The comedy rockers, Psychostick, are currently on the road on their “Mad Marchness Tour” that will be hitting SXSW, South By So What?! and more. While they’re on this tour, they will be writing an exclusive blog for us. You can check out their first entry, after the break.
Psychostick VS South By Southwest, Part 1: Plans Don’t Go As Planned
Josh, guitarist from Psychostick here. For those of you who don’t know what South By Southwest (SXSW) is, it’s a huge music and film festival in Austin, TX. It is also notorious for being a total clusterfuck. This blog will examine the details of that clusterfuck, because we just played our first SXSW show yesterday. Relax, grab a refreshing beverage, and let me tell you a story.
As I write this, I am currently sitting in the back seat of a Freightliner Sprinter diesel van which is pulling a trailer full of equipment. It is being driven a caffeinated Rob (our singer). We are currently driving from San Antonio, TX to Corpus Christi, TX. We played 3 shows already, tonight is our 4th, and we’ve eaten way too much Mexican food, and our assholes have been crying (SHUTUP ASSHOLE, YOU TAKE WHAT I GIVE YOU!).
Crew: We are running with 6 people – in addition to Rob, our bassist Matt, and our drummer Alex, we brought along Elliot (who has proved to be an awesome stagehand and roadie), and Chris (our good friend who was on the first tours we ever did back in 2006 as manager). Touring is much smoother now than those early days, and I’m glad Chris can finally experience touring after years of us figuring out what we are actually doing.
THE ROAD TO SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST.
So those who don’t know, we are in the middle of recording an album right now, an album that is being funded by our awesomely dedicated fans through a successful Indiegogo campaign. Touring is not something we had planned on doing, because you have to shift your focus from album to tour. But things don’t always work out as you plan. Correction, they RARELY EVER work out as you plan. EVER. As a matter of fact, here’s how I view the very process of executing a plan:
Step 1: Form a plan.
Step 2: Execute plan.
Step 3: Stupid reality fucks up everything. Unforeseen variables shit on your soul and your brain.
Step 4: Adapt to stupid Reality.
Step 5: Decide on the New Plan. We’ll do THAT next time.
Step 6: Execute the New Plan later on, and stupid reality still fucks up everything, but not as badly this time.
Step 7: Fuck you, Reality.
But I digress.
Originally we were going to just do SXSW, but then our hardworking
Sorry, I had actually had to stop typing because Elliot requested the trash bin to throw up in. He obviously drank a little too much last night while hanging out with (Hed) PE after the show. Great time to illustrate my point: As I type this, I have on noise cancelling headphones to drown out the other crew member vocal oscillations which I find to be a distraction to writing (part of my plan). But the unforeseen variable of a sick crew member threw a monkey wrench into The Plan. But fortunately, the damage was minimal, because when I yelled “TRASH CAN! NOW!” the response time was pretty damn impressive. I love those moments, when everyone knows EXACTLY what’s going on and EXACTLY what to do. I swear the trashcan moved from the front to the back of the van in under 3 seconds. Efficiency.
STARTING OVER: THE ROAD TO SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST
Okay, trying this again. Originally we were going to just do SXSW, but then our hardworking booking agent also got us a show on a competing festival in Dallas with the tongue-in-cheek name South By So What?! (which will be in part 2 of this blog).
…Man, somebody’s feet stink in here. I’m surprised that I’m smelling THAT and not the vomit. Oh, the strange mysteries of life…
So what started off as playing 2 simple festivals turned into a minitour with 12 shows. Be right back, we just stopped at a rest area and I better go use the restroom while I can.
Back. Am I the only one that is creeped out by those stainless steel toilets they have at rest areas? Toilets are supposed to be PORCELAIN. Stainless steel toilets are just unnatural, and that threatens my comfort zone.
OKAY, REALLY, NOW I’M GOING TO ACTUALLY TALK ABOUT THE ROAD TO SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST NOW. I PROMISE.
