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Monday, January 5, 2009

Why I’m Here, pt. 2: I Put My Sister In the Hospital

Posted By on Mon, Jan 5, 2009 at 2:46 AM

So yes, I put my sister in the hospital on my first night in Austin, where she and her husband recently bought a house, and I've come to job hunt. She rang-in the new year at St Joseph's. Man.My crazy electronic rock band was invited to play a big show at famous Austin rock club Emo’s for New Year’s Eve, opening for a badass 11-piece soul band called T-Bird and the Breaks. After eight years busting my telecaster playing shows in New Orleans, no one there asked us to play a New Years’ show. We got the show through our new booking agent, who also lives in Austin, because none of the hundreds of good booking agents in New Orleans ever stepped up (did y'all get that joke?).

And while I have no real desire to be a famous touring musician, I can’t say I don’t mind my art being as appreciated as it is here in Austin.I also can’t say I love Austin's glut of indy rock music. For instance, the popular Austin band White Denim? You couldn’t be trendier if you named yourself The iPod Kids, The Thick-Rimmed Eyeglasses, or The Urban Outfitters. Still, Austin is definitely more of a music town than New Orleans. I do respect OffBeat magazine, the purveyors of JazzFest, and other such musical institutions, but many of New Orleans' more original musicians are offended by the way those institutions push a wildly skewed/false picture of the scene in which we participate. I mean, Lil Wayne himself is very rarely credited by the local press as being a representative of New Orleans culture, though in reality he’s probably sold more records in his short career than Louis Armstrong did in all of the last century. And the reason Wayne isn't given this credit is because those powers-that-be haven't yet devised a way to attract tourists based on New Orleans’ rap music legacy. For now, modern day credit is given almost exclusively to artists who are as interested in attracting and extracting money from people who don’t live in the city, as they are being creative. Which is a totally unhealthy environment in which to make art.

It’s also why so many New Orleans artists who’ve played in the city for decades STILL aren’t included under the ‘New Orleans music’ banner, written about in OffBeat and invited to play JazzFest, despite that they are obviously influenced by the city’s neighborhoods, and speakeasies, and Mardi Gras. OffBeat's Jan Ramsey over-harps on how more people should $$$upport New Orleans music, but then simultaneously helps squeeze the city’s musical contribution into such a small, tight box that there’s no way we could be taken seriously as a real music city. I mean, really, you’re not a real music lover if in fact you shun everything that doesn’t smell like New Orleans. New Orleans certainly loves its music, but Austin seems to love ALL music. New Orleans is a New Orleans music town, while Austin is simply a music town.So most of us musicians who don’t give off the odor of old New Orleans relish playing places like Emo’s in Austin. Our band couldn’t have been happier to get the gig, and so played possibly our best show ever. Halfway through the performance, my sister even came up onstage and sang a song we’d written together during college.

Though we hadn’t performed it in ages, she kicked that song’s ass. She hadn’t practiced, but her voice was strong, she wasn’t scared, she gestured wildly at audience members. We kicked it so hard that upon the song’s ending, we simultaneously whipped around to each other and high-fived before she walked off stage. Now, keep this high-five in mind as you continue reading…A half-hour later we finished the show (which included a non-ironic cover of Guns-n-Roses “You’re Crazy” that would have left New Orleanians [who aren’t Lefty Parker] merely brow-furrowed) about 45-minutes before the dawn of 2009.

I packed up my equipment, stepped off the stage, but then didn't see my sister or her husband anywhere. A fan soon alerted me that they’d walked out directly after she’d sung the song. “She was holding her arm,” he said. And right then I knew what had happened. Or thought I did.

See, my sister, who is a kind and gentle soul, was once cheated on by a college boyfriend, which made her so mad she took a swing at his head. She’d never done that before, but he definitely deserved it. Unfortunately, rather than hurt him, she swung so hard she dislocated her shoulder. In the years since, it’s popped from its socket maybe five times. So upon stepping outside and finding their car gone, I believed that my sister had popped her arm out while wildly gesticulating during our song.

From the parking lot I called my brother-in-law on the phone and found out differently...“Yeah, it was the high-five, dude,” he did not laugh. I suffered a headrush that made the world white and almost dropped me as he added, “The doctor wrote on the hospital form: ‘high-five accident’”By the time I arrived at St Joseph's (which some Texans had told me was "walking distance," meaning, in reality, definitely too far to walk) all my sister's tears had dried. After two difficult tries they'd popped her arm back in, given her some vicodin, and she was now laughing about the whole thing, saying it was her shoulder’s fault, not her brother's. But though we haven't seen it yet, someone did capture the whole high-five on video, and until I see it I won't really be able to let the guilt go.

I supposed I'm already doing my part to keep Austin weird.

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