Tuesday, 27 March 2007

It's a glow-in-the-dark compass ring. So you don't get lost.

Totally forget to post this up earlier - but look who I found in a random bar in Austin:

It's only bleeding Zoltar. Tried to make a wish, but the cheeky bligher went and nicked my dollar after flashing his eyes and shaking his head a couple of times. What did I wish for? Take me back to the 80s, drop me off at FAO Schwartz's and make sure Robert Loggia's there. Seemed like it was worth a shot...

Oh for those simpler times. If you do anything worthwhile to day, make sure it's learning this tune:

"The space goes down, down baby, down, down the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, sweet, sweet, don't let me go. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. I met a girlfriend - a triscuit. She said, a triscuit - a biscuit. Ice cream, soda pop, vanilla on the top. Ooh, Shelly's out, walking down the street, ten times a week. I read it. I said it. I stole my momma's credit. I'm cool. I'm hot. Sock me in the stomach three more times."

Then let this put a smile on your face, and if at any time this week you feel lost or down remember, just cos you're big doesn't mean you have to be grown up...

Monday, 26 March 2007

Say something, anything

Wanted to make sure I was still posting things, though the past week has largely been spent recovering form SXSW's exertions and feeling guilty about the work I haven't been getting on with. That said I do have news: got my flight to Lake Tahoe booked and so am flying out to Northern California to hook up with Sam and do some snowboarding for a couple of weeks.

That's the big news for sure. Plan is to hang out with Sam for these couple of weeks before working my way down to Palm Springs for Coachella. Basically April is gonna be an immense month. I'm so excited about this. Trav, Chris, Joel and I are gonna tear it up and see some amazing music. Looks like I've managed to sell the guys on staying for an extra couple of days of camping at Joshua Tree National Park.

April is also the month Trav, Chris and I are supposed to be sorting out our new lodgings, but, alas, it seems our get up and go on this front is lacking somewhat. I'm sure we'll pull our sick together and get it sorted. I'm kinda suffering a minor bout of homesickness that I know I will pull through, but it's definitely dinted my motivation slightly. I'm spending far too much time ambling through my own thoughts when I should really be getting on with living life. No worries, I know I'll pull it together.

I just got through watching Cameron Crowe's Singles (1992) for the first time ever. Probably wasn't the best movie selection given my current state of mind, but I'm a sucker for relationship movies. I can see why there would have been a time when I could learned a full useful life lessons from this film, but I am somewhat well versed in the 'dos and don'ts' of the game of love. That's not to say that I'm any good at them, I just know them well.

Singles is about a group of 20-something friends in Seattle, bumbling their way from relationship to relationship, essentially looking for anyone who resembles 'the one'. To be honest I don't even think 'the one' is that important in this movie, just someone who at least fits kind of right. Hey, at least it's a pragmatic approach right?

The film is more than anything else, merely a collection of moments that you will recognise from your own experiences in life and love, and it is in this that it finds its strength. Its truth. Moments shared between two people that are the first tentative steps toward the beginning of something - the fleeting and frightening. At those moments where there is that recognition that hearts are being stolen, recklessly unguarded with all the intoxicating excitement fueling the adrenaline that causes the heart pump triple time.

Yeah, so I liked Singles. Perhaps we've grown passed this now though. Perhaps it was of a different time and our concerns in regard to personal success and male/female relationships have evolved a little further. Or maybe they are both just as messy as they've always been and it's just our hairstyles and dress sense that have changed.

In a final note, my Disc Golf performances have got much worse of late, my last effort clocking up 20-over. I wonder if I shouldn't have been so quick to be slight about the great sport of hippy golf. Although I also wonder if it had something to do with my lack of alcohol intake last round....hmmm.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Memories are made of these

There's good reasons why festivals make for such life-enduring memories. Number one is the sheer choice of events. Number two is the outright unpredictability of it all. Number three is the people you share the experience with. South By South West has been another such festival for me.

Friday started out in classic festival fashion, hungover, at a strange location with complete certainty about how I came to be there. Having got home, got myself together and headed back downtown for yet more activities. The decision was made to blow off movies for the day and seek out whatever music was on for free. I had already seen that Island Records were hosting a free gig at Bourbon Rocks with The Fratellis, so that seemed as good a place as any to get the day started - or the mid-afternoon at least.

