Monday, May 01, 2006

The Unattended Bags - Coming to a Commune Near You! (2)

Commune, let's go!

Arrived in the darkness of course, because no wrangler could hurry these kittens. Parked and ran into Sally's house where she was waiting for us. She met us at the door, jumping up and down, and hugged us and greeted the new girls warmly.
She showed us to our sleeping areas and then, since it was a full moon again, Diona and I quizzed her about how to take the peyote she'd given us last time which had been burning a hole in my guitar case. I'd done some research myself and everyone was universally adamant about carefully removing the white strychnine button in the middle of the dried flower. I'd always heard that vomiting was part of the trip, but it turns out if you clean it well enough you don't actually have to puke. At first I was hesitant, "Well it is kind of late..." But when are we ever gonna be able to do peyote in New Mexico on a commune with natural hot springs when the moon is full again? (Actually, the way things have been going, probably next month!)

Anyway, we put on our robes and poured some wine. I was playing the grand piano quietly because there was the threat of a sleeping baby in the area and Diona brought over a bowl with tiny wet hard lumps in it. We put some in our mouths. It tasted like ass. Like if absinthe came in a solid form. Truly nasty. I wondered if you had to chew it or if you could just swallow it whole to get the awful taste out of the way and get on with the business of getting high.

When we felt the first tingles we went out to the hot pool, which was gorgeous in the moonlight and surrounded by wild mint. Oh man. It was so beautiful. The other girls wanted updates. "Are you feeling anything yet?" They didn't want to try it themselves but they wanted a full report. I said, "It's like mushrooms without the hollow feeling of self-doubt!" to a circle of wet heads nodding knowingly.

Diona and I stayed in the pool for eight hours freaking out when we heard rustling, not sure if it was spirits of the ancient natives or javelinas or both. "Are you ready for your vision?"

When we noticed that the moon had traveled across the entire sky in the time we'd been out there we went inside.

When we got to the kitchen, Diona flipped on the lights and said "Look at my hands." I turned around expecting them to be a bit pruney from our extended soak but they were huge. White fingers like swollen larvae. Her hands were bigger than she was.

You never know you're stoned until you come inside. Like when you play an outdoor concert and you can turn the sound system up to eleven and there won't be any feedback because there are no walls to stop the sound. It's the same with highness. Same reason drinking doesn't count when you're camping.

We ate some microwaved tamales and had some tea and went to bed and woke up feeling Fantastic. Everyone was wiggling their eyebrows all like, "How are you guys feeling?" when we came into the kitchen and we said "Awesome!" and meant it. And then I climbed a mountain. Leanne, The Cellist, had already climbed three of the four mountains by the time we woke up and was happily making a giant sandwich. Awna was practicing her accordion in the outhouse.

In our honour, Sally had tried her hand at concert promotion and got us a gig 'in town' at the Buffalo Bar Ballroom in Silver City. By far the best gig of the tour as far as turnout, money, and good vibes were concerned. We named ourselves The Unattended Bags. I was sober because we had to drive all night after the show to make it back to Austin in time to play. The memory of any show you have to drive after is overtaken by the memory of the drive. Newfoundland to me is a dark two lane highway where every branch is a potential antler.

We loaded up the van and strapped ourselves in fur coats and sleeping bags as Shaggy still had no heat and drove down Main Street while Sally and the women of Silver City flashed us their titties!

Got pulled over for speeding in the middle of nowhere and the state trooper shone a big light in my eyes while I found my license. Then he made me get out and stand in front of the cop car saying, "Don't put your hands in your pockets! If you get cold put them in your armpits!" Jeeze, welcome to America.

Cold air kind of woke me up though, and then, as we got to the Texas border in the dawn, a thousand jackrabbits lined the road and kept running for our tires. It was so awful but there's nothing you can do when you hear the sickening thunk. The best is when you don't hear it.

D. and I took turns driving until sunrise, because that is the pay off of the all night drive, and it was gorgeous and we could warm our frozen driving stumps at last.

