Austin Stories: Ish At Free Week
It’s been a hot minute since free week, that thing where bands play to help put money in tip jars for the venues during a typically very dead week in Austin that also serves as a test run for SxSW. We obviously have several friends involved in many aspects of Free Week. One friend of mine is Ismael Quintanilla III. He has shared his photos with us before, but he is also part of a pretty rad little music project called The Guacamole Police and Officer Hass. Unique perspective, shooting and playing Free Week, I poked the bear to get some response.
Read on for some of Ish’s great Free Week photos and some insight into putting in the work…
You both photographed and played Free Week. You are a unicorn.
ATH: How tired are you?
Ish: Not tired at all! I went to sleep around 4am every day during Free Week and I’m surprisingly awake. The crowd’s excitement, the countless friendly faces, and mesmerizing musical sounds going around Red River Cultural District venues kept me going and energized all week long.
ATH: What was the raddest thing you saw that you assumed would be the raddest thing?
Ish: The raddest thing I got to see during Free Week was the ridiculous hustle everybody puts in to make their dreams come true. From Everett Bergstedt running with his drums hardware from Mohawk Austin to Swan Dive to play back-to-back sets with Whit and SMiiLE, David Brendan Hal snapping countless Austin’s bands portraits and live sets, Cody Cowan and Taylor Brandeger becoming a two-person army slaying Red River Cultural District coverage, Jason C Morris playing in 3 different bands (Lunar Gold / the clouds are ghosts / Hours Quiet), to watching The Human Circuit grow from a 4 piece band at the time I met them 5 years ago to a 15 piece dream pop ensemble power house, Austin is clearly The Live Music Capital of the World!
ATH: What is your new favorite thing about Austin music?
Ish: My old and new favorite thing about the Austin music scene is that after living here for 6 years and shooting live music almost every week of the year, I am still discovering new Austin bands all the time (This Free Week I photographed about 40 bands that I hadn’t photographed before. Can you say that about any other city?).
ATH: Who surprised you the absolute most of the artists that you had not seen before?
Ish: I don’t think it came much of a surprise (since I heard so many good things about this band), but Caleb De Casper blew my mind. The band has such raw energy that helped me capture some amazing rock-n-roll moments through photographs! If you have a chance, make sure to check them out!
ATH: Honorable mentions?
Ish: All the promoters that booked the shows, the bartenders that got people drunk, the door guys that kept us safe, and the venues that made it all possible.
Favorite venue to use a flash?
All and none, it just depends how much I’m willing to get in trouble for it (hahaha). On a serious note, during each day of Free Week, I tried different shooting techniques to keep myself creative. Day 5 of Free Week, I used flash intentionally to create some gnarly effects. The LED screen at Scratch House and the Christmas lights at Cheer Up, combined with slow shutter, created blurry and lights trail effect that gave the photos an interesting pop to them.
Now as an artist/fan…
ATH: Favorite bartender?
Ish: Since I rarely go to a show without my camera and I don’t drink while I shoot, I hardly find myself at the venues bar area, so I guess I’m not the most qualified to answer that question.
ATH: Favorite anecdote as masked man?
Ish: My favorite anecdote as Officer Hass from Free Week was that our friends got on stage with us to do some super weird and amazing avocado BDSM guitar shredding solo / whipping session. It was pure madness. There was a lot of whipping, handcuffs, guac, and rock-and-roll.
ATH: Did you lose any teeth?
Ish: Not yet, but The Guacamole Police just keep getting more ridiculous with every new show and sometimes I get worried about how far we’ll have to push our weirdness limits to just top our previous shows.
ATH: Merch sales?
Ish: Nothing, but that’s because we don’t have any merch for sale, yet. We are currently working in making shirts, patches, stickers, and a patented avocado pit ball-gag.
ATH: Any luck?
Ish: I’m so lucky to connect with people through music and photographer all the time. During our North Door show, a young fan approached the band before our set and told us that the only reason he was out on a Sunday night was to see us play and he was extremely excited for it. What else can an artist ask for?
ATH: Do you feel like this makes you prepared for SxSW?
Ish: Definitely. I would consider Free Week to be the SxSW for the locals…wait a minute, didn’t SXSW used to be the SXSW for the locals before?
ATH: What do you want the world to know about Free Week?
Ish: Free Week (and Hot Summer Nights) is like speed dating for music lovers where fans can check out a couple of songs from each band they are interested in throughout the whole week, then settle down with one band (or more if you are a poly-melomaniac) full set during their next show.