The news of Amy Winehouse's death today was one of those things that's shocking, but also not shocking, you know? And the not shocking part is what's really sad--that we at least in some way expected her to self-destruct, and yet couldn't do anything to prevent it. The whole thing is just devastating--addiction is devastating, the death of a young person is devastating, the loss of a supremely talented musician is devastating.
Four and a half years ago, I went to Austin to attend the South by Southwest music festival, and I saw Amy Winehouse perform twice in one day. She blew me away--she was all I could talk about when I got home. While I was there, I kept a mini-blog (my only bloggy endeavor until the birth of FTTT), and today it occurred to me that it might be a good time to dig that up and share it with you. The Amy Winehouse part is at the end--feel free to skip through my ramblings on hipsters and free stuff--but I quite like some of it, and think it sets the scene pretty nicely.
I can't think of a more appropriate time to pretend to be a blogger than while attending the biggest convergence of the too-cool-for-school set in the history of the world. And I don't mean that in an I-am-too-cool-for-the-too-cool-for-school-set way. I like school, which I think puts me at slightly less cool than the too-cool-for-school set.
But before I get to the music, the scene, the BBQ (actually have not had bbq yet, but it's coming, I can feel it), it's worth mentioning a few moments of the trip itself, such as the wonderful old woman in the seat next to me on the plane who, with a completely straight face, asked the flight attendant if she had a spoon she could use to eat her grits. She brought grits on a plane! Who does that? And why was it not suspected that they were terrorist bomb grits? Anyhow, there is also the wonderful way it is 80 degrees here, and the wonderful way you can take a bus from the airport to 6th and Congress for FIFTY CENTS!!!! When was the last time public transportation anywhere cost fifty cents? One day while I'm here I'm going to get on the bus, put a dollar in the feeder, and say, "I'll get the person behind me, too." Hopefully, that person will be Owen Wilson.
What better way to kick-start my festival than by hitting the Rhapsody party, where hottest of hot hot indie bands, Swedes Peter Bjorn and John were playing? Wristbanded and laminated, we head into a club called Mohawk, which has a cool double-level courtyard and outdoor stage so you can watch the show, but still feel kind of loungey. There's free beer. Unsurprisingly, the place is swarming with hipsters, boys in skinny jeans and girls in hot pants and cowboy boots and for a second I wonder if I've somehow fallen into a portal back to New York, but then I am reminded that there are 2 things here that guarantee we're not in New York-- 80 degrees and free beer. I have to say that PB & J are three of the most un-Swedish looking people ever, all kind of little and brown-haired. But so good at music!
SXSW is kind of like Halloween for grownups...er, hipsters. During the day, we bounce from party to party collecting free stuff, and we don't even have to dress up or ask for it! The swag count so far:
6 buttons (Pitchfork, Fuel TV)
3 compilation CDs (various)
4 stickers (various)
1 T-shirt (some record label)
1 set of earplugs (Dewar's)
1 condom carrier, with condoms! (SEIU, nurses' union)
1 keychain (Puma)
1 pen (random website)
1 guitar pick (random website)
1 ping pong ball (Levi's)
First band at the Pitchfork party is the Pipettes, which, dear sciency friends, is pronounced pih-PETTES, not PIE-pettes, and who sound and look kind of Spice Girls-meets-Dreamgirls, all cute and British with motown-style choreography.
But the darling of the festival, hype-wise, has long been Amy Winehouse, a young British soul singer known not only for her killer voice, but also for her--how can I put this delicately? Er, fondness for the bottle. She was at the top of my must-see list, but when I arrived yesterday the word was that she'd cancelled her day shows and then showed up 2 hours late for her 11 pm show. Not a good track record, to say the least, and I pretty much gave up on being able to see her.
Around 4, S and I decide we're done with Pitchfork and ready for a change of scenery, so we make our way over to the Fader party, stopping on the way for a delicious ice cream sundae at the Driskill Hotel, and also seeing this dude riding down the street:
The floor at Fader is covered with these little red balls
When the band that's playing ends, I glance over the shoulder of a guy looking at his schedule for the day, and OMG OMG Amy Winehouse is NEXT!!!!! Just as S and I share a smug look, imagining the ridiculous line that must be outside while we, so savvy, are inside, a David Crosby look-alike next to us says, "I saw Amy last night, she looked like she was going to throw up the whole time". Oh, hmm...S and I then share a worried look. Is this going to suck and remind us how depressing alcoholism is? Will she even show?
YES!!!!! She shows, exactly on time, and she is so excellent. She's glowing and smiley and doesn't seem to be experiencing any kind of bad alcohol-related feelings. Just look at her!
But it's just a quick acoustic set, and we'd really like to see her with the full band, so we decide then and there to see her night show, too.
And she is magnificent! She's got the Dap Kings for her band, and these 2 beautiful, beautiful men to sing backup. I almost die from how ridiculously awesome this show is, plus I took this kick-ass photo, which I think should maybe be in a magazine or something. Do any of you work for a magazine?
Rest in peace, Amy.