Got to Austin in time for fish tacos and margaritas! Feeling very acidey. I think we broke Laura. She wasn't really speaking to us when we dropped her off and her curls were wound up tight. I guess at the end Christine was driving with a very pouty shotgun, which is no fun at all.

After lunch we went to the convention centre to register for South By South West, which was a total nightmare if you'd been up all night. No day at the beach even if you hadn't, I'm sure. Thousands of hipsters and their managers awaiting laminated passes and free stuff. I got smokes and guitar strings which is all right. Saw a bunch of people I knew and tried not to breathe my all-night margarita breath on them. Found Tolan, who was traveling with our friends' band Frog Eyes and took him with us. We reconvened at the van hours later, dropped off Christine and Leanne, and then headed to Peggie's House.

Allie and Awna and Diona had been telling me about this woman Peggie that had put on a show for them in Santa Barbara at a beautiful theatre. They all kept saying, "She's like you in the future!" I don't know why, but I pictured all my worst qualities sped up and amplified. I pictured some fading diva with badly dyed black hair and painted lips who talked too much.

Apparently she had a mansion with a pool in Austin and had invited the girls to stay with her. I tagged along because I was so tired and had no other bright ideas. When we got there nobody was home except an old pointer dog named Gretchen. We had some drinks by the pool and caught up with Tolan. I was a little nervous about our hostess coming home and seeing this sudden revelry, and because Tolan gets drunk in like three seconds these days. We held our breath when we heard tires crunch on the gravel and then a beautiful woman with long brown hair came around the corner and said, "Well thank GOD you're all smoking!"

After a round of introductions she went into the house and brought out some vodka and a tiny silver spray bottle and joined us. "Oh my god! Is that a vermouth atomizer?" I'm in love. I think she's very beautiful and witty and we talked about authors that we like. "I think Fitzgerald wrote about other people and Hemingway wrote about himself and that is a huge difference". Within minutes she leant me a copy of The Human Comedy by William Saroyan. Then she looked at me and said, "I feel like we've met before" I looked at her and said, "Well, if I may, we kind of have similar profiles..."

She talked about how she books the theatre in Santa Barbara with only acts that truly move her, paying no heed to who has an agent or a record deal or any of the other outward trappings of success. The series is called The Best Music You've Never Heard and I long to be worthy. We quiz her for gossip about who's nice and who's not out of all the people she's booked and she tells great stories. I feel honoured that the Po'Girls thought of me when they met her. I felt like I've seen the future and it ain't so bad!

After a million drinks, Tolan announces that he has a show that night so we try to phone him a cab but we're far too drunk to operate the phone, so we drive him to the gig. We also give him all our money and smokes, and help him with his gear, and he's kind of in a rage that we're not coming in. "Dude, we've been up all night!" He's like, "Yeah, I know but you don't know what that feels like unless you're the one doing it!"

We went back to Peggie's for a nightcap and were in bed by eleven, which felt damn good.

SXSW-Day 1

Came into the kitchen to find Peggie making coffee and breakfast tacos. I pantomime the appropriate "blown away" double take but Peggie shrugs and says, "People are just so much more managable when they're fed".

That afternoon I am hosting a Hootenanny on the patio of a tiki bar called Headhunters. It's a joint party for Mint Records and Six Shooter Records and apparently we have a tequila sponsor. Must remember to pace as we have our real show after that at 9pm.

The Hootenanny is amazing. I had a plan to not have a plan. Instead of making a list and getting all flustered, I thought any time someone asked me when then they were on I'd just say, "You're on next!" It actually worked until the middle when time sped up and more and more bands came. I could book anyone I wanted from 2-6pm but this band Elliot Brood had to play a full set at 4pm. Well, everyone wanted to play at 4. Some people had to go to other gigs and some people got left out and there was more tequila. In the end I think we had 40 bands in 4 hours and it was the best damn party of the whole weekend.

