Monday, March 22, 2010

SXSW diary 2010

TUESDAY, MARCH 16

Quick flight check-in, quick cab to hotel, quick registration at hotel, quick SXSW registration. Great start. Then we met Ed Ward for dinner. We were starving and drove around for an hour looking for a place, which we eventually found and had a half-hour wait. Settled for Threadgill's, which was just OK.
I went to an electronic music showcase at Mi Casa with a techno/industrial band from Beijing called White and then saw Motorhead at Stubb's thanks to a drunken promoter who dragged me in. Lemmy and the boys still got it going on. Back to the electro showcase (unofficial since SXSW music hadn't actually started yet). Saw an interesting but not always captivating pop-electro band from Denmark called Tone and a great sampler/dance band from Germany called Telephunken and then a Chinese gent who was a cross between Eno, Fahey and throat singers, called Xioa He.


WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17

Started at AOL's Seed party when I met an editor who said there should be future opportunities and got free BBQ out of the deal. Left to see Freedy Johnston at Joe's Bar and Grill, met him afterward and did my fan-boy drool. Went to see Aussie power-pop/garage band Summer Cats at Emo's Annex where they had a small Mexican buffet. Crossed the street to Emo's main space to see great sets from Japandroid and Titus Andronicus. It was a Brooklyn Vegan showcase so they had a booth offering vegan ice cream and brownies. Also went to see Kid Sister but saw a decent rapper on the bill before her instead (guess they were running late). Went to convention center day stage to see soulful rapper (or rapping soulster) Nneka, who seemed to be limping but put on a great show, speaking about her Nigerian roots and the troubled wars there. Dinner at Iron Works- 1/2 hour wait but worth it. Also ran into Jim DeRogatis at convention center. Night showcases started with Zappa-ish Two Star Symphony (string quartet with rhythm section) who covered Ministry's "Just One Fix." Then Ezra Furman solo show at Live.Create where they had giant fridge magnets to arrange and a painting station. Ezra sounded good (love his creaky voice) even though he took pains to diss NY in a song. Went to see Codine Velvet Club, who put on an impressive show (love the album). Then to Stubb's for Broken Bells and a long line. They recreated the album pretty faithfully with a darkened light show that blurred the stage. Ran into Greg Kot who delivered the bad news that Alex Chilton died- was in shock and disbelief. Saw Middleman at Jaime's across the street- good Brit band that has rap/Hold Steady elements to it.


THURSDAY, MARCH 18

Got up early to write LX obit on my blog. Saw Middlemen again at Yorkshire showcase at noon, also had a small pastries buffet there. Across the street, Kompakt had a DJ showcase- AMAZING food too- veal, mushrooms, sauerkraut, shrimp balls. Meant to see Homeboy Sandman but caught another good rap act from Chicago (can't remember the name!) and a good rapper called Zeale. Left to see Drive By Truckers at Waterloo Records (Titus Andronicus was on before and did a signing). Was going to catch Shelby Lynn at another showcase but saw another band before her running late- another small Mexican buffet was there. Bounced between cool indie bookstore called Domy's in East Austin and the Mexcian American Cultural Center (which is a beaut of a building)- Japanther was there and they sounded terrible (even though I like their recent single). Back at Domy's, Abe Vigoda did a good set.

Night music started with a great country/pop/soul singer called Lissie and then to Antone's (on Ann Powers' advice) to see Elizabeth Cook, preceded by Jim Lauderdale, who also had Patti Griffin and Buddy Miller on stage. Saw Billy Altman there, who told me that he convinced Dero to ask Rick of Cheap Trick what was under his hat (Robin Z answered "You don't wanna know"). Met Matthew McConaughey there who seemed kind of drunk and/or pissed but took a (very dark & blurry) photo with me.

Next, off to see good post-punk revival group at Galaxy backyard called Male Bonding. Saw Le Loup set up forever and then start a crappy song inside Galaxy so I left. On the way, a gyspy/klezmer band were playing on the street with a big crowd around them dancing so I joined in that for a little bit. Went to see a smart folkie group called John Dear Mowing Club. Then to Flamingo Cantina to see Systema Solar, a lively rap/dance Columbian group, followed by Anita Tijoux, a good Chilean rapper.


FRIDAY, MARCH 19

Got up early to see John Hiatt play at a stage in the hotel lobby- like his new album- and get interviewed briefly: when asked if he'd consider taking up fiction, he laughed and said "isn't that what I do now?" and then proved it with some good recent songs.

Bad morning after that! Started at Cedar St Courtyard where a promised BBQ (only burgers) disappeared after the first 50 people got in and Nneka wasn't playing there as I thought. Then to Jo's Coffee to see Everybody's in the French Resistance... Now! but the bus only took me across the bridge and no buses or taxis there then to take me further- 1/2 mile up a hill. When I got there, the first band was running late and wouldn't leave the stage (and weren't very good) so I took a bus back downtown.

