by Eric Tullis
So far, I’ve had two cab drivers tell me that if it weren’t for their kindness, I’d be spending hours trying to hail a taxi. Apparently, being a black guy in Austin has its limitations and even I, a non-threatening African-American-out-of-towner, wasn’t immune to the cabbie-cold-shoulder. But gimme a break! There’s plenty of undesirables in this town for cabbies to be worrying about rather than targeting me—the black guy walking around town looking for a ride, wearing a badge with his name and face on it, the city he lives in, and the newspaper that’s he’s representing. I wonder what would have happened if I would have been dressed like a guy like Nardwuar the Human Serviette. Do Austin cabbies like those sort of characters instead?
Armed with his usual bag of musical artifacts, music savant, Nardwuar had just left Spin's private party at Stubb’s where security denied him access to interview Courtney Love after her band, Hole, performed in front of a couple of thousand people. It could have been the second time he talked to her on-camera since 1994, when he sat down backstage with her and the late, Kurt Cobain for a spiky, yet informative interview after a Vancouver, Canada, Nirvana show. Nonetheless, he shared other details with me about his recent interview with Snoop Dogg, delighted about the part when Snoop showed him how and why to microwave a joint—apparently it seals in the smell. Doot Doo!! (as Nardwuar would say).
Had he stayed with the group that I was with, consisting of Peter Rosenberg, The Kid Daytona, and some other folks, he’d have chowed down with us on some unbelievable Mexican food at Las Casuelas and then headed down the road to Scoot Inn where the NY-based, hip hop label Duck Down Records was celebrating its 15th anniversary. There couldn’t have been a more perfect place other than SXSW to mark hip hop’s longest running independent label. The Duck Down 15 Year Anniversary SXSW show at Scoot Inn was the official gathering of rap heads in Austin. The magnanimous DJ Evil Dee provided consecutive, throwback gems between sets of new Duck Down signees, Promise and Team Facelift, as well as Rustee Juxx, Pharoahe Monche, Smif-n-Wessun and Torae. Without introduction, Boot Camp Click’s Sean Price hit the stage wearing a “FUCK RAP” t-shirt for a brief, roughneck set, despite obvious issues with his set list and most importantly the fatigue of having just flown in from New York where, on the previous day, he sat by his wife’s side as she gave birth to their daughter. None of this made Price any less hostile or focused, and as always, he used his signature, appalling punchlines to insult every rapper in the industry and everyone in the crowd.
Outside of Karma Lounge, a kid who was waiting in line kept on shouting, “I slept with a Baldwin brother. Will that get me in?” I’m not quite sure if that worked out for him, but that’s the last I heard of the outside world before walking in just in time to hear Breakestra at the apex of “Getcho Soul Together”. Here’s where any self-respecting funk lover wishes that he or she could breakdance or at least bang on a drum kit in the same crazed rhapsody that Josh “Wallet” Cohen does. Mixmaster Wolf is a shoe-in for being the most bad-ass vocalists in this genre, but featured guest Afrodyete seared through a gospelly, juiced-up version of "It's My Thing (You Can't Tell Me Who to Sock It To)” as if Marva Whitney herself was in the audience givin’ out grades. The only act rivaling this show was going on down at Austin Music Hall where I presume Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings were also throwing down a similar workout.
Flosstradamus’ DJ set at Emo’s Jr. featured an amped-up Kid Sister, who’s flawless glamour is both candy girl and Cover Girl, but just not enough to make-up for failing vocal chords—strained from doing multiple shows over the past few days. That was one factor I hadn’t considered when I repeatedly postponed catching her other shows. Oh well.
As I strolled along a side road that led to I-35, passing by cars lined up in the late-night traffic jam, my feet began to hurt from all of the walking I’d done that evening. The thought of finding a cab driver that who didn’t think that I was going to rob and murder him began to give me a headache. I eventually found a willing cab driver, but the headache still exists and my feet still hurt. Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so ruff. Doot Doo!!