Monday, overcast and raining, the trees are budding and even before the rain the street sweats. Spring waits behind the clouds. Austin being a vain city who always likes to brag to those who come for South by Southwest it's always perfect here. Have you ever been here for SXSW? It's a big music festival that fills the town with people who pack the bars and clubs to see hundreds of bands who come from all over the world to play for next to nothing in the hope that they will be discovered and become the Next Big Thing. For a week music is the front page story in the paper and every public address system in Texas blares from any open space that can be found that is in reach of an extension cord. Not a bad way to celebrate spring, really. My only critique is that while the hotels, clubs, cabs, shops, restaurants and alcohol sellers all have a very profitable week the whole party gets paid by the musicians, who as I said before get paid about $100 bucks per band. And the local pickers get run out of their home gigs and lose their paycheck to the music pilgrims who might spend their whole nest egg to come and play to an empty room for 40 minutes. Don't get me wrong, it's a great party, but I wish some of the cash could trickle down to the players that make it happen.
But all that is far from my mind as I take stock of this last weekend. The band played down at the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos on Friday, One of Texas's great sounding rooms (when the train isn't passing just a few feet beyond the wall, although that does sound really cool). On Saturday night, Ian and I drove up I-35 to Dallas to play at the Uptown Theatre in Grand Prairie doing a song swap with Darrel Scott and my buddy Jon Dee Graham that kept us all in stitches till the end when Jon Dee led us into the crowd to sing "Dreaming of Mohammed Ali". All of us left the theatre bouncing on the balls of our feet.
Home at 3 am, up in the morning to head out to visit my friend Don Ford, and his family, south of Austin to pick a little music and pick a little greens in the garden. Don has run farms of all sorts for years, but still plants a plot with a hoe "to keep close to the ground". I'm chewing on some broccoli from his patch right now, but my daughter didn't even wait tell we got it home, just walking down the turn-row pulling greens off the plants and stuffing her face. I hope whoever wins the Next Big Thing crown has some way to keep their feet in the dirt, partly for their sake, and partly for ours, as there seems to be a strong connection between the earth and what I have come to know as good music. Colin Brooks, guitar player and songwriter who holds up his end of the Band of Heathens said the same to me, on some farm in Europe that had been invaded by drunken festival patrons. It's something about the scale of the seasons, the stooping to touch and take from the ground, the faith in the land rewarded that gives soul to man, and through music that soul is shared and celebrated. Happy spring everybody, we made it another year.