Pearl Jam sang it true, so many years ago, in their epic song, Daughter: She holds the hand that hold her down.
It’s really a great line. I can feel my head bobbing to the music, just writing it down. It’s a great line until I realized we live and die alone on this earth. So who’s hand am “I” holding, if not my own?
The culture around us tells us it’s society. It’s our family. It’s our upbringing. It’s our economic background. All of these things create a riptide surging against our best efforts and potential.
It’s not to say that these things aren’t important. They are. But they are external limitations. It’s about time we learned how to blow the roof off of our self-imposed ceilings. Pack you bags, reader, for we are going to Austin for a demonstration of what it looks like to no longer hold the hand that holds you down.
My buddies and I picked South By Southwest in Austin, Texas for our annual moronathon.
We had been meeting with each other (some of us) since the 10th grade. Now that we were in our 40’s it was time to upgrade. We were interested in food, music and just being with each other. Serious down time in a seriously fun city.
We landed in SXSW ready to have some fun. We saw some shows, ate at Franklin Barbecue. Drinks at Peche. Coffee at Houndstooth.
Donnelly (co-founder TH3RDFORCE) came in the last Saturday morning of the festival. We were eating breakfast. He walked up behind me and gave me a nice big hug.
I see you boys aren’t drinking yet?
We looked blankly at him after days and days in bars giving out free drinks.
A round of Bloody Mary’s arrived as if on cue. Drinking start time. 10 a.m. Check. This is never a good sign.
We had a few shows we hoped to catch, Cloud Nothings, were at the top of the line. So we cued up and it didn’t look good. Finally someone came and said, you’ll never make it in.
In a state dejection we wondered down the street.
Free beer. Free beer.
As one, all of our heads turned to the right. Hearing that siren song we went into to bar. A brewery from Colorado was offering whatever they had on tap for free from 12-2.
At this point we commenced Olympic style drinking.
A few hours later we were wondering down to see Drowning Men. Let me tell you this is a great band. More people need to hear them. They have opened up for one of my favorite bands Flogging Molly several times over the years. In fact, they were the first band to sign to FM’s label.
Basically had a few more bloody Mary’s. Austin is famous for them, sometimes serving a bloody Mary decked out with brisket, sausage and ribs on top (not joking)
We shared a drink and then he was all, I’m off. He hopped on the stage and picked up a guitar and the band started warming up. That was so cool. Had no idea I would be sharing drinks with a band member.
The concert was literally 5-8 people (and this is no disrespect to the band) and us. Nobody knew who they were and it was way too early for a show. So they played their hearts out. Afterward I bought the band some shots and we hung out. Great guys.
After the show we were walking down the street and we saw all of these vip tents. I kept saying to my buddies, we gotta get into one of those, we gotta get into one of those. That looks fun.
Finally my friend Roger said, lets’ go here, to the Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill. I said, OK. They headed for the VIP tent, I ducked out to the bathroom. I got a text saying we are in. Just come in, tell them you are with us.
Us? Now we are an us.
I walked up to security pointed at my friends, they waved me in and I sat down.
How the hell did you pull that off?
Well, said Roger, we walked up to the lady working the front entry. I went right up to her and said, do you have room for us?
She said, who are you?
I told her, he is, pointing at Bill, Billy, and we are the kids.
Billy and the kids? Now if I spend time looking on this list will I find you?
No. But that’s not your fault. We are the next big thing. So big, nobody even knows we are here yet.
Remarkably, she laughed and said, I’ll give you 30 minutes Billy and The Kids.
Since we all grew up together or had known each other for 20 years plus it only took about ten minutes until we reverted to jackass mode. We ordered drinks, oddly enough, only amaretto and gin. Only those two drinks, each mixed three different ways. Food came. Plates full of deliciousness.
We had entered a VIP tent. The inside was full of music insiders. Music insiders and us, a group of degenerates. Anyway, we started getting rowdy and having a lot of fun. As a group, we are not known for our subtlety.
Both Brian and I are former newspaper reporters and photographers. We crowd watch for fun. About the same time we noticed that people were looking over at our table. Pictures were being taken. We were becoming a thing.
The lady who had let us in seated us directly behind her in the front. She looked back once in a while, laughing. We waved.
The drinks kept coming. Finally, I got that feeling. The one saying someone is having issues with you. Turning around, I saw a bunch of very fine looking fellows. They looked, to be honest, a bit too fine. A bit too orchestrated. These were not our people.
As I sat there nursing my drink, disgusting by all accounts (amaretto and ginger ale) I saw them looking at us, not too kindly, and then the satellite was dispatched to our table.
Hey, he said, who the hell are you guys anyway?
Roger, way past drunk, said, We are Billy and the Kids and I don’t like the way you are talking to us. He was laughing. Billy and I got very quiet, putting our drinks down and me, taking off my glasses. Focusing on this person now, in front of us. Who are we? We are having fun. You guys look like you are posing for a gap commercial.
He got the message, and went back to his group. By this time people were stopping by. Saying hello. It had been long past an hour and to be honest I just couldn’t take the sweet drinks anymore.
We signaled we were leaving and asked for the bill. The waitress literally beamed at us. Gentlemen you are in the VIP tent. Everything here is comped.
It’s free? Yes, Billy and the Kids. We looked up and their was our angel. Smiling in the Austin sunlight.
On the way out we stopped to say thanks and give her a couple bills. She took the money, laughing.
You guys stole the show. You know who that is? They are Young the Giant. You totally stole their show. This was a top spot and all everyone was talking about was who you all were. That made my SXSW.
It made ours too.
I really had a tough time with this post. I wanted to edit out certain parts of it. Ever notice how people always appear better on paper or film than they really are? I wanted you all to see how the TH3RDFORCE works. The TH3RDFORCE is the synergy between the body and mind working together. When you give in to the flow and pull of time interesting things happen. Not any part of my was interested in getting rejected at the VIP tent. But part of our group was certainly prepared to do what it took to make that entry reality. And that is why, it’s important to choose your friends well. They can shore up weaknesses and bring you together in such a way that very little is impossible.