SXSW began with an early show at Metro -- The Holland Nix Band (Nashville, TN). Fairly boring middle of the road R&R, with some vague overtones of Concrete Blonde wannabeness.
We left for pizza. Not a good sign.
We came back for King Konga (Hattiesburg, MS), but found it too hootie & the blowfish, but w/ occasional cool afro-carib percussion... Shouldda let the drummer drum.
We jumped to Mercury Entertainment at Jazz. What a screwed up venue name. Anyway, we went to see Mr. Resistor (Austin, TX). Brutally electronic techno-weird world beat reggae Hip-Hop. Kind of sort of Kraftwerk does reggae-funk? Interesting, in the neutral sense of the word.
After they were done, it was across the street for the start of the show by Sexy Finger Champs (Austin, TX). Old school, dumb, poppy punk. Imagine something like Bow Wow Wow doing tunes by the Vapors, but fronted by a chubby ballerina. I think I preferred the original, 'cause Annabella Lwin was cuter, but with enough Pop Rocks in your breakfast cereal, this is good stupid fun.
We split early to make the mistake of checking out Perforated Head (New York, NY) at Buffalo Billiards. Cool when studio produced, but live they're musically questionable, and visually appalling. Imagine some sort of crude Hannah Barbara 60's retro cartoon, dress each band member in a different bad Garanimals color costume as if you couldn't tell the freaks apart already. On second thought, just find something better to do. Eh...
Relative leg length became an issue, as I stopped a few times to wait for my straggler ;) on the way to Emo's. We checked out I Am Spoonbender (San Francisco, CA). Seriously odd, but cool, driving electronica from a Julie Cruise sound-alike leading the landing party of Monster Zero uniformed aliens.
But who we came to see was Call And Response (San Francisco, CA) over at Emo's Jr. Can't think of anything bad to say, but can't think of anything interesting either. A nice yawn. Why the XO@#! are they at Emo's????
Busted ass back to the other end of 6th, to hit Buffalo Billiards for Superzero (Matamoros, MEXICO). Every bit as loud and aggressive as you'd expect a Mexican rendition of Black Flag or Social D. Nicely done rendition, at that. Too bad the crowd was made of wood. Why the XO@#! were these guys NOT at Emo's?
We slowly sauntered over to Maggie Mae's to catch The Peenbeets (Austin, TX). "I remember Joe. He is the dead guy at our school. It seems to happen every year..." Good stupid, stupid, stupid, fun, teeniebopper TV commercial fluff punk.
Popped out with the intention to check out Chomsky, but blew it off because of the line, and instead crossed to street to the Iron Cactus to check out Baboon (Dallas, TX). One song was some sort of loud, ponderous, idunnowhat vaguelly reminiscent, but clearly not up to the speed of some of Lux Interior's derangements. The next some sort of muddy thing alternating between noodling & thash. Huh? Next.
March to the end of the earth, actually just Red Eyed Fly to try catch some of Hi-Fi Drowning (Garland, TX). Caught just the last song. Some sort of fairly cool whirling feedback-fuzz guitar & vocals. Not enough to remember very well, though. (I'm doing this write-up days later.)
Then over to Stubb's to wait for Flickerstick (Dallas, TX). The obviously full of himself and a few others, cocky SOB guitarist is being taped while he soundchecks. This is not a good sign.
First song was a ponderous p.o.s., but the second one had top of the charts writ large all over it. Third song... time to check out another venue. Way too full of themselves. And what's with everyone having projection screens tonight?
Down the block to Room 710 for Solar Coaster (Winston-Salem, NC). Pretty unaffecting fast & loud wall of guitar noise followed by some pretty unaffecting swirling shoegazer guitars followed by some pretty unaffecting fast & loud wall of guitar noise. Next.
Across the street to the Red Eyed Fly for Foot Foot (Austin, TX). Pretty weird shit. I'm not used to a punk band in what look like Mu-mus. Verged between dumb & real dumb. Oh. How nice. We're now venturing into cow punk. Uh... Next!
