By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Allison WadeBy the time 150 glam industry peeps and five passing-out wretches boarded the Rock & Roll Airplane heading home from Austin-Bergstrom Airport to LAXSunday night—I banishing thoughts of the Big Bopper and Buddy Hollyfrom my woozy head, especially considering my earlier flight was canceled when my plane broke on the runway and was subsequently retired from service—our blood was 80 percent whiskey, and our eyes glowed like bee-yoo-tiful rubies.
The injuries on that plane were manifold, but some folks were clearly making the most of their hangovers, wearing them as badges of badness. Tragic beauty, non? Me, I think I got a concussion when the roving crew of talent bookers jumped me into their gang, or it may have happened while I was boxing Southland booker John Pantle in Austin's most elegant titty bar, The Yellow Rose. Apparently, it is impossible to get kicked out of a Texas strip club. And also? The girls smell delicious! If anybody's got a line on what kind of lotion they use—it was light and fruity—share the wealth!
While those girls were busy smelling so good and draping their nude selves all over half the town (except for LA Weekly's Chuck Mindenhall, who got the laziest lap dance in history; she stayed for less than half a song), members of The Cult lurked at a top-tier table and the guys from Long Beach's Bird (they now have to call themselves Bird3even though the reason for the name change—another band with the same tag—probably doesn't sport Victoria's Secret wings on its backs, so there really shouldn't be any confusion) enjoyed a fine lap dance or 14 down by the stage. Ha! Bet you didn't expect to find Commie Girl sitting there fetchingly when you stumbled into the Yellow Rose, did you, boys? Busted3!South By Southwest (SXSW) was a blazing success.
But I wasn't in the Lone Star state for lap dances! No, sirree, Bob! I was there to take a mental snapshot of the music industry, to record it for you in all its puffiness, smug gladhanding and fakey-fakey glammity. But in fact, many of the people were pretty, well-educated, bright, nice, and just out to get drunk and fucked. And I think I'm still detoxing—two days later.
Wednesday, the first day at SXSW, my homegirl Arrissia and I hit the churningly smoke-filled Room 710 for Long Beach record company Cornerstone RAS' showcase. Within seconds of our triumphant entry, doughily gorgeous Bert Ziggen handed us an unsolicited drink ticket. Is there any greater love? Less than a minute later, handsome Dickie Ziggen was doing that fake making-his-heart-beat-in-his-shirt thing and batting his eyelashes at us. I suspect he must have broken up with his girlfriend. Ladies, it's on!
At the bar were two giants. Wishing to practice this "schmoozing" of which I'd heard, I began to chat them up. What? You're from Huntington Beach-based Quiksilver and wish to give me socks and buy me a bottle of Shiner Bock, the national beer of Texas? Okeydoke!
The three of us took off for the infamously fuckin' great Sixth Street (imagine Beach Boulevard with only bars and no other businesses to mar that beauty, each spilling its patrons onto the sidewalks) and tipped random doormen whether we were entering their establishments or not. Unfortunately, despite their serious capacity for schmooze and schwag, the Evil Boll Weevil (Quiksilver's new marketing director) and Matt the Hopple (its senior web producer) were serial ditchers. I would turn around and they would be gone. I would find them again in the back of a cab and scold them for ditching me, and they would be gone again. But don't worry—I ditched them mightily the next day at the Four Seasonslobby bar while I sneaked out to a hugely packed party next door at the Shoreline, where we ran smack into KUCI host-with-the-most Tazy Phyllipz (who has a fair bit o' the blarney in him as well, as he was later spotted fervently smooching the ass of a Voodoo Glow Skull. "Thank you so much for coming through on the Christmas show," he said. I guess it was way more ass-kissy if you were there to witness it). As far as I know, the Evil Boll Weevil and Matt the Hopple are still there waiting.
The ultimate schmoozapaloozas, of course, go on in the lobby bars of the more ostentatious hotels. The Four Seasons, for instance, is a palace of beige with huge porticoed windows spilling sunbeams onto the assembled, who spread themselves onto every available surface —except the walls, which are hung with dead moose and stuff. I watched numbly as lawyers and producers circled like lionesses, ready to pick off the sick antelopes from the herd so they could give them their business cards. A bellman walked through the hundreds of people crammed in there, ringing a bell, with "Miss Manard" written on his sign. I immediately resolved to have myself paged. Other than that, though, there wasn't much joy here. It's very like The Cowboy: you don't really talk to people unless you came with them or have had the glancingest of introductions at some time previous. And what's the use of that?
