SXSW 2015 Tour: Some Hecklers Just Want To Hang

Our first stop in Atlanta is the Sevananda Natural Foods Market in Little Five Points. We found this place our first time through the city with Sharon Van Etten many years back, and it’s been a frequent stop ever since. It is often difficult to find healthy food on tour, so stores like this are a boon. I have mixed feelings about such stores. On the one hand, I eat a bunch of vegetables and nuts and healthy grains and feel good. On the other hand, one can easily spend five dollars on a goddamn motherfucking bottled juice if one is not careful, and if you’re not used to eating this sort of food all the time it tastes pretty weird. There is something both patronizing and subtly sinister about the ad copy for “healthy” foods, implying that the consumer is personally securing the future of life on earth by purchasing a particular packet of instant noodles because they contain cruelty-free rhizomes or whatever. I do not dispute that some consumer choices are better than others for society and/or the environment, but I am highly skeptical of anything a manufacturer has to say about it. And as Michael Pollan tells us, food that makes health claims isn’t quite food. Julian has accurately observed that I get weirdly faux-conservative in the presence of excessive hippie rhetoric, and I acknowledge that this is my problem rather than that of the Sevananda Natural Foods Market. I blame my upbringing. But let’s be real, we are all complicit in the suffering of various human and non-human beings just by virtue of forming societies and utilizing media of exchange, and there is no wheat alternative that can save you. We all have our ways of making peace with the inherent conflicts and hypocrisies of modern life, and shopping at a co-op just doesn’t happen to be one of mine. Anyway, in the interest of trying to be healthier on this tour than previous ones, I go all in and get a broccoli salad and some sort of cold noodle dish and one of those expensive juices. The juice is delicious, and the food does the job. I consider and decide against buying actual groceries. On the one hand, it’s cool to have a supply of food so you’re not reliant on stops. On the other hand, there are issues of preparation and perishability to consider. On a small tour like this I generally keep a small supply of snacks around, and try to take a harm reduction approach to prepared foods the rest of the time.

Our gig is supposed to be at a place called The Cleaners which is, in fact, a disused laundromat. We arrive to find that the gig is actually at a place next door to the laundromat, a one-room building with a small stage in the corner and copper pipes sticking out of the wall. There is no cover and no bathroom. This is about as DIY as it gets. The show has been organized by members of Warehouse, one of our legit favorite bands ever. Opener Suffer Dragon puts on a delightfully fucked up set of mathy prog with drums and one of those Casio digital guitar things. Krill plays a solid show, somewhat undermined by a janky PA system. The PA is switched out, and we start to set up. A haggard-looking guy in a baseball cap and windbreaker weaves into the venue and starts talking to Carlos. He appears to be a local drunk, just wandering around to pass the time and stopping in to see what all the people are doing on this normally desolate corner. I am surprised, because normally these sorts of characters gravitate towards me at shows. The man is irate and agitated about the flashing lights of a police car outside, which appears to be on the corner for reasons having nothing to do to us. He alternates between semi-coherent statements about the police and impatiently demanding when the music will start. At first I am worried he will start some sort of altercation, but the moment passes. He is just talking very loudly because he is drunk, and he wanted to go to where the big group of people was instead of being drunk by himself. Carlos graciously extricates himself from the conversation to set up, with the promise that the music will happen very soon. The guy lights a Newport, and Ben of Warehouse manages to convince him to go outside without incident. He stands sort of half-in and half-out of the door for the duration of the show, occasionally pulling from a plastic pint bottle in his coat pocket, visibly torn between his desire to smoke Newports and his curiosity about the music. At first people are skeeved out, but the crowd quickly sees that he is harmless and adapts to his presence. Something in my gut tells me he is going to thoroughly enjoy himself.

We play what I think is the first thoroughly satisfying set of the tour, even though Carlos and I are crammed so close together on the stage I can feel his body heat. It is sweaty and gross up there, and I literally cannot move my feet even an inch in any direction, hemmed in by speakers and surrounded by a rat’s nest of pedals and cables. Our set is punctuated by the delighted interjections of the drunk man. “That’s my shit, that’s what I’m talkin’ about”, and et cetera, every time there is even a second of silence, and probably the rest of the time too. He is loving it. He is similarly excited about Warehouse. I mean, who wouldn’t be, they’re fucking spectacular. Elaine, the singer, has that rare swag that doesn’t even require movement onstage. She just stands there and intones, sometimes even with her hands behind her back, and you are riveted. And Josh, the bassist, has the sort of technique I envy where he can play extremely fast with all downstrokes. Everyone is just fully en pointe. It is a pleasure to watch. As soon as they are done, I dip outside to sit in a comically oversized lounge chair that I noticed was free. A few people smoking cigarettes eye me jealously. Too slow! I am fully content.

At the show we meet our friend Stephanie, who will be joining us in the van for the remainder of the journey. Her mom will be putting us up for the night, and has also graciously volunteered to sell merch. She even brings her own table. Since it is a donation show, we are paid in a padded mailing envelope containing mostly singles and what I eventually determine to be ten dollars in quarters. A few people have also thrown guitar picks in there, which I pocket for emergencies. I sleep on a leather recliner in Stephanie’s mom’s living room. It is the most comfortable chair I have ever encountered, and it goes all the way back. One of the advantages to being short on tour is you can sleep in places that would be uncomfortable for others. The rest of the time it’s still a pain in the ass.

In the morning, we stop at The Flying Biscuit for breakfast. It is kind of a shitshow in there, the waitstaff are visibly stressed and we are clearly making everyone’s lives difficult by ordering to go. It is a little pricey, but worth the wait. I get this amazing variation on eggs benedict, which comes on a biscuit with pimento cheese and turkey bacon. Spectacularly creamy grits on the side.

Looks like kind of a mess in the takeout container, but it is extremely tasty. The pimento cheese adds a nice sharpness not usually found in eggs benedict, and includes little diced bits of red onion as well as the standard pimentos. The fluffy biscuit soaks up the runny yolk perfectly. Grits can be hit or miss, but these are excellent. I awkwardly balance the container on the lid of my laptop to eat and we set out for New Orleans. I am an old hand at eating messy food in a moving vehicle, and it goes off without a hitch.

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