Trotted over to Buffalo Club to catch the last of ST 37 (Austin, TX). Cool swirling, whirling, up-beat spacemusic. But jeez, that last one sounded like it took advantage of more than fair use of the Red Elvises tune Techno Surfer. Cool, but derivative, at least on that one. Then cool crunchy guitar hurt by muddy vocals goo. Hmmm... Might be worth it if they had better sound.
Then pizza and waiting at Iron Cactus for Analogue II (Research Triangle Park, NC) to stop wanking around...
Time to dodge out to the Ritz to see Subset (Austin, TX). Earnest punky pop. Vaguelly reminicsent of old Soul Asylum, but only vaguelly. Can't figure out the other influences. OK, but not compelling.
OK, I'm back at Iron Cactus and they're still wanking around at 1:15. Hrrrm... OK, here we go...
Ponderous Stereolab-wannabees. Eh. Next.
Across the street to The Drink to see Clumsy (Dallas, TX). Pretty OK power-pop-punk stuff. Slower tunes were competent, but not nearly as soulfull as they intended.
Wandered next door to Maggie Mae's for Pong (Austin, TX). Electroninc noodling white-boy funk. Eh... Didn't like 'em last year, either. So much for giving folks a second chance.
Having given up, thinking that this was the worst SXSW opening night I've been to, I stopped by Soho on the way to my car and checked out Kat Jones (Houston, TX). Ah, this is kinda cool. Some sort of dark, swelling, ethereal something situated somewhere between the vocals of Sade & sort of flute & strings techno-jazz. Very nice.
Enough to redeem the night? Not really. Still one of the weaker nights I've had at SXSW, and what troubles me the most is that Wednesdays are usually a good night. Hrrrm...
Thursday started at Emo's for The Dishes (Chicago, IL). Nothing special. Just garden variety, loud as shit, herky-jerky chick-punk. Eh...
So, over to Emo's Jr. for Red Planet (San Francisco, CA). Fairly fun, dumb-shit, loud as shit, space-pop guitar-punk. Pretty ok, but not too inspiring.
So, over to Atomic Café for Stonekracker (Austin, TX). I'm glad these clubs are pretty close together... Anyway, Stonekracker... What the... Funk party death punk. Zoiks! Bass solo! Where's Nick?
Cross the street to Room 710 to catch the last of Early Day Miners (Bloomington, IN). Pretty cool guitar texture noodling. No real value add connected with seeing them live, though.
Well off the beaten track, I hit the Continental Club for Laika & The Cosmonauts (Helsinki, FINLAND). Insanely great surfabilly guitar from Lapland. They slip a bit when they slow down and diverge into funk and reggae, but when they're on the mark with the classic guitar attack, they're a ten. Wow!
My hopes for another ten were dashed by The Comas (Chapel Hill, NC). I guess the name was inspired by the effect they create? Sleepy slow muddy take on the Pixies vintage Doolittle. Note to the band. Next time you're trying to evoke the spirit of Frank Black, you need your vocal rant amped way, way up. If that's not what you were trying to do, what was it then?
We took the car back to downtown and circled for a bit looking for parking, and luckily made it to Empanada Parlour for the Free Radicals (Houston, TX). Way cool quasi-salsified, quasi-funk, quasi-jazz ska jam. This 5-piece was great.
We had a 23"30 show to catch, so we split early, but stopped at The Limelight for a little bit of Wrench (Tokyo, JAPAN) on the way. The press said "It's the new way of loud rock!" Uh-huh. My ears are bleeding.
We promptly split for Elephant Room for The East Side Band (Austin, TX). Talented and soulful horns-infused jazz and blues. Nice break for the ears, after that last one.
Since I was at that end of the fest, I went by Rainbow Cattle Co. for Kissinger (Austin, TX). When they stick to the almost new-wave stuff, they're cool. I can see the Ric Ocasek comment the Chron guy mentioned. But the sort of Black Crowes-esque numbers sucked!
