It’s that time of year again! For 10 days, Austin will be the center of the universe for many in the tech, film, & music industries. People from all over the world will flock to the Texas capital to get a piece of the ever growing event that has become a juggernaut of a festival (if we can even call it that). This year is special for me, being the 20th anniversary of my very first SXSW experience. With that being said, I guess its about time that I issue an apology to certain band, musician, and maybe a few others.
The year was 1999. My brother & I were just high school kids at the time when we traveled from our small West Texas hometown to Austin for spring break. We were plenty excited to visit the “big city” & more so to be there without our parents. I’m sure an apology is also owed to them after this as well. Sorry Mom & Dad.
The whole week in Austin was insane but one night in particular is the reason for writing this. My brother & I started that day by somehow scoring a few six packs of beer on E. Riverside Drive. We spent the next 1-2 hours sipping brewskis' & walking towards the downtown skyline. The city was alive with SXSW in full swing.
We made our way near a small creek that runs through the downtown area. There we posted up with a few dozen people who were relaxing on a grassy hill, listening to the live music coming from the amphitheater across the way. Such a perfect evening, just chilling with my bro, spring breaking, soaking it all in & sipping the beers we had tucked away in our backpacks. “What could be better than this?”, we asked each other. Well.. actually being inside the venue.. now that would be better of course, we foolishly determined.
A classic “hold my beer” plan was quickly devised. With liquid courage coursing through our underage numb skulls, we decided the only way into the venue was to cross the grimey creek, scale the large stone wall, drop into the venue and blend into the crowd.. And all while being undetected. Easy peasy, right? Back then, the Stubb’s outdoor stage area was much different. Perhaps the security changes to the stone wall came later because of these kind of shenanigans. Oops. I guess an apology is in order for the venue too. Sorry ya'll.
My brother led the way as we carefully stepped through the shallow parts of the creek towards the concert. I stumbled, slipped and fell to a knee soaking my pant legs in the filthy creek water as the hill of onlookers laughed their collective asses off. We kept going. The design of the wall had staggered stones that made it surprisingly easy to climb quickly. At that point we had the attention of a few concert goers above who actually leaned over & lent the final helping hand, hoisting us into venue. We fucking made it! We took one quick look back at then cheering crowd of onlookers below before splitting up & vanishing into the huge crowd inside.
The atmosphere was incredible! We'd never been to a live show of that magnitude. The sound system was thunderous & complimented the roars of the eager crowd harmoniously. It just so happened that a few of my favorite bands were on the bill, and suddenly I was going to see them live! What are the chances? After shuffling around the crowd solo for a while, I find my brother & we victoriously make our way towards the stage front.
The climax of night happened in what seemed like a split second. The famous Metal band Neurosis took the stage as we finished the last of our beer. The sea of people had grown dense as a drunken lady in front of us began to make out with a random guy mid way through the set. We were thoroughly amused, as any other small town teenagers would be. The intense guitar riffs raged on as did the impromptu make out session only inches away from us. The drunk, careless lady’s bag had all kinds of shit falling out of it; hairbrushes, beer cans, and for whatever reason.. a medium size silver spoon. My brother picks it up & shows it to me with a "WTF?!" look on his face. For some reason, that I still can not explain, I grabbed the spoon and with the flick of a wrist hurled it towards the stage. The fucking spoon flipped perfectly & precisely nailing the guitar player in the head! It bounced off his skull with such precision that he immediately stopped playing and was wincing in pain. I could tell by his face that the head of the spoon had made perfect impact & stung him pretty good. To you sir, I sincerely apologize. Seriously, i didn’t intend to do that!
We were just as shocked as he was while the band stopped for a few seconds looking into the audience for the culprit. The crowd was baffled by the abrupt stop to the show as fingers pointed all over in our general direction. Needless to say we kept our cool and deceivingly pointed around as well, playing innocent. A few seconds later the band started to play again and closed out the night with a hell of a show. We somehow got the hell out of there without a single repercussion from the mixed bag of ridiculous ideas that day.
Two decades later, I still laugh with some disbelief about the infamous SXSW of 1999, but I truly want to apologize to the the dude who was briefly stunned by a utensil thrown by an asshole teenager. For that I am truly sorry. As for the memory & epic adventure shared with my brother, I could never regret or apologize for. What a time it was!