You’re at SXSW with the most insanely packed schedule of “want-to-see” and “heard-were-good” bands. You’ve already walked ten miles today and feel a bit defeated while walking past venues seeing lines wrapped around the building. You came all the way to Austin to fucking rock out, and you just want a solid, great time with no regrets of what overlapping set you might be missing. What do you do? You check when NY-based band High Waisted is playing and just go!
During a week of back to back music, it’s refreshing and awakening to come across a set where nothing is held back and pure rock n’ roll is not only played, but performed. With synched head banging and guitar swinging, High Waisted’s love for music is poured out on the stage with every performance – holding nothing back. Weaved in songs about stupid boys, new hair cuts, and life in New York City, is a band of friends who love each other, like hitting the road, and appreciate their time at SXSW.
“It’s like summer camp. I look forward to it every year. I don’t want to age myself, but this is my 11th South By.” – Jessica Louise Dye, lead vocals and guitarist
Veterans to the SXSW scene, the four-piece surf rock party band fronted by the eye- and ear-catching Jessica Louise Dye, left New York to tour across country with the climax of the trip being a 10-gig in a 5-day SXSW marathon. You do the math.
Even with up to three shows a day, High Waisted brought their iconic grungy/raw/colorful/silly party to each stage – day or night, exhausted or rested. Unlike many other bands at SXSW, this band has a signature stage presence, a performance complete with balloons, candy color hair, guitar swinging dance moves, and confetti streamer backdrops (planned or not).
“Tour has been awesome,” lead singer and guitarist Jessica excitedly jumps in. “We had some van troubles, but we kept on moving because that’s what tour is – you can’t let anything stop you from getting to your destination.”
That’s the kind of motivation you need for a SXSW tour. For one, to live in New York you need a backbone. But after watching the band tour through SXSW loading handfuls of heavy equipment in the heat and performing day after day on a couple hours of sleep, there’s no question that as a SXSW touring band in Austin you need more than a strong will, you need passion. Combine New York drive and the passion to hit the stage with every ounce of energy like each track is your encore, and you get the cocktail: High Waisted.
“Get up. Play a show. Eat. Drink. Get drunk. Eat again. Play another show. Get drunk again. Eat. Sit down for like 20 minutes. Slap yourself in the face. Play another show.” – Jessica Louise Dye, lead vocals and guitarist
Living on taco days and pizza late nights, dry shampoo sessions, and van costume changes, lead singer and guitarist Jessica Louise Dye (@hellolightfoot +blogger), drummer Jono Bernstein (@jonobernstein +photographer), guitarist Stephen Nielsen (@stephennielsen), and touring bassist Richey Rose (@richeyrose) conquered SXSW performing tracks off their album ‘On Ludlow’ and rocking a lively instrumental cover of Black Eyed Peas “Pump It”.
I was able to catch High Waisted across various stages in Austin, ending with the final show at the very fitting Cheer Up Charlie’s (where they also played back on March 15, 2014). During our chats in-between sets and while walking through streets with gear, it was a reminder that rock n’ roll in our generation is not (thankfully) dead. While I caught up with the band before their last set, they were being offered drugs (blame it on the long hair), handed drink tickets, and stopped by fans who admittedly saw their last set and seeing them again. The moment felt like what I imagine when I flip through old black and white photographs of the 60s and 70s – a mix of grungy and beautiful moments. Well hey, maybe we are making some history ourselves right there in Austin.
If so much stimuli was spinning around us during a ten minute talk over free Bud Lights, I asked the crew what a day was like for them as a touring band during the magical/chaotic/electric test of endurance we call SXSW.
“I’ll walk you through Wednesday,” drummer and content creator Jono kicks off. “Wednesday we woke up really hungover and thought we we’re going to play a live broadcasted session with only two songs, so we flipped our set and played our heaviest two songs first. Then we found out we actually had to play a real set. We all were super exhausted. While live on camera, we had to figure out how to play another set. So the AC was working, but there were so many people in this tiny room – this was over at the Do512 sessions – that when we’re done, I just laid on the floor and was like… ‘ah I can breathe again’.”
With just a partial day requiring bands to exude that much energy, you would think the group of friends and lovers would have an attitude closer to complaining, but just from talking with the members, (and undoubtedly seen when they perform,) you recognize this wild, intense world of hitting the road to play live music is what they live for. Trudging through the struggles of tour for a triumphant “fuck yeah” party performance on stage makes every part of tour worth it. “That’s why you do it, for those moments,” Jessica said while sharing stories of when the crowd feeds back great energy and even some beers to the band. Rewarding – seems to be the conclusive feeling the band shares about touring SXSW – you can see it shining in their sweat and smiles.
HIGH WAISTED SXSW TOUR TIPS
+ “Make friends with locals and treat them well because they will save you in a pinch”
“They will save your ass because you will need your ass saved many times.”
+ Plan ahead: safety is the number one priority: Designated Driver
+ Necessities: Portable battery chargers & dry shampoo – “We have more shampoo and conditioner than any other band on tour.”
+ “Turn on your location services on your phone so you can find your bandmates. If someone gets drunk or wanders off you can open it and know where everyone is at.”
See High Waisted’s latest music video release: “Trust” | Jan 8, 2017
Band Shout Outs:
Steve Flynn: Nominee band’s house + Blake, Cameron, Andy, Zooko, Diva Thee MVPs – “We haven’t heard a band that makes us all 4 of us excited like that in awhile!”