I don’t think I could ever describe the magic that is SXSW, Mr. Jones. No YouTube video or secondhand story could ever give you a hands-on feel of the stress, magnificent energy, and flat out fun that makes up SXSW. Thinking back on it, I don’t even understand how such an event could even happen; it feels extraterrestrial. I mean, where else could you be professional as you write at the CNN Grille, and then only an hour later you’re exiting your skin at a rave at Malaia on sixth street? I’m telling you, Mr. Jones, its pure magic. They don’t check your sanity card at SXSW, just your ID to make sure you’re 21. So someone like me (someone who is a notorious member of the ‘Too Much Fun Club’) gets to run wild though an entire city – unchecked, having fun, and writing some good stories. Yes Mr. Jones, love, fun, and werewolves come out to play. Plus, there’s the stress of trying to get all your stories in. These are the things that make up SXSW, and yet that still doesn’t even come close to describing it. Still, I left out the worst part of all – saying goodbye. The final night is the worst, Mr. Jones, no matter how many beers you slam or top shelf glasses of whiskey you drink, it does not stop the dread of thinking about going home the next day. I imagine it is the same feeling that comes to astronauts as they head back to Earth after the mission of their lives. It just down right sucks, Mr. Jones, and the only thing that made that final night remotely better was seeing the best band of SXSW, AWOLNATION. So now that we are done with introductions, let me tell you that tale. Its a good one, so listen up Mr. Jones.
I was already drunk, and I’m not just talking about blood alcohol content. I was drunk on the good times, the great jams, and drunk on feeling like a real contender in the world of journalism. To add to all of that powerful emotion surging though my skull, AWOLNATION was on the stage, playing the most uplifting music of my entire SXSW experience. I had a beer in hand and tears peeking from my eyes – hidden by my aviator sun glasses. But they were tears of joy as the lyrics, “I say we rob from the rich and blow down the door. On to the next to dance with the poor. Jump on my shoulders. You can jump on my shoulders.” rang out. I would not describe myself as a very religious person but this was the closest thing to a religious experience I have ever felt in my life. All I could do was bob my head and dance – and I was not alone. Everyone was looking at each other chanting, “Jump on my shoulders!” I remember at one point some guy running up to me proclaiming, “Its AWOLNATION! Is this not the greatest thing ever?” With watery eyes I simply replied, “Yes.”
I kept staring up at the full moon and thinking it would be OK if this moment never ended. It would be OK if I never found a sober mindset and stayed in the nirvana of the music. As if on cue the lyrics, “its all I need, all, all I need,” came through the speakers. I thought OK , this must end sometime – I might as well dance till my feet turn red and jump as high as I can, just like the song says. Dance like the world is ending. The ball just kept rolling. Every AWOLNATION song kept the energy high, and this was unbelievable on its own; there were no lows, only highs. It was the peak of an orgasm that would not stop. When the song “Sail” presented itself, I remember thinking, “It just keeps getting more and more powerful,” as hundreds of people screamed “SAIL!” You know this is something very special, and something that only artists can do – and only a few at that. This was a true painting of a concert. It was like nothing I had ever seen or heard before, and I was especially touched with the mention of Japan and the travesty that was happening there. With that and the lyrics, I knew Aaron Bruno and the rest of the members of AWOL were truly good people – or at least they came off as such.
After “Sail,” I knew there was only one more song left and it just happened to be the greatest song that AWOL had in their catalog: “Burn It Down.” It was a song that makes any journalist (no matter how big the stick up his ass) lose himself for a minute. The song itself is the biggest testament to AWOL‘s musical diversity. The venue, Stubbs, was about to be tested to see if it could handle the energy the crowd was about to put off. If not, I knew that it would surely come down. Then, “If you’re feeling like I feel, then run your life like it’s a dance floor; and if you need a little heat in your face, that’s what I’m here for” came ripping and roaring out of the speakers like a bolt of lightning, and every single soul that was was lucky enough to be there lost their mind. It was one hell of a scene, seeing hundreds of individuals jumping in unison and becoming one. It was a different kind of animal. It was a real hairy beast, and at the same time an elegant one. The song was as fast and intense as any song before it, and then just like that it was over. The band left the stage, and that was the hardest goodbye of all. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop and comprehend that it was over at that moment, because I had to race to the Death From Above set. But that’s a different story altogether.
by Josh Davis