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  • Writer's pictureLesley McLaren

26th March 2007 - SXSW Festival in Austin

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Here is part 2 of my American travels!

We're in LA at the moment after a few days in San Diego which is a bit of a scary place! We have a night off in Hollywood after 5 gigs in a row and what are we doing? Sitting in the hotel watching rubbish TV. We're knackered!

Well the SXSW festival in Texas now seems like a lifetime ago so it's probably a good idea for me to run over the events here before I forget it forever!

We arrived in Texas on the 14th March but didn't play our first gig until the following day at 1pm. It's very difficult to explain what this festival is like when you have never seen it. In short, there are a couple of main streets closed off to traffic and every single pub on those streets has a live band on throughout the day and night. This year, 1400 bands descended on Austin over a period of 4 days so you can imagine how busy the streets and venues were! The pubs were absolutely stowed out and even if you have an artist wristband it is very difficult to get in to see bands a lot of the time.

I really wanted to see the Stooges and I left the venue I was at 2 hours before Iggy and co. were due on and I didn't get in. The queue was already stretching across 2 blocks with a one-out-one-in policy in operation. I was disappointed but I'm sure I'll get to see them on the European Tour at some point.

Well, our first gig was strange. It was at 1pm in the afternoon at Mugshots. This was where Alan McGee (owner of the Poptones label) was holding his party that we were invited to play. The sun was splitting the pavements and we arrived there at about 11.30am to get organised. There was so much going on that I didn't even think about sunscreen and by 2pm that afternoon, my shoulders were red raw! The gig itself wasn't that busy but we played our wee hearts out anyway! It was so hot that the sweat was running off my fringe into my eyes which in turn made my eyeliner melt into my retinas. I played the last few songs with one eye shut it was so nippy! It was a stressful gig as none of the gear was ours except the guitars,f ootpedals, my cymbals and snare drum! This meant that setting up at every gig was not for the impatient. You just have to plug in, play and try to enjoy it!

The next gig we had was at a venue called Red 7 Patio at 11pm. This meant that we had sometime to kill wandering around the festival before going back to the hotel for some much needed attention to the hair and makeup!

Due to the fact that there were so many bands there this year, we felt very insignificant, so we took to the streets armed with piles of colourful flyers, thrusting them in people's faces, persuading them to come to our shows! I hate it when people annoy me with flyers under normal circumstances so I now have sympathy for people who do this sort of thing every other day. I actually enjoy the dirty looks we get from some people now! It makes us laugh. It's funny to see people get so crabbit over nothing. Their loss!

The gig that night turned out to be pretty good. There was some mix up with queues to get in which meant some people missed us as they were queuing for the front room of the venue which had other bands. We were playing on the patio at the back and no-one realised you could get in through a side door. More chaos. Gill and I went out with flyers 5 mins before we were due on to try and entice more people in. Being balshy is no problem to us these days! We realise now, that if we're not out and about shouting about what we do then we'll just get trampled on.

We were too knackered to go out after the gigs that day and we just went back to our rooms and crashed out. How rock n roll.

The next day we were up bright and early to go and record a session with Jim Gellatly of XFM Scotland that is being broadcast this week sometime. You might be able to listen back on their website. After that we played a gig at the Lava Lounge. This was a Scottish Party put on by the Arts Council who funded part of this trip. Once there, we were grabbed by MTV Australia who recorded an interview with us which was quite good fun.

We played the gig at 2pm and stocked up on the free beers and tacos before shooting over the road to Uncle Flirty's to play at the Four West Records party. Every spare few minutes we had was filled by handing out more of those flyers that I was fast beginning to hate. This show which started at 3.30pm was absolutely packed to the rafters. People were queuing to get in and those who couldn't peered through the windows at us instead! The atmosphere was electric and we didn't want to come off stage.

When the gig finished we were almost off the leash to go and enjoy the festival. Tippi and I had to go to some posh bar and meet some suits. We arrived there all sweaty and harassed, into an environment that is fast becoming familiar. The people at this gathering were all producers of key radio stations in the states so it was important to get ourselves together and turn on the charm. So, we ordered the most expensive cocktails we could (free of charge of course), held on to the glass, pinky out and off we went...lambs to the slaughter.

