Best Case scenario

I had my chance, and I blew it. Actually, Rhett Miller blew it for me. "Robert, Janeane. Janeane, Robert." That's how he introduced me to Janeane Garofalo -- in a split second, in so little time she barely had time to acknowledge my trembling presence. I got nothing from behind those big, black shades of hers -- barely a nod, a muffled heyhowzitgoin. Rhett Miller is Garofalo's favorite musician. She had, after all, picked the Old 97's as her musical guest when she guest-hosted The Late Show With David Letterman a few days earlier. He had her ear. He could do no wrong. He could have said something like, "Hey, Janeane, I wanted to introduce you to the best writer in Texas and the nicest guy in the whole world. You should get to know him. The experience of befriending him will enrich your life. It will make you whole." But no. Nothing. Less than nothing. Son of a bitch.

But by then, Rhett had already enraged a whole backyard full of people. Miller and bandmate Murry Hammond, playing under the auspices of their stripped-down duo The Ranchero Brothers, were slotted in the middle of a Thursday-afternoon bill being held in a North Austin back yard, a decidedly non-SXSW event. But as the Rancheros performed into the afternoon, the sky began clouding up. Word spread that tornadoes were touching down just to the north. The wind picked up, battering the small blue tarp that covered the makeshift stage. A few raindrops even began falling. And still the Rancheros played. "We've got three more songs," Rhett said, and the crowd groaned. In delight, of course, but still...There were bands waiting. They wanted to play for Janeane too. We all did.

Finally, the boys played the last notes of "Timebomb" and started to pack up -- and, as if on cue, the sky opened up. The crowd went scurrying. People ran into the house, to their cars, away. The next band scheduled to play, Austin's own Spoon, actually tried to set up -- only to pack it in when told the weather was taking a turn for the worse. One local was so outraged he uttered the most offensive thing he could think of: "What do you expect? Those guys are from Dallas." Yeah, man. Bastards.

Me, I like to think I'm a nice guy when it comes to introducing people to their heroes, their gods. Take, for instance, last Friday night. I was standing outside the closed doors of the Cactus Café, where Roger McGuinn was entertaining 150 of his closest friends, when I spotted Slobberbone's Brent Best loitering in the foyer. He explained he was there to see Peter Case, who ranks high on Best's list of Reasons He Picked Up a Guitar. Just then, Case wandered by. Since he and I are sort of friendly, I introduced him to Best. I think I said something along the lines of, "Hey, Peter, this is Brent Best, he's in a great band from Denton called Slobberbone, and you're the reason he picked up a guitar."

They spent the next few minutes talking about the time Brent saw Peter play at the Hard Rock Café, opening for this band Geffen Records was thinking about signing, the New Bohemians. "Man, I can't believe you were at that show," Case said, his voice full of appreciation and dismay. "That was the worst show of my life." The two spoke for a while, and before Peter went in to play his set, I invited Brent to breakfast with Peter and me the next morning. Brent didn't show -- he has this thing about meeting his idols and discovering they're lousy in real life, which Peter Case is not -- but that wasn't the point. I offered, because I know how cool it is to meet people up close you've long respected from afar. Though, now that I think about it, what was more dispiriting than not meeting Janeane Garofalo was sitting down for breakfast with Peter Case and seeing the look of disappointment on his face when Brent never showed. "Where's your pal?" Peter asked often in a sad sort of voice. I didn't even take it personally.

Robert Wilonsky