Caroline Rose’s SXSW Diary: A Myriad of Shows, Interviews and ‘Crushed Up Meal Worms’

Caroline Rose
John Davisson
– Caroline Rose
Caroline Rose plays a set at Rachel Ray’s Feedback Festival at Stubb’s during SXSW in Austin, Texas, March 17, 2018.

Caroline Rose, recent Hotstar and rising alternative rocker, wrote a series of dispatches while she was at this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas.

In the entries below, Rose shares her experiences playing what seemed an endless amount of shows, connecting with industry types, bonding with her team and band-mates, watching new acts and favorites and continuing the grind that countless rising-artists go through at the annual conference. Read about Rose’s taco-filled week in Austin below and click here to check out her Pollstar Hotstar feature.

Wednesday, March 14

Today was our first full day at SX. Still recovering from our nine-hour drive the night before, our host’s roommate Gino made us a full breakfast taco feast that morning, which I now realize was a precursor of how many tacos were to come…

The night before the band and I had gone over the schedule, so we were prepared for all the events today. The first was meeting a photographer at a bar downtown to take a portrait for the New York Times style section. Other than looking like a sack of hot garbage at 10 in the morning, the photo shoot went smoothly.

Next up was an interview with Beats 1 at Terry Black’s BBQ. The host of Beats 1, Matt Wilkinson, is already one of my favorite people. He came prepared with interesting questions including subject matter on both breakfast tacos and the mythology behind the American frat guy. The conversation ended with a mountain of meat from Terry Black’s. I ate more than I should but #noregrets.

Austin Festival Express Day Party led us to our first showcase at ABGB. This turned out to be a great first show because it was hosted by my good friend Chris Brecht, who treated us with the utmost respect and pizza. We were surprised by a good amount of people who were there to see us perform and even knew most of the words to our record! We also met some lovely new friends from Montreal in the band Motel Raphael.

So far so good. From here we raced just down the street to play a Do512 taped session. The bands were all running a bit behind schedule so we trimmed down our set but it turned out to be an excellent little hidden show, packed with people, in a room that looked like the inside of a red velvet coffin. Thus far every single person we met was extremely kind and courteous to us. 

Pitch Perfect PR
– Caroline Rose Bandmembers
From Left To Right: Caroline Rose, Abbie Morin, Willoughby Morse and Josh Speers.

The StubHub x Collide stage at Banger’s was our last and most dialed-in show. It took a second to load in through the back alley filled with loading trucks and the smell of festering garbage wafting through the air. The sound was amazing, it felt like a true luxury to have a proper sound check (I tip my cap to you, Sound Guy!). It allowed me to just focus on the performance and feel loose and comfortable, which I think made a significant difference connecting with the audience. The only downside was that I broke the headstock nut of my guitar as I virtually threw it onto the ground attempting to get off stage.

I did a quick interview after the show, we added squeezing in to see a luthier to our daily tasks the next day, stuffed our faces full of sausage, and traveled back to our host home feeling wicked exhausted.

Thursday, March 15

This morning we woke up around 8:30, hit the snooze button a couple times, and hoped to God our first event offered us brunch.

The band dropped me off at a Vinyl Me, Please interview at Whisler’s, a super cool vibey mezcal cantina, as they went down the street to wash our stage outfits at the laundromat. They wanted me to mention that the laundromat had Miss Pacman and they spent a good chunk of our laundry money on playing. The interview went smoothly, I love Vinyl Me, Please so it was a true pleasure to meet all of them in person. They coerced me into taking a shot of mezcal at 10 a.m. I learned that the smokey salt that goes with it is actually crushed up meal worms. I am only slightly sorry I asked.

We were hoping we could get to our next meeting with Fort Lonesome embroiderers a bit earlier so we could sneak in a trip to the luthier afterward, so the band scooped me up on the street corner and headed to the Ft. Lonesome shop. We were met by a lovely woman from Madewell who’d set aside some jackets for us to try on. We settled on a really cool design inspired by my album cover. You’ll just have to wait and see what it is…

By that time we were all starving so we got a recommendation for a great (you guessed it) taco place not far from there. In order to park nearby we had to use the Tequila Piñata shop parking, so my band and I went inside to pick out a piñata to purchase in return for the spot. It was a lovely store with a hilariously cranky owner, who helped us pick out a red Elmo piñata. We’re still not sure what to fill it with or where we’re going to crack it open, but we certainly feel comforted by its presence in the van.

Before heading to our Waterloo showcase we jetted to Strait Music to see the in-house luthier. He was a true angel and replaced the nut on my guitar in about 30 minutes, leaving enough time to spare for Josh to have his bass set up. My drummer half-jokingly played O.A.R.’s “The General” on a tiny Taylor Swift guitar, which was caught on video and will probably end up on the internet.

