2008-03-22

SXSW Recap + Giveaway

This post is long, and overdue, but I wanted to be thorough and include all the bands I saw. I missed most of Wednesday due to work, but packed in enough free shows Thurs.-Sun. to more than make up for it, although I am getting kind of old and took it easy in the evenings for the most part. I've finally gone through hundreds of pics (click on pictures below for larger image), and will include mp3s from each band below and hopefully a link to some of their live SXSW sets, since they did almost all give me free shows that made this weekend one of my most enjoyable ever. As usual, a list of live recordings from this event can be found at Largeheartedboy.


I kept it pretty safe and saw mostly bands I was somewhat familiar with, sometimes twice. I got to see the three original dudes from Upright Citizens Brigade twice, including my Wednesday night start at one of their ASSSCAT improv sets (the 10PM show) at the United States Art Authority, in which they did a sketch about a Hallmark card for me and my wife's sexual proclivities, which I openly divulged for free beer tickets. I don't have pics from that unfortunately, but they did announce an Asssscat show premiering later this month on Comedy Central, holy fucking fuck yeah! They have a new site which theyre touting, lots of videos, and which will no doubt be an invaluable waste of your future time:





We started off Thursday at the Bay Area Takeover party at Beauty Bar, which was packed, and the Beauty Bar guys said it was their best SXSW day party yet (until they saw the line trying to get into Rachel Ray's Saturday day party there). But seriously, this many quality Bay Area bands (for free!) is already show of the week most regular weeks in Austin, and serves to start my SXSW week off on a high note, starting with the hits-just-the-right-spots indie of SF-based Scrabbel. And I've got three Bay Area Takeover sampler CDs I'll send to the first three people who send me an email with their address. And again, larger resolution images can be seen by clicking on the photo


Scrabbel




Film School




Von Iva




And in between those solid shows (and free beer and tamales) I snuck over to the Brooklyn Vegan party at Emo's to catch Parts And Labor, who were every bit as intense and kick-ass as I expected.


Parts & Labor






After leaving Beauty Bar we went to try and get into the Fader's/Levi's thing at The Fort. I had planned and RSVP'ed for a wristband, but so did a lot of other people, and after waiting about 45 minutes just to get the wristbands there was another line of several hundred people with wristbands waiting to get in. After going back up front and finding out it was at capacity and realizing we'd never get in, we left down the back alley, only to happen to run into Caleb from Seventeen Evergreen, who told me he wasn't even playing at all, he was just here to check out the bands, which was cool. It's probably tough to actually check out a lot of other things when you're on a schedule and have to lug equipment around. And then up ahead further we found a back gate, and a kind bouncer who was nice enough to let me and my wifeand another pair of guys in, just in time to catch Yo La Tengo doing three Lou Reed songs, starting with "She's My Best Friend", a nice light song that plays into YLT's strentghs, and then two more where Ira started to shred a little more.


Yo La Tengo




And then we started walking to Ms. Bea's, which is on 6th but on the other side of Highway 35... the other side of the tracks... where before recent gentrification efforts not many people strayed in the evening. My wife asked me twice:"on the other side of 35?" We spotted Jens Lekman and bothered him for a cheesy fan photo for which he graciously submitted. And then we found Ms. Bea's, just a couple blocks away, and which for an old south San Antonio boy like me felt a little like home, like a good ol' ice house, with people cooking meat out front and plenty of beers and soda on ice. Todd P Presents (a name I will look for in the future) put on parties here all weekend, and I genuinely felt as if I could have probably stayed there for my entire SXSW weekend and had a pretty damn good (and slightly less crowded) time.

