The Ridges
The Ridges (Lexie Alley)

They Messed With Texas: Ridges Wrap Up SXSW Tour In Athens

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The life I love is making music with my friends/And I can’t wait to get on the road again. – “On The Road Again,” Willie Nelson

Starting an article about The Ridges with a Willie Nelson lyric isn’t as incongruous as one might think. First, this is a band that likes to tour. A lot.

Second, the group actually spent some time at the Red Headed Stranger’s studio last year during their inaugural trip to the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas (as documented in frontman Victor Rasgaitis’ 2013 tour diary).

The Ridges returned to Austin this month, and while they didn’t jam with Willie at SXSW, they did perform at the fest–a whopping six times. Along the way, they played shows in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.

Now back in Ohio, the band is wrapping up its 14-date tour this Friday with a homecoming show at Casa Cantina, where they’ll be sharing the stage with up-and-coming Charleston, W.Va., band Qiet.

WOUB caught up with Rasgaitis to talk about life on the road, this year’s SXSW and the band’s hometown “to-do list.”

WOUB: Sounds like you had quite a time at SXSW. How did it compare to last year?

Victor Rasgaitis: Last year’s SXSW tour was a huge step for us, as it marked both an ambitious push into the national scene and our first extended tour. In fact, the entire experience can be defined by “firsts.” Or, maybe more accurately, we could just say, “we had no idea what the hell we were doing!” We booked the seven tour dates and seven accompanying unofficial SXSW showcases completely blind to what the experience would actually be like, so the whole thing felt like a gamble. We were completely winging it. That lead to some very interesting experiences, some great and some disappointing, but all incredibly memorable.

The Ridges
Cell phones: The touring band’s best friend (photo: The Ridges)

At the end of the day, we had an amazing time, played some cool shows, met some wonderful people, and saw some great places. And we learned. We learned a lot. We learned what it meant to spend time on the road. We learned the reality of planning, organization, and the logistics of being a band. We even learned what our music was really about. By the time this year’s SXSW rolled around, we were a new band with a fresh perspective and a more mature view of the festival. We’d followed up SXSW 2013 with several tours, festivals, and projects that gave us the confidence to hit SXSW 2014 with everything we had to give. And that’s exactly what we tried to do.

With an official showcase secured, we knew what to look for when adding day parties and tour dates. We knew how to break up the schedule to make it more fun than exhausting. And we knew how to manage our expectations to get the most out of the experience. Booking something like SXSW on your own is always difficult, but this time we had insider information and we weren’t afraid to use it. The result? 2014 was even better than 2013! We made great connections, played better and more consistently than we ever have, and pushed ourselves to do something that we are all truly proud of. SXSW will always be overwhelming, but, like any time that you get to hang out with/travel with/play music with your best friends, it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever. Long story short, we already can’t wait to go again in 2015.

WOUB: What were your standout moments at this year’s fest?

VR: Since we first saw them perform at SXSW 2013, we’ve been in love with Austin’s 18-piece indie rock orchestra Mother Falcon. In fact, our uncontrollable fanboy geekiness eventually led us to befriending the group, a relationship that landed us a spot on their “All The Friends Ball” at SXSW 2014. The elaborate showcase was fitting for the bombastic supergroup and was staged at one of the most eclectic venues we’ve ever seen: The Spider House. It’s a massive multi-stage complex that couldn’t abide more to the city’s unofficial motto: Keep Austin weird. Four food trucks, a garden cafe, bathtub fountains, rock art covered with toys from our childhood, video games, and even its own tattoo parlor, the Spider House experience was one for the record books. Add four stages with every genre of live music, stand up comedy, and film screenings, and it can only be one thing: SXSW.

We were also beyond thrilled to perform our first official SXSW showcase this year at The Hideout Theatre, an experience that proved itself to be one of our most unforgettable and unexpected shows to date. With a support group of OU students in the front row, we shared the bill of the unassuming coffee house/improv theatre with a catch-all hodgepodge of international acts, ranging from Icelandic ambient-noise to the most brutal Japanese hardcore we’ve ever felt.

It was dream-like in that way where you know you’re dreaming, but then you never wake up. We were unspeakably proud to represent Athens on such a diverse lineup and floored speechless by the sheer insanity of what we witnessed on either side of our set. We didn’t just see the future of music that night, we saw its past, present, future and several other dimensions not yet known to mankind.

The Ridges at SXSW
The Ridges at SXSW

WOUB: Now that you’re back on your home turf, what can we expect on Friday?

VR: We’re doing something that we’ve been looking forward to for over a year: throwing a SXSW homecoming party at Casa! After two weeks on the road and six SXSW showcases, we’re finally back in Ohio and we couldn’t be happier about it. As we made our way to Texas and back, we told everyone we saw about how excited we were to close out the tour in our crazy music-loving hometown. So, now that we’re back, we’re bringing a little bit of Austin to Athens for a free night of SXSW madness. For the first time, we’ll be sharing the stage with gypsy-rock hybrid Qiet and we thoroughly intend for the night to get a little out of hand. So much so, in fact, that we’ve made a checklist to help us keep track of all the things we need to do while we’re home:

❑ Jackie O’s Razz Wheats
❑ Dixies at O’Betty’s
❑ Hot Nuts at Tony’s
❑ Whiskey with Qiet
❑ Two slices at GoodFellas
❑ Morning Afters at Bagel Street Deli
❑ Donkey Coffee iced vanilla chai

This Friday’s SXSW Homecoming Show gets underway at 10 p.m. Admission is free. Check out The Ridges’ website, Facebook page or Twitter feed for more information.