Chris Tilly and I made our way down and found Malcolm and Thea (of the Lost In Woonsocket team) already at the venue. Chris didn't stay, there was a lot of other things going on, so I stayed with Thea and Malcolm, got a free beer of a lovely Miller Lite girl and waited for the next band to come on, The Rumble Strips. Hailing out of Devonshire, The Rumble Strips are apparently on the up, although I've never heard of them. To my surprise I really enjoyed these guys, but then again I do have a predilection for anything with even a vague big band sound. A five piece band, The Rumble Strips include the usual lead singer/guitarist, drummer and bassist - but as an added bonus their number also include a trumpeter/pianist and a saxophonist (btw the way, you can tell why I'm a film journo and not a music journo right now yeah?). Anyway, these guys are a lot of fun, really upbeat and I will definitely be looking them up in the future.

Next up The Fratellis. Now I'd missed the Scottish lads at Leeds Festival last summer and Kay had banged on and on about them. Of course I'd heard them plenty since, but I remained to be convinced that they were really anything new to shout about. Having seen them play this gig at SXSW I was a little more sold on them, though they still invoke a degree of apathy from me. The crowd really picked up and the trio rocked out their best known tracks 'Henrietta', 'Flathead' and 'Creepin Up The Downstairs'. There's a total streak of Scottish fun-loving folkishness that perferates their sound and that I love. But I can't get what Athina and Tristan said to me out of my head, that their a poor man's Arctic Monkey's. Either which way, I let the music carry me away as another free Miller Lite from the lovely Miller Lite girl lightens my spirit.

What happened from here on out is so strange that I look back with surreal bafflement. Chris Tilly calls and tells me to get my ass to Guadalupe and 6th cos The Pipettes are Djing to an empty room except for him and Tilly and the Wall. Making a quick dash to Chris' location I arrive to find the man with the biggest smile on his face and a large vodka and orange in his hand. "Let's just get really pissed, dance with Tilly and the Wall and have a really good time" suggests a deliriously happy Chris. Who the hell am I to argue? After all Chris was the one who only 3 hours early had been suffering with a virus that would soon knock my ass on the floor in the coming days.

The Pipettes just finished as I arrived only for the entire Tilly and the Wall band to take to the DJ booth and start busting out the most random selection of tunes imaginable. Chris starts pouring vodka tonics down my throat with little argument from myself. Before very long I know I'm pretty tipsy and busting out my dancefloor moves with only Chris Tilly, a couple of similarly intoxicated folks and...well, Tilly and the Wall. At every turn I see Chris talking to another member of the band, introducing me to the band, taking pictures of the band. It's hilarious. Weird, but totally hilarious. I'm feel like somehow I've accidently stumbled into Chris Tilly own private wet dream. It's ok though, it can't be much different to falling into an episode of the Smurfs: an out-of-body experience in which you never feel anything but safe. I'm in Tillyland now, and there's no leaving it.

Feeling a definite need to step out of the madness for a moment I decide I need to step outside for a breather. As I sit down on the kerb outside I realise that Becky from The Pipettes is right by and me a decide to strike up a conversation with her. I really like The Pipettes so this is a bit of a buzz. Their from Brighton, so this seems like as good a place as any to start a conversation given my own history with the little town on the sea. Anyway, she's really cool and we blether away about nothing in particular until Rose (moody Pipette) comes over and takes her away to the VIP room. What no invite? I hear you ask. I know...and I thought I'd played this one rather cool.

Anyways, after a time Chris Shea appears on the scene and can't stop smiley at the baffling scenario we are describing and that which he can see with his own eyes. But we've got other places to be, so off we set across the river for the open air Public Enemy concert on Town Lake. Now if you had told me 18 years ago when I bought my first single, 'Don't believe the hype' from It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, that I would ever get to see them in concert, much less that they'd still be alive, I would have thought you a crazy man. But here I was, jumping up and down in a huge field to the rhythms of Chuck D and Flavor Flav. The only thing missing was Teminator X, but he didn't go without note by main man Chuck D. And more so it was Flavor Flav's birthday.

Now this is the stuff memories are made of. It was sooo good I had goodpimples as they bust out an array of classic tunes, in between some a couple of new tracks including a seriously anti-Iraq song, which I wish I knew the name of. It was something to be in the home state of the US President as Public Enemy yelled out for call and response, "fuck George Bush, fuck Dick Cheney, fuck Tony Blair, fuck Condalezza." Oh my god it was unreal. I kept looking at the other guys who had equally stupid grins on their faces (though Chris Tilly's may have been residual from earlier). Needless to say I will never forget seeing Public Enemy in a field in Austin. If I have to come home tomorrow it will have all been worth it.