Let me summarize what I’ve been trying to say in all the nonsense above in a few simple sentences:
We were recording an album. We got invited to a couple of festivals, which turned into a 12 show tour, which unfortunately interrupted our album recording progress. But hey, we can’t not do it… we got a chance to play with Mindless Self Indulgence!
I have to add that I am proud though… for such a short run, we did a great job with it overall. We’re calling it the Mad Marchness Tour, and we even got some ridiculous tour shirts:
Our first stop was in Springfield, MO at the Outland Ballroom. This was our third time playing Springfield, and it was an excellent show, the crowd had a lot of energy! Fans brought us a local brew on stage called “Three Blind Mice”. They have an IPA that was pretty damn good.
The opening act was Angry Panda… just a funny ass dude and his acoustic guitar. Most memorable lyric I remember, “I bet you didn’t know I was a ninja… didja?” I enjoyed him. The band on right before us was Gigantic, a band with a crazy sound and a LOT of energy. I really enjoyed the night, just like I did last time we played Springfield.
A bit of history – the FIRST show we ever did in Springfield, however (back in 2007), was terrible. It was at one of the strangest venues we ever played: a gas station converted into bar. I don’t think it’s there anymore… I remember 2 things distinctly about that show, though. The old work garage area of the gas station had a boxing rink in it (different room), and they didn’t have enough microphone stands. We had to set the mic on top our old bassist Mike’s amp, and he had to face AWAY from the audience to sing into the microphone. He was literally singing to the back wall of the stage. Needless to say, the quality of our experience playing Springfield, MO has greatly improved since then. Thank you to our now competent booking agent, and Springfield for showing us a much better time.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK
The second stop of the tour was Oklahoma City. We played the second room of the Chameleon Room, which holds about 400 people. It’s a nice room with lots of character and cool decor. I actually enjoyed playing this room more than the big room. The big room is pretty damn big, and can hold over 1000 people. You can have several hundred people in that room and it still feels empty and awkward. I imagine that playing a sold out show in that room would be amazing, though.
I was told there was an opening act that was laying on a bed of nails and doing crazy, painful sounding shit. And I missed it because I was being responsible and changing my guitar strings. That’s what I get for being on top of shit!
Props to the sound guy, he had never run sound in that room before and apparently got the call at the last second. He had to figure out a sound system he was completely unfamiliar with, and despite a few initial problems, he got everything up and running and it sounded great.
I, strangely, had more issues than he did. Actually, way more. Every now and then, an onslaught of technical problems happen one after another. I call it “having THAT night.”
My footswitch kept doing weird things, messing with my sound… clean when it should be dirty, and dirty when it should be clean. We played an acoustic song (“We Ran Out of CD Space”), and when I started to play the acoustic guitar it was making an awful crackling noise. We guessed that it might be the battery in the guitar, so Elliot swooped in to switch it out, and the battery indeed turned out to be the problem.
But not even THAT went smoothly… Elliot had to turn the guitar upside town and hit it with his palm while prying the battery with keys to make it pop out of the slot! Elliot was definitely MVP of the night. He is a road-hardened man who has built up an admirable level of skill in dealing with shit going wrong, and he has my respect. Elliot achievement unlocked: Keys substitute for flathead screwdriver.
Just got distracted realizing I haven’t had any distractions for a while. Everyone is now sleeping, and the quiet was freaking me out a little.
The silver lining with having THAT night in OKC was that I would much rather have everything go wrong during an extended headling set than during our short 20 minute set at SXSW. We at least had time to deal with the chaos. I feel we dodged a bullet there.
THE WRAITH OF SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST
We had to be at SXSW at 10am to load in, because we had to play at 3:15. That means we had to leave IMMEDIATELY after the Oklahoma City show and drive all night while trying to get as much van sleep as we can.
The difference between van sleep and regular sleep is quality. Your sleep is constantly interrupted by bumps in the road, or the driver having to hit the breaks suddenly, or the shock of going from dark countryside to a bright ass freeway when passing through a city, or having to stop every 3 hours to get gas or pee breaks due to all the coffee being consumed.
