Old Men and Bag Ladies

The good, the bad and the crazy invade Austin

And this was just the first hour. What followed was a haze of bands. Ashy, unnamed band at Blender Barwith their pre-adolescent, prodigy violin player acting as the glue for a series of '70s soft-rock-type masterpieces. Dallas' own Money Waters, spewing his odd, one-of-a-kind brand of Texas hip-hop. Dengue Fever packing Emo's, skipping from weird Cambodian rockabilly to soulful, saxophone-infused Eastern soul. Peaches rocking the absolute crap out of a house so packed it was a fire marshal's nightmare, all G-strings and filthy lyrics and pounding synth bleats. Dallas' Hourly Radio doing the same, only in a Christian-y Radiohead way.

The Bravery kind of sucking. The Mountain Goats strumming their gay folk songs to an audience speckled with frat boys. The streets filled with stages sporting completely out-of-place mook-rock bands. Ghostface Killah in the elevator next to me. And everywhere, people sporting amazing haircuts, gabbing gabbing gabbing about themselves and how cool they are and wondering where they drunkenly lost their BlackBerrys. Ya gotta take the good with the bad, ya know.

And then there's the Day After. Sunday, when the collective hangover quiets the city, when 6th Street is opened back up for car traffic, when everyone's over it. That's when I head to Gay Bi Gay Gay, where wack-ass Dynasty Handbag blows my mind more than any of it. She spends 45 minutes freaking out like the killer in the Silence of the Lambs, prancing and careening and singing. She's wearing '80s-type stretch pants that are too big, a leotard bottom, some weirdly angled top and ballet shoes. She is scaring the shit out of me, but I'm also laughing uncontrollably. It's like the beginning of an acid trip that could go either way.

This is what you look like after SXSW; Dynasty Handbag looks like this all the time.
This is what you look like after SXSW; Dynasty Handbag looks like this all the time.
Who knew that Pete Townshend could blow my mind?
Who knew that Pete Townshend could blow my mind?

She finishes up her set to huge applause from the scuzzy lesbians/trannies and Austin legend Gretchen Phillips takes the stage to front her Joy Division cover band. Phillips says something along the lines of "See, that's what South by Southwest used to be like." And it's true. But that's the beauty of the whole crazy, exhausting week: You may be able to predict the corporate crap and the talking heads, but you never know if it's Pete Townshend or Dynasty Handbag who's gonna blow your mind. If you're lucky, it'll be both.

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