4/8/10: Barley’s in Fort Walton Beach

As it got later, I stopped at a Starbucks in a new shopping mall in Destin for a cappuccino, and then headed on to Fort Walton Beach where I met my homeboy Florida J at a hip-hop club downtown called Barley’s. The club was fairly crowded when I arrived, and eventually some local groups were performing on stage. But faced with a long drive back to Memphis the next day, I headed back to the room in Sandestin.

4/8/10: Seaside’s Central Square Records

Seaside, Florida is a unique and charming “new town” along Florida’s Highway 30A corridor which is so popular with people from Memphis. Built according to a plan which is at once new and traditional, the town is centered around a large public square, where most of the restaurants and shops are located. Of special interested is Sundog Books and Central Square Records, a pair of cool shops that share a building. Central Square Records carries a surprisingly varied selection of jazz, world music and indie rock, with plenty of vinyl, and is definitely worth a detour off the main highway.

4/8/2010: Red Eye Coffee, Tallahassee, FL

This really cool coffee bar, which I came upon by accident while driving from Gainesville to Sandestin, is basically non-profit. Signs inside explain that all profits after expenses are given to several named charities, including one in Tallahassee that helps the poor, and one working with struggling villagers in Guatemala. Really good coffee, and you can feel good about yourself after buying it, too!

4/7/10: C. Wakeley’s Gainesville Music Summit

My homeboy C. Wakeley had invited me to Gainesville, Florida for his annual Gainesville Music Summit, which was held on a Wednesday, so I had driven down to Florida on the Tuesday before, and Wakeley had gotten me a nice hotel room in Gainesville. The next day, after breakfast, I went around to Hear Again Music and Movies and Hyde and Zeke Records, which were the only two record stores in Gainesville, and then I spent some time in the library on the University of Florida campus researching the civil rights movement in Jacksonville before grabbing a burger at a place called The Swamp and some gelato at The Gelato Company downtown.

The actual summit was held at The Venue, a former theatre downtown, and I was actually surprised at the number of artists who showed up. Some of the performances were in fact fairly good, and I especially noticed groups called 1900 Block and Iceburg Tony. Of course, having driven all the way from Memphis to Gainesville the day before, it didn’t take me long to be exhausted. As soon as the event was over, I headed back to my hotel and to bed.

3/21/2010: After SXSW Austin TX

Matt Sonzala had invited me out to a South Austin softball field for an early-morning after-South-by-Southwest softball game for staff and friends, but due to the extreme cold brought on by the “Blue Norther,” attendance was sparse. I left there and headed to the original location of Kerbey Lane Cafe for a brunch, but they were extremely crowded, and it took me almost two hours to get seated. When I finally did, however, I found Kerbey Lane worth the wait. Austin has an incredible array of breakfast options.

Later in the afternoon, I stopped by Teo, an espresso and gelato bar on the north side of Austin, whose owner had actually studied in Italy to learn the traditional process of making authentic gelato, and despite the cold weather, I enjoyed it greatly. For dinner, I grabbed a burger from P. Terry’s Burger Stand, but I was not pleased with the fact that they do not offer bacon as an option to go on their burgers.

Downtown Austin provided a drastic contrast from the nights of the previous week when the streets and clubs were jammed with people. Only a few people were out, and only one club seemed to have anything going on. Facing a long drive back to Memphis the next day, I grabbed a coffee from Halcyon and returned to my hotel.

3/20/2010: SXSW Day 4 Where They At Bounce Exhibit at Birdland Gallery Austin TX

On the fourth day of South by Southwest, I drove down from the hotel to a place called Cafe Java in a North Austin industrial park, listening to a CD of early works of the American composer Marc Bliztstein which I had bought at Waterloo Records the day before. Although I am usually a fan of Bliztstein, I cannot say I enjoyed these highly-dissonant early pieces where the young composer was trying to shock the world. Cafe Java had a decent and inexpensive breakfast, and afterwards, I drove down toward East Austin, to a conference event which had caught my attention in the daily schedule.

Unlike Memphis, New Orleans made a big splash at this year’s festival. DJ Jubilee, Anders Osborne, The Stooges Brass Band, Partners-N-Crime and K. Gates all performed a couple days ago at the Only in Louisiana day party in Brush Square Park. But today’s event seemed even more exciting—a bounce music photo exhibit called “Where They At” which had started in New York and was now being shown at the Birdland Gallery in East Austin.

