10 April 2012

French Wives - SXSW Tour Diary (Part Two)

Day 5: More Texas 

I haven’t really mentioned this yet, and I assume you’ll have taken it as a given, but Austin is really hot. Really, really hot. You’d think therefore that I would have packed accordingly for this really, really hot climate. I haven’t. Let me explain my excuses in two phases. Firstly, about a week before we left my mother insisted to me that Austin was not to be hot whilst we were there and it would get colder as we progressed north. Thanks mum- that was nonsense. Secondly, two nights before we left we played a big show in Glasgow after which I was led astray by our friend/photographer/merch-man/general charlatan Phillip Sword and I stayed out all night. This meant getting a morning train to Irvine in a state of extreme disarray and attempting to pack for a 3 week long trip. Essentially in my disgraceful state I packed pretty much nothing, and certainly not any shorts or summer shoes (brogues only). So I’ve cut about for a few days with my legs pure roasting and I’m growing fairly tired of it. Time to take matters into my own hands. Some of you may know that I’m a left-handed man. I’m not one of these pretend left-handed folk that plays guitar right-handed and stuff. I’m left-handed. I do things with my left hand. Yes, everything. Including the use of scissors. Now then, left-handed scissors are quite hard to come by at the best of times and as wonderful as our host is, she only has the right-handed version. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and I attempt to use the upside down scissors to decimate my black jeans in order to make an airy pair of shorts. I’m aiming for a modest above the knee cut, but I can only get the scissors into the fabric, I can’t make them cut. Again, desperate times call for desperate measures so I attempt to rip said fabric in order to create the shorts I so desire. Disaster strikes. As I rip the rip goes up the way. No longer are these shorts a modest above the knee, but they now resemble hot pants that leave extremely little to the imagination. However, they will keep me cool in the hot Texan sun. 

Scott 'Tobias' Macpherson in his never nude shorts

Unfortunately we’re off to San Antonio today and I’m advised that it is significantly more reserved/conservative than Austin, so perhaps cutting about in a pair of grotesque hot pant ensemble paired with brogues and pink socks isn’t the best idea for cutting about greater Texas. The reason we’re off to San Antonio is to play at a fringe festival. It might seem like a bit of a weird decision to leave Austin and all the hubbub to go play elsewhere, but it had been pretty well sold to us as a big venue with big SXSW bands playing. The opening night had had Best Coast headlining and 900 through the door, so we were pretty optimistic about it. Tonight it was The Wedding Present headlining, but when we went on there was precisely 0-4 people through the door and even all the other bands had left to go see the Alamo- literally the only thing I wanted to see in San Antonio. However, it was the festival’s first year and I reckon after a few more years and some exposure it could be really good/busy as the venue was pretty cool with three different playing areas, if very few people saw us! Plus, the drive gives us our first proper experience of Sirius XM satellite radio (which we’ll get VERY tired of over the coming week). We have an excellent glowstick party blasting The Wanted, Glad You Came (tune), go mental when One Direction (amazing) comes on and then disgust Siobhan by listening to Playboy radio for far too long. 

I’ve realised that I’ve rambled on a lot about Thursday now (mainly about shorts, yes) so I shall keep this bit brief. After we got back from San Antonio we all split up and went to different gigs. Jonny and I went to see Andrew WK. All the songs sounded like Party Hard. It was fucking brilliant. 