An hour or so later after giving the full charm assault, we were bundled into the jeep to meet the rest of the band and our tour manager, who took us back to the hotel. At the radio meeting, Tippi and I managed to blag passes to Joan Jett's gig that night for us all but we had to be there at 7.30pm to make sure we got in. This only left an hour to get the slap on in toilet tour style, in a toilet and grab something to eat. We got to the gig and stood about for ages watching Joan Jett introduce loads of American bands who weren't' that good. I could feel the concrete seep up through my legs by 9pm but then, Joan Jett came on stage with her band and played a few of her hits. I have to say, we were all really impressed and the similarities between her and the The Hedrons style is uncanny. She is also the double of Tippi and now we can see why people make those comparisons between us.

After the gig (our manager) jumped onto her tour bus. I have no idea how he got there. I was too busy trying to down my gin in the doorway cos the bouncer was a complete tosser and wouldn't let me move over the door with a PLASTIC tumbler in my hand. The next thing I knew we were piling onto the tour bus and talking to JOAN JETT! My God she must’ve had some work done. She’s 48 and there's not a wrinkle to be seen.

Anyway we gave her the patter and handed her a CD. I reminded her that her drummer had been at our gig in New York and had requested a CD saying he would pass it on to her (she probably binned it). He thought we were great and mentioned that she might want us to support her in November so watch this space!

So you see, the gigs in Austin were over but the shop is never shut! Not until our faces are off and we're in our scratcher!

Gill and I had forgotten how tired we were earlier on that night and decided to go for a few drinks in a quiet bar away from all the noise with Dougie and Kate from our management company. We found a bar with no bands and I hate to say it but it was a relief. Sometimes you just want away from all the racket. We ended up meeting the singer from the Cosmic Rough Riders and the Hazey Janes in the same pub who are all on Measured Records too. We had a good night and I broke a seat. Those American portions are dangerous. We remembered that Rikki Lee Jones was playing at 12.30am so we sauntered over to her gig. She was brilliant although quite crabbit and not shy at pointing out those people talking during her songs!

At 2am and we went off to get something disgustingly fattening and a taxi home. We ended up waiting for an hour on a taxi as the 15, 000 other revellers in Austin had the same idea. We flaked out at about 3.30am to be rudely awakened at 9am by the alarm. Shop's never shut.

We had to go and catch the Gibson bus that takes you out of town to go and play on all the Gibson guitars. Oh what fun. We were supposed to get our picture taken in front of some Gibson guitar jeep which eventually happened after we'd been there for 2 hours and after I'd crashed out on a bean bag. Charlie Watts once said 25yrs in the music business, 5 years of playing and 20 hanging around. How true. The photographs were a cringe and not being a guitar player I was forced to do that horrendous rock pose that looks to me like air telephone. I've been told it's meant to symbolise devil horns. Bloomin’ goths have a lot to answer to. I hope they are never published.

So it was back to the festival on the bus which itself was rather spectacular. It had posh leather sofas, a fridge, a TV and a kitchen sink! That's how the Hedrons will travel one day!

We wandered around the festival for a while and decided to get the camera out and film us meandering through the crowds whilst Tippi mimed along to Couldn't Leave Her Alone. Dougie had to guide Frank who was walking backwards filming us through the crowds of people! It was hilarious!

We'll be able to edit it along with the takes of us jamming it out in Central Park in front of a wee crowd at the John Lennon Memorial to make a video for that song.

That night we tried in vain to let our hair down and go and see some bands but we spent the whole night queuing and couldn't get in anywhere so called it a night at 11.30pm and went back to the hotel where we all crashed out immediately!

The next morning we were up at 7am to catch a flight to LA!

Woohoo! The Parka is packed at the bottom of the case and the suncream at the top.

I'll write about the last week in LA and San Diego soon!

Lesley x

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