When Louden Swain announced two shows in Austin, Kim immediately suggested we go. It was two days before the new semester started, but on the other hand they were playing on my actual birthday, so – what better way to celebrate! Great music and a much-needed weekend away with lots of my favorite people. So off to Austin we went!
Kim and I have been there a few times before, once for the first Supernatural Day and once for our friend Alana’s birthday (Austin seems to be the SPNFamily birthday destination in my little corner of the fandom). This was the first time Louden Swain would be playing there while we were there, though! What I didn’t count on was injuring my back – and then my knee because of my back – long story, but suffice it to say my doc and PT person said “no long flights, not too much walking or standing, no uneven ground.”
Errrr….okay? So I flew to Texas, went to two back to back concert shows, and walked all over Family Business Beer Co, which happens to have pathways made of rocks and uneven ground with tree branches everywhere. Everyone SHHHHH. The things you do for fandom….
Kim and I met up at the Austin airport and our friends Bev and Betty picked us up before we headed out to FBBC to squeeze in a delicious gyro before the Shawarma food truck closed – yum!
Then it was on to the spacious house a whole bunch of us were sharing – gotta love Airbnb! Eight fangirls, a fully stocked fridge, mimosas and pan fried bacon and eggs in the morning and good company – does it get better than this?
Alana and Liz picked us up after breakfast and we headed out to FBBC again – if in Austin, there is no better place to hang out. It was a beautiful day, and we sat under the trees and did some filming that you’ll see on Alana’s youtube channel very soon announcing what we both hope is some exciting news. Kim played director (watch out, Ackles and Speight and Cohen, Kim is good at this!) I also filmed a little “Who wrote this” video for the #GuessTheSPNScene youtube. Well, Alana filmed it, I just read a passage from Family Don’t End With Blood.
We chatted with the many other fannish friends who were there, had some more delicious food, took alot of selfies and generally enjoyed having lots of Supernatural inclined folks all in the same place. It’s a luxury and I relish it every single time! What better way to spend my birthday?
Then we drove into Austin and to The North Door to wait for the doors to open. Doors opened a bit late, so there was alot of standing in line in the alley, which of course was something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. For a while, I sat on the wall beside the door, only to realize that was a dangerous spot to be in – there were HUNDREDS of birds perched on the scaffolding right above my head, and they were doing what birds do when they’re above you. Everyone covered their heads and tried to get out of the way. A few times, a loud kazoo chorus scared them away temporarily, but they figured out pretty quickly that kazoos were not dangerous and returned to stalk us all.
Finally the doors opened for the VIP meet and greet – yay! I had made arrangements to be able to sit up in the balcony because of my injuries, so I hobbled up the stairs and pretty much stayed there other than a few trips to the ladies room. It meant we couldn’t stand close to the band to ask questions, but it also meant my injuries didn’t worsen too much over the weekend.
Anticipation was building!
Someone reminded the band it was my birthday, and they were sweet enough to wish me a happy one. The questions were good ones and the band’s answers were sometimes insightful and sometimes downright hilarious. I particularly enjoyed Rob’s blow by blow story of how they got into the wrong Uber, loaded ALL their gear, found out it was the wrong one, got into another IDENTICAL vehicle, and somehow all their gear no longer fit.
Rob is a gifted story teller – if you haven’t read the chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood that takes you moment by moment through the time he had a stroke at a convention and how he survived with the help of his fellow actors and the fandom, you’ll be shocked at how compelling a read it is. And he’s always hilarious doing ‘stand up’ whether at a meet and greet like this or onstage with Richard Speight at a con (or doing Kings of Con, for that matter!)
Jensen Ackles joined the spectators for the meet and greet portion of the show, standing on the balcony right across from us and waving to the crowd in greeting. He seemed to be enjoying Rob and Billy and Stephen and Mike’s answers as much as the rest of us, and the fans just let him be a part of the audience as we all focused on Louden Swain. The green room and backstage area was also across from where we were, and Jensen headed there after the meet and greet to chat some more. At some point, Jared and Gen Padalecki also arrived – it made me all kinds of emotional seeing how much this group of actors supports each other, always.
Everyone got to say a quick hi to Rob and Billy and Stephen and Mike and take a photo (and a birthday hug if it was your birthday), which is always a good thing.
The first show started soon after, and was amazing. We weren’t super close since we were in the balcony, but we could see the stage very well from where we were sitting. Jared and Gen watched from the balcony next to us, waving a hello and then being totally absorbed in the show. (Jensen had to leave early because there was a charity event at FBBC that evening, so he came out to show his support during the meet and greet portion of the show).
Kim and Krista concentrated on taking lots of pretty pictures, as did my friend Liz, in between making sure the show itself was running smoothly and helping out the band as always – while also managing to take some beautiful photos.
