SXSW Done Right

I always wanted to go to SXSW. My once youthful body dreamed of beating the Texas sun with a Nalgene bottle and fist full of Austin tacos. From venue to venue, my dreams of finding new music and catching favorite acts raged. Everyone who has never been to SXSW just knows they will conquer the week, and believes they will return home with bags of swag, mixtapes and EPs. Making the long drive from our base in Kentucky to the Lone Star state, I too thought these things, and I still do, kinda—I mean hell, I’ve got more handkerchiefs, tote bags and Yeti tumblers than I know what to do with now. Even after seeing the parking map, described by Dante in his epic poem, The Inferno, I did not feel deterred because I was with Colter Wall, the band, and the hottest—both figurative and literal—manager in the music business, Mary Sparr.



And we most definitely kicked ass all week. Here’s how those seven shows went down…like Kate McCannon:


At the Palm Door on Sabine, Colter Wall and band took the stage after Ron Gallo laid some serious shredded philosophy. If you have yet to check Gallo out, you are losing big time. His songs are not empty millennial bullshit. His lyrics are full of pissed-off substance and people need to listen up.


The next morning Colter followed the heavy work of Little Hurricane at Bloody Mary Morning, an Austin City Limits/ KLRU showcase, with one of the biggest outdoor crowds I’ve ever seen. As we pulled onto the block, the line began. I heard there were free breakfast tacos, but the crowd in front of the stage seemed interested only in the music.


Afterward we found a sweet Air BnB—remember we roll with the best manager around—and beat traffic to the Yeti flagship store, which is cool as hell, to play for a very crowded room. I hear those Yeti coolers are rugged, chill beasts and we definitely need one for the van, but I’m not sure the folks there care much about shopping.


Our next stop was on the man himself, Willie Nelson’s ranch at the Luck Reunion. Now that’s a fantasy world, straight out of a Deadwood set. It was a true honor and pleasure to be invited. Willie and his Reserve most definitely took care of us.


To close out a four-show day, we rolled into the Swan Dive venue for the Breakout West showcase, where for once, Colter was not the only Canadian. It is true what they say about the kindness of Canucks, especially JJ Shiplett, who opened the night.


We took a day off, cooked a big family spaghetti dinner, some folks watched the Kentucky game, some went to see Ray Wylie Hubbard, and I roamed around east Austin.


The end of our SXSW journey took Colter to the big stage at Auditorium Shores. It was wild seeing the band up there with all that Garth Brooks pre-production, handing out backstage passes, security clearance wrist bands, and watching the audience build from those people meandering the grounds as Colter began to sing.


We were in luck for Saturday night, too, because we were able to jump on the Born to Ramble tour with Margo Price early, as she just so happened to need a last-minute opener for her gig at the infamous JT Floore Country Store. Her set is fire! If you don’t have a ticket to a show near you yet, get it quick. Mercy.


If there is a way to best do SXSW, I think I surely found it.

Goodbye, Professor Bonghit

There needs to be a meeting for us. Hi, I’m Travis and I’m an academic. It has been one week now since my last grade, and every day I struggle to not make a permanent record of your performance. But hallelujah, it feels great to not be addressed by any name but my own—not one shared by other degree holders. Professor always felt like a half-assed escape artist’s name to me anyway. Only bind that person can get out of is rhetorical.

I walked out of my last classroom seven days ago. It feels real now. The end of my previous tenure instructing the same lessons, day in and day out, to students crammed into a general education class, ended with no cheer, confetti or even a damn handshake. I didn’t notice immediately that none of my students gave a damn this was my last class, because the only thing I could think was: shit fire, I can write whatever I want now! I can look the way I want. Use the motherfucking language that I want to use. Most of all, I felt authentic—true to myself—for the first time since I went to professor training.

I remember in graduate school never really wanting to be a professor. In fact I’m not sure why I went to graduate school, but that is a different topic not worth our time. Before I ferried into academics, the only thing I gave a shit about was music. I loved to write about it. I love going to shows, finding new bands, and telling everyone I knew about them. I cranked out reviews, most of which I hope have vanished, and befriended musicians rather exclusively. I hated to hang out with other writers—they’re boring. About the time my graduate school acceptances began rolling in, I was asked to manage a soon to be signed band, but I declined. I don’t regret that. I mean there were universities offering me money to come write fucking poems—who says no to that? while I was sweating my ass off in Mississippi, writing my fucking poems, I sure did wonder, though, why I left.

I’m coming home, back to where I belong, to being enthusiastic about what I love. Soon, I’ll be on the road as a tour manager, sitting in bars and clubs, scrawling poems like the good days, and getting music that matters from venue to venue. Will I miss being a professor? No. I’ve thought about this, because truly, I loved being that sage on the stage. I enjoyed dissecting Literature with my students, finding the rhythms of stories together, and strengthening minds. The classroom, however, just doesn’t cut it for me. There isn’t enough action. I don’t like being inside a box. It was never my style.