As I sit here at the Dallas airport, with a blurred stamp on my wrist, a bevy of mangled neon wristbands, residue red lipstick from last night, and the unmistakable three-day stench of South by Southwest, I realize…I’m old. My body is weak. My feet are broken. My spirit wounded. BUT! I expected this and welcomed it with open arms. I now know what going to SXSW as a correspondent is like. You win some, you lose some. You don’t eat much, you sleep never, and you get to know a lot of randos. And that’s what I leave Austin with: relationships. I met some of the nicest people while at SXSW, most of them cab drivers. You see, I live in a mean place called New·York·City. Where people don’t like to make contact with one other. Ever. And they scowl. A lot. Especially cab drivers, whose English tends to be non existent. But my bffs this entire week were my trusty drivers (whose names I don’t know so I’ve created aliases for them), so here’s to Serge, the Russian former gang member; Otis, the Motown lover who likes to on occasion “slap that bass;” Deepak, Indian dude who charged me $50 but made great conversation; and Bishop (his actual name), big ol’ teddy bear and former Austin drug lord who predicted the earthquake in Japan and now predicts Charlie Sheen will settle out of court for $100 million and he just had a baby with his best friend Samantha who people think is a lesbian but isn’t and might be Hispanic but she was adopted so she doesn’t know what she is and he once picked up a famous person and bought them tons of coke and then he built a house on nine acres of land and is originally from Panama City, Florida. Yeah. So now on to the music!
I adored Plutopia’s Chilean night, a showcase that suffered from many changes early on. This was the showcase I had anticipated, originally being promoted with Matías Aguayo and my faves Protistas. Unfortunately, both backed out in the end. But no worries, when two doors close, two more open. Fernando Milagros, folk singer and, from what I learned last night, also a theatre set designer in Santiago, took over the second slot and the wonderful Francisca Valenzuela stepped up, too. The night started with Inverness (but I only caught the last second of them) and the place looked all sorts of empty. Fernando Milagros took to the mic and hummed solo for a bit, before inviting up his three-piece band, with Gepe on drums. His set was genial, his voice immaculate and honest, and his presence pure. I was sold on him before, more so now. Francisca played such a joyous set and the thing that amazed and freaked me out about her is her unflinching eye contact. It’s intense. The girl could probably make Madison Square Garden feel intimate. She played a song in English, because she’s “half gringa” and it gave her voice a different texture. Great set overall.
It was Intimate Stranger’s turn, a somewhat Chilean band based in Austin, and it wasn’t half bad. I didn’t expect much but they drew quite a crowd, even though their instruments blurred together throughout, but it was a nice break from the mellow stuff. And then He arrived. GEPE. Wearing his best Christmas vest, armed with friend Pedropiedra, Gepe tore up the stage and won over the now-utterly-absurdly-packed Maggie Mae’s, playing tracks from his standout Audiovisión. He busted out his white boy moves and we were all smitten. The end felt like a hipster’s version of a batucada, a great way for Gepe to end his SXSW stint. But the night wasn’t over, the real dancing was left up to Chico Trujillo. There were doña cougars coming out of the woodworks, sweating up a storm, as the Chico Trujillo effect took a hold of women’s loins and never let go. It was a great excuse for Americanas to feel “ethnic” and for all of us to let out one last cathartic dance breath. Everyone joined: Gepe, Milagros, Pedropiedra, the entire venue. It was definitely a highlight of the entire week. And then people did that thing that we Latinos do when we’re being loud and having fun, you know the “hey hey hey hey” thing. It was deafening.
So thank you, Austin. I hadn’t hey-hey’d in a while. Till next year, we’ll be in touch. Viva Austin!