First I saw Sunburned Hand of the Man, a smoking bluesy psychedelic electronic good time:


Sunburned Hand of the Man



And then a band I was sorely unfamiliar with beforehand, but whose name I had heard enough that I knew I needed to check them out: Athens, GA's Dark Meat. There must have been at least fifteen people playing in the band for this show. And as they set up and I scanned my eyes across the band, a face turned the lightbulb in my head on. It was The Late B.P. Helium (Bryan Poole) from of Montreal, playing backup guitar. But with the huge joyous cacophony of sound it was hard to pick him out mostly, what with three percussionists, a crapload of horns, violin, confetti-shooting lawn blower, etc. During the first song the power went out, and it happened twice, and each time the drummers and horn players kept the skeleton rhythm of the song going, and each time the power came back on and the electric instruments whooshed to life, it was a bit magical. I've heard the naysayers, and I will say appreciation for their album (soon to be re-released) is even easier after witnessing the spectacle of their live performance. Definitely catch them if you get the chance, ignore any naysayers, and maybe indulge your imbibements a bit more than normal, they get an extra pic for showmanship and including BP

Dark Meat







And with that we called it an evening. Friday was just as brilliant. I had mapped and planned out what to do with military precision, including where to park to have the shortest distance to the car to run over to the HHBTM / PIAPTK showcase party later that day. My wife and were joined by my good friend and we started off at the Austin studios where they record Austin City Limits for PBS, on the campus of the University of Texas. KEXP Seattle has been taking over the studio for the last few SXSWs and broadcasting the shows, and it is by far one of the best things to do at SXSW: get a chance to see the legendary ACL studios, see top notch bands with a great sound setup, in air conditioning, and there has always been more than enough seating for the free general public. Friday started off with the Breeders. Actually, it started off with us waiting for the elevator to the sixth floor studios, only to have the doors open on our floor and the elevator full of Breeders. I waved and said "Hi" in my best Kim Deal-style innocent drawl before the doors closed and it was a good laugh. Even better was my first chance to finally see the Breeders, having been a big fan for a long, long time. In fact, the KEXP interviewer took us all back a bit I think when she announced that this year would be about twenty years for the Breeders. We old timers creaked back in our comfy chairs and cool AC and enjoyed a couple of the new Mountain Battles songs and "Cannonball":


The Breeders

"A-oooooooooo-gah"



edit: MP3S FOR THIS SET HERE If you go to the KEXP site, find the specific time the band played, you can enter it manually and listen to the strem from that time, unfortunately it appears they're not making it easier than that to listen to all the great SXSW sets they recorded. Then we headed over to try to catch Rogue Wave at the Noisepop showcase at Red eye Fly, but the line was too long. It always important to have a backup, and luckily at the time, the line across the street at the Mohawk for Friday's Hot Freaks III wasn't that long at all and quick, got in just in time to catch Austin's biggest current "it" band, White Denim, who kick so much fucking ass that just about any over-the-top superlatives wouldn't be enough to do them justice. Their live versions of songs are faster and more amped up, giving songs like "Let's Talk About It" even more thunder


White Denim



And funnily enough upon leaving, the line to get in had grown much longer and wasn't moving so much, no doubt caused by White Denim's loud soulful ruckus. We hurried back across I35 to Ms. Bea's for another chance to catch Parts & Labor, who somehow were even more kickass than I remembered from the day before, and deserve an extra picture since they have so completely won me over.


Parts & Labor






And then a couple of blocks away we caught Yo La Tengo again, this time at the free show on the lovely lawn and grounds of the French Legation Museum:


Yo La Tengo




And then headed to my car, triumphantly parked only about a block away, and sped uptown to the Weekend at Bernie's III Party sponsored by People In A Position To Know Records (Seattle) and Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records (Athens) and coproduced by Chris, AKA Lou2ser, who is definitely one of the top E6 collectors and historians. And let me throw a big shout out to some guys who really know how to throw a party: they were the only party I went to where the free booze truly flowed freely until the end. We caught a great set by the Besties, but were then saddened to here that THE band we most looked forward to seeing at all of SXSW had visa problems and most of the band were turned away about an hour away. It was to be Bearsuit's US premiere. I've seen them twice in the UK, including once opening for Hot Chip, and it was too funny when Iain admitted that at the time, he too had never heard of Hot Chip. But my wife had heard John Peel touting Bearsuit one night, and we've been in love with the band ever since, and, well, you can go to their myspace blog to hear them talk about it - but really. I am still really pissed about this. They were an official SXSW band, I can't believe the SXSW officials can't do a little more to work with immigration authorities to ensure the kind of major fuck up that happened to Bearsuit (and others) doesn't happen again, especially in Dallas, so close to finally getting here! and half the band is simply told to fuck off. I bet Lisa was wearing her fishnets. That was it, can't have dirty, sexy leg showing in our pure country, now can we? What did they prove?? Who did they protect??? What American was at risk of Bearsuit???? I know, maybe they were afraid Bearsuit would simply blow people's minds through metaphysical terroristic means! Agghhhhh!!!! Anyways, the Besties were great, wish I could have seen all the bands as this swell shindig