Alot of wonderful fellow fans came by to say hello and share some delicious birthday drinks, so I was a very happy camper as I enjoyed the beautiful music. I love seeing how much the band enjoys themselves when they play, and how after all these years they clearly take so much joy in performing together.
I’ll let Kim jump in now and share her reflections and her passion for all things Louden Swain, along with all her gorgeous photos…
Kim: Several people asked what it was like, how did it compare to a Saturday Night Special? I have struggled to answer. I mean, it’s Louden Swain, on a stage, singing Louden Swain songs. It’s Rob and Billy and Stephen and Mike, singing and playing and pouring their hearts into the performance. To say “it’s kinda the same but yet different” really doesn’t do it justice. I’ve tried to find an analogy to explain it, but every one I come up with wasn’t really it. I told my daughter about my struggle, sharing with her some details and descriptions and analogies; then she said, “So it’s like the difference between Dean and Demon!Dean – it’s Dean, cute and sexy and emotional and powerful and you know he’s going to get the job done and save everyone… but it’s also Demon!Dean who is raw and edgy and carefree and you aren’t quite sure where it’s gonna go or how it will end and you don’t even care, you just don’t want it to end.” Ok, yeah, let’s go with that.
Their first show started around 7:45 pm. They took to the stage and opened with Reunion, one of my favorites. This song builds slowly, with quiet chords and Rob almost whispering the first verse. Then it explodes into a full out rock song, full of energy and emotion. Like many Swain songs, there’s a line that resonates with me, something that serves as a reminder whenever I’m struggling: “I’m alive and I’m still tryin.” #LifeMotto
Next they played Lucky, followed by All I Need. Then they performed Cast Off.
Lynn (interjecting): Awww, Rob is so cute…
Then they performed Silverspoon. Next they played Night Light, and Bandaged Hand followed next.
Lynn again: And here Kim and Liz could actually get some good pics of Stephen!
Kim: Next they played Big One, and yep you guessed it, that is also one of my favorites. There’s just something about those final lyrics, “It’s all quiet”, sung several times, and each time it almost feels more urgent, or haunted, or… final. Sometimes I can’t settle my brain, I feel like I’m in over-drive, going 7,000 miles in 7,000 different directions, and I’m grasping at anything I can to settle myself, to find calm, to find peace… and those three simple, little words will flit around in the back of my mind until I can finally focus on them and pull them forward, into the light… and with deep breaths, I remind myself that it is, in fact, all quiet. It’s all quiet. It’s all quiet.
Then Rob and the band performed CA Nation, followed by Crooked Wheel. Then they played one of the new songs from their upcoming album, called Comeback Kid.
Lynn again: Oooh, I really liked that new song!!!
Kim: Next up was another one of my favorites, Downtown Letdown, a slow, powerful song, raw with emotion. They followed that with a lighter, more upbeat song called Poptart Heart, and then Swain played Worlds Collide.
They ended the first show with three of their best songs: Amazing – a song I listen to daily, it’s kinda my anthem, I AM the Captain of My Story – and oh my, those opening notes from Billy and his guitar, ugh, it’s just so raw, and I just can’t breathe for a second. And then Billy has that amazing solo at the end, and oh my yes, GuitarGod indeed.
Lynn: The fans lit up the ballroom with colored lights just like we do for a Saturday Night Special, and it was an incredible sight in this smaller, more intimate setting. This fandom, I swear. My heart.
Following Amazing, Swain played Trigger Finger. Their final song of the first show was This Is How, which included Rob engaging the audience to say “yeah yeah yeah” in various funny ways.
The first show ended, and it was time for everyone to exit, file outside into the cold night and give the band and North Door staff time to reset the stage and prepare for the second show. Did I mention it was a cold night? Yeah. Cold. And there was a light wind blowing, making it even colder. Fans were huddled together in small groups, doing their best to stay warm. I didn’t check the exact time when I first walked out into the cold night, but at some point I know we had been standing out there for over 45 minutes. I really hope the wait is not like that for the shows coming up in Chicago – in February – and in Boston – in March.
Finally we were allowed back inside, and Swain came out on stage about 20 minutes later. They started their second show with Suit & Tie, followed by Present Time, Like the Heart Goes, and then Juliet.
Next they played Overachiever. Not the original version of Overachiever. And not the acoustic version of Overachiever. I think they said this was the electric version of the acoustic version of the electric version of Overachiever. And that, my friends, is perhaps the greatest definition of Overachiever, like in the entire history of Overachievers, ever.
Lynn: Meta Overachiever….
Next they played the absolutely perfect masterpiece that is known as the acoustic version of Rock Song. This song is powerful, emotional, gut-wrenching, tear-your-heart-out raw, in both the haunting music and the heart-breaking lyrics. Rob pours such unfettered passion into the vocals – when he cries out, “Where are all my friends?” I am crushed, devastated.