Day 6: Last shows in Austin 

It’s Friday, and it’s our last full day in Austin. I wake up with a hangover made worse with the realisation that we’ll have to cart our stuff about largely on foot between two venues pretty far apart over the course of the day. This is a fairly amusing sight as, in order to avoid horrendous baggage fees, both Stuart and I’s pedals and leads are being held in a plastic Marks & Spencer bag, and have been since we arrived in Austin (it lasts until Buffalo where it explodes wire absolutely everywhere). We’ve got a show in the afternoon at a cool place that looks like Stavka in Glasgow if anyone remembers that and then an unofficial Scottish show at a cool Mexican place a bit out of the city centre. They both go pretty well, with one woman at the first show saying we were her highlight of the festival (obviously didn’t go to Andrew WK). Because our second show was a bit further out of town and quite far into the evening we learn a very valuable lesson should we ever be lucky enough to go to SXSW again. On the Friday night it’s hoachin, so if you want to see something, even with a hallowed wristband/badge, get in as early as possible. We got back into town around half past nine and then spent hours upon hours walking around failing to get into pubs to see bands we really wanted to see. In the end it gets a bit too much and Stuart, Jonny and I go back to the Mexican restaurant we played our first gig in because we remembered it had excellent toilets. We also have the world’s largest margarita and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel at least a bit steamin’ after it. After the wandering, our spirits broken we agree to go and see The Drums, who are playing a big outdoor show. Jonny likes The Drums, the rest of us don’t. We remind him of this a lot. Disappointingly the Ting Tings are meant to be on next but have cancelled. We’re all gutted. Not really.  

Day 7: French Wives migrate north 

And so ends our time at SXSW, which exceeded all expectations I ever hoped to have of it, and begins our lengthy drive to Canada. The route we’re taking, which takes in 3 gigs, 10 states, and lots of service station food all before we cross the border, is 1,907 miles long. We’ve got 5 days to do it and 3 drivers. Thankfully I am not one of these drivers. Leg one of the journey takes us from Austin to Oklahoma City, where we’re playing a gig in a brewery. On a Saturday night. On a Saturday night that happens to be St Patrick’s Day. Lots of drinking ensues. But first- the journey itself. Texas is flat. Oklahoma is flat. There’s very little to see out the window. The highlight is when we purchase Oklahoma’s version of The Digger. As with all things American it is way more extreme, and goes to the lengths of publishing the home addresses of people who have committed certain crimes. As morally opposed as we obviously are to a lot of its editorial and journalistic decisions we still play a fun game of guess the crime, and try and work out which of the mugshots look like our mates. 

The promoter/sound guy at the brewery we play at is truly a man of honour. Free beer brewed on site all night and a free meal? Yes please. Puts four cans of warm Tennent’s/the nothing we’re normally given truly into perspective. Add to the fact that he is a lovely man and we’re in for a good night! However, to say the lineup of the event is eclectic would be a massive understatement. On before us is some girl playing violin with her dad and his mates as her backing band. It’s weird. It’s all instrumental- she calls it gypsy/Irish folk but in reality it sounds like really really rubbish prog rock. She proper girates about with her violin as well and kind of ambles ominously from one side of the stage to the other whilst playing solos. Incredibly weird. Then we go on. A quick glance at the crowd reveals that we have quite a lot of work to do- they’re either drunk or look like stereotypical rednecks who may or may not kill us. Oh, also, Chris was playing sitting down because he didn’t feel well. It looked ridiculous! Anyway, surprisingly the gig is actually really good, and the supposedly scary rednecks actually buy most of the merch. The funniest moment is when a massive guy in a Stetson turns to me during the last band (a ramshackle Irish-punk band) and keeps insisting “y’all were better” as if I didn’t believe him first time. The true story of the night, however, is our journey back to the motel. Chris, the invalid, had to be taken home early, so Siobhan and Stuart went back with him leaving Jonny and I being completely hustled by Stevie at pool. When we leave the brewery at closing time we’re somehow surprised that we can’t get a taxi. On a Saturday night. On a Saturday night that happens to be St Patrick’s Day. Our motel is miles away, so we’re pretty short of options until Stevie brass necks it with a car leaving the pub. Thankfully, the girl driving offers us a lift. However, there are only 2 free seats, and 3 of us. We’re big guys and it’s a small car, so squeezing in is out of the question. There’s only one option left- Scott in the boot, like the dog I clearly am. This short 10 minute drive, over some 3 lane roads really opens our eyes as to the slightly more lackadaisical attitude some people in America tend to adopt in relation to taking their car to the pub. Scary stuff, especially from my unique viewing post. Banging tunes, though.

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