Friday, March 17, 2006

The Shakedown in Hipster Town

DJ Illjay doesn’t have a wristband or a laminate, so she drives us to Sholz Garten, a club hosting a Diesel-sponsored party that you just need an invite for, nothing else. (There are lots of parties like that, especially during the day, and in fact, the invite policy is only recently getting more prevalent because, I hear, the SXSW establishment is annoyed at all the event that folks can get into without any sort of paid-for pass.) SF’s Film School is the first band, and the one DJ Ill wants to see, but by the time we get there at around 11, there’s no one playing. The first thing we notice when we get to the door is that there are way too many people there doin’ too much – too much hairdo, too many accessories, too much attitude. This is the most hipster-thick event I’ve attended thus far – or perhaps it’s that the room, which looks for all the world like a small high school gym, is the most well-lit venue I’ve been in after dark, so I’m getting a good look at people. And they all look younger than me. So I look to the ground.

And I see a hundred-dollar bill there.

It’s folded to quarter-size, but those three digits stand out enough that I only shoot a half-glance at my companion before bending down, snatching it up, and hustling through the crowd. Once toward the temporary bar in the back (this is a beer garden, after all, and all the action probably usually goes down out back), I stop DJ Ill and show her what I’ve got.

“That’s blood money,” she jokes.
“Well, then,” I say, “let’s go drink some fucking blood.”

We get to the bar, the Benjamin begging to get broken. The bartender appears to be ignoring us. I turn my face up to a chunky, baseball-becapped dude sitting on the bar, and say, with a free-money smile in my voice, “Maybe she can’t see me because there’s a guy sitting on the bar.”

“Even if I wasn’t sitting here,” he says, “good luck getting a drink. They’re out of booze.”

So, not only was the beer garden out of beer, but DJ Illjay and I stayed at that party for nearly 40 minutes, watching girls in asymmetrical everything cut innocent rugs to “Don’t you Want Me” and “Hanging on the Telephone” while NO BANDS PLAYED. No bands, no beer. We cut out before midnight, my new friend Hundred Dollar Bill quite literally burning a hole in my pocket.

We cruised down 6th St.’s main drag, windows down, listening for good stuff. DJ Ill slows as we get past Club DeVille. “That’s Calla,” she says. “I like them.” So we park and I pay her $15 cover charge. We watch the tail end of their set – they were all right, sorry I can’t say more – and then she gets us a table while I get in one of the lines at the bar.

Unfortunately, I picked the slow line. The burning in my pocket intensified as a guy behind me inquired about my tattoos. I explained them to him, and we continued chatting.

“You know what,” I said, “I think we’re in the slow bartender zone.”
“Oh, no,” he replied, “This guy’s my buddy. He’s great.”

Five minutes later, our line still hadn’t shifted, so I shifted over to the middle bartender, who was now miraculously available.

“Two shots of Don Julio and a Dos Equis amber, please.”
“I’m sorry, this is the beer-only line.”

So I returned to the first line. But when my new friend started talking about how nice my legs looked in my Converse, and some big blonde out of nowhere got a drink from his “buddy,” the bartender, I had to duck out. I made a beeline for the far left lane, and in doing so heard my name said with surprise. Standing there was Chris Sturgeon, St. Pete, FL native and member of IMA, who are playing Saturday night. Also standing there was former South Floridian Glenn off Baby Robots. Good fortune, indeed, for my fellow Screw Music Foreverites (, as I immediately bought us all a round, and they found Mike from IMA and we all sat down together.

But before long, my entire posse abandons me, Illjay and all. I ordered another shot of Don Julio and found a space in the crowd for Doubles, from NYC. That band is effing awright: multiple keys, imaginative guitars, spooky vox, Pavement influences. Plus, the guys are kinda funny looking. Good stuff. I buy a CD, and thank heaven for booze, which just a small amount of makes me comfortable in my own skin and yet, that skin itself (as well as its attendant lymph nodes and respiratory system and such) are fragile enough that I know my limits, know that I’ll always be a lightweight. Even if I do drink a lot for a Jew.

I meet an English girl from 4AD in the bathroom, and we bond over the Breeders – I tell her about my Pod 33 1/3 pitch, and she tells me that Title TK sounds a hundred times better on vinyl. Then she tells me the next band, Celebration, is awesome, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re on her label, so I retain my skepticism and we part ways.

Oh, my: Said skepticism is soon all gone. The Baltimore three-piece does a stuttering, funk thing, and people keep comparing frontwoman Katrina to Karen O, but she’s got way more real-life oomph, red hair and a booty and an art-rock hollering style. They remind me of a stuttery Can. For the last two songs, Stuart from Antibalas (and, I think, SF’s Transmission) sits in on alto sax. It’s over, I buy a CD and a shirt. Katrina’s a doll. I feel bad for her, having that name and all, and being compared to Karen O.

Outside, I make some calls and try to find my boys – they’re converging on a Kid 606 after-party, and I reluctantly make plans to meet them, basically to get a hotel room key (I still don’t have my own, dammit). On my way to the main drag, I spy Stuart the saxophonist on the corner.

“Hey,” I say, “Did you used to play in Transmission?”
He laughs and unbuttons his shirt to reveal a Transmission T. We chat a bit, talking about a friend in common. Stuart’s just gotten into town that morning, and is exhausted – he’s played four shows already, two with Celebration, one with The L. Michaels Band (Lorne Michaels, I wonder? Weird), and one WITH FUCKING WU-TANG. Man, I gotta start going to more of these shows with “Special Guests” listed on the line-up. Stuart and I share a cab as he debates joining me at the after-party, He’s cute – if he knew that I was the girl who wrote in the Express about Antibalas being rad despite being a bunch of white boys playing Afrobeat, thus prompting an infuriated letter from one bandmember, I don’t think he’s be considering this. However, we find out that we’re both planning on going to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Neko Case Friday night, so we make plans to tentatively catch up. I’m gonna have to tell him. Sigh.

Get out, meet the boys, head to the room, call it a night after the obligatory poring over the next day’s schedules. I slept for four hours, got up for the complimentary hotel brekkie (my omelette filling choices were cheese, bacon, sausage, and jalapenos – welcome to Texas, Fanny), went back to bed, got up at noonish, showered, and have been here at Halcyon Coffee on W. 4th St., for over two hours, the St. Patty’s day festival right outside the front door. Illjay’s on her way to get me and take me to a locals’ favorite BBQ joint. Then, hopefully, I’ll make it to a Vice party in time to see Roky Erickson, who has actually played two or three times already this week, but I haven’t managed to make it to see him. I think that if I return home without seeing the formerly reclusive 13th Floor Elevators genius once, I’ll be very, very sorry.

I’ll leave you with couple of Irish toasts:
Here’s to a wet night and a dry morning.
May you make it through Heaven’s Gate before the old man knows you’re dead.
Thirst is a shameless disease; here’s to a shameful cure.


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