Lynn: And I love that the audience always yells out to him that we are here for him!
Kim: And then Rob quietly reassures me with his soft “we will be heard” and then he lifts me up – no, he pulls me, drags me up to my feet as he belts out that incredible note – We. Will. Be. Heard.
Next they played Blind followed by Codependent.
Swain next performed Wave and then slowed things down a bit with Help You. Wave is easily in my Top Five Favorite Swain Songs. I like a song wherein the music starts slowly, quietly, softly, and then builds and builds and builds into an utter explosion of musical genius. I also like a song with lyrics that are original and unique, lyrics that find their way into my head and inside my heart and make me feel. And that’s Wave. Jmo, but I think Help You is the perfect song to follow Wave – slow, soft, soothing. Both songs are passionate, but in different ways. Wave is about needing to help, whereas Help You is about wanting to help.
Taxi Driver was their next song. Following that, Swain played Ready Steady, and what would a concert in January be without the song January?
Next, they played Comeback Kid. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know these shows are supposed to be #norepeats, but seriously, this song is worth playing on repeat.
Rob casually asked if we had any requests, and of course, the fans shouted out a slew of songs. So next they played Prom. I haven’t heard this song live, and it was fandamntastic! So much energy! I loved it! And what else could follow that except Mamma’s Jam… wait, should that song follow Prom? I didn’t go to prom, so maybe?
The second show ended with Medicated, complete with a fan chorus of kazoos. Because that’s how we do it.
Afterwards, we were all pretty exhausted, so we headed back to our AirBnB and collapsed into sleep.
And it’s a good thing we did, because Sunday turned out to be quite the day.
Lynn (picking it up from here)
Sunday was indeed quite the day. The President turned out to be in Austin for a speech, which meant that roads were closed, airports were shut down – it was, to put it bluntly, chaos. Kim and I were hoping that our flights were late enough that we’d avoid some of that chaos, so we headed out to FBBC for their brunch “SpreeMosas” relatively early. As in, their Summer Spree beer and orange juice and some bubbly. They were delicious!
There were again about a hundred fellow fandom friends at FBBC, including my friends Liz and Kristen, and some were brilliant enough to bring all sorts of wonderful snacks, so we all sat around and chatted and enjoyed a laid back Sunday afternoon and lots of Supernatural talk.
Kim left for her flight, and I stayed a while longer to catch up with Liz and Kristen, who I hadn’t seen since the last con. Jensen came by the brewery in the afternoon, and I was very happy (as you might imagine) to be able to chat with him for a while and to hear about some of the exciting plans they have for FBBC in the future. It was lovely to meet the Ackles’ oldest daughter JJ too.
After that, it was time to head to the airport. In fact, I was in such a hurry that I didn’t even stop to take a photo with Mr. Ackles. Here’s one with two of my friends and Jensen in that beautiful jacket he favors.
As we were chatting, I kept looking at his Season 15 hat and getting pangs of OMG it’s almost over, then reminding myself to enjoy the moment instead!
Liz and Kristen were kind enough to drive me – which should have taken 30 minutes tops and instead took about three times that thanks to closed roads, messed up GPS, construction everywhere and the most misleading road signs ever. As we made our second frantic drive in a circle, I despaired of making my flight. Meanwhile, Kim’s flight was delayed again and again, so she was still sitting at the airport too. We FINALLY made it, after some incredible driving by the intrepid Kristen and kickass navigating by the equally intrepid Liz – they stopped the car and I jumped out and sprinted for the gate. Of course that’s when they decide you need “extra screening” in the TSA line, but the agent could see the wide eyed panic about missing my flight on my face, and quickly sent me off running. (Nobody tell my orthopedic doc that I ran through the Austin airport, okay?)
Luckily it’s a small airport. My flight was already boarded, but they let me on! I collapsed into the seat and tried to catch my breath as they gave the safety talk and then….. they shut the entire airport down. The President had finally arrived to take off, literally 60 seconds before we would have been underway! After nearly missing my flight, we then sat there on the ground for an hour waiting for the airport to reopen. ARGH.
That meant I had five minutes to make my connection in Dallas. That meant ANOTHER forbidden sprint through the airport, and none of the food and drink I thought I’d have time for in between flights. Five hours later I staggered into the Philly airport, exhausted and dehydrated and limping badly at 2 am.
Was it worth it? Oh hell yeah.
Thanks for an incredible birthday weekend – to all my beyond awesome friends, to Louden Swain, and to Jensen and Jared and Gen, for making it an unforgettable one.
You can read Rob’s chapter, along with
Jared’s, Jensen’s, MIsha’s and many more
in Family Don’t End With Blood – links on
the home page here!