Only thing was that by 7pm I had kind of broken my charm button so I went for a little stroll. Came upon the others, you guessed it, at the fish taco/margarita place and finished off their dinners and drinks for them. Went to see They Shoot Horses Don't They? at an outdoor tent and they were great. A bunch of people jumping up and down playing tubas and keyboards and so forth.

Then it was time to play again. The Mint Records Showcase. Place called Nuno's. Upstairs black bar. Air conditioned. Nardwar was the emcee and he was doing these epic ear-splitting screechy introductions, so we left the stage until he was done. Then they bathed us in ghoulish green light and somehow Tolan fell off the stage. He had borrowed a guitar promising to be very careful with it, so instead of hurting the guitar I think he bruised a rib or something. Not one of our finest hours but I think we played ok and there were people there. I hope we weren't too much of an embarrassment to The Organization.

Hung around to see our labelmates The Organ and Novillero, slipping outside inbetween acts. During the festival they block off Sixth Street to traffic, and it's also spring break and St. Patrick's day weekend, so there's a lot of action out there. Diona and I decided just to sit down in the middle of the street to take a break. We got to meet a lot of cute dogs. A man came up to us and asked if we were sitting down in protest of anything or just sitting down. We told him we were in favour of sitting down. And then my old friend Tony from The Great Lake Swimmers emerged out of the crowd and came and sat with us. A cop came and told us we couldn't sit there anymore because if he let us sit down then EVERYBODY would want to sit down etc. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips rolled by all lit up waving in a giant bubble followed by a parade of giant Easter Island heads and we found Paul Rigby. Then I slipped away to see the 1am Po'Girl set at some hotel convention centre. Man were people tired but the girls played great. It was a calming tonic to all the action. I may have drifted off for a while in my chair. Then we drove back to Peggie's and slept like logs.

SXSW Day 2

Bloodshot Records Bar-b-cue- Noon Show. The Yard Dog Gallery Backyard.

What a great way to wake up. Got there just in time to play and we had a great show and there were veggie burgers and tequila for breakfast!

Stayed to see some of the other bands but it got too crowded to see. We dropped Tolan off at his other gig and went to a park to see The Old Crow Medicine Show. We said we were playing and got rock star parking. We watched them sound check and a beautiful girl came out. When she started singing we were like "Holy shit! That's Norah Jones!" The band was great. I got to be part of a communal shiver. They have a new song called "I Heard It All", it's the tasteful modern day protest song and it was amazing. There's no way I can pick apart what made them so great. I could tell you that they're a six piece bluegrass band with two banjos and tight harmonies but that wouldn't make you run out to go and see them. There is something inexplicably good about them that defies review.

Then it was off to Cheapo's Records for another show. Really fun despite the bright lights. We did one giant medley to save time and so we wouldn't have to talk. Randy from Mint had promised me wine so I held him to it, and The Organ girls were there singing along. We met this cute boy band of charmers from Edmonton called The City Streets when we were outside smoking. Hubby Honey (aka Mandrew) was there so we kidnapped him for dinner at Whole Foods across the street.

Diona was playing with Billy Bragg and Jolie Holland that night so we followed her to the venue and on the way got caught in the middle of the biggest fireworks display I'd ever seen. Every time we thought it was ending it would start again even bigger. Everything's big in Texas. And these were Real Money fireworks. We just lay on the street laughing like maniacs until the actual finale and then we found the Irish Drinking Complex.

It was St. Patrick's Day and there was a huge line-up around the side of the building. I had my guitar and Diona had her fiddle and we both had Mandrew's hand. We got past the first gate into a courtyard filled with a thousand people watching a band with a muscley guy in a kilt with a purple mohawk singing some sort of stadium chant. We shoved our way through to the next gate which was even tougher to get through. "But we're playing!" we said. A woman took our cause on and shouted to the bouncer, "These people are IN THE BAND!" Finally the velvet sausage was lifted and we were shoved past the front of the line-up, down some stairs, and into a stone bar.