Taking our leave of Chuck D and co, Chris Shea, Chris Tilly and myself made a sharpish return across the river and headed directly to La Zona Rosa, the location of many of my misadventures these passed days. We arrive for something I've been looking to since I first heard hear lavish sound, an uninterrupted hour of Amy Winehouse stealing my soul.

Now first of all I gotta say this...Dermot O'Learly is hosting the gig? That's somehow rather surreal and in perfect keeping with the days developments.

Anyways, Amy comes out. She's nervous, she's charming, she's gorgeous. I don't know what it is about that girl, but she is the type who oozes sex appeal. I have to be honest things got off to a dicky start when in an attempt to get closer to the action I got a terribly hard time from this English woman who had a go at me for standing in front of her while Chris Shea stood back looking at me wondering why I was making a fuss while grinning from cheek to cheek at my predicament. In the end I got embarrassed into retreat and, with my tail between my legs, I backed down, but this wasn't gonna stop my enjoyment of the gig - although my ego was a little bruised. Perhaps though this was the perhaps emotional place to begin a Amy Winehouse set. Love me Amy...

Trust me, Amy Winehouse is so much better live then even the heady heights of her recorded, studio-perfected work. I know these comparisons have been written by people far more knowledgeable on such matter than I, but that she reminds me so much of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday is so striking. I love every minute of her performance, right up to her confession of being a bit pissed before her band guide her into 'Rehab' which brings the house down and later 'Back to Black' which is easily my favourite heart-breaker of a song right now. I'm so smitten with this girl, I can't wait to see her evolve and grew into one of the greats.

After the Amy Winehouse gig, the two Chris's dash off to Stubbs Bar BQ while I run off to meet Travis to see MSTRKRFT. It was ok, but way too trancy for my likely. The John Digweed comes on and I can't take anymore. It was a cool little electro interlude, but way too much Trance. Afterwards I run into Chris Tilly, Thea, Malcolm, Ashley (also of Woonsocket) and Shea's friend Deb. We enjoy a couple of final drinks before last orders are called and we head our separate way. Thea and Malcolm are leaving the next day and suggest going back to their hotel, the Hyatt no less, for some hot tub action. In the spirit of the weekend we rock on, even Chris Tilly who is starting to really struggle with this virus - what can I say? I'm a wonderful influence on people...

It was sad to say goodbye to Malcolm and Thea, they had been festival highlights for me, seemingly ever present where ever we were. Though I secretly suspected Chris and Thea were stalking one another. I guess I have more festival stories than these. So much more in fact. The final Saturday I took really ill, my fault for getting in a jacuzzi at 3 in the morning. I could tell you about the much hyped VICE magazine party we went to at an old masonic lodge but was shut down after a huge concrete balcony collapsed with me and Chris only 10-feet from being crushed:

Or I could tell you about the party in the Enchanted Forest that we walked to with Trav and Mary as a back up and where Trav seemed to disappear into a K hole:

Instead I'm gonna take a breather and let this be the end of my South By South West 2007 blogging record. I hope I've done it any level of justice. It really has been a experience riddled with everlasting moments, from the movies to the parties, from the music to the people and, of course, Paul Rudd. Thank you for the memories SXSW...

Saturday, 17 March 2007

5 days one blog...

I wish I could've have been updating the blog on a daily basis, but it has been an insane few days here at South By South West. I'm gonna try give you an overview of the highlights. It gets crazier by the day. Let's begin on Monday...

Day one:

Paul Rudd had been at nearly every party in town up till this point and I'd seen two of the movies he was in at the festival (Knocked Up, The Ten), both of which were very good. Finally I decided to take the opportunity to say hello at The Austin Chronicle party at La Zona Rosa and ended up having a wee chat about how great London is. It had to be done, if only cos I'd seen him just about all week long. Not usually one for the whole meeting celebs and 'love you work' bull. But couldn't resist shooting the shit with him, even if only for a minute. What was particularly cool was when the 50th person came up to him to get a picture and he obliged, Paul, (that's right, he's Paul to me now) looked over and he kinda rolled his eyes at me. Yeah, I hear you mate, I thought as I returned my own knowing roll of the eyes as though I wasn't just another person who wanted to say hi to an actor and tell people about it...not at all.

(I realise the above summation is rather random, however there's so much to fit in I really am gonna zip through it all).

