by Casey Dewey
My last couple of days in Austin were spent between nursing my cursed ear, checking out some things off the beaten path, and of course checking out bands. I won't let my ear troubles get the best of me. I've been poppin' ibuprofen every few hours for my earache, along with gargling copious amounts of Jameson to remedy the situation and make me fit for duty. Here's rounds four and five:
Gram Rabbit (CA) - A short and sweet set from this female-fronted band out of the Mojave desert. Gram Rabbit sings songs about cowboys, ghosts, aliens, cryptids and other strange phenomena, and you can dance to it. They seem to play Tucson at least once a year, so get your dancing shoes and tinfoil hats ready.
El Vez (CA) - "Aye, this is a punk rock show mija, you're asking for it!" El Vez, aka Robert Lopez, the guitar player from early punk band The Zeros, has been doing his schtick for over 25 years now, and it's still the funnest show in town. This time around he's doing a "Punk Rock Revue", covering classic punk and proto-punk tunes with his Las Vegas by-way-of Tijuana spin. His pick-up band of young recruits scorched through a half-hour of tunes by The New York Dolls, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Roxy Music and Iggy Pop. "Re-Make/Re-Model" by Roxy Music was dedicated to Pope Francis, whom El Vez coudln't give two chingas about.
I went on a trek to check out this candy store I saw on the show Oddities, and on the way there I heard "I Think of Demons" by Texas psych legend Roky Erickson drifting out of an outdoor bar. I said to myself "cool cover" and didn't think anything of it. Then I stopped. I hustled across the street, took a look over the fence, and there he was.
Roky Erickson (TX) - Lucky for me, he had just started. The outdoor patio was packed with the most diverse crowd I've seen here yet. Drunk moms, rock dads, cool kids, hipsters, punks, skaters, metalheads, bikers, frat boys, old ladies - they all came out to see Austin's favorite son sing songs from his decades-long career. I got goose bumps during the "Reverbaration" and "Night of the Vampire." Roky is in fine shape and looked absolutely pickled to be on stage. This is the infamous Roky Erickson's Ice Cream Social he does every year during SXSW, and I'm glad I stumbled upon it.
Dream Affair (NY) - Cool Fad Gadget cover, bro.
Bestial Mouths (CA) - Like their name suggests, Bestial Mouths are an exercise in demon shrieking and speaking in tongues. In fact, I was reminded of the scene in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ when Jesus finds John the Baptist in the river surrounded by shrill, warbling harpies. Lead singer Lynette Cerezo strikes a cutting figure already, but backed by her brutal synth-drenched and percussion-heavy band and with her vocals set to 11 on the echoplex, she's absolutely terrifying. The small, dedicated crowd ate it up, including the Goth Cinderella I saw at last year's Zola Jesus show.
Nobunny (AZ, CA) - "No rules, it's Spring Break and I'm Nobunny!" There was something perfect about Nobunny playing a dead-on cover of the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" a mere 10 feet away from the skeeball machines in the Gypsy Lounge's backyard patio. Justin Champlin always puts on a fun show, and it's been a long time the first time I saw Nobunny play in a tiny bedroom in the Iron Horse neighborhood.
My favorite street performer of the year, or maybe ever (TX) - This guy. Yes, his freaky doll is playing piano. The music itself was pre-recorded backwards ragtime music. I dropped a few dollars in the hat, something I rarely do. Just stare at the picture a little longer.
There's no shortage of great chow in Austin, from free party nachos to Stubb's BBQ to a ridiculous amount of food trucks, it's impossible to go hungry. I recommend the Foreign and Domestic food truck. For $5 you'll be able to chow down on two tender pulled-beef tongue sliders. The beef is extremely tender and the bbq sauce with a hint of spice was absolutely perfect, especially when combined with the pickles and onions. I'm also a fan of Hoek's Death Metal Pizza, a dingy pizza joint on 6th Street that serves right on the sidewalk. The sauce packs a punch, and three types of pizza are always available as slices - cheese, pepperoni and pepperoni and jalapeno. Perfect eating while you sip a beer and check out the great metal bands that play in their back patio.
Finally, I can't recommend Austin's Museum of the Weird enough. It's a two-story building on 6th Street hiding inconspicuously between all the bars. $8 gets you the tour AND a sideshow on the top floor. The museum has all sorts of strange artifacts - shrunken heads, life-size "authentic" mummies, wax figurines of horror movie monsters, and all sorts of other curios related to strange phenomena. Totally worth it if you're into that sort of thing. Don't be afraid to touch the Human Lightbulb in the sideshow, either.
That just about wraps up my Austin visit. A few pounds lighter and a throbbing ear later, I've had a fantastic time. Thanks for reading.
Over and out.