Monday, March 22, 2010

~SXSW 2010~

I hadn't been to South-By-Southwest in a few years (and I was a little apprehensive about dealing with the crowds down in beautiful Austin, Texas this year) but I went down for the weekend and I'm really glad I did. Matt Powers, his better-half (Mckenzie) and I strapped our bikes to the car and headed down after work on Friday. We'd been parked for about 5 minutes and were stopped in our tracks by the sound we heard coming over the fence at the Mess With Texas Showcase....Man or Astroman?!?...Yes, please! We got to see the last song-anna-half and their traditional feedback/Tesla Coil finale in all it's glory (from just over the fence). Off to a good start? I'll say...

I never go to SXSW with the intention of trying too hard to see a million bands all over town...especially the really big shows because I don't like looong lines or fighting people for a show (or a beer...and I've never had a wristband/laminate/whatever) We proceeded to Beerland which would serve as home base for most of the weekend, and they were kind enough to book tons of great bands and provide free Frito Pie. Friday night we saw Wounded Lions, Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds, and The Spits (In the Red Records showcase). WL was like Beat Happening if they all switched instruments and were better musicians and dancers, Kid Congo (of legends Nick Cave/Gun Club/Cramps) put on one hell of a diverse performance, and the Spits just had to close the show with their mutant/new-wavish/skate-punk take on the Ramones because....who could go on after that....they always deliver. (Spits below)
We ended up at some place called the Omlettry (good food/not sure about the name) for breakfast Saturday morning which was pretty great despite the expected long line. Wandered around on the bikes a bit after that; Mckenzie and Adrienne met up for some shopping on S. Congress while Matt and I checked out the Yard Dog Party which had cheap imported beer. Saw London-based bluegrass from the Coal Porters which made me feel pretty good about being in Saddle Tramp and eventually ended up back at Beerland for Rounds II and III.

(Goner Records showcase) Cococomas have apparently morphed into a 4-piece which filled-out their songs quite a bit compared to the former 2-piece version...Great live/need to hear more recordings. The Baths were an interesting time with their early-psych sound but even with the guys Sonny Bono-like appearance (complete with cape) I found my attention wandering a bit. (Better on record? We'll see.) Up next were up-and-coming Memphis youngsters The Magic Kids who offered up refreshing sunshine-pop referencing 50s-60s, and 80s teen hearthrob sounds and stage presence as well as some British stuff I haven't wrapped my head around yet (maybe New Romantic). Potential mass-market appeal there for sure. Another Bluff City resident rounded out the day show, Harlan T. Bobo, who's last album got quite a few plays from this fella in the last few years. It was a bit anti-climactic seeing him do his show solo (no band) after all the others but he sounded really good and the performance and his ultra-dry sense of humor made up for the lack of accompaniment. How do you describe his music? Uh....kinda like a Southern take on Lou Reed/Leonard Cohen mixed with something else much less pretensious...(Sorry to Harlan for saying "I liked your Bobo set!", but I think he was cool with it!) (Magic Kids above)
We wandered over to see Th' Legendary Shack Shakers at the Camel Headquarters (I think) and though I'm not their biggest fan they always put on a high energy roots-punk show and between the fact that Duane Dennison (Jesus Lizard) plays guitar and their frontman the Colonel is bat-sh*t crazy how can you go wrong? The biggest mis-step of the whole trip came when we decided to watch Austin band Lions play on some backyard stage in an alley we were riding down. Left after the first the worst parts of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden 20 years too late. Yuck!!! (We also saw 2 seconds of the Gwar show as well as Andrew W.K. over the fence while riding by....Can't believe either one of them is still at it.)

Ate lots of great street vendor food (esp. the Brats!) and ended up back at Beerland for the Cheap Time who I'd been hearing about for so long that they fell slightly-below the hype. Solid Power-poppish 70s punk 3 piece action though! Thomas Function was up next and surpassed the hype with their 3-piece fragmented pop (or something). I'm buying their records asap! Destruction Unit was up next and they appear to be some some of post-apocalyptic super group of sorts with Ryan Wong (Tokyo Electron and many others) on vocals. A bit chaotic for my tastes at this point in history but in the right setting they could change your life. Thee Oh Sees were the obvious choice to close out the show (and my SXSW as well as theirs) as they are pretty hard to beat as far as live acts (hell even records) are concerned currently. It was also a nice change of pace that they set-up on the floor for maximum close-range viewing/audience partcipation. THEY ROCKED!!! 2nd time and hopefully not my last to see them...(That's them down there)
In goofy celeb-sighting news we spotted Thrasher Magazine editor Jake Phelps (he was kinda dissappointing) in line at Beerland and Fat Mike (NoFx) and Andrew W.K. inside (the who cares twins), and ran into the Sons of Hercules at Casino El Camino. I could have met Bill Murray at my friend Mandon's show (Lil Cap'n Travis) but as usual there was too much too see and do for one weekend and I think everyone else already hung out with him there anyway. See him telling Mandon a secret below...

(Mediocre and late review I know but who's gonna read this crap anyway? All photos by Matt Powers except for the Bill Murray pic...probably by someone in Lil Cap'n Travis)