Time Travel Weekend Party
In many ways this past weekend in Austin has felt like a stop on the time travel train.
I’m convinced that sometime in the future, time travel is a functional thing, much the way air travel is today. However, in this future, all time travel trips must be meticulously planned: your clothing, money and vocabulary must all be perfectly synced to the time you are visiting. (You wouldn’t want the people in the past to know that you were a time traveler, as then everyone would want stock tips and investment advice and other such self-serving nonsense.)
An exception to this planning rule is that there are a few “free” stops on the time-travel train. These are places where it doesn’t matter much what you do, say, or wear. There is nothing you can get wrong, because there are no right or wrong answers. One of these free stops on your time travel tour package is the annual rite of spring, known as Eeyore’s Birthday in Austin, Texas.
The backstory behind the party indicates that the event grew out of an attempt by the English department at the nearby University of Texas at Austin to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, and give the students a chance to blow off some steam before finals. It has turned into something much more than that.
So, when you see someone at Eeyore’s birthday in an outfit that seems far better suited to hunting elk in 19th century Germany–what you’ve probably found is a time-traveler returning home from a 19th century elk-hunting trip. Same with the Viking priestess you saw at Eeyore’s, or the person with the perfect 80s hair. They were all on their way to/from their time-travel destination–they just decided to pop into Eeyore’s birthday because they know a good party when they see one.
Need more evidence of time travel shenanigans going on at Eeyore’s? When we were on our way to Eeyore’s Birthday, a couple driving a mid 90s car stopped us just north of Pease Park. They were hoping to get directions to some of the “record stores on the drag” but they were about a decade too late! (Better luck on your next time-travel trip, folks. Better planning means that one of you might be able to get an original cassette made by Daniel Johnston pressed into your hand, rather than just picking one up from the counter at Sound Exchange like the rest of us did in the 80s.)
This time travel vibe was also apparent at the Jeff Mangum show at ACL Live last night.
Mangum, best know for his work with his band Neutral Milk Hotel, famously stopped preforming much after the late 90s after getting really big, really fast.
At Mangum’s show, I had the unusual experience of crying during a good portion of the set, something that’s only happened to me a few times before. Googling when I came home, I found out that sobbing through a Jeff Mangum show isn’t unique.
Given Mangum’s strict no camera policy–and the fact that this was the first show he’d done in Austin since Clinton was in office–no one on the floor so much as pulled out a phone to text. Which made the show feel a lot like the early 90s, the last time you could go to a show without people shouting into their phones on a regular basis.
During the performance of Mangum’s last song “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” I swear that I could feel the fact that we are on a ball of rock speeding across the universe, covering kajillions of miles in every moment. It’s not a feeling I get very often, but it’s not to be discounted.
Seeing Mangum play in Austin was sort of magical anyway. For years–and with enough prompting–I’ve been telling the story of an Austin friend who ended up at dinner with Mangum, and, who allegedly told him all about me. Mangum has an interest in Eastern European music–and I know a fair number of Latvian and Estonian musicians–so I can see how, over the course of a dinner—that the course of the conversation could take a detour all the way over to me and my esoteric interests.
So the fact that Mangum played Austin after playing Coachella and before playing Primavera Sound on a weekend with all the time travelers here in Austin felt like more than a coincidence. Dude, it felt like destiny.
PS: If Jeff Mangum is still in Austin, dude, you should feel free to contact me. I have a few records from some Latvians musicians I’d love to hand over to you. I could promise to put them into the mail to you, but, really, shouldn’t we just exchange them at a coffee shop? That would be the 90s thing to do. Besides, we can totally get through a coffee discussing the Nick Hornby book Juliet, Naked.