National Geographic, the 80s, and free vending machines

Julie B tells us about how she wishes she were an 80s baby, why she loves taking selfies, and transcendence. Or something.


I saw “National Geographic” and “80s” and knew I would be dragging the group to Antone’s to wait in line for the coveted 75 gold wristbands. I’ve been waiting for this moment all of my life. Our hearts fell when we got there at night and saw a line three blocks long, snaked around the alleyway of the venue, but we got the VIP treatment as a reward for our patience, and I freaked out like a kid on Christmas when we were escorted straight to the door.


And let me tell you…

Top 5 of #natgeo80s:
5. Pop photo booth. We unleashed our inner Max Headroom and ended up looking like the Breakfast Club, and it’s all digitally documented for posterity.
4. The Delorean parked out front. “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”
3. The amazing graphics, and meeting the designer who made them. He totally paid homage to the fantastic block pastels of the 80’s and to Girl Talk, who’s known for mixing visuals and sounds.
2. Nerds gone wild—one of the closing parties of SXSW Interactive, they were out in full force.
1. Girl Talk! It was my first live show, and definitely worth the combined waits. He had the entire packed venue bouncing like The Bangles, and really innovatively mashed up all of our 80’s favorites.


Bonus: the free vending machine, stocked with Bugles, Big League Chew, Fun Dip, and more. I think they were about a decade off, but I got to wear Bugles like witch’s nails for the first time since elementary school, so I won’t complain.


Jared & The Mill. The best part of SXSW is that there is literally music everywhere. On our way out of Mohawk, we passed by this band, an amazing string band out of Phoenix, picking up a crowd on the sidewalk. They’re worth checking out!


When in Austin, do as Austinians (?) do. I went rogue and headed over to the Austin Music Showcase, sponsored by the ATX Music Office. What I thought was going to be a quiet showcase of some local amateurs turned out to be the best show of my South By experience by leagues. The Parish is one of the best-known venues in Austin, and they are key in supporting up-and-coming local talent, even offering residencies to artists. The show opened with Wild Child, a band that featured banjos, tenor guitar, and accordion, but the standout was their lead singer, who rocked amazing vocals and the fiddle. They had a wide range, playing music to two-step to as well as songs that could have been lullabies, but they were always well integrated and maintained their unique sound. And, they threw a hell of an energetic show. Being the openers, they had to contend with the inflow of people and the bar, but they worked it. They’re a really young band, and definitely one to watch.
The next act stole everyone’s hearts. Shakey Graves, Alejandro Rose-Garcia (“I don’t speak Spanish though, even though my name’s Alejandro…”), is well known around town, and is just coming back home after a long tour. My SXSW experience would have been worth it just to hear this guy. He was a one-man band, but sounded like 4, playing the bass drum and the tambourine with his feet, as well as guitar, and using a looping pedal to round out his sound. He had a completely unassuming stage presence, wearing just a white ribbed tank and a cowboy hat, but he had the audience going wild. I’ve never heard so many inappropriate remarks directed toward a singer, but everyone in the audience was thinking the same thing.
He was an easy mixture of Johnny Cash, Tallest Man on Earth, and Townes, with finger-picked guitar lines, a smoky voice, and a cowboy swagger. He was by far the best musician I have heard down here. He played one song that moved so seamlessly between 5/4, 7/4, and 4/4 that I felt manipulated. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep the beats straight between those, let alone when you’re playing guitar, singing, and using both your feet as drumsticks? His talent is not unrecognized; he completed a residency at The Parish last year, which did a lot to improve his vocal quality and stage presence, as well as the experience of his show. I was told he even designed the lighting scheme for his set. If you ever have the chance to hear this guy, you have to take it. I was looking for a show of a lifetime, and I got it.


Words by Julie Botnick.