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  South By Southwest 2011  



Austin and Manor, TX

Reviewed by:
  Tracers and PostLibyan  
Photographs by:

We flew into Austin, landing just after noon. As soon as we got off the plane we heard music: some country band playing on a stage in the food court at the airport. I thought, "i’m finally on vacation!" Hearing that unremarkable band was a sign that i was away from the Sisyphean job that numbs my days. It would take over 48 hours for my jaw to finally unclench and me to actually relax, but the process started here, walking by some guys strumming acoustic guitars in an airport food court. (I guess they had to go through TSA security, since the food court is on the other side. Did their guitars have to go through the x-ray machine? Did the TSA make them take off their assuredly large belt buckles and cowboy boots before walking through the scanner, just to play music for half an hour to travelers who probably did not care?)

After waiting seemingly forever for our baggage, we hopped into the rental car and drove to Java Noodles for an Indonesian lunch. In Atlanta we have Malaysian restaurants, but not Indonesian. The cuisine is pretty similar, but it was nice to have this slightly different variation. Food accomplished, we headed for the Hilton Downtown and checked in. This year our room faced south, away from the mayhem on Sixth Street, but towards the river and the park. It was a scenic, relaxing view.

The view from our hotel.

This building is slightly to the right of the previous photo.
And that is not scaffolding around the building:
those are blaconies that line the entire thing. You don't normally see
such large porches on such tall buildings.

After check in at the hotel, we headed to the convention center and checked into the festival. This year they had moved everything around, keeping people on the ground floor of the convention center rather than making you go upstairs for your badge. I wonder why things got moved around?

The Convention Center, as viewed from our room.

We received our goodie bags, which this year didn’t really contain any goodies. It was a canvas bag with the Big Book of SxSW (some kind of directory/souvenir that i have never used) and the pocket guide (which has the venue, the schedule, and the master band list). Gone were the free issues of magazines i don’t care about, the stacks of fliers that i just throw out, and the little odds and ends. That was fine with me, but kind of unexpected.


I suspect that the lack of those ever so numerous promo items might have something to do with the economy. Or perhaps it could be because the Interactive sessions of SxSW are hipper than the music ones these days. Either way, I'm glad not to have to go through a heavy bag, throwing out tons of stuff I never needed.

This sign was posted in Red7.


We had some time to kill, so we wandered around watching the crowd, then went and sat in the hotel room to plan our schedule for the week’s events. We had to leave the hotel room at about 5:30 to drive north east of town to have dinner with some friends.

We met them at Café 290, a southern food place in the little town of Manor, TX (note: the name of the town is pronounced MAIN-or). Two of EvilSponge’s friends live in Manor now, and we drove out to hang with them. The only problem here is that we had to drive down US Highway 290, where there was a serious traffic light outage. We were in bumper to bumper traffic at a slow crawl for half an hour or so. That’s never fun, but i found it especially nerve-wracking as i was driving a rental car, which i felt i had to be more careful with than my own clunker. However, when we got past the dead light, traffic was fine, and we made it to the Café only a little late.

The food was good southern food, which means fried and greasy. I had Chuck’s Chicken, which was a chicken breast battered and fried, then topped with spicy melted queso. Hells yeah! Tracers had country-fried steak, as she is wont to do. I found the food really yummy, but it probably had about a bazillion calories and three gallons of trans-fats per serving. Just remember kids: fat is what makes food taste good.


Excellent food at the Café. Typical Southern fare with large portions and plenty o' fried goodness. Not something I ought to eat every day, but a tasty treat all the same.


After dinner we went over to our friends house, in the little town of Manor. Apparently the movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was filmed here, and we drove by the water tower featured in the movie. However, only Mrs. Friend had seen the film -- her own husband, an actual Texan, had not seen the movie, so i guess the scenery was lost on most of us.

Their house was nice, and EvilSponge tried to meet their three tortoiseshell cats, to no avail.

Noonie is not getting up from her napping cushion just to greet outsiders.

The cats decided against being put on display, and despite the shaking of the treat bag only one of three was brave enough to come down and meet us.

Olive, the Bravest Tortie in Manor, TX.

The thing is, each Minion lives with a tortie, so it is not like we are unfriendly to cats. Still, that’s typical feline behavior for you.

We spent a pleasant evening catching up, hearing gossip about their neighborhood (think: rural Texas and all that entails), and generally having a great time. The weirdest piece of Manor gossip was about The Suicide Mattress (which would make a great name for a slowcore band). You see, the person in the house next to our friends committed suicide, and the police dragged the blood stained mattress out into the back yard and left it there. Later some kind of animal, perhaps a local coyote (on a rocket sled, taking a break from hunting roadrunners) had tore the mattress up a bit, probably because of the blood smell.

Yes, gentle reader, that is a blood-stained, coyote attacked, suicide mattress.

Our friends had tried to have someone in authority dispose of the suicide mattress, but no one could figure out whose responsibility it was, so nothing got done. It just sat there, behind the house next door, creeping me out as we talked. I had to stand on the patio so that i was facing away from the suicide mattress...

We forced ourselves to stay up late, heading home to bed at the hotel just before midnight local time. A good day, and a good start to a much needed vacation.

Related Links:

Read our entire SxSW11 review:
     The Introduction.
     Tuesday, 15 March.
     Wednesday, 16 March, featuring Judgement Day, Rah Rah, King David, Gold Motel, Ólöf Arnalds, Summer Camp, Dry the River, Eisley, Sun Airway, Small Black, and Parts & Labor.
     Thursday, 17 March, featuring Rah Rah, Little Tybee, Sealions, Simon Says No, Resplandor, Magic Bullets, Royal Thunder, The Wooden Birds, Say Hi, and Maps and Atlases.
Friday, 18 March, featuring The Fling, The Dears, Eulogies, Gold Motel, Pontiak, Shimmering Stars, Los Impostors, Class Actress, Oh No, Oh My, and Elizabeth and the Catapult.
Saturday, 19 March, featuring Matthew and the Atlas, Reptar, Dry the River, Venice Is Sinking, Cheap Girls, Colin Stetson, Wires Under Tension, and Balmorhea.


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