Chris volunteered to drive first, and Elliot sat up front with him to help keep him awake by talking and listening to music as the rest of us got low quality slumber. I was impressed, because Chris did 6 hours out of a 7 hour drive, and Rob just had to do the last hour. Of course, this means Chris got 1 hour of sleep to start the day, and Elliot got zero. None. No sleep at all. Always a great way to start off a stressful festival day.
We arrived at the venue around 9:30, and I was extremely surprised how easy load in was based off what I had heard. We just parked right in front of the venue and loaded our stuff in. Bam, done! I will now pat ourselves on the back for our punctuality.
But the victory was short lived, for Rob then had to go take the van to go find parking, which took an hour. That’s right, an hour. A WHOLE. FUCKING. HOUR. An hour spent looking for parking. It’s easier finding parking in downtown Manhattan. MUCH easier. And on top of that, the spot Rob eventually DID find was a MILE AWAY. When Rob finally entered the club after walking a mile back to it, he looked exhausted from his own anger. It was like Reality had just punched him in the balls. For an hour.
Things were great for a while, we talked to fans, saw some old friends, and played a set I felt really proud of. I feel we accomplished what we were there to do: play a great set and meet important people. Alex went and found a famous hot sauce store and bought a bunch of hot sauce to bring back with us to Chicago. We had a fan who rode a unicycle 3 miles to come see us!
Things seemed to be going great. But MEANWHILE….
Chris was not having the good time we were. He had agreed to stay behind and stay in the van and try to get some sleep. It’s important to keep an eye on your van because bands gets stuff stolen during festivals like this all the time. People kept peeking in the van, trying to figure out who’s van it was, and cars kept driving by making the van and trailer shake, so Chris was constantly paranoid that someone was trying to break in. On top of that, gas was running low so he had to turn off the AC and started to cook. Sleep was just not possible, despite his desperate need for it. That’s the thanks he got for volunteering to drive all night.
When it was time to leave, Chris was helping Alex move equipment back to the van (ya know… a MILE. Because our van was stilled parked a FUCKING MILE away). He was carrying Alex’s bag of hot sauce along with other equipment when the bag ripped. A glass jar of hot sauce hit the pavement and exploded, getting little droplets extreme hot sauce everywhere. And when I say “Everywhere”, I mean, “Inside cuts Chris had on his hands, with no water to wash it off.” So Chris soldiered forward carrying equipment a half mile back to the van with hands feeling like they had been rinsed with acid. Because they practically had… Alex loves hot sauce that so hot no human being should eat it. Alex is not normal.
We just arrived at the club and we now have to load. Hopefully the club has a green room I can finish this in!
I’m back. The club does not. I am back in the van, racing my laptops battery to finish this before it dies. Critical hit to my plan to write this blog today.
While Alex and Chris were on the FUCKING MILE LONG trip to the van, Matt had wrapped up our merch booth. While we waited for the cart we hung out with a fan who had donated to helping us purchase our current trailer. You see, several years ago, we did a fundraiser for a new trailer, and posted pictures of the fans who donated inside our trailer.
This is what having awesome fans looks like.
He wanted to see his picture posted inside, and was willing to help us move shit a mile in order to do so.
Upon returning with the cart, we loaded up the cart. While doing so, Trauma (the drummer of Hed PE) asked if we were hanging out after we finished moving our stuff so we could do some drinking. I told him we’d be back in a little while.
Rob, now at the van, had decided to move the van closer so that we didn’t have to travel another mile. We rolled and carried stuff for several blocks, dodging drunk people, and trying to not get run over crossing busy streets. We finally met Rob at a corner, loaded everything into our trailer, and showed our fan his picture in the trailer. He was very happy and grateful.
Or so we thought. An ugly problem had just reared it’s ugly head… Rob thought we were leaving. But we weren’t leaving. And now we had lost our precious parking space.
