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Rick@SXSW: Hanging With Craig Almquist From Cold Fronts.

March 26, 2013

RickCOLDFRONTSSXSW05Text and images by Rick Kauffman.

Before Cold Fronts were right back at it in Philadelphia, they spent three weeks on the road to Austin, Texas to perform in the “shitshow that is SXSW.” Craig Almquist and company had the backing and the bankroll to travel and play high-caliber shows on their partial cross-country tour, and their finale in a dive bar on 8th street in Austin was a sight to behold.

RickCOLDFRONTSSXSW01RickCOLDFRONTSSXSW02 RickCOLDFRONTSSXSW03 RickCOLDFRONTSSXSW07 RickCOLDFRONTSSXSW04 RickCOLDFRONTSSXSW06 RickCOLDFRONTSSXSW08Just after noon on the final Friday of SXSW, Almquist was a sweaty man. The show, of which one audience member happened to be the CEO of Warner Bros., had just ended. Behind Maggie Mae’s, the gang loads their 90s-era Dodge Ram full of gear — a hellish vehicle trained and battered on the streets of Philadelphia, one in which made the trek out Austin, but not quite back again. But on that day, the black, gasoline-powered battering ram was plunging into traffic and barging around town like it owned the place.

“After the show in Illinois, we drove straight to New Orleans — 16 hours,” Almquist said. “At some point you get zero rest and we get more and more funny, the best shows are always after you’ve checked out of reality.”

Later in the day, Cold Fronts had a show at the Waterloo Ice House, about 5.2 miles away from all the action — unremitting hell for bands and their fans — and no one felt like playing it.

“We were getting calls from all our friends down her saying they can’t make the show,” said drummer, Alex Smith.

So, in the middle of afternoon, while the rest of the bandmates enjoyed the free food and open bar, Almquist jumped in the wobbling, top-heavy Ram and forces his way eastward.

“I know where we can get some parking,” Almquist said.

On the east side of 6th, his vehicular pushing and shoving paid off with a parking spot that may or may not have been a place for a car to park, but it had to do. Still sweating and slowly sobering, he walked back towards the mess of downtown. But before returning to Maggie Mae’s to reunite with the band, he stumbled across a show at Easy Tiger featuring his friends from Brooklyn’s The So So Glos and a show by San Diego’s Wavves.

“I don’t consider SXSW to be a festival,” Almquist said. “It’s more of a meetup of friends and bands where you get drunk for five days.”

Almquist rocked out, time passed and eventually, he decided to find the crew and figure out their plan. Radio darkness ensued, the van’s location was forgotten, the show was missed, drinks were consumed and a new show was formed.

At 10 p.m. the band, reformed, waited outside of Old Headhunters on 8th and Red River. The joint was about the size of the El Bar stage, barely enough to fit the four members and their new honorary member, a cutout of the most interesting man in the world wearing a pair of sunglasses jammed through his temple. On top of the bar was a go-go who dancer in a sparkly bikini and a look of indignation for the crowd below.

The hell of moving and carrying gear was apparent in that the group had to wait for the previous band to finish and carry out all their stuff before the next one could move in. So, for the time being, Cold Fronts and crew posted up outside on their crates and gear while the world passed by.

But, when finally inside, they tuned up, plugged in and sound checked. Cold Fronts killed it. New jams, old jams and fresh jams were belted out and rolled through. More and more people attracted to that ever-so-catchy garage rock crowded into the space to dance and be merry.

Despite losing a mid-afternoon show, they gained one at prime time in the heart of the action. They couldn’t give out CDs fast enough.

“SXSW is about making genuine relationships,” Almquist said. “You help friends out, and sometimes they help you out.”

Cold Fronts will play their next show in Philly at Pi Lam for the Human BBQ on April 6th.

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