Seemed like half the crew was journeying to Austin.
Annual South By South West Festival had begun. An increasingly important showcase for emerging bands.
Employees like John, Dan and Rob had attended for years. Hear new sounds, drink until they were comatose, party, get outta Dodge.
This year an extra half dozen coworkers were riding along.
The Toadies were playing.
Friends and coworkers, as always, would be there to provide support.
The band was hitting a stride. As Todd had commented once, they were in a good place. They had jumped, sidestepped, or smashed through obstacles. Personnel wise, Matt was gone, Mark was in. Tracy had been released, replaced by Darrel. Charles left unexpectedly, leaving Todd to pick up the guitar. Todd, Lisa, Mark, Darrel. This was now a stable, four member gang. They were definitely going places. I had written friends, from the east coast to the west coast, about this band poised to take off.
My predictions aside, The Toadies were still unknown outside of Fort Worth and Dallas.
Store members who traveled were a mixed group of antagonists and agonized.
Stephanie hooked up with Rob enroute and they made arrangements to share expenses. James was also going. He and Rob never got along especially well. Major personality clash. Plus, Robster enjoyed success among the female staff, whereas James' flame out with one in particular was irritating. James was going through a "chivalrous" phase, acting protective of the girls. That included ex coworkers. Like Stephanie.
Events would soon go south.
João had hooked some babe at a local concert and invited her as his date. She was an unknown factor. To João. Everyone else knew her. She was not a guy sort of girl. João had misread or misunderstood signals. Or he had just been too high to care. Anyway, the couple spent most of the trip in the backseat, improving their jousting skills. For her, João was an amusing lark, a free ticket to SXSW. For João, a mortifying revelation lurked in his immediate future.
One should never linger with coworkers once they begin imbibing.
And initiate confessions with, " ... I know I shouldn't tell you this, but ... "
Dan and Layla ... No one knew what was going on between those two. She was definitely upset about something, upset with him. Dan was an artist, a painter, creative types often possessed more cachet than those whom Shakespeare termed "base, common and popular." He needed models. Pat once asked him to sketch her. He declined. Maybe. Pat could be very persuasive, and she was secretive. Maybe not. Dan couldn't hold secrets. Still, something had transpired between Dan and Layla, and the car atmosphere resembled Winter on Pluto.
Trina was no longer with Greg, but with Todd.
Pat wound up in "Friend Zone" with John, which was the last place she wanted to be. FUN battled constraint in that little car.
The store had always been incestuous. Even The Boss had hired and dated the future Lady Boss.
Still, when folks were bottled tight for six hours in rolling vehicles, with hormones, raw nerves, alcohol, frustrations, simmering lust, then eruptions, large and small, were to be expected..
Rob and Stephanie shared a motel room to save expenses. When James found out the next morning, he tried to break the door down. Pounding, kicking, screaming, using language less than high speech. Arguably not the chivalrous way to behave, but coworkers staring from waiting cars were highly entertained. As were a growing crowd of fellow guests and the motel cleaning staff.
João, wiser, depressed, gloomy, kept trying to make himself throw up. Inquired if there was a chemical peel for lips. Or an exorcism. Or an erase button. His date had already flown away after stray fragments, " ... you're what? And we ... why didn't you ... Did I ... I have to throw up ... " Coworkers wore sympathetic faces in his presence. When he was gone, however, knives emerged.
Dan and Layla no longer rode in the same car.
Pat was still lodged firmly in Friend Zone, but she would try to slide out of that folder for years. Persistence of the blind.
The Toadies put on a great show. Music industry reps took note.
For Todd and the gang, SXSW had been a great success.
Everyone else ...