@ZackTeibloom I don’t think either of these Austinites would want to be compared to the other, but they do have more in common than being the two most famous bearded men in town. Brutally poor men who live for their art. For Leslie, living as a legend, living is the hardest part. And at this time last year, that was in serious question. Thax came to us from Chicago just over a year ago and is as vibrant as ever, reading poems for bands 5 nights a week and growing into legend status in Austin more every week. Thax sleeps on the floor of an art museum. Who knows where Leslie sleeps. I ran into each of them at various points in the festival, and both graciously agreed to video interviews.
Leslie was funny and tragic without intending to be, as he always is. Thax was poignant and insightful, and a little beyond me, as he always is.
I came across Leslie as ACL was just starting Friday early afternoon. I welcomed him to the fest and asked how many ACL’s this was for him. He couldn’t venture a guess or even an estimation, but did note that he wasn’t at the fest last year, “because I was in a coma.” He was wearing a midriff baring t-shirt that read “I’m with the band.” Leslie made what I assume was a joke about how he was a groupie for a band I’m pretty sure wasn’t at the festival. Feeling a tad awkward, I told him he had a nice tan going, pointing to his brown stomach. He replied, “Yeah, I have a nice tan until I bathe” again. That was not a joke. Alrighty, moving on.
I caught a glimpse of Thax’s thick white beard as the Local Natives were halfway through “Sun Hands” Saturday afternoon. Sure, “Sun Hands” is one of my favorite songs of the year and I’ve interviewed Thax at length before, but I felt compelled to chase him down. We caught him halfway to the XX and he seemed a bit flustered. The cluster of the festival doesn’t appeal to him the way it does Andy and I. He’d prefer reading for Miike Snow Friday night at Belmont over seeing Miike Snow-Black Keys-Spoon-Phish amongst the masses. Thax’s best readings were still ahead of him, with Sunday’s fantastic Yeasayer and Flaming Lips poems Sunday, but he told us why his Saturday non-read worked out so well.
The timing of a festival makes squeezing a poem in difficult, but it all seemed to work out for the bearded rock poet. Thax was scheduled to read for the Broken Bells and it didn’t come together in the madness of the fest, but he was OK with that. He told us that whenever he isn’t confident in his poem, inevitably that reading gets canceled, without fail. It’s fated that way. What I found odd was that Thax said he planned on using a lot of what he wrote for Broken Bells and re-working it to fit David Bazan, saying there were enough connections between the two artists that it would work.
I gotta be honest, I can rarely follow much of a Thax poem, no matter how much I love the imagery.His Flaming Lips #5 poem was different. It all made perfect sense and was just what we needed to get locked in for Wayne’s bubble launch.
Thax said he didn’t have his ACL poems written in advance and came up with them as the day went on. I have no idea how he could gather his thoughts in those surroundings, but festivals can bring out the best in us when we’re tested. As Thax said on his Facebook page after the weekend, “ah ACL- just like Lolla it begins as a labyrinthine nightmare, but then opens out into magic and I know I’ll be back next year.” Me too, Thax. Me too.