Day two:

The next day is equally a blur. Got up vaguely early as it had been another late night with a visit to Magnolia Cafe in the wee small hours for food as Trav was working the night shift. Saw a fairly mediocre documentary called 638 Ways To Kill Castro. It was about various different plots to kill old Fidel, (surprising that eh?) but really failed to get to the meat of anything. The closest it came when it crossed George W Bush path, referring to his warnings about anyone in the world harbouring terrorists and with the US and CIA's sponsorship of Cuban exile terrorists responsible for blowing up a plan from Barbados bound for Havana. Only danced around the subject as the focus was on the plots to kill Castro. Ultimately it was 75 minutes of movie about the fact that The Beard while probably end up dying of natural causes as a final skit to the world's biggest superpower who had tried for years to off him using everything from rockets to poisoned wetsuits to his own wife. Interesting fact, President Reagan's administration is attributed with the most attempts, 197 according to the film. And in case you didn't know, assassination of political leaders is in fact illegal.

Tuesday was in fact the final day of the film conference even though films were continuing to screen through till Saturday. With the music festival kicking off Wednesday this meant the final SXSW film fest awards were held Tuesday night with the closing party following on. Both Chris Tilly are I were somewhat perturbed that neither of us had seen any of the films that won awards. Not sure what we've been doing with ourselves all week to that point. Undeterred we headed off to the closing party where I bumped into one of the award winners and for reasons unknown to myself, but perhaps relating to my vast alcohol consumption, proceeded to tell him how good I thought his film was. Perhaps it was to ease my conscience by confusing it.

Day three:

Wednesday begins with another hangover. With blurred vision and malnutrition I drag my ass out of bed for what I have decided is to be a full day of movies to make up for prior slackness. First on the list is The Prisoner: Or How I Planned To Kill Tony Blair. It a documentary made by the same people behind Gunner Palace, a brilliant docco following a platoon of marine in Baghdad. During that film, we see a man and his brothers arrested - I remember the moment vividly. The man is given a hard time by the marines and while sat on his knees, hands tied behind his back, the man looks into camera and says, "I am journalist, this is mistake." Even then with a natural inclination to side with the marines it was obvious something was out of place. "Shup up" whispers the marine in the man's ear. "Shup up, I know this. Always 'shup up' in Iraq."

Filmmakers Michael Tucker and Pera Epperlein decided to follow up this story and discovered the man, Yunis Abbas, was telling the truth, he was a journalist. However, 'intelligence' had fingered him and his brothers as being the masterminds behind a plot to kill Tony Blair. This was of course nonsense, however, it did not stop Yunis Abbas and his brothers from spending nine months in Camp Ganci, a 'soft' internment near Abu Gharaib. Yunis also spent some time in this now infamous house of horror.

For me the tragedy of this speaks in so many volumes. Consider this for one, Yunis Abbas was imprisoned by Saddam Hussein's government for three months for things he had written (hence 'always shup up in Iraq'), where he was tortured under the reign of terror over various elements of Iraqi society as implemented by Uday Hussein. Now his so-called liberators are imprisoning him and torturing him.

It's not the best documentary in the world ever and I don't have more time or space to talk about it here, but I want to stop short of criticisms here for once. I have so much respect for filmmakers seeking out these stories in order to make sure they are heard. What right do I have to comment on the technical merits of the work? I know it's my job, but this story really got to me.

Next up I dash back to the Paramount theatre to see Big Rig, a documentary about truckers. I'd been dead excited about this one, but sadly it didn't really meet my expectations. It started out well enough in its portrait of this modern American cowboy, but ultimately went nowhere, except across the country and back a few times. But bumped into my new friends from the film Lost In Woonsocket, Thea and Malcolm. I convince Malcolm to come see this other film called Cherry Valley with me. Then I feel bad when it turns out to be the worst film in the festival. 75 minutes of my life I will never get back. I sacrifices I make to save your souls from making the same mistakes.

Back downtown me and Malcolm hit the Big Rig after party for a free beer and I end up chatting to this guy who gets me stuck on the guest list for Reign On Me, the big new Adam Sandler film that is screening a sneak peak at the Paramount. I feel really bad cos I didn't know this guy James was gonna stick me on the list and I feel awkward about asking him if he can stick Malcolm on too. Malcolm decides to go home and I feel terrible. Anyway, I get to the movie and find myself totally alone sat in the guest seating row. Next thing Malcolm strolls up and sits down next to me. Turns out he bumped into Sandler at the hotel who proceeded to make sure his name was on the list too. Awesome! The film is very funny and I really enjoyed it. Some might find it rather sacchrine, and there will always be those who just don't like Adam Sandler. But it's well worth checking out.

