"We'd been driving for over 35 hrs when I pulled the van into a Chevron a few miles west of Lubbock, Texas. "Set your watches for 4:50AM" We all walked into the field behind the gas station, threw down some blankets and slept that hard, fast sleep so necessary when there are coyotes, bugs and scorpions about. 3 hrs later the 5 of us were back on the road to Austin. Pretty rock 'n' roll right? We made soundcheck at the first show by 2 hrs, a pretty big feat considering it had taken 50 to get here from our previous engagement, in Seattle. The joint was a club called Lanai, one of Austin's many rooftop establishments. A few hours later, Lauren, Noah, Ben, Jack and myself were doing what we do best; "publicly emoting" amongst the 7 hrs of bands they had scheduled that night. After 3 days of solid road, those tunes of dustbowls, loneliness, and runaways had never felt more real. SXSW is a 3-14 day endurance test of sleeplessness, heat, rock 'n' roll, and alcoholism in the center of southern sanity, Austin, Texas. James Apollo and the Sweet Unknown were doing 5 regular shows and a handful of odd collaborations with bands from all over the world. After a never ending Day 1, everybody rolled into soundcheck at noon on Friday, Day 2, before further foraging for Texas fare, which I found in diner form up the street from the club, on the south side of town, just over the gurgling blue surface of the Colorado River. We played the first show at 1pm, and then I ran south to the Yard Dog Gallery, famous for its collection of strange American folk art, and home of the Bloodshot Records party to see the singer Exene Cervenka, and to consume mountains of complimentary beer. Then I ran back to meet the band at a little juke joint called Zax, where we'd play show #2 of the day, while the sun shone brightly on all. Then off to another party to shake hands and take names. The days go on like this forever under the blazing Texas sun. Early to rise, play shows, watch shows, drink, taco, man on unicycle playing a trombone, more shows, bands, bands, repeat. For days. And days. A mess of green rooms and taco stands and Lonestar beers and pushing through crowds and smiling at the local girls and jumping giant piles of refuse and parking and running and running and running. There are over 2000 bands playing. Mostly young, white kids with tight pants and cool haircuts from Brooklyn or Glasgow or Los Angeles. Overwhelming is one way to put it. Which is why, walking back to the hotel after days of this, I stopped at the sounds of a Tejano band playing a parking lot outside a little cantina. There were 7 of them on stage. And about 20 in the audience, mostly older mexican women. I meant to stay for one song. I stayed for 3 hrs. The band never stopped playing. The women never stopped dancing. But everything else stopped. The mess of this screaming festival overflowing its pants had finally quieted down for a short, sweet time. It was beautiful. It was why one goes to Texas. And then wham! It's Sunday. The tour buses pullout. All the parking is free again. The piles of refuse marry the tumbleweeds and spread themselves wide across the plains. The state troopers pull over hippies and grin like its 1973. The college kids come back to Austin like nothing ever happened. We all go back to where we belong. I followed the sunset for a few days, and then walked into my apartment to sleep that hard, fast sleep that comes so easy when there are no coyotes or bugs or scorpions to worry about."
Words and artwork by James Apollo You can visit James Apollo by heading to http://www.jamesapollo.com