Toronto's Zeusseemed to have the right idea about this year's SXSW: a good soak in a hot tub after every long day hauling equipment around and racing through short sets.
The prog-leaning rockers, who began as Jason Collett's backing band, release their sophomore album, Busting Visions, on March 27 on Arts & Crafts and used their time in Austin wisely, not just playing scads of shows, but checking out friends like Yukon Blonde and The Sheepdogs and loading up on a year's worth of BBQ.
The Alternate Side asked Zeus' Mike O'Brien if he'd keep a blog of the band's mythic musical and gastronomic travels through Austin:
We started our trip down to Austin from Halifax NS, which is "normal routing" from what we understand. After 4 days in the van, we couldn't be happier to step out into the Texas sun. To commemorate our arrival, Carlin threw on Neil's leather USA jacket and struck a pose, which managed sum up our collective feeling about being at SXSW.
Day 1 included checking into our rental house, dubbed the "Hot Tub Hideaway" because of the sweet tub in the back yard. Afterward, we picked up our wristbands at the convention centre and hit the Canadian Blast show under a tent just down the way. We ran into our buddy Rich Aucoin, who played after us. We also chatted with The Sheepdogs after their set. Our set was quick and dirty and it felt good to unleash some of the pent-up energy that had accumulated in the van. O ya, the Zeus boys were feelin' a little pent-up. We hooked up with our pals from Bahamas and enjoyed the first of many more tacos. That night, we went to St. David's Church to watch Bahamas kick out the jams. It sounded so crushed up and smashed out in there, it was the perfect setting for Afie's sparse arrangements. Nice one, guys!
Day 2 we grabbed breakfast in the neighbourhood before heading down to our gig at Dizzy Rooster on 6th Street. After a bit of negotiation, we got the van down close to where we could load into the club. It was a classic South By gig. Loading in minutes before hitting the stage, we rocked out a sweaty set to the afternoon beer drinkers. Afterward we stumbled out onto the street into the hot sun where the Balconies were doing an impromptu set on the street. That night we went out to take in some bands. First stop was the huge crowd at the Shins show. The screens looked good, but the stage was nowhere to be seen, so we moseyed on to catch the last bit of Yukon Blonde's set. They sounded amazing and we had a good old bro-down with the boys afterward. After that, we headed over to the East side of 6th to check out the soul man Lee Fields. This was the stand-out show for us at South By. His band had some of the Daptone guys who play with Sharon Jones and who played on Amy Winehouse's record. They were unbelievable. One of the best sounding live bands I've ever heard. After that we headed back to the church where Plants and Animals were playing, and we did a little bit of stone-cold chilling with Afie from Bahamas and our friends Virginia and Sarah Harmer before making the long walk home and back to the tub.
Day 3 was a two-show day. In the afternoon we played the Brooklyn Vegan party, which was probably one of the smallest stages we've ever crammed ourselves onto. Right before our set, Carlin and I caught the last couple songs from Eleanor Friedberger (the singer from Fiery Furnaces). Really awesome stuff. We slammed down another tight Zeus set for the folks at the Brooklyn Vegan jam ... had some more tacos ... drank some whiskey and beer then headed across town to load into the venue for our Arts & Crafts Showcase. After one of the stinkiest loads ever through a back alley that smelled like flowing rivers of dumpster juices, we made ourselves comfortable on the rooftop patio and surveyed the scene that we would later be rocking into the ground. Before the show we went to grab a coffee and chilled out at The Radisson. Even though we weren't necessarily staying there, it was a necessary part of the evening. We went back to the club right in time to take the stage and set up. The room was packed with friendly faces, and Zeus was feeling the magic hour feeling. The show was a total triple-A-plus rocket ship all the way! The vibes were killer, so we hung out at the club into the wee hours and then made our way back to the hot tub for a well earned soak.
Day 4 - Everyone was feeling a little punched out. We had a session to do, so we got some coffee and cruised on down to the session where we ran into Dan Mangan and the boys. We played a couple of acoustic jams and chatted with Jeff Leake through bleary eyes. Then it was BBQ time! We hit Ironworks for the meat sampler plate. Tasty ribs! Dang! The boys needed a nap after that, so we went back to the hideaway and took 'er easy for a few hours. That night we went to a great club called Lustre Pearl, where we played at this outdoor backyard stage for the Ground Control party. Ground Control are our booking agents in the US, and they're great folks! They also know how to throw a great party. It was the perfect way to cap of our SXSW experience. We stayed there and drank beers and tequila and slammed back another taco for good measure. It was a great night. We capped it off with a final soak in the tub, secretly dreading the drive home but trying not to think about it. All in all, a pretty sweet time .. thanks Austin!