Afterwards I make a dash to see the midnight screening of Black Sheep, a comedy horror about, well, zombie sheep. Trust me, this film is brilliant. If you love your horror flicks then you must check this one out. It lags a little in the middle, and cos of the day I've endured I dose off momentarily, but all in this in non-stop fun. I'd met the director a couple of nights back a really cool New Zealander who was drinking a pink alcoholic beverage at the La Zona Rosa party. We bonded over our common parlance for taking the piss out of the English and the Aussies. Anyways, I'm interviewing him this week for Total Film, so that should be cool.

Day four:

The entire morning and most of afternoon is a blow due to tiredness and need to catch up on writing. But I finish up and run to join Travis in the queue for the Bloc Party gig at Stubbs BBQ. South By South West is in full swing now. I can't begin to describe the madness that has descended upon 6th street (the main street in town). It's amazing and the place is covered top to bottom in Brits, which annoys me somewhat as it really dilutes my local value. Nevertheless I catch the eye of a good-looking red head in the queue who gives me hear phone number and tells me I'm adorable. Now I don't handle these sorts of things very well, I blush terribly, start shaking and feel very odd. Not a big fan of attention like this, too much pressure involved. Or at least I think there is. Stubbs is an amazing outdoor venue by the way. One of the best in Austin I believe, and unlike anything we have at home.

Anyways, the gangs all in to see the gig. Aqualung and Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly both play and I'm largely unimpressed. Then The Dears come on stage and I'm totally blown away. They are awesome, but I'm a little distracted now by the red head who found me inside and my once again lack of food fueled inebriation. C'est la vie. When Bloc Party come on though, I'm all ears devoting at least 85 per cent of my attention to Kele and co.

A little to my surprise the tracks from the new album sound considerable better live than on the album. I found Weekend In The City more of a 'plug in and switch off' kind of album. But no, here I am jumping around and singing along like there's no tomorrow. Then they play 'This Modern Love' and I have a proper moment. I hold it together, but it feels strange to have this girl clinging to me while I think about someone else. Strange indeed.

Day five:

Friday was to be a day getting back on the movie horse. Instead this plan was abandoned for a day of pure carnage instead. So good was Friday in fact, I am going to dedicate one blog to it. So four days is your lot in fact...I know you're secretly grateful. Allow me to placate you with this recent addition to the drive through family - drive though Starbucks. Sick.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The daily Grindhouse

Today was my first day in Austin without a hangover. I can’t tell you how much of an achievement this is and how much of a relief to my wallet it was. Budgets have already been blown out the window by my inability to say no to anything. One little word. How hard can it be? Then again, who wants to be a ‘No-person’.

Anyways, I digress. Day three at the South by South West Film Festival starts off with the Grindhouse 101 session with director Robert Rodriguez and Aint It Cool News honcho Harry Knowles. Now for those friends of mine who don’t know, Grindhouse is the new double feature from Rodriguez (Planet Terror) and Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof) that is set for release this summer. Very soon you’ll be receiving a crash course in the cinematic form known as grindhouse.

In the briefest way I can tell you grindhouse is exploitation film, though I use the term very loosely. Grindhouse is graphic – oh so graphic. It’s been around since the 50s, but became real popular in the 70s. This is not auteur film by any stretch. In fact the worse made a grindhouse film is the better it is. We’re talking about films that rely on the sensational and the downright outrageous as their bread and butter. These are movies with tits, balls, and big guns.

Rodriguez has with him some clips of old grindhouse movies such as The Green Slime and The Crippled Master (which looks amazing). This is some seriously cool stuff. It’s a good introduction to the form although little more than.

The two best moments of the whole session are the clip we see from Planet Terror and the Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) fake trailer made for the intermission between the two movies. The film hasn’t even gone to the MPAA yet and make well have parts of the scene we see removed. When you see the film you will find there are crazy jump cuts and slices that make no sense and the narrative has moved on. In grindhouse cinema if a scene is censored by the MPAA the filmmakers simply cut the scene, so Rodriguez’s plans this for his movie. It’s not going to float all your boats, but it sure will be a wild ride.

