March 13th, 2014 to March 18th, 2014

Imagine you are in a band. Imagine you spend a majority of your life in a van with six, seven other human beings. Cracking inappropriate jokes and drinking too much coffee. Imagine how this has warped your world view. Now imagine that you suddenly find yourself in a small city surrounded by thousands of other like-minded people. Similarly warped. Over caffeinated and with a twisted sense of what is humorous. And imagine you are all thousands of you forced to carry your heavy-ass gear for upwards of a mile because there is no parking and all the streets are shut down and thousands of drunken strangers are milling around. Music blasting from small dingy bars. Music of all shapes sizes and colors. Fancy haircuts and tight pants. Lead singers playing floor toms.

Fear not, this is not some sick dream, it is only South by Southwest, the world’s strangest music festival.

We checked in early to avoid the crowds.

Somewhere in the large convention center I found my doppelganger and snuck up on him, matching his moves. Hilarity ensued.

Also, we are incredibly skilled at viral marketing. Our first brilliant move was to make a sign that said #SisterSparrow and then roll around downtown with the person in the front seat wearing the unicorn mask, holding the sign out the window so people could come and take selfies with us, all the while busting “I Believe I Can Fly.” They’ll remember us one way or the other.

We were onstage that night when the crash happened. As we were loading out, the word was spreading. What kind of horrific dream was this? Two people dead? Thirty injured? What? We were only four blocks away from the crash. Life is a strange and precious thing to be guarded closely and lived fully. You never know when your entire existence can be upended in a moment of terror and tragedy. Our hearts and thoughts are still very much with the victims.

The next morning we had to load in to Fox 7’s “Good Morning Austin.” It was surreal, to say the least. We spent the morning in the news room as they constantly updated the developing story of the crash. And then at the very end, we played some music. As the host said, “It’s been a bad morning. Let’s have Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds play some music and lighten things up.” That is our job, in its essence: trying to make people happy. Taking a dark situation and turning it towards the light.

Later that night, Brian talked his way into a bunch of heavily discounted orders of chicken and waffles. Basically, he berated the woman for charging so much, asked, “You just jacked up the prices for South by, didn’t you? Tell me the truth, come on now.” Smiling wide, talking up the game. “Listen,” he said, “this guy right here runs our band’s twitter account. How bout you give us a nice deal, we’ll blow up this spot to all our fans?” “Really?” she asked. “I’m telling ya,” he continued, pointing at me, “just say the word and we’ll make it happen.” “Well,” she was nervous, “um, ok.” Brian even got an order for some random girl named Tina who was standing behind us in line. What a gentleman.

We spent the night hanging with Trevor and Greg, old friends from Allen Stone’s band, as well as all our guys from New Frontier. Shit was talked, beers were drunk. Times were had.

The next day (Thursday? Who knows… I think actually Friday) we played two more showcases. One for Dogfish head in the backyard of a bar called Ginger Man, and then closed out a day party for Sonicbids on the roof at Maggie Mae’s on 6th street.

That night, I made the smartest decision of the weekend. Arleigh and Jackson and I went back to the apartment and STAYED IN. Watched Bulworth, great movie. Went to bed before midnight. Didn’t drink too much. I highly recommend having at least one night like this during SXSW, if you can fit it in. Saved us all.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, we recorded a video for CouchbyCouchWest. Not sure when or how we did that, but we had a good time. Josh and I are masterful dancers.

Our final showcase was for New Frontier Touring. Hot damn we love all those guys. It was an amazing way to finish out the festival. Hundreds of people all beneath a tent, righteous music played. Modern Drummer magazine even came out to the show and gave us some love!

Sunday finally rolled around, and Austin felt like a ghost town. Thousands of people had flown the coop overnight. Tents and stages being disassembled, people waking bleary eyed, searching for coffee. We had an entire day off with no responsibilities. It started with some adventuring around South Austin and ended at a house party in North Austin sitting in front of a fire.

All in all, I left out a lot of stories, but for brevity’s sake, so be it. South By, you were fun, but damn I’m glad you only happen once a year.

I’ll leave you with an awesome recap video blog made by Brian. What a CRAZY week!

As always, thanks for taking this journey with us.

Yr friend,
Bram