Here it is, our last piece of SXSW coverage. The warm sun has snuck out of our skin and we can barely taste the frozen avocado margaritas anymore, so for anything Austin related in the future you'll have to go here. One of the many bands to travel down there from Brooklyn was The National, a band we've recently been listening to more and more. They took the driving route to get themselves there, and drummer Bryan Devendorf chronicled the journey for us...

MARCH 16
All hail the mighty state

5 PM ­­ Texas Welcome Center
2005_03_artsnational.jpgWe entered Texas via I-30 under luminous skies and have stopped here to pee. Blossoming trees are sighted. The Center's architects rejected all "bourgeois" details in constructing this mausoleum. Warring birds disturb my thoughts. I take another sip of Dr. Pepper. My turn to drive.

8:30 PM ­­ El Chico
The flyovers and neon corridors of Dallas are behind us now and we find ourselves in a peripheral zone of Outback Steakhouses and multiplexes showing the latest Vin Diesel vehicle on all forty screens. I am a spaceman in orbit around a rich cattleman's idea of Los Angeles and I sample the local fare: steak and cold beer. Literally translated, I am eating at The Boy. I order another Negra Modelo and make my brother drive.

10 PM - 2 AM ­­ RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISTS NEXT 200 MI.
1500 miles from home. Feels like 15 million. We are a comet from out of the Oort Cloud hurtling toward the Sun. A half moon shrouds the prairie in a strange light. Austin is getting closer, an orange streak on the horizon. The highway speaks to us in broken lines, dots and dashes.

Arrive Rodeway Inn, Austin 2AM. The toilet won't flush; the bath water is tepid; my brother is irate. He lies down. The white noise from the elevated highway outside our window seems to calm him and soon he is asleep. I lie awake listening to the traffic sounds wondering if it's smugglers up from Mexico on the road at this hour. I toss and turn and the polyester bed linens whisper in my ear. I'm up again. I miss New York; I miss my wife.

MARCH 17
Mother of heroes, we come your children true

10 AM ­­ Idiot in Sunglasses
The weather is perfect. All sunshine and zero humidity. I've got my sunglasses on and Crockett-length facial hair. I am infallible. I aim to drink outdoors today. I do.

10:30 AM - 6PM ­­ The Blind Pig
Soundcheck at the 97X party goes off without a hitch. The projectile arm of the backline cymbal stand is capable of being positioned just right. The drumset is a little "Guitar Center" for me but it will do. I am borderline O.C.D. and the height-placement potentialities of the drum hardware pleases me. I order a Sierra Nevada from the bar.

Back on the patio under the blazing sun. I say hello to Davey from Earlimart. I tell him I saw him and his bandmates in the Sunday Styles "A Night Out With" column. I feel like maybe this embarrasses him and quickly change the topic. He's been battling a cold. I furnish him with a packet of Immune Blast powder to put in his tea. He plays well during their set. Thank you, Immune Blast. I raise my glass to the blazing sun.
Feist is my fave so far. She's stunning. I want to ask her to run away to Mexico with me. I realize I am drunk and sunburned and married. Order another Sierra Nevada back at the bar.

Our set is erratic but passable. I've stopped drinking because we have to play again tonight in a few hours. I wander around the patio and bump into Pete and Mikey from the Magnolia Electric Co. Then their Kurtz, their Ahab ­­ Jason Molina. He thinks I am someone else: "Kevin? Brad?" I don¹t care; I'm a huge fan.

The show was simulcast on WOXY¹s website. My friend Roth in Florida calls to say he could hear me between songs sounding drunk and confused, inflecting song titles with question marks and anxiety. He hadn't heard us in a while but tells me he liked our set, our "chant rock" he says. Good old Roth.

8 PM - 2 AM­­ Buffalo Billiards
Our second show begins in an hour or so. The stakes are higher here, as is the wattage. You could light a cigarette off all the ambition in the room. Six-figure deals float in the air.
Since I've stopped drinking, I'm starving. I grab a slice at the pizzeria down the block and study the illustrated history of Texas hanging on the wall.

#

If the crowd at Buffalo Billiards was a horde of invading Mexicans and the stage was the Alamo, then Matt was our Jim Bowie. He was transcendent tonight. Great show, Matt. I start drinking Jack and Cokes. The mens room has been utterly befouled. Guys are peeing in the sinks and body-checking each other for a spot at the only urinal. Enter the stall at your own risk. "South by So-what?" is a popular rant among the locals.

We kick around the Buffalo Billiards for the rest of the show: French Kicks, Earlimart, Sound Team, Rogers Sisters. I eat a corn dog at some point and make conversation with the American Spirit rep out by the merch tables. "So this tobacco is hand-picked by Acadians and aged in whiskey barrels you say? It's sublime."

I overhear several hipsters using the word "clusterfuck." They're right. I decamp to the balcony for fresh air and a perspective on the debauchery on Sixth Street. An Asian woman goes down on the opposite corner. A man helps her up and rubs up on her from behind. The line for the grilled meat pushcart is thirty deep. If Austin is the heart of Texas, Sixth Street is its duodenum.

#

3 AM ­­ How Did I Get Here?
I am back at the Rodeway Inn. I've had about twenty Jack and Cokes. The toilet works. The shower is hot and the water pleasantly soft.

MARCH 18
O Empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest

4 PM ­­ Brassland/French Kiss/Kill Rock Stars showcase
I've run out of things to say and admire-slash-suspect anyone who can keep a diary for more than three days. What's the fucking point, Samuel Pepys??? A sustained, cogent accounting of a life seems an activity too Canadian for me. I give up.

Anyway, this party is in an office park several miles out of town. It's sparsely attended. But Turing Machine and Thunderbirds Are Now are here. Great performances from both groups mitigate things. Our set is good, too. A tree falls in the forest . . .

#

Our cousin showed up. We'd been meaning to meet up but she had to leave for a job interview. I asked her what that would entail, the interview. "Just dancing in a cage for the owner." Oh. At least she¹ll be protected by iron bars. We make plans to meet her and her new boyfriend for dinner later.

Later ­­- Dinner is splendid. The cousin got the job, her new boyfriend (an Iraqi in Texas!) is awesome and we run into our friend Brian Straw from Cleveland on the patio behind the restaurant. I'm drinking tequila and beer aperitifs and move on to white wine with dinner. The menu puts me in mind of Bobby Flay's southwestern fusion food and my brother and I do our best to say "blue corn tortilla" and other Flayisms until they are quickly tired out. I order the filet with scallops.

After dinner I dropped off everyone else on the iniquity that is Sixth Street and headed back to the motel to watch cable and sleep. Big drive to Florida tomorrow. The sun and the booze have taken a lot out of me. There's so many bands here. So many. It's like the infinite number of monkeys with typewriters only we are the monkeys, we rock-and-rollers, we suckers.