So in the clip we see Freddy Rodriguez and his ragtag band of people are doing their best to escape a horde of zombies. Weaponed and in an array of vehicles they charge head of splattering zombies as they go. When I say splatter I mean SPLATTER. And the exploding dog. It’s hilarious. But my favourite bit has to be Freddy R pulling a ripping wheelie on his mini-motorbike (you know, the chavy ones) and peeling out. Fucking awesome.

Now let me tell you this, the Eli Roth ‘Thanksgiving’ trailer will never see the light of day (except on DVD). This 3 minute trailer is so outrageous it’s unbelievable and Roth is almost certainly going straight to hell…possibly pulling a wheelie on a mini-motorbike. Apart from the serial killer humping the severed area of upper torso there is a moment with a naked cheerleader on a trampoline, only her mini skirt covering her personal regions. Ok, so I’m just gonna blurt this out. Knife through the tramp, cheerleader spread eagle leaving nothing to the imagination, nothing, going for a bump bounce. What happened next I can’t say cos I couldn’t look. But you can guess. Sick.

Next up in my day was a Conversation with Morgan Spurlock, he of Super Size Me fat, sweatiness fame. I love this guy, have done since I interviewed him for the film. He turns up sporting a large Taliban-style beard and prior to the session I had heard a very interesting rumour about his upcoming film Where in the world… So Spurlock has been shooting in the Middle East for the passed year or so and in that time his wife has also had a baby. Here’s the thing, the thing that I heard.

Question number one: "Morgan, did you find Osama Bin Ladin?"

Spurlock: "You’ll have to see the movie."

I don’t know the truth, I only know the Weinsteins bought the film for millions of the back of a couple of clips of an incomplete movie a couple of months ago at the Berlin Festival. We will know soon enough, but watch this space, I think this is going to be the biggest film story of the year. It’s so fucking huge it can’t be true…can it?

After Spurlock I head over to see Christain Slater’s new movie He Was A Quiet Man. I liked this movie more than I expected even though it had been me harping on to Chris about heading out to the Paramount theatre to see it. It’s a very dark comedy, twisted in parts, but really endearing and enjoyable. Slater is an loner office worker who fantasises about murdering his co-workers who torment him. He doesn’t have the guts, until one day another equally socially challenged worker, white, shirt, tie, glasses, brown socks and half masts type beats him to the punch. Slater kills the gunman and from here takes care of the office beauty he had an eye for and who is no paralysed in the aftermath. I’m not going to say anymore, but this is a really odd little movie with a lot going for it. Far from perfect, but very enjoyable. And did I mention twisted? You get the idea.

Afterwards Chris and I head to a bar called Antone’s to see Robert Rodriguez’s band, Chingon (translated as Badass), play. In between we pop over to the He Was A Quiet Man party for drinks. The director Frank Capello buys me a JD and coke, sweet and I make a vague attempt to chat up the film’s assistant director. In the end her married sister is much nicer and we bond over both being the eldest of five. Random.

Back to the Grindhouse party at Antone’s and Rodriguez’s band come out. These guys are fucking amazing! He has two guitarist who play in a mariachi style I guess, though I don’t know much about this kind of music. These guys are unreal, I can’t even describe, but I have video and will post it later. The pace of their playing is furious, they riff off one another and more than anything, it’s great to see musicians having such unbridled joy in performance. Rodriguez is pretty good too and a highlight is him and the two other guitarists all stood on their chairs playing with their guitars behind their heads…way cool. Which is what Rodriguez almost certainly is.

Not quite partied out yet, I manage to hog a lift off of this nice aussie (of course guys, I attract them like groupies to a rock star) guy called Dave and his wife to a bar called The Longbranch. A stonking 60s party is in full swing and as I am wanton to do I find myself dancing on chairs, slutting it up like no one was watching. We hit a house party afterwards where I had fun chatting to a couple of guys on shrooms. Mostly I made lots and lots of friends.

It was a good day. I’ll come up with more meaningful stuff sometime in the future, for now though I’m just trying to keep track of where the hell I’m at. Needless to say I’m loving Austin.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

South by South West

It's been two very busy days at South by South West Film Festival. Austin is buzzing right now, and that's saying something for a town that has a natural inclination to buzz either way. Friday morning myself and Chris got ourselves registered, I made a silly smiley face when staff took my picture for my badge as I have a habit of doing. First up, Disturbria party. Free booze, chips, salsa and Guacamole. You know how I lov my Guac.

