“Never look a mystery taco in the mouth.”— Rule #1 of SXSW.
Trailer Space is part-adventure part-record store nestled amidst Austin’s thriving East Side. At 12th Street, I see a shirtless young man coasting on a skateboard. He’s got a digital camera shooting out in front of him and a forty in his other hand. Into the heart of the Beast he glides. Past the Longbranch Inn, I drive past the State Cemetery – generations of Texans devoted to the Republic. The ambiguous swirl of a dozen bands crests over the hill of headstones.
I enter to find owner Spot Long cleaning up; he recounts the previous night’s rowdy conclusion, “All I know is as soon as the Puerto Ricans saw that fire juggler they started chunking Garlic Knots.” Launching the aforementioned projectiles were party rock band Davila 666.
The shop is a repository for things that have fallen through the cracks. The walls bear a patchwork of show posters and oddball photos of the family that has grown up nurtured by the embrace of beer, records, chaos, whiskey and mischief. From the bands that practice in the space to the collectors on a mission, there’s a wobbly logic to the atmosphere. Including, of course, folks looking for neighboring pizzeria East Side Pies.
Attention turns from a Washington Post article featuring the shop when a customer asks for a broom to get after an Unwound record caught between the racks. Once the errant vinyl is rescued, we return to the question of more beer, Trailer Space simply asks that you Bring Beer.
And bring beer I did – a case of High Life, upon each can young Loretta perched casually. The afternoon unfolded drunkenly with a party for Chicago’s Trouble in Mind Records with rocking sets from a smattering of label-mates including Austin’s Hex Dispensers, Portland’s Mean Jeans, Ohio’s Wheels of Fire and Bay Area trio The Wrong Words.
Shots of Rebel Yell Bourbon burned the evening into night, where the 12XU showcase devolved into smashed records, flung Twizzlers and thousands in scattered Monopoly money. If only I’d been able to hold out. Several folks described Death of Samantha’s late night set as a favorite of the weekend. Once my legs failed, I sought refuge on a nearby porch where members of a local duo strummed through a lazy set.
Spot Long is still chuckling early the next afternoon when he quotes one of his helpers, “You white folks sure like to make a mess, but you never want to clean it up.” The fellow showed up early to remove the previous night’s wild refuse. It may be the understatement of the year, but it led Spot to shrug, “We had 69 bands not counting repeats, we had four bands play three times. Pretty much everybody was cool, but there are bands that come to town looking for people to kiss their ass. We treat everyone the same.”
Clearly the egalitarian nature of the store doesn’t suit all comers, but for those who are drawn into the salty talk and rowdy antics it has become a thousand square foot incubator for the spirit of rock and roll. One band consistently inhabiting the store is The Golden Boys. Their newest album, Dirty Fingernails has a photograph of Trailer Space on the cover.
The Golden Boys play a jangled form of rock and roll, so concentrated it turbo charges the libido and sends howls screaming from your guts. The store and the Boys were on display Monday after the festival. Anthony Bourdain and his crew stopped by to shoot, concluding their Violet Crown visit. As the shop was prepared for television, zombied locals filed in with cases of beer under their arms.
The great traveler was present – off to the side by the arcade games – with a can of Pearl beer. Members of the crew sang along to songs they’ve clearly kept in heavy rotation. The crowd of festival survivors rocked along, still standing after riding atop the colliding waves of work and party. Spot Long observed from behind the counter with a cocked brow. Bruises fade, tons of trash is carted off, and the city staggers towards normalcy. I drove home through a thunderstorm, each switch of the wipers flashing me back to another fragment from my 72-hour visit.