I’m back. I was away for 23 days in North America visiting NYC, Austin, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. It was epic. 7 flights in 3 weeks, 1 coach, a road trip and sleeping in 7 different beds/couches over the trip.
One word to sum it up AWESOME.
I hadn’t been to NYC for almost 10 years; the last/first and only time I had been to NYC was August 2001, the month before Sept 11. I was under 21 and I remember it being quite disappointing cos there were a ton of gigs I couldn’t go to because of my age. Well, that’s all changed now that I’m old! I went to Coco 66 in Greenpoint to see We Are All Romans; friends I met in Berlin the previous month, then got to play my birthday party in London. We had hang outs in 3 countries in 2 weeks.
The highlight of my stay in NY was visiting the Google HQ. My cousin is working there and invited me for lunch. It’s like one of those places you see on TV of amazing modern, trendy, internet companies to work for. They treat their staff so so so well – ping pong tables, a games rooms; 3 free restaurants with amazing food; snack points within 40 feet of all employees with an abundance of free tea, fruit, snacks, cereal etc; a giant Google earth simulator you can stand in and control with a joystick zooming around the world. If I was only a little more tech savvy maybe I could get a dream job at Google too !?
The big part of my trip was going to SXSW for the first time EVER. I know that seems shocking to people. I’ve been in radio / music industry for 12 years and I am from North America and I’ve never attended one of the biggest music industry festivals / networking events… well my old work (CBC) in Canada always went down and covered it but as I was the junior member of staff I never got to go, had to stay and look after the office and answer the phones. Bah! So 2011 was finally my year, I was like fuck it! Just gonna go and do it. But I did it massively on the cheap, stayed with friends for free, hotel hopped and didn’t buy a wrist band or a pass. By the Saturday I had a wristband and I did sneak into a few official gigs but as they say you don’t really need a pass. All the day shows which are at the official venues are free and open to anyone from 12-6pm. After 6ish everything becomes official but there are enough unofficial gigs and parties going on at night that as long as you hang out with friends who also don’t have passes you are fine.
During the day it’s a corporate schmooze fest. I went to a Canadian Blast BBQ the first day and ran into all my ex colleagues, old Canadian friends and then went to a free German BBQ as well. The amount of free stuff is crazy!
Living in London I’m pretty lucky to see so many bands all the time and before they get huge. It seems everyone passes through this town on their way up the music ladder. So going to SXSW my biggest thing was I wanted to see Canadian / American bands who I hadn’t seen before. I spent most of the festival following around my old friends Luna and Mark and going on their recommendations. I did see a couple friends bands like Veronica Falls, Yuck, No Joy and Nardwuar with Andrew WK. Brilliant they teamed up to do Evaporators songs (Nardwuar’s band). When I was 18 I dated the drummer in the Evaporators and that’s when I decided to learn the drums, years later I’m still not that great but have toured all over Europe playing drums. Life changing stuff.
I helped Veronica Falls get an interview with legend Nardwuar, it’s good (especially around 3:45 in 😉
American leg of the trip over I ended up in Toronto which was very different than Texas. I went from 30 degrees and sun burns to -12 and blizzards. I had to go out and buy shoes! So unprepared! I spent a week in Toronto taking it easy, visiting old friends and complaining about the cold. Unlucky for me the Junos (Canadian Grammys) and Juno Fest were on while I was in town which meant NO good gigs the entire time. Yuck, lame-o corporate Canadian gigs not my thing.
I hadn’t been to Montreal for 5.5 years, so it this was one of my favourite stops of the trip! Saw Blank Dogs and Moon Duo the first night at newish venue Il Motore, went to George Donoso’s night at Korova on the Thursday and Nouveau Palais to see Jay Watts DJ. Nouveau Palais is a hipster diner that only serves tacos after midnight and has DJs and booze obvs. We ate poutine, visited CBC Montreal (had been to CBC Toronto too, geeks!), went up Mount Royal and drank a lot of red wine.
It’s been a funny week being back in London. Glad to be back in my own bed but could have definitely spent a few more days on the road. Definitely doing SXSW next year but this time I’m buying a bike to get between shows, my friend Steve did that, got a bike for $60 at a pawn store the first day, returned it a week later for $30. Best idea EVER. $30 is not bad to have a bike for a week.
SXSW Podcast coming soon at www.rockoverlondon.com, I promise. I’m getting organised now.
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