner rock band from San Francisco who is a great cherry on top after seeing Sweat Lodge. This band is a stoner rock staple and needs no explanation from me. I was happy I got to see them live. The night couldn’t have been any more perfect.