I expected an exhibit of bounce-related photographs and flyers, and that was there, of course, but I had not expected there to be a DJ, or for bounce artists to be performing. I noticed that a female friend of mine, Ms. Tee, was prominently featured in the exhibit; I wasn’t sure she was in Austin at all, but I decided to call her and tell her to come over to the exhibit because people were asking about her. As it turned out, she was in Austin, and I agreed to come and pick her up from her hotel and take her to the gallery.

DJ Jubilee was performing when we got back to the gallery, and I don’t know if Ms. tee had originally been scheduled to perform, but they allowed her to, and she was of course a hit with the crowd. My fun afternoon could have taken a turn for the worse, however, after I bought a brownie from a sales table. I noticed that it cost $5, but I didn’t think much of it; everything is expensive in Austin during the festival. But after I sat down and started eating it, a boy sitting next to me said, “You know those are special brownies, right? That’s why they’re $5.” I grew alarmed, and said, “What do you mean, special brownies?” He looked at me like the greenhorn I was at that moment and said, “They’ve got weed in them.” I was devastated. Not that I had any moral qualms about eating something like that, but I didn’t know, and I had to speak on a panel or mentoring session in an hour back at the Convention Center. And I had my car, and was going to have to drive it over there. I started praying that the brownie wouldn’t have any noticeable effect, and, to my surprise, it didn’t.

I managed to get through my mentoring session fine, and then headed out for dinner. But violent rainstorms came down, followed by absolute bitter cold. New Orleans artists were supposed to be closing out SXSW with a New Orleans Block Party, but the weather would not co-operate, and it was moved into a night club near the Convention Center called Submerged. Magnolia Shorty was performing, and it would have seemed to be the kind of event I couldn’t help but enjoy, but the temperature had dropped into the upper 30s. I had brought no clothing of that type, as Austin is usually bright, sunny and in the 70s during South by Southwest, so I shivered. The rain had ended, but the northern winds were cutting like a knife, so I made my way back to the car and headed back to my warm hotel room.

3/19/2010: SXSW Day 3 Austin TX

My third SXSW day began at Magnolia Cafe for breakfast, and then I spent the bulk of the day going around to the various record stores, including End of an Ear and Friends of Sound. Then I headed down to see Bobby Bernard at Sundance Records in San Marcos; his brother Gary is our buyer at Select-O-Hits in Memphis, and Sundance is a great outlet for a lot of our rap product. I had a trunk full of posters and promotional discs for him.

When I got back to Austin, I met one of my homeboys for dinner at Pappadeaux’s, which is one of my favorite restaurants whenever I was in Texas. I ran by Antone’s Record Shop too, but had very little time to browse there, as they were about to close, so I ended my day with a homemade dessert at Dolce Vita.

3/18/2010: SXSW Day 2 Austin TX

My second day at South by Southwest started with breakfast at 24 Diner before I made my way to the Austin Convention Center for the trade show, where I ran into Cameron Mann at the Memphis Music Foundation table. Across the street in the park, the Only in Louisiana tent was featuring a Stooges Brass Band performance, followed by performances by Partners-N-Crime and K. Gates, and an appearance by DJ Jubilee. Jubilee and I had not seen each other in some time, and it was good to catch back up with him.

For lunch, I walked way out west to an old 1930s-era burger joint called The Hut, where I had a delicious charcoal-grilled burger with shredded cheddar cheese, hickory sauce and bacon. Despite the long walk, I found it delicious.

After a leisurely walk back through downtown, I made my way down to the Four Seasons Hotel, where the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy was having a special outdoor dinner overlooking Lady Bird Lake. The rapper Paul Wall had recently been named President of the chapter, and had invited me. It was good to see him and some of the other Texas rap artists who were present.

After dinner, I made my way east of I-35 to a club called ND in order to catch the Nappy Roots performance, and then ended up on Sixth Street. There I ran into a Hey Cupcake truck, and I ended up buying a chocolate cupcake. I found them irresistible while I was in Austin.

3/17/2010: SXSW Day 1 Austin TX

My first day at South By Southwest in Austin, started with my usual breakfast at The Omelettry, and then registration at the Convention Center. I took a late lunch at The Hoffbrau with one of our company’s sales reps, and then spent the bulk of the afternoon at the trade show. At night, I grabbed a latte from Juan Pelota Coffe, and then hit Sixth Street and checked out some of the showcases.