Back at the convention center, I saw the Flatstock festival (of concert posters) and then saw a brief lecture by producer Diplo, where he explained his gear and why the RIAA won't sue him for samples ("I don't make enough money"). Off to La Zona Rosa to see Superchunk at Village Voice showcase- nice Mexican buffet there. SC still got it- really raw and raging. Then to Stubb's to see Sharon Jones. Ran into Greg Kot again, wondered why Jones isn't bigger than she is with her great voice and stage show (race, age, etc.). Then Courtney Love, I mean Hole was on and at least Courtney didn't embarrass herself, which is a triumph I guess... The drummer was good but Courtney lost part of her voice and I saw MUCH better SXSW shows otherwise. Jon Pareles later told me he loved her bitchy attitude- I thought she sounded like a drunk uncle who isn't as funny or edgy as he/she thinks. Dinner with Robin at the hotel and then off to Auditorium Shore for the Cheap Trick show with BoDeans opening. They're (CT) good performers but it was too huge a gig to enjoy it. Came back to downtown to the Beauty Bar Backdoor to see Jimmie Dale Gilmore perform with his son (who has a voice like his dad's). Then to Austin Music Hall to see Smokey Robinson, which was easily one of the best SXSW shows- still has a beautiful voice, great band, good stage banter and jokes, all around great performer (and I yelled along to "You Really Got A Hold On Me" after he did a Temptations medley). After working with him for years, I finally met up with PSF writer Marc Philips briefly. Then back to Beauty Bar Backdoor and saw the band that 2/3's of Dixie Chicks are now in, called Courtyard Hounds- they were OK but not great (weird to think they were playing arenas and now couldn't pack a small club in Austin). Met a Barcelona SXSW performer/DJ who talked about culture in Spain and U.S. and then Baltimore rapper Rye Rye did a great, bouncing show. Then off to finally see Les Savy Fav at Galaxy Backyard- been meaning to see this band for ages but kept missing the chance. The singer turned the lights on the audience and then unplugged them, plunging the stage into darkness and then bit off tops to glow sticks and smeared the fluid on his chest and stage dived- owners didn't seem pleased with this. Good way to end the night.


SATURDAY, MARCH 20

VERY cold and windy day. Hard to stay outside, deciding to avoid outside shows when possible, had to borrow Robin's jacket and hat to stay warm.

Saw Exene (unplugged) and the Gourds each do nice, brief sets in the Hilton lobby (very convenient). Briefly went to Rachel Ray party at Stubbs but not serving food for 1-2 hours and it was freezing outside so I left early (note my priorities). Took bus to Continental Club, got lunch at cafe across the street where they served water in lab beakers. Jon Dee Graham was on at CC with funny Chilton story: the first time he played Austin, opened for LX who had Chris Stamey and Talv Falco as his band. The group had a fist fight, leaving LX alone to do the most beautiful version of "I Only Have Eyes for You," which he then repeated 5 times, and asked the audience "Who pays me?" before leaving the stage. JD wanted to point out that LX was a rugged individual. James McMurty was on next for a good rockin' set, where a few women went on stage to wildly dance along. Was thinking of seeing Deer Tick at Auditorium Lake Shores but too cold outside. On the bus ride back, some indigent guys wouldn't pay fare and threatened to cut the driver's throat (luckily they didn't, at least when I was there). Got wrong info about set time for Major Lazer so I went to Mexican American Cultural Center for nothing and headed back thanks to a nice gent biking on a pedi-cab. Helped Robin set up her Nneka interview on the way back to the hotel (she said "I need a drink after this" as she had to run from dinner and cancel her order to make it in time).

Another Iron Works dinner where I met a local guy named Wilford who told me a lot of Texas history including floods- he gets take out every week from IW. Finally caught Major Lazer at MACC with a UK and South African singer- the bass was almost deafening but the show was good & lively. Then went to Club Deville, who made us wait for an hour in the cold to set up their dump with a bad sound system! Finally got in and caught West Coast rappers Afro Classics (show wasn't great but I recommend their recent record). Went to Jaime's to see great tex-mex punk band from San Antonio called Pinata Protest (did a good hardcore version of "La Cucaracha"). Then to Copa to see Malaysian bluesy band AkashA for an impressive virtuoso set where they included "Beat It" and "La Grange" in a medley.

Then to the final show... Big Star at Antone's. Packed house, long line. Got up near stage to take some camera phone pictures. Started with Jody saying a few words and someone reading a nice note from LX's widow. Then Jody/Jon/Ken took stage with LX's center mike empty. Guests included Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets), M. Ward, Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Chris Stamey, Evan Dando, John Doe, Andy Hummel (who flew out from Lithuania for the gig), Watson Twins, Susan Cowsill, Chuck Prophet and Sondre Lerche. Ran into Andy Zax, Jim Fouratt and Lenny Kaye there too. Also hope that they have another B.Star tribute to LX in Memphis at some point. Good way to end SXSW.

SUNDAY, MARCH 21

Marc Philips met us at hotel to say hi and watch us pack. Phone texted good byes and apologies for not meeting up to Ann Powers, Art Fein, Jim Dero and others.

My feet were sore as hell and I didn't get enough sleep for the past week but I had a great time. Can't wait to go back next year.


Addenda: At some point, I saw a Chinese drone-rock band called Carsick Cars at Emo's Annex and Holy F-ck at a day show at Peckerheads (appropriate, right?) but I can't remember the days/times. I was lucky to remember all of the above otherwise.

Photos above
: White at Mi Casa, Summer Cats at Emo's Annex, Two Star Symphony at the Hideout, hipster parents at Drive By Truckers show at Waterloo Records, Abe Vigoda playing to Domy's, Matthew McC & me at Antone's, klezmer band playing on 6th Street/Brazos, Diplo lecture at the convention center, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & son at Beauty Bar backdoor, beaker of water for lunch, Major Lazer at Mexican American Cultural Center, Kurtwood at Big Star show (Antone's), Stamey at Big Star show


PHOTO ADDENDA:










SXSW attendees painting at the live.create lounge













Memphis music booth at Convention center. A Jay Reatard memorial to the right. To the left is a display for the Big Star box set. Only hours later, the news would get out about Chilton's death.













Girl with a "Golden Girls" tattoo on her arm, at Summer Cats show (Emo's Annex)











A dad and his little fan at the Superchunk show at La Zona Rosa (note that she's wearing earplugs)














Cigar-box guitars proudly displayed by their creator at the mersh table in Antone's












Brooklyn Vegan day show at Emo's. No comment otherwise...

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