The Besties



And Furniture Records happened to be having their party just a few houses down from this one, and Jason Forrest was playing/DJing, so we ran over there for a bit. During my last stint on the radio in 2005, we got in Jason Forrest's last CD. I was unfamiliar with him before that, or his career as Donna Summer, but soon became familiar as I heard his cut-and-paste techno freakouts and collages. In the backyard before the show I saw Dan Friel of Parts & Labor, he said they weren't playing there, he was just there to check out music, so we headed into the house to do just that. It's weird watching a guy play a laptop when you can't tell what he's doing, but there were a couple of trip-ups which showed it was live, and the beat never really stopped. In the cleared living room space Jason Forrest stood before his PA and laptop (which looked like a pulpit) with a glowing colored Virgin Mary wall plaque behind him that was property of the house owners but completed the presence. He casually walked over before beginning his set and introduced himself to me since I was first in the room, and I told him about how much I like his last CD, including the song I mistakenly called "101 Punk Songs". He was too kind to correct me then, but during the set he said the correct title, "My 36 Favorite Punk Songs", before dedicating it to his "radio friend" and playing what he told us was the song's premiere. It is simply 36 punk songs cut and pasted together. And because when he started off his set asking for nudity I was the only one who evened unbuttoned my shirt, he came right for me when he decided to start a moshpit right then and there at four in the afternoon in a sweaty living room. To me it seemed like the whole room was pulsating and shoving, but afterwards my wife assured me it was just me and him. Easily my best single SXSW 2008 memory.


Jason Forrest





Then back to the Weekend At Bernies party in time to catch the Muggabears, who take a bits of Sonic Youth and Pavement and give it some new shimmer and polish


Muggabears




And ran into two of the members of Bearsuit who were able to make it, Iain and Jan, who were nice as could be but understandably disappointed. It will only make their US premiere later this year in New York that much more triumphant - don't miss that if you're in NY!


Bearsuit



The party closed outside in front of the garage with Karl Blau, who was an excellent choice, nice and sublime and leaving the afternoon with a nice glow, or maybe that was the generously supplied rum and cokes. Regardless, thanks for one of the better parties of the season!


Karl Blau





Then back over to the ACL studio to catch Holy Fuck's KEXP set. They had a different drummer than they had when they opened for Super Furry Animals a couple of months ago, the previous drummer also drums for Enon, but this drummer was just as on-target with the super-charged Trans-Am-style throwdown, with that solid bass and two electronic whizzes facing each other pulling out some damn brilliant harmonies. Definitely THE album excluded from my best of list last year, and I had heard it, too! Simply a horrible oversight, which will be corrected by listening to a lot of Holy Fuck from now on


Holy Fuck




And then home for dinner and decompression and a chance to meet up with my good friend Brian from the Boing Boing-approved Casbah Radio and his lovely lady. We then met up with good buddy Phillip (Good seeing you, Phillip, sorry you missed my road rage incident) and caught the showcase performance of Friends of Dean Martinez, one of the few shows I had to pay to see, and well worth it. Instead of long lines and possibly over-hyped new kids, I strolled in to a BBQ joint and spent the evening listening to extremely talented players lay down their Pink Floyd/desert/surf/pedal steel/organ/Americana goodness


