East Side King food truck
I didn’t have the opportunity to return to many places in Austin more than once, but I did revisit The Grackle on Saturday afternoon to grab lunch and I was glad I did. The East Side King food truck, owned and operated by Top Chef and James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Qui, makes The Grackle’s front lot its home on a regular basis. A friend insisted I try the famous pork belly, but I opted for a slightly lighter dish- the Chicken Yakitori consisting of tare glazed & grilled chicken thigh, sunomono (pickled veggies), grilled green onion, and rice. A full plate of top-notch cooking for $8 was a satisfying steal. Moreover, The Peelander-Fest unfolding on The Grackle’s outdoor stage offered comic relief mixed with insane punk rock, crazy stage antics, and wild facial hair.
After my pit stop at The Grackle, I walked a few blocks north to The Wuwu Fest which was occurring inside of a house-turned-sushi bar. Not entirely sure I was in the right place, I staked out a spot in the back of the tiny front room that appeared to be the stage for the show. Mimosas were being sold in anticipation of the 2 o’clock set that the band was setting up to perform. The nod to Cherub’s smash hit “Doses and Mimosas” confirmed that I was, in fact, in the right place.
Cherub’s music is sexy and suave, but the dudes making the music (Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber) are really just a couple of clowns. I use that term endearingly, with much appreciation for their ability to quickly acclimate to their surroundings. Whether they are on stage performing an afternoon set for a room filled with 50 sweaty people or outside kicking it with fans after a show- the duo keep it real by being relaxed and approachable 24/7.
Their show was confined to a small room with windows that did not open on the warmest day of the week in a house with no air conditioning. People were sweating buckets before the show even began, but Cherub’s die hard fans seemed oblivious to the thick, humid heat enveloping their bodies. Many, the band later told me, were returning supporters from their shows at SXSW in 2012. Those who were present realized the special privilege they were about to indulge in- an intimate set with a minuscule crowd at a venue off the beaten path by a pair of electronic musicians who typically play for audiences considerably larger than this one.
Cherub opened with their version of Daft Punk’s “Around The World” featuring Kelley wiling out on his talk box. He exclaimed after the first song concluded, “I didn’t think it was going to happen this early, but I feel like I just jumped in a lake.”
He stripped his t-shirt and tied it around his head like a turban, providing commentary about his poorly tattooed chest and stomach as he did so. They promptly moved into “Jazzercise ‘95” from the 100 Bottles EP. Tubes of confetti were popped and showered over the audience as a bottle of champagne was cordially passed around. Top tracks from MoM & DaD such as “Xoxo” and “Hold Me” were crammed into the end of the set as Kelley announced he only had seven minutes left.
When they finally played “Doses & Mimosas”, the tiny fatigued audience lost it. When the chorus hit, a mosh pit quickly formed and sweaty bodies haphazardly bounced and slid off of one another until the song was done.
Twenty minutes later, outside on the porch of the Wuwu Sushi house, I stole a few minutes of Kelley and Huber’s time to chat. The resulting interview didn’t read like an interview; it was mostly just a bunch of laughing, funny remarks, and random stories about things completely unrelated to Cherub or their music.
Oddly enough, I think that’s by design. When Huber thanked me for taking to the time to have thoughtful, well-researched questions prepared for them, I replied that I strive to get to know people personally in an interview, rather than asking an artist to pick apart their music like so many journalists do.
“Besides,” I said, “It’s not like you remember precisely what was going on at that exact moment in time that inspired you to write a lyric or song.”
Huber smiled and added, “That, or I remember exactly what happened and I just don’t want to tell a stranger about it.”
Interview excerpt #1
MOJO: Aside from your musical talents, do you have any special talents that you can show me right now?
JASON: Jordan has a really great mustache right now.
JORDAN: I have a mustache!
MOJO: Mustaches are in right now.
JORDAN: Yeah. I mean, this is the first time I’ve had facial hair. My only other talent is that I have a baby blanket that I can stick really far up my nose. That’s pretty cool.
JASON: And you don’t ever wash it.
JORDAN: No. That’s the talented part about it. I like it to get crusty boogers on it.
MOJO: On your baby blanket?
JORDAN: Yeah, I’ve had it since I was born.
MOJO: I have a baby blanket, too.
MOJO: Yeah. But I don’t stick it in my nose.
JORDAN: I took it to college with me and my mom was like…. “That was supposed to stay here with me.”
MOJO: My mom always joked that I would cut a little piece off of mine and put it in my purse and take it on my first date.
JORDAN: I hide mine sometimes.
MOJO: Me too.
Interview excerpt #2
MOJO: This is your second SXSW. Taking hints from your lyrics, you’re no strangers to partying. What’s your best survival tip for partiyng at South By?
JORDAN: Just sleep, man. Because if you don’t sleep, you’re gonna go crrraaazy! Just get at least a day of sleep.
JASON: And eat the free food whenever you can.
JORDAN: And drink a lot. For every three beers, drink a water.
JASON: We came up with this thing called the Emergen-C Mimosa. It’s mimosas without orange juice. You just pour Emergen-C into champagne. It keeps you healthy.