Me and Chris decide to skip Disturbia and instead head straight to the festival opening screening of The Lookout. In the queue for the film we meet the lovely people from Spout.com who kindly by us a round of drinks while we wait. I think they took pity on my freelance status. Either that or they just know that freelancers don't tend to pick up the tab. We also meet the makers of the documentary film Lost in Woonsocket, some really nice people with what sounds like a great film - but more on that later.

Scott Frank, the screenwriter behind Out Of Sight, is making his directorial debut with The Lookout, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick), Jeff Daniels and Isla Fisher (yep, her of Home And Away fame). The film is about a Chris who has memory problems following a serious car accident as a high school senior in which two of his friends die. Think Memento. Gordon-Levitt's character, Chris, gets himself mixed up with the wrong crowd who rope him into helping them rob the bank at which he works. Unfortunately all that follows is highly predictable. The film was decidedly average, although Gordon-Levitt does demonstrate once again why he is an actor to keeps your eyes firmly fixed on.

Afterwards we head to the opening night party, at which Paul Rudd appears to be the main attraction. Ok, in actual fact the main attraction is a very attractive blonde who I spy very early on. Later, once sufficiently intoxicated I manage to get her number, which is nothing short of a miracle.

Saturday: A busy day slowed by the hefty weight of the hangover I'm nursing. First up is a press conference for The Lookout which I decide to head to without Chris who is off watching some other films. I wish I was with him The press conference is a nightmare heightened by the fact there are hardly any journalists there other than me, who has to ask the majority of the questions, all made up on the spot, starring at the cast and director through extremely bloodshot eyes. Nice one Scott.

After that I head to the Conversation with Richard Linklater event, which I must say is largely by the numbers. Though I do now know that he is working on a new script about his freshman year at college - 'Dazed and Confused goes to college', we are told.

By now it's nearly 4pm and I haven't seen a film so decide to sack of food shopping and head to the Paramount theatre for a screening of The Ten. As it turns out this film of ten parts, each relating to one commandment, is extremely funny. At times pushing the line of good taste so far that your not sure if the filmmakers are destined for hell, before pulling you back in with brilliant wit and razor sharp humour. I really enjoyed this one, not only that, but it the second time I see Paul Rudd in as many days.

Afterwards I meet up with Chris and we head back to the Paramount to watch Manufacturing Dissent. I tell you right now, this film is gonna cos some waves in documentary filmmaking. It is essentially an expose of Michael Moore by left wing filmmakers. Nothing in the film surprised me, though it did leave me shocked. Shocked and disappointed. Moore comes across as incredibly hypocritical, entirely insincere, and ultimately maniacal by the end of the film. When this one gets a distributor and hits the UK it is not to be missed.

Sorry these passed blogs have been a little dull, I've been so busy and done so much that I'm really on a stream of consciousness kick to get it down. Tomorrow's will be better I promise. Oh, and I'll get lots of pics up soon

It's not a game, it's a way of life

South by South West has officially begun and I have a seriously full slate of screenings, press conferences and parties to hit. It's a tough life eh? Actually, running around the city with a raging hangover isn't the most fun in the world and putting together coherent sentences is more than a little tricky. But it's all part of the experience.

So my friend Chris Tilly got here on Wednesday, in for the festival too. He has taken to Austin like a duck to water, but I've come to expect nothing less of the lad. That boy knows how to come home with a story like no other. First night with my Brit sidekick in Austin we headed to a bar where one of Travis' friends, Mike, was DJing. Met loads of Trav's friends including this girl Shannon and her husband Cali. Ok, so Cali is a professional body modifier and Shannon a professional dominatrix. I didn't for a second hide my total intrigue as both explained their jobs to me. Wow. Not even sure I can possibly do justice to how much of the rest of the evening was spent with my jaw on the floor.

Much alcohol was consumed and new friends made. Oh and I started busting out some London town moves on the dance floor. It wasn't tragic or anything, but it wasn't very cool. But you gotta dance like no ones watching, right?

We survived the night at least and I think Tilly was in seventh heaven having met a Shannon - I kinda suspect he had a crush on her and god knows what sordid activity he'd get up to given the opportunity. One suspect he'd be biting off a little more than he could chew...

Next day was the day of the Disc Golf. Hangovers ahoy, bags loaded up with discs and beer we headed out to the course with another couple of Travis' friends, Dennis and Terry. It was a stunning day and there was a large group of us (10) out for a 18 hole round.

Let me say this, if you want to understand Austinites all you need do is join them for a round of disc golf. Quirky, laid back, eccentric, easy-going...any variation of this comes some what close to describing where these guys are coming from. It's not just a game, it's a way of life.