So we formed a new plan: Finding parking wasn’t an option, so Rob, Chris, and I could take the van somewhere away from SXSW to get food (and PARK), while Alex, Matt, and Elliot stayed behind to hang out. Not ideal that we couldn’t all hang out, but it was better than nothing.
In hindsight, this separation of groups reminds me a bit of the scene in Lord Of the Rings when Frodo and Sam split off from the others.
So off the 3 of us drive, to find a famous barbecue restaurant nearby. After battling brutal festival traffic, we arrive at the barbecue joint only to discover that it is closed. So we get onto the freeway, drive far from the festival, and end up at the first restaurant we saw, Papadeaux. Of course, there wasn’t even parking there, so Rob parked in a nearby hotel parking lot while I got us a table.
By the time we were finally sitting down in the restaurant, much more time has passed than expected. This was no “go grab a quick bite” type of trip. Not in this traffic. It had been nearly an hour and a half and we were still waiting on our food. At this point, we were getting phone calls from the other group was wondering where we were at, and if we had abandoned them. We ate, and we psyched ourselves up head back in to epicenter of hell.
GASOLINE ON THE FIRE
As we are getting close to the festival, Chris calls the others to let them know we are almost there, and to head to the same intersection Rob met us at earlier, the agreed upon meeting location.
What we didn’t know at the time was that a rumor had been circulating that Lady Gaga was making an appearance at SXSW (something we learned later), and traffic had gotten even WORSE. Now, ALL the roads into SXSW had been blocked off. We couldn’t drive to the agreed upon meeting location. How the fuck were we supposed to get to them?
Out of desperation, we pulled off to the side of the road and put on our hazard lights, and had Chris head over on foot to connect with them at the original agreed upon meeting location, half a mile away, in order to lead them a half mile back to our current roadside “parking space.”
After Chris had been gone about 5 minutes, the cops spotted us and started walking over. “Please don’t make us move… please don’t make us move…” Rob muttered under his breath.
Rob rolled down the window. “Are you having trouble with your vehicle?” the cop asked.
“No, we can’t get in and our bandmates are walking to us right now, can we please stay parked here? It will be just for a few more minutes.” He agreed. (*phew!*)
After waiting another ten minutes or so, Rob tries calling Chris. No answer. We had been warned about this… cell phone signal is notoriously unreliable at SXSW because so many people are on their phones, uploading images, texting, tweeting, etc. So Rob tries calling Alex and manages to get him on the phone. They were still at the bar and were not at the agreed upon meeting location. It was obvious they were now very drunk. Rob told him to leave asap to meet Chris there. Another 5 minutes pass by. Things are getting tense because we have been sitting here WAY longer than “just a few minutes” at this point.
Chris finally calls. He is no longer at the agreed upon meeting location, but now at the bar and surprise, he can’t find them. They had just missed eachother. I thought Rob’s head was going to explode.
Rob tells Chris to head back to the original agreed upon meeting location as fast as possible, because that’s where they are. Then Rob successfully calls Alex, who confirms he’s at the meeting location, and tells them, “DON’T MOVE. You and Chris just missed eachother, and Chris is on his way to you now!”
Minutes tick by in agonizing fashion, as we wait for the cops to tell us to move, and have everything fall further into chaos. We just want to GTFO and get some sleep. And on top of all this I really gotta take a leak!
7 minutes left on my laptop battery. Must hurry.
After 10 minutes, they finally stumble drunkenly into view. Chris had found them and succeeded in leading them back to us. Then Matt walks right past the van to the trailer so that he can change clothes. We tell him he has to get in NOW, we gotta go! Everyone piles in. They are drunk and happy, totally oblivious of the chaos that we just endured. Strange is the contrast between our two experiences.
We pull into terrible traffic, nearly get hit by an asshole who won’t let us in, get on the freeway, and then we are GONE. GOODBYE SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST! WE SURVIVED YOU.
Achievement unlocked: SXSW Survivors.