When the bars close at 2 a.m. on the last night of the South By Southwest music festival, untold thousands of addled music fans pour into the already clogged streets of Austin, Texas. By the end of Saturday night, most attendees have logged a solid four days of parties, sun exposure, barbecue, booze and whatever else they can get their hands on. Oh, and the music that starts at noon and ends when the sun comes up.
Obviously, at the end of it all, you drag yourself to one of the afterparties, trying to wring out one last good time, one last free Lonestar or Red Bull and vodka. Which is how I found myself, at about 4:30 a.m., standing at the gates of the Red Bull Moon Tower party, and wheedling the security guards. Although I'd sent in my RSVP, it seems I was also required to have had some gross fake tattoo applied earlier.
I pled my case to the deputy guarding the gate, and he wasn't terribly sympathetic. Until he took a closer look at my media credential.
"You're from Pittsburgh, eh?"
"Yeah, pretty far from home right now."
"Well, lemme see what I can do. Go Steelers."
But even after the deputy radioed several times, and eventually went back in person to try to get me in, still no dice.
Conceding defeat, my friend and I shared a shuttle back downtown with a Canadian film exec, who'd had so much of some good thing that he had the glassy-eyed look of SXSW attendees, and was inserting "fucking" between every other semi-slurred word ("Jane's fucking Addiction fucking reunited for the Playboy party. Un-fucking-believable!") I couldn't help thinking that this was a pretty sorry way to leave things.
Fortunately, Pittsburgh's garage-rock revivalists The Cynics, along with friends of the Get Hip label, also felt the need to go out with a bang. On Sunday night, when most attendees had already left, the Cynics played a show at a funky, semi-outdoor bar called The Scoot In, blasting both snarling rockers and brokenhearted ballads into the warm night air, as the audience summoned up its last shreds of strength to raise another glass and dance.
As Cynics frontman Michael Kastelic gyrated to the beat, directing the band's energy with a tambourine, I thought this, this is a worthy way to end the epic festival.
"I'm never doing this again," Kastelic said from the stage, as the set ended. "I'm never coming back to Texas again."
Then he broke into a wide, just-kidding grin, and kicked off the last song -- the real last song-- of SXSW.
The Cynics play 31st Street Pub on April 2 with The Ugly Beats and Rainy Day Saints. For more on the SXSW experience, check out the postings available on FFW>>, CP's music blog, at www.pghcitypaper.com.