– Caroline Rose And Shamir
Caroline Rose takes a selfie with Shamir at SXSW in Austin, Texas, March 15.

We got to Waterloo Records about an hour and change before our set. We immediately fanned out seeing

After this event we had our first significant amount of free time. We immediately started making a list of all the bands we wanted to see (most of them our amazing, talented friends) but by the time we got downtown and parked we were almost depleted of energy and had to nap in a parking lot that reeked of pee. Upon waking up we jetted over to see our friends Eric Slick and Natalie Prass play at the ATO showcase. Eric and Natalie are not only killer musicians but they’re also some of the best people in the whole universe. Little did we know it was Natalie’s birthday! Ali, AKA Shakey Graves, and his girlfriend Stephanie were there as well and we all may win the Guinness record for most immediate friendship.

The Vinyl Me, Please show at Empire Control Room polished off our second day at SX. The sound check was slightly frazzled but it turned out to be okay. Turns out Nardwuar came to our set and Willy got to take a picture with him! It was a true honor. Also lovely to see all the Vinyl Me, Please folks in the front singing all the lyrics to my songs. All the VMP folks are truly gems.

On our ride home we dropped off my manager Edward and forced him to do our laundry in return. Turns out when you only have one stage outfit you must reconcile having to do laundry every single day. So we drove home in our underwear that night. Gino met us on the porch and seemed to be 100-percent unphased we all got out of the van nearly naked.

Friday, March 16

Oh this was the morning we were all very cranky. I was severely undercaffeinated and am a wretched evil witch until I have coffee (you don’t want to see what I’m like without my fix) and Abbie was cranky that we didn’t leave the house early enough to get our free massages at the artist lounge across the street from our Utopia set. But all ended up being okay. I poured a shot of whiskey into my coffee and pounded two cups. We set up, played a solid short set and packed up again to head to South by San Jose.

This was the show where we all almost threw up it was so hot. We were all feeling pretty exhausted by this point, but standing in the scorching sun while loading in really zapped us. But the response to the show was amazing and totally worth it, so our crumbling bodies were put on the back burner (no pun intended). At this point there were fans approaching us afterward who said they’d been to two or three of our shows thus far and asking for autographs. Pretty cool.

Thank God our next showcase was just down the street and in an air conditioned room because it solidified us back into human form. YETI fed us mountains of meat and gave us some really nice new Wrangler jean jackets. I was so tired I napped under a table. We got to catch some of the sets from Naked Giants and

After this was when we broke Abbie. We’d made plans to go back to my manager’s apartment to nap and take cold showers, but as we were leaving the radio guy from our label pulled us aside and said I had to go to a radio conference thing to meet some radio folks. What was supposed to only be 20 minutes turned into an hour as my bandmates were forced to wait in the scorching sun. Abbie had all but melted in her full body jumpsuit by the time we finally left. We gunned it to Edward’s apartment, stripped down to our underwear, laid down on the sofa and listened to rain sounds for an hour.

The New West showcase at Antone’s closed out the third night. It was completely packed and very memorable. My guitar stopped working in the middle of a song and the whole audience was behind us when the band acted as a well-oiled machine in replacing it with our backup guitar. It was great to see a lot of other musician friends there that night, as well as a bunch of the folks I met earlier in the day from radio. We got to catch some of Lilly Hiatt’s set after us, which was a nice cherry on top of a fruitful day.

Another naked ride home after dropping off our laundry. We sang Ben Kweller the whole ride back. Spirits were high.

John Davisson
– Caroline Rose
Caroline Rose preforms at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas, during SXSW, March 17, 2018.

Saturday, March 17

I woke up early and fixed my guitar, which turned out to be the input jack being a little loose. An easy fix.

We left for an early load in at Rachael Ray’s Feedback party. We saw our friends play in Lucy Dacus, as well as Ron Gallo and our new friends in Hinds. Our set was perhaps the wildest and most fun we had all week. We performed indoors at Stubb’s and it really felt like we were channeling some magic that show. Afterward we met the baby geniuses Katie from Waxahatchee and Kevin Morby and danced to Salt-N-Pepa before heading to our last and final showcase at Brooklyn Cantina.

By this point there were a bunch of fans who’d come to multiple shows, as well as a lot of fellow musician friends. Being our final show we made a point to have fun, so we each got a margarita before our set. Turns out we partied too hard because the power went out during our first song, but we took it as an opportunity for everyone to refill their drinks and tip their bartenders. 

Once the power came back on we played out the rest of our set. It was maybe my favorite show of the whole week because we’d worked so hard to prepare for SX, had such a great four days of shows, and really felt like the audience was with us. We were so grateful to have been able to play and meet so many cool nice people, it just felt like we’d really been given a wonderful gift to be able to do this.