Pressed for time, I traded a couple bucks for a quick cab to the Copper Tank North for Adolfo's Reversal (Austin, TX). Fairly energetic Crimson-esque jam-noodling, but not hooky enough. Eh...
So, on to the Copper Tank Main Room for The Court and Spark (San Francisco, CA). Ick. Waaay too softy-country. Outta here.
I wandered to Lucy's to check out Crud (Detroit, MI). Imagine by Exene Cervenka and John Doe of X performing some sort of ear and brain damaging cock rock. Not bad at all.
After that I killed some time listening to The Braxton Hicksplsy a street corner near Dan McKlusky's. Cool cool cool slightly country-tinged, indie rock. They did an accoustic set on the street corner, with the drummer playing the light pole! They hadn't gotten a SXSW showcase, but came anyway. Earnest and alive. I really liked these guys.
After that back to Copper Tank North for Rhythm of Black Lines (Austin, TX). Energetic, noodling post-rock-jazz jam with occasional bursts of driving guitars the way only guys with bad fuzzy haircuts can play. Kinda cool, but only kinda.
Over to Copper Tank Main for Swords Project (Portland, OR). Nope. They're _still fucking w/ their equipment at 1:15... Sigh... Over to the other side again.
Still only kinda cool.
OK. Back to Swords Project... Hmmm... Imagine Stereolab with alt.country influences. Maybe it's the electric violin. Wait a minute. Now it's sort of jazzy morphine blues. Now some classical has crept in. Interesting. Worth checking out on CD, but live probably adds little.
So, down the street to The Loft for bedbug (Austin, TX). Pretty catchy fuzzy power pop. But not catchy enough to keep me from proceding to Atomic.
And at Atomic Café is was the Voodoo Glow Skulls (Riverside, CA). Seriously deranged hardcore ska-punk assault. Imagine Fishbone skanking up some thrashmetal.
A loud, lively ending to the night. Overall, this was a better Thursday than normal. Something's weird with this festival, this time out.
Friday began at Red Eyed Fly waiting for Bauer (Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS) to get their shit together. Kinda dull poppy-trippy retro electronica. Not worth waiting 15 minutes for these guys to get their gear all plugged in. Why can't electronica acts get their shit together? I know they have a lot more crap to plug in, but since this is a first act of the night, it's not like anyone kept them from setting up early.
Over to Atomic Café for Lonely Kings (Santa Cruz, CA). Now this is where I shouldda started my night! Pretty cool mall-core power-pop/punk.
Good but not great, so on to Pecan Street Alehouse for Shannon Moore (Venice, CA), a female soloist with traces of (milder) Chrissie Hynde and Aimee Mann, but too hippy chick-sounding for my tastes.
So time for the last of a set at Iron Cactus. The Switchblade Kittens (Los Angeles, CA) were 3 chicks, 2 basses, 1 guy, 0 guitars. Fast dumb teen-angst punk. Kinda fun.
Followed that with a run to the other end of the earth to Ruta Maya for Bottled Og (Oakland, CA). Some sort of guitar art-thrash worth the run to the other end of the fest (Ruta Maya). Tres punk, but too smart & way too weird to allow itself to be pigeonholed.
Also, something to remember: running immediately after shoving down a piece of Hoek's pizza is exactly why there were people giving away Pepto Bismol samples on street corners.
I cabbed it back to Sixth, and hit Maggie Mae's for Itoura Moussongo (Vigneux Sur Seine, FRANCE). Bummer. Soloist with a tape machine. From the sound of the MP3 I heard, I was expecting to see a live band.
So, across the street to Iron Cactus for Hanging Francis (Atlanta, GA). Ah. Pretty cool indie guitar rock power pop. Finished up with a tres cool growly-gravelly cover of The Eurythmics Here Comes the Rain Again. Nice.
Next up, the Mercury to see Bleach (Okinawa, JAPAN). First Japan Night act I've caught so far, and the place is, as always, packed like a Japanese subway. Here comes a 3-chick, obviously punk outfit. Mmm-hmm. 1-2-3-4 brand chipmunk hardcore but unfortunately with such shitty sound that it couldda been anything. And yeah, I _am_ bitching about the sound at a punk show. What of it?
