photos by James Bailey / update by James and Matt Badger
I awoke at five am in the cold New Mexican White Sands desert. Laying in my sleeping bag under the stars I noticed the sun was starting to climb into the sky. I looked around and began to call out to the boys of Ravenna Woods to wake up. We had a music video to finish.
After the brisk morning multiple mile trek back to the car, we climbed a small dune and fished what we’d started the previous evening. I had them walk across my lens. Back and forth multiple times and directions. Then they set up their equipment and played along to a small boom box we had bought specifically for this occasion.
We were done shooting by 8:30, just as the sun was beginning to warm the sand. We climbed into the van and headed south towards El Paso, TX. It was a 10 hour expedition towards our final destination of Austin and the SXSW music festival.
We finally made it across the largest state of the contiguous US. Stopping only momentarily to lay in the grass at a rest area in Central Texas. We were able to check online with hopes of finding a hotel at a decent price. Due to spring break and the music, art and film festival, it looked like everywhere on our route was booked solid. Finally after a dozen phone calls and stops to small motels, we were able to secure a room a few short miles outside of San Antonio. Some of the guys did some much needed laundry while others scarfed down some fast food and relaxed for the next day’s big event.
One person had been sick at the outset of the tour and by now it had infected each one of us riding in the van. Most of the guys were feeling better by now but I was the last one to get sick. It hit me hard. That night at the motel I drank half a gallon of orange juice before passing out with ease.
Due to my minimum amount of consciousness throughout the following few hours, Ravenna Woods drummer, Matt Badger will be telling the tale of our first day at SXSW:
Navigating through the interminable masses of festival-goers, bands, industry types and fans that clogged the length of 6th Street, we had no clear destination or even a chance to organize our thoughts. Amidst the incoherent din of the excess of a hundred bands playing simultaneously and disharmoniously all around us, the gravity of our undertaking had finally set in. It was clear that whatever preconceptions of how things would look, feel, sound and smell when we reached our goal were obliterated by the reality we found ourselves in. As if one of so many thousands of tiny, mindless krill, we were swallowed up into the belly of Austin, captivated by the chaos, thrust into survival mode and resigned to the hope that we would eventually pass through with minimal harm and be shat out on the other side.
Up until our arrival at SXSW, the docile nature of our tour coupled with the mind-numbingly baron settings of our travels had lulled me into a quiet complacency of which I was not sure when I would resurface. When juxtaposed with the frenzied swarms of music and sound, beer-swilling bros and scantily clad women, pedi-cabs and tour vans, the contrast was akin to an electroshock that propelled me back into consciousness.
Friday March 18th. Day one of our SXSW experience witnessed less of the exalted, timely arrival we had hoped for when we set up camp in the town of Boerne, TX, the night before, a mere 128 miles outside of Austin. Instead, we promptly found our path marred by an ominous string of car accidents that slowed our passage through San Antonio to a feeble crawl. It was 12:30pm, the SXSeattle showcase was well underway at this point and our set was scheduled for 2:15pm.
Our 1:00pm load-in time was a lost cause by the time traffic had temporarily cleared up and, as was par for the course thus far in every tight spot we’ve encountered this tour, we were dangerously low on gas. Emotions in the van ranged from delusional to terrified as we crept up to the city limits of Austin.
Upon entering the city, a whopping twenty minutes before our sound check, the anxiety in my stomach had grown to an irrepressible size. So much so that when the van was safely within 50 yards of the venue, I burst out of the still moving vehicle in a manner reminiscent of the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes and began frantically running in circles looking for parking and accosting anyone resembling a show manager. Our mood was hectic and awkward while loading the gear through the back entrance of the Copa Lounge. Late and sweaty, we squirmed our way through blockades of familiar faces from home who had arrived on time to witness various friends and clients represent “up and coming” music from Seattle. A wave of relief washed over me as we entered the indoor portion of the venue to the punk-tinged and infectious music of the Tea Cozies still blaring from the stage where we were to be playing in 30 min. Flippin SWEEET! We had beat the odds and arrived in time to salvage a quick sound check.
The show itself was a myriad of emotions from start to finish. Beginning with the formidable anxiety that haunted our journey on the way in, nervous energy and tension added to the mix and shuffled through my core as though my belly was a blender. Together they produced a confusing array of feelings that might resemble less a delicious Orange Julius beverage and more of a bittersweet homemade smoothie with a gross lumpy texture. However, as was the inevitable outcome of every show this past year, even those with the shakiest of starts, the urgent and demanding quality of the music took hold of my road-weary frame and purged my system of any lingering feelings of tense anxiety. What remained was a sense of accomplishment topped with alleviation. The setting was new, the show had a unique purpose and the quality of company on the bill that day was outstanding. Huge thanks go out from us to Sarathan and the SXSeattle Party for anchoring this tour with a rad show and a priceless experience.
With a deep breath, we collected our wits and cleaned up after our set. The irony of playing to a room full of Seattle folks nearly 2,000 miles from home was not lost on us. That said, the last week being out of Seattle and on the road culminating with a gathering of so many friendly and talented people from the Northwest definitely stirred up all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings that only grew fuzzier with every mid-afternoon drink.
It was a special event and we played our tired asses off. What else did we come here for? Wait, now I remember... to play a BUNCH of freakin’ shows!! We were done for the weekend with that, our first (albeit rad) gig and were desperate for more. Playing is like eating in SXSW. The absence of shows leaves this nagging feeling in your gut and a hollow, gloomy presence in the itinerary. It wasn’t a great feeling and was hard to reconcile with the spirit of the festival we were smack dab in the middle of. Imagine a place where a perfectly healthy and entertaining group of talented young dudes or lady dudes are willing to play for pittance at any of the innumerable grimy stages, bar floors, hallways and balconies that host music there. Picture them wandering the streets with guitars and make-shift drum kits like transients, settling for 20 min of exposure here or 15 of face time there. They’re good, they’re smart, they’re ready, they’re humble. Is it conceivable that there would be no room for these capable young artists and their contributions might simply go unnoticed, wasted like a futile wail into a storm of debris? The answer is quite sensibly, yes you ill-prepared twat!