We close out our South By Southwest coverage with the final dispatch from chief assumer (and former Austinite) Andy Beta, who provided us with the outsider’s perspective on the badge-littered, wristband-bordered maze that was getting into shows. In this installment, he finds a little bit of Texas, thanks to a barbecue and a band from Brooklyn.
We’ve never been under the illusion that SXSW is by Texans, or even for Texans. Any smart Austinite goes camping at Enchanted Rock or takes a week vacation to New York City instead of partaking in the traffic jams of tourists and bands looking for deals. During this visit, we never stumble upon any of our old friends from this town, but we do bump into tons of acquaintances from Seattle, L.A., San Francisco, Nashville, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and the like.
One night, we bump into Poppa Crazee from Brooklyn’s Oakley Hall. He proceeds to rattle off some four other gigs they are playing during their time here, before they head out with Bright Eyes. Crazee, who was once the frontman for Oneida, now surrounds himself with a fine band of outcasts, plying a country-rock sound that can be droney and psychedelic, or sad enough to wring tears into beers. Despite the best of our intentions, we cannot be like our editor at the Village Voice, Rob Harvilla, who is dedicated enough to stalk them to each and every showcase.
Nearing burnout from the daytime drunken cluster that is the Sixth Street scene*, we finally make our way west to catch one of their sets at the Merge Records party out in the empty lot next to the smoky barbecue pit Pok-E-Jo’s.
This is how we always envisioned seeing Oakley Hall–not as a scruffy band of rockers from our neighborhood up north, playing to frigid spaces in the deep of winter, but as a house band in South Texas, soundtracking the day-long smoking of some brisket as the crowd downs Lone Star by the pitcher. The setting for their 2:30 p.m. set is so picture-perfect it borders on the surreal: the stage is steadied on bales of hay, the audience stands in a giant sandpit, the more relaxed (read: buzzed) lounge on picnic tables. Kids run around, sweet mesquite smoke curls out from a shack, there’s a keg of free Shiner, and the most mouth-melting chopped bun imaginable gets sold with piles of sliced pickles and onions as garnish. As the sun breaks through, it makes for a most transporting moment at SXSW, fully feeling like just another day in South Texas.
* During the other 51 weeks of the year, the denizens who congregate there in daylight hours are merely drunk vagabonds and day laborers, with nary a Blackberry or laminate in sight.
Oakley Hall – If I Was In El Dorado [MP3, link expired]
Idolator’s SXSW Outlaw archives