I slogged my way up Congress to the Driskill Hotel. There are no elegant tans here; everything is defiantly exit-sign green, with Tiffany skylight domes, bizarre green statues and embossed copper ceilings. It is old-school, and it has style. Plus, being slightly out of the way, it has a manageable number of people relaxing at its bar stools. One of those people was Jimmy Collins, a cowboy whose drunkenness had a disturbingly permanent feel to it. He writes songs for Loretta Lynn, he said, and had his own hit in 1989 with "The Cowboy Rap." He chatted for a moment with Faith Hill's ex-husband, who was making his way through the lobby. This is how the two Nashville music-publishing fellas next to me know he's legit.
The bartender tells us that the night before, Jimmy went to slide seductively into the piano to impress two ladies but instead fell off the bench with a full glass of red wine in his hand. Naturally, Jimmy has fallen in love with me, even though I'm a Commie. The boys in music publishing tell me of the legendary quality of Willie Nelson's dope, and how he has it organized into different strains for different times of day. Here's for breakfast; there's for tea-time. A handsome older man in a beautiful suit, the cost of which could have fed an Ethiopian child for approximately 16 years, clears his throat by hawking a giant loogie. Jimmy asks me for the fourth time if I've ever worked with Willie. He asks me for the second time if I want to fall in love. Jimmy Collins breaks my heart.
But not for long. While dancing for the bathroom line at a huge outdoor venue called Stubbs (Ozomatli is magically forcing my hips to shimmy like I'm churning butter), I ran into the greatest writer of his generation, Neal Pollack of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature.He ran his ass up and started whooping in my face. Whooo! Commie Girl! Whooo! Fuckin' Neal Pollack! Fuck you, fuckin' Neal Pollack! (There's a lot of that, actually, like "Whooo! Fuckin' Peepshot motherfucker! Fuck you, fuckin' Peepshot motherfucker!" at the White Stripes and The Oblivions show; and there's "Whoo! Fuckin' Paul Frank schwag man Austin Brown! Fuck you, fuckin' Austin Brown!" There's also John Pantle's favorite, which has an elegant simplicity to it: "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!")
After a certain point—say, Friday—everyone with whom I've at any point locked eyes becomes fair game. I'm known at the pizza window and the shot bar. I've waited behind a velvet rope at the serving-till-6 a.m. Spin party while friends went in and then sneaked back out with an extra badge. I've been walked home at 6:30 a.m. by a gorgeous, kind, Irish guitar-techer for the Dublin band Turn. Even the people manning the metal detectors at the airport on Sunday waved and smiled; they remembered when I was stuck there with my broken plane the day before. But though I think I have become wise in the ways of schmooze, I know only how little I know, for there is Nancy, who masters projects and jumps on people like a Lyme disease-carrying tick. She will know you. Oh, yes. She will know you. And tell you what! She'll master one track for free, and if you like it, you've got a deal! Nancy is my sensei of schmooze—my guru. We shared a ride from our original canceled flight back to the festivities and shared another cab from the Four Seasons back to the airport. We sit at the airport bar—miraculously, directly across from our gate—while they announce delays due to mechanical difficulties. She booms out to the Gypsy Lounge's Mike Concepciůn and Shot to Hell, who sit around wearing a lot of metal (it's hell trying to get back and forth through the detectors to smoke) and drinking Shiners. She is immediately welcomed into the fold of Harlow, a good-lookin' chick band with punk rock Technicolor hair that will be featured on VH1's new action-packed game show Bands on the Run (last I heard, our hometown girls Relish were also up for one of the slots). She has convinced handsome Doug Skoro of the Newport-based loudENERGY.com to join us. She is practically on the jock—but not threateningly so—of Dennis Rider, a music attorney who used to manage Ugly Kid Joe and whose table we share. Nancy already knows that Rider used to manage the one-hit-wonder Ugly Kid Joe. Her Who's Who-ness is encyclopedic. She is buying rounds and passing out cards. And she is passing out. Nancy is awesome. Meanwhile, Association For Independent Music president (whatever that might be) Clay Pasternack discovers his travel agent has booked him on a flight not for March 18, but April 18. I give him my meal voucher from my stranding the night before since they won't let us use them for beers anyway.
Finally on the plane, Nancy thinks she's whispering when she shouts at me, "You're sitting next to Delbert McClinton's manager! Strike up a conversation!" Close: my seatmate, Cary Baker, is not his manager but his publicist; my other seatmate is a hip fuckin' Israeli dude, Yigal, who's a really smart and funny A & R guy over at Priority, home of Snoop. How about this, Nancy? Whooo! Fuckin' Delbert McClinton-managin' motherfucker! Whooo!