The second we got inside I smashed the bottle of wine I had in my bag on the cement floor and somehow Diona magically reached behind a door frame, produced a mop, and cleaned up the whole thing in two seconds flat before she flew out the window. The next moment we could hear Billy Bragg singing the word "Fascism" over and over again accompanied by a familiar fiddle sound. We look out the window into yet another courtyard where they are playing and Mandrew leans over and says, "Say, he's kind of tubby for a socialist..." and I say, "Well he spent the last year writing a book!"

We wait out the concert inside the stone cave because there's really nowhere else to go. Christine and Leanne walk in and then Diona comes back beckoning us all to follow her. She leads us up a backstage staircase to an awesome V.I.P. area where we can smoke and drink and totally see the stage. She finds us a table and then hits the stage with Jolie Holland who was awesome. Beautiful red hair, a slip, ankle strap shoes, and an amazing voice. Damn. The last few months have taught me that no lady ever lives up to her reputation. I had heard crazy stories from the others about her and was quite excited to meet this modern day Garbo. So, after the show, when she came right over and shook my hand and said "Very nice to meet you" I was almost disappointed. I wanted to see some real live diva action. I have also realized that the stories other ladies tell you about other ladies are incredibly subjective and that no one is actually pure evil.

Speaking of alleged redheaded divas, we headed over to Antone's to see Neko's big 1am show. Sold out. Line up around the block. We used the instruments as props once more. The bouncer said, "Well I better see you on stage at some point tonight or I'm gonna come and find you!" as he let us in. The place was crammed and I waited by the stage door to catch a glimpse of Neko or Kelly or Rigby or Rauhouse, remembering I had played here with Neko three years ago on Valentine's Day. I found them all and we had a nice little hang before they took the stage. Met the new back up singer Rachel who seems awesome. Black Hair, red lipstick, funny. What's not to like? The band played great and the vocals were drenched in reverb the way The Lady likes 'em.

I did a shadow puppet show for Grant Lawrence in the back while Mandrew secretly smoked in the closet and check out this round of banter:

Grant: "What is that? A vagina?"
Me: "Have you ever seen one?"
Grant: "Once in New Orleans"
Me: "That wasn't a vagina darling!"

Guess we'd both been taking our Noel Coward pills as Luther likes to say.

Grant looked up at the stage and sighed. "I just wish she'd do one rocker" I looked around at the giant crowd, all digging her like zombie slaves, and said, "I think she does all right".

At the end of the night I said goodnight to the band. Neko told me to call her but I said I wouldn't unless she changes her message, which is like an hour long monologue about how she's not taking any calls which can really hit you sideways if you're in a less than super confident mood.

I'll probably call her.

When we got out to the street the exhaustion hit. We were so tired. It was like we had three lifetimes in one day. We had arranged a meeting place with the other girls and Shaggy but we couldn't find them. We walked up and down the streets thinking the worst but then finally we found them just when they were about to pull away. Thank god. Home to Peggie's to sleep the sleep of the dead.


more pictures...


At 4:52 PM, Anonymous GM said...

The Tucson Plush show was great. You are far too critical of absinthe. Maybe you didn't put enough sugar in it?

At 7:23 PM, Anonymous lindsay hutton said...

Ah, Carolyn. I love reading these. I truly do hope you put all of these in a book one day.

I never got to apologize for bookin' out of the last Hamilton show so early. I was overtired, sober and I broke a heel on my new fucking strappy leopard pumps.

In other news, I work in a vintage clothing store now and nearly every day I look at a dress and think... "Hmmm. Carolyn would adore this." Send me your measurements some time soon and I'll put a few away for you.

Keep well, sister.

linny hutton.

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous janemargaretdean said...

Love the writing as well...would encourage a novel as well. Stumbled upon you googling Talon after a bag I purchased at an estate sale. Sorry to peep but I stayed for the writing followed up with the pics. Love the photographers eye. --janedean xoxo


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