SXSWland Tales – Aaron Distler

We didn’t go to SXSW this year, but a lot of people we know did.  We’ve thrown out the invitation for them to document their experiences here, in a little segment we’re calling SXSWland Tales.

This Austin experience recap comes from PE bff Aaron Distler of the band Heypenny.


I don’t have much to write about regarding SXSW. I think that playing a handful of unfulfilling shows last year really got the best of me. That coupled with not really having a permanent place to stay and having an abscessed tooth really took it’s toll. I wasn’t terribly excited as I was during my inaugural visit three years ago where I’d mapped and planned out every band I wanted to see. This year, I didn’t even bother looking at the schedule and I figured I’d just ride the wave of friends who were excited about catching “the next big thing.” None of that really happened though. We were too busy. We had a pretty stacked schedule or shows, radio performances and interviews. Plus, we actually had a stable environment to crash in at an amazing house with amazing people, so we really spent as much time as we could just relaxing. Plus, they let us take over their house for a Heypenny curated day party, so we had lots of work to do there.

We arrived into town and played our first show at The Trophy Room on 6th. It was the JBTV/Threadless party. As stupid as we are, we lugged all of our gear AND 8 TVs through the crowded mess of drunkards and hipsters and the one frat boy wearing the neon green Borat one piece, pube-baring “bathing suit.” The place was already packed and our friends in Ha Ha Tonka were absolutely slaying. We ended up just setting up all of our gear on the sidewalk and loading in through the windows. The decision to pack 8 TVs got the best of us and even though we managed to get our shit set up lightning fast, it cut into our set time and caused us to rush and I think ultimately threw us off our game. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t the best Heypenny show, but we were fun and energetic. I don’t think anyone noticed.

After the show, we had to do an interview with JBTV and there was some metal band playing. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I just kept saying “I have no idea what’s going on” when they’d put the mic in my face.

Thursday was our house party that we threw together with our friends John and Caroline. We had Natalie Prass, Stephanie’s Id, Colourmusic and Andy D on the bill with us. It was, just as last year was, absolutely stellar. A highlight of the trip. All of our friends delivered great sets. It was awesome seeing Colourmusic, one of the loudest bands around play that party.

By the end of the day, we sat around, drinking and eating delicious braised pork tacos that John had been cooking for 3 days and just played some music together. It was a great way to close out the night. I think we were all in bed by 11:30pm.

Friday morning, we did an interview with KLAQ out of El Paso. We had to go to the Four Seasons where we were pretty much thrown into the gauntlet. We walked in, shook everyone’s hand and they said to have our stuff set up by the end of the commercial break, that we were live and about to go on any moment.

We ended up doing a nice little acoustic version of “CopCar” and I got to use this awesome 70s drum machine called the Rhythm King. After that, we stumbled down to the BMI brunch on the lawn of the Four Seasons where we got to see some of our favorite people over at BMI. It was nice to see them and mingle with a few other movers and shakers. After brunch we caught another Coloumusic set at Guero’s and they were so on point. Their new record, My _______ is Pink I is going to blow some minds, for sure. We then went to the French Legation and saw Cults who were, as I’d expected pretty boring and didn’t live up to the hype. The crowd just kind of stared blankly through their technical difficulties and the fact that they had no interaction with each other at all while on stage. They did go nuts though when they played that one song. After that, we caught Andy D at MOKB’s party at Peckerheads. The room was packed and Andy killed it. So much energy and an amazing crowd response. From there, we met up with Natalie Prass and went to the museum to catch this guy, Rich Aucoin, who our friend Matt Beale said we would love. Well, they were running 2 hours behind and we had to sit through some pretty horrible Berklee kids music, but when Aucoin started it was definitely worth the wait. Andy D made it just in time to see the huge parachute pulled out into the crowd in which everyone got under it and danced like mad, surrounding Aucoin and a strobe light. It was awesome. I don’t really know what happened after that. I recall a really long walk and thinking about the busy day we had on Sat.

We ended up having three shows booked for the 19th, so we woke up, loaded the van (and didn’t take quite as many TVs this go around) and headed off to The Belmont. That place was a great venue. Huge stage outdoors, great sound, free booze and food. Our set was solid and by the end of it, we’d attracted a pretty decent crowd for an early afternoon show that was west of N. Congress (not really the most happening area of SXSW). The only downside to that performance was the TV falling over mid-song and knocking my cymbal back into my face and having my overhead mic come crashing down on me. Luckily, I never dropped a beat and was even able to pick the mic up and put it upright during the song (pat my own back on that one!).

From there we went to play The Chuggin’ Monkey which was, in all honesty the show we were least excited about. The room was so small and well… the place is called Chuggin’ Monkey. But hot damn if it wasn’t one of the best shows we’ve ever played. We had the room packed, people were spilling in, our energy was high, we were tight and blowing through song after song. We ended up getting an email before our set was even over about touring Europe as a supporting act. So, hopefully something will come of that.

Our last show was at Club 1808 which is East Austin and not the best area. It was as our friend Bailey Bailey, who used to live close to the venue, called it “Crack Corner.” We were informed that Wu-Tang played there the night before and I don’t see how in the hell that worked out. Anyhow, we kept it short and sweet, knocking out 5 songs, then packing up and getting some rest before our 15 hour drive home the next day.

All in all, I didn’t get to see any bands, really, and I kind of feel as though I missed out on that aspect. I didn’t really get to “party” either. It was mostly all work and not much play, but I can honestly say that it was a rewarding experience and set right all the wrongs from the year before and has me excited about next year.

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