I'll try and explain disc golf here as briefly as possible. Like normal golf there is a tee-ing off place, and there is a hole. You shout 'four' if it looks like your frisbee is gonna hit someone - and with 10 of us playing there's a good chance. Each hole has a par number, though on the course we are playing every one is a par three. You drive with a driving disc, putt with a putter etc. Ok, I've started to make it sound boring. My bag was full of beers, I was wondering around in beautiful sunshine, and there was not a trouble in mind.

"There's no such thing as a bad round of disc golf except when you lose a disc." I'm telling you, they love their disc golf in Austin. So anyways, I do ok, so I'm told. 13 over par was my final figure. Not bad at all I feel.

After disc golf, most of the group headed over to a friend's house for BBQ where me a Chris ate brisquite for the first time. I have no idea if that's how you spell that, but I know it's smoked beef. I have no interest in wiki-ing it right now. Let me tell you this though, the guys here know how to make good salsa. Boy do they.

In other news, I discovered a new drive-through...yep, drive-through banking.

And by the way, I haven't mentioned how outrageously huge everything in Texas is. Everything in Texas is bigger, even, as Trav has told me like 3 times already, the state capitol building. It's in the Texas constitution. Go look it up people.

Lacking photos cos of my crappy camera. Will get them up asap.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Welcome to the Lone Star state

So I am here in Austin and I can't imagine it will surprise anyone to know that I committed my first crime within three hours of landing on Texan tarmac. Yep, illegal drinking in Magnolia cafe after 2am (punishable by a not so light fine I told) - who'd a guessed it? However, the good news is I didn't get caught, so this trip is already looking positive compared to my last American misadventure that led to a seven-year long hiatus. I promise I will be careful though folks.

It still feels totally unreal being here - although this may be the jet lag, which is having an extra potent effect on me as Travis and his flatmate Chris don't sleep until around 3am - 9am to your folks back home and/or my body clock - and get up around 1pm. To say I'm monging out would be an understatement. I'm sure it won't take long for me to adjust, Travis and co will just have to cope with occasional episodes of absent staring on my part. Many people back home are, of course, entirely used to that regardless of jet lag.

What I have discovered so far: Americans haven't changed in at the seven years I've been gone. Oh, they do have mobile phones now though, which means like us back home they can no-longer organise a piss up in a brewery. And George Bush Jr - but we already knew about that guy didn't we. Nope, Americans are still kinda loud and they still don't do irony. I'm gonna save other observations for later when they are less like sweeping statements and more like carefully considered observations. I did however just discover that Americans don't just have drive-in movies, drive-through fast food and, of course, drive-by shooting. You can drive-through 'shop for beer', drive through 'post your mail' and god knows what else, but I'm certain more will follow - perhaps drive-through voting or drive-through strippers.

Speaking of which, there is a strip club called Expose just round the corner from Travis' place. Now I've never been to a strip club before, I don't really agree with them - scratch that, I disagree with them - but I have a strong suspicion I will end up there with Travis and his rag tag band of Austinites are some point or another. Chalk it up to experience I guess. Oh and the shooting range. I've been told now that I live in Texas I need to go fire some automatic weaponry. To be honest I don't know whether I more scared of the strip club or the gun club.

What I am excited about though is my first round of Disc Golf tomorrow. It's golf, but with frisbees. No, seriously. There is even a Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). Five courses in Austin alone. Basically what we have here is the hippy equivalent of golf - so let's just call it that, Hippy Golf. Fantastic.

Here's a great little tidbit from Wiki:

Disc golf, in some form, has probably been played since the early 1900s. But the modern day disc golf started in the late 60's. George Sappenfield, a Californian, realized that golf would be a lot of fun if played with Frisbees

Travis gave me my own disc bag and a couple of frisbees for my first game, which is awesome (Chris and Travis have really done their best to make me feel at home). I know I sound glib (something else I not sure if Americans get), but I really am excited about tomorrow. I can't imagine anything that could be that much more fun on a lazy sunny day than wondering around a park with beer, a group of friends, throwing frisbees as far as possible. By the way, did I mention they have different discs for different throws. Drivers, putters, chippers, the works. Just take a read of the Wiki link. Hilarious.

Other than this I should mention the weather is great. Still got a massive sense of apprehension and definitely in fear of the cultural hurdles - I even feel awkward about ordering a coffee and doing something wrong (it's the accent - I'm doing my best to be stealthy). But nothing ventured nothing gained right?!?