Friends of Dean Martinez




Then we headed to the last performance of the UCB guys, a midnight showcase at the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar (dinner/beer/movie) called "Fucked Up And Illegal Videos", which featured just what the title suggests, interspersed with segments of improv based on audience members, including a great phone prank and especially when three audience members had to reenact the dance moves of the mentally-challenged. But I have now seen eels swim out of a woman's pussy, I have seen enough Robocock for this lifetime, and I have seen a boy straight out of Children of the Corn trying to make a real-life showreel for acting jobs by portraying Adolf Hitler in full operatic overdrive:


Upright Citizens Brigade



Got a late start Saturday, and there was no way to make it into Beauty Bar for the Rachel Ray party including Raveonettes, so we headed across 7th to the Athens GA-based 40 Watt Club's party for a quick stop. Got to see a rock band with more talent than most of what's on the FM rock stations, and meet 40 Watt (owner?) Zach, who was giving out plenty of free PBRs and good will to start out the day.


Summerbirds In The Cellar




And then we decided the best bet for Saturday was the huge Mess With Texas II Party put on by The 857 Collective and Transmission Entertainment which featured three stages of great acts and not a lot of walking time in between them, but not nearly enough beer/food stands or porta-potties (work on that next year and you'll be a can't miss for next year, too, guys). It's in Waterloo Park, just a few blocks north of the Red River/6th St. action, close enough to give us a chance for a break where my friends hurried over to catch the Raveonettes at the ACL studio and me and my wife WERE going to see SFA member Gruff Rhys's band Neon Neon (who apparently canceled their Mess With Texas II gig) but ended up making a detour over to the Hot Freaks III party at Mohawk in time to catch the over-the-top Japanese musical extravaganza that is Peelander-Z.


Peelander Z





But mostly Saturday it was a nice change of pace to see so many acts (so close together) at Waterloo Park:


White Denim



Kimya Dawson



Brian Posehn apparently had laryngitis, and after attempting to do a few jokes, called out Eugene Mirman to recite his jokes for him. The funny part was that as Posehn "whispered" the joke to Mirman it was still clearly audible to the crowd, so there were double laughs as Mirman tried to put proper comedian emphasis on the joke we had just heard two seconds previously:


Brian Posehn and Eugene Mirman



And the rest of the day was also what you'd expect from a top-notch paid-entry festival, again for absolutely free. Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound had just the right musical elements to fill a festival crowd quite nicely, Black Mountain stomped and smoldered and were perhaps the perfect band to play in front of a sunset, and the Breeders didn't disappoint - Kim Deal still at times seems tickled on stage that old classics like "Divine Hammer", "Cannonball", and their cover of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" elicit such strong responses from the crowd


Atlas Sound



Black Mountain



The Breeders





And then there's usually not much going on Sunday, which is good because by that point most people are drained. The best two free Sunday night parties were right across the street from each other, the Phono Records and Lucky Rabbit Films party at Habana Calle 6, and the final SXSW party at Emo's. All the bands at the Habana Calle gig were great, and not too hard on overworked ears, but closer Mrandmrsmays refused to let the weekend go out on a low note, cranking out their new wave goodness and picking everybody in the club up for one last time.


mrandmrsmays





And then over to Emo's for the nightcap, where somehow dancing to Madonna and other crap just doesn't seem wrong, especially when it's being pumped out by Prince Klaussen and DJ Jester


DJ Jester



"Alright, get the fuck out of Emo's and go home..."




I vow to get some proper portable recording gear by this time next year.

4 comments:

bdtrppr6 said...

thanks for the in depth day to day account of your experience. i've never made it to SXSW and i'm not sure if this makes me want to or just glad i don't feel a need for it anymore. i don't think i could do it without getting tired or bored. i think i am getting old. rock on!

onabadtrip.blogspot.com

Ground Sloth said...

Great coverage. I am extremely jealous that you got to see Yo La Tengo. They are amazing, perhaps?

Daniella Maria said...

what an epic post!

funeralpudding said...

Thanks, Daniella and all. It wiped me out. So did the salvia. I really gotta shake off the cobwebs and get a new post up.