I was exhausted enough that I didn’t wake up early on Mardi Gras morning, and I barely stirred when my friend’s wife got the kids dressed to take them to her mother’s condo uptown so they could watch the parades. I had hoped to go to breakfast with Darren, assuming we could find a place open, which is not easy to do on Mardi Gras Day, but when I saw that he was not going to wake up any time soon, I got dressed and headed down the road to an IHOP that was open near the Oakwood Mall at the border between New Orleans and Gretna. I felt sorry for the people there having to work, but it was nice to be able to get some coffee and a good bacon and cheese omelette. After breakfast, I called Darren and found that he had woken up, but the price I paid for my breakfast was missing the Zulu Parade. But Darren and I headed across the bridge and uptown, and on Washington Avenue, we actually caught up with a portion of the Zulu Parade. Even though rain had been predicted, instead the sun was out, and the temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees. In fact, it seemed as if we had gone from winter to spring in 12 short hours. There were huge crowds along the parade route, and to my disappointment, the float riders in the Zulu parade were quite stingy with their throws, perhaps because they were getting to the end of the parade route. We still managed to catch 30 or so of the Zulu floats, and then we made our way down to the corner of 6th and St. Charles, where we were able to park at Darren’s mother-in-law’s condominium complex in order to catch the Rex parade. Although there were a few bands in the Rex parade, it was less bands and more floats, but the floats were interesting, as they had to do with New Orleans and Louisiana history. It seemed as if there were more beads being thrown in the Rex parade, and eventually, due to the hot weather, I got thirsty, so I walked across the street to the Gracious Bakery and Cafe, which surprisingly was open, and I got an iced coffee. When the Rex parade was over, it was immediately followed by a truck parade sponsored by the Krewe of Elks, but that parade soon came to a halt and stayed stopped for nearly an hour. We didn’t know it at the time, but there had been a shooting along the parade route on St. Charles Avenue, and a teenager had died. But I was not as interested in the truck parade, and hoped to run into the gangs of Mardi Gras Indians, so Darren and I left St. Charles Avenue and headed to the vicinity of Second and Dryades, a known location for the Indian tribes.
Sixth Street is a blur of activity during South By Southwest, even during the day.
After breakfast, I walked east down Sixth Street, on my way to see the Lebanese blues band The Wanton Bishops, who were scheduled to play at noon at the Symphony House on 11th and Red River. But on my way there, I encountered a rapper named Black DaVinci who was performing on the street in front of the Lit Lounge. I wasn’t familiar with him, but he wasn’t bad at all.
One of the cooler things about South By Southwest is the way that old and obscure bands are brought back into relevance, either by documentary films that are screened, or showcases that feature them. Victoria, Texas-based Kool & Together was just such a band, a group of Black musicians in a small Texas town who spent seven years recording a rather odd mix of soul, funk and psychedelic rock in the early 1970’s. When nothing really took off, they broke up. That would have been the end of the story, but in recent years record collectors got involved, as did the hip boutique label Light in the Attic Records, and the result was not just awakened interest in the old recordings, but a burst of new activity from the band itself. Although I had seen them play behind Fort Worth gospel mainstays The Relatives, I had never seen them perform their own show, so I was excited this year to get the opportunity to catch them on the rooftop at 512. As it turned out, the outdoor rooftop was the perfect venue for a band like Kool & Together, and although there was a fairly large group of people upstairs, the place didn’t seem at all uncomfortable. The band’s style is based around funk and soul, although elements of hard rock are included in a way that sets Kool & Together apart from other funk bands, and the audience seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
These Colombian musicians drew a crowd of dancers and onlookers in the middle of Sixth Street in Austin during SXSW 3/12/13
Hey Cupcake is a fleet of cupcake-selling food trucks that offer a really sweet break from the serious party or music business of SXSW. Many Austinites claimed there were better cupcakes in town, but those at Hey Cupcake were large, fresh and satisfying, and there’s also something to be said for convenience. I’ve seen at least three Hey Cupcake trucks in Austin, one that’s usually on Sixth Street in the thick of the party, one in the food truck lot south of Cesar Chavez Street near the Rainey Street entertainment district, and a third in the trendy SoCo neighborhood on South Congress. There is one down side to Hey Cupcake, which is that when flavors sell out, they seem to be unavailable until the next day (and this happens frequently). Particularly vulnerable to this is the “Michael Jackson”, a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing that is both sinful and addictive. When in Austin, pay them a visit.
The World’s Youngest DJ, DJ Baby Chino performs for the Sixth Street crowd in front of Austin’s Collective Status Boutique during SXSW.