Walked a couple of doors down to The Limelight for 99pounds (Austin, TX). I suppose the band is named for the body weight of the chain-smoking, heroine-chic, goth chick howling out front. Music was a pretty cool sort of a funky electro trip-hop goth. I just wish the sound man was awake, so he'd back off the DJ, because he's covering up too much of the rest.
Decided to head over to Copper Tank North to catch Dave Fischoff (Chicago, IL), since his sample MP3 was so, well, weird. Yep. He is. All over the map but always seriously fucked-up eyes-closed guitar and tape-loop channelling of surreal musical communications from some other planet. I want some of his medication.
Got old, so I wandered over to the Buffalo Club for the Signalmen (Champaign, IL). Quirky herky-jerky guitar frenzy alternated with vocal & odd guitar chord harmony. Not bad.
Now one I was waiting for. Maggie Mae's for Yellow Fever (Stockholm, SWEDEN). Wow, this is pretty cool. Six Swedes performing some strong south of the border surf-salsa-Ska. Good fun. I like. What is it about Northern Europeans and the surf stuff? Is it the lack of Sun for most of the year?
Liked 'em, but I really wanted to check out some others, so off to Copper Tank North for Panoply Academy Legionnaires (Bloomington, IN). This is Damaged. Thoroughly damaged in a weird, and I think good way. Their sound is sort of a combination of Here Come the Warm Jets era Brian Eno, and Rock Lobster era Fred Schneider of the B-52s, on even more sped than they ever must have done.
Once that was done, I squeezed my way into Soho which was at capacity plus for Spylab (Glasgow, UK). I do like electronica. And I do like these guys. But live is kind of a waste. The place was jammed to the gills for a show where literally almost no one could see the band. Honestly, I don't even think I was alone in not realizing that their set started, and it wasn't some sort of test pattern on the projector, since they were down on floor level and hunched over their toys.
Thinking I may as well be listening to a CD, I headed out, and over to Iron Cactus for Japanic (Houston, TX). Loud disordered punkish mess with bad, bad sound. Couldn't make out shit from the vocals. Almost worth the 30 seconds.
So, given that, over to Copper Tank North for Swearing at Motorists (Dayton, OH). They were sort of edgy country-esque experimental rock hairballs. Nothing to see here. Move along...
So, over to Atomic Café for Zeke (Seattle, WA). Dumb, fast, and very, very loud muscle-car heavy metal hardcore thrash shit. Did I already say dumb? Next!
Tried to get into Red Eyed Fly for ex-Girl (Tokyo, JAPAN), but the line was immense. Since they played outside, I could at least hear 'em, if not see 'em. Punk noise. Not bad, but nothing to cross the ocean for.
So I crossed 7th street instead and headed to Emo's Jr. for Texas Terri & the Stiff Ones (Los Angeles, CA). Fast, loud and out of control, hardcore Iggy & the Stooges wannabes fronted by some sort of apparently female version of Marilyn Manson. Next...
A milder offering was at Maggie Mae's, with Turn (Dublin, IRELAND). The first song I heard was brilliant, earnest, engaging. Wow. The ballad that followed greatly disappointed though. Merits some additional research.
Once he got onto the next ballad, it was time to split for Rainbow Cattle Co. to check out The Equators 1 (Birmingham, UK). Hrrrmm. Hip-hop more than the rocksteady of the sample I heard. Eh...
Wait... Here's some ska. Not bad.
More Hip-hop. Sigh...
Not the best ending. Oh well.
Saturday began on a hard note at Room 710 for The Crack Pipes (Austin, TX). Kinda funky honkytonk punk. But not too great.
So, over to Emo's for The Shins (Albuquerque, NM). Sparse sounding quasi-rock with-some organ or other electronica here and there, but pretty dull & folksy for a 4AD act.
So, slide through the courtyard to Emo's Jr. for 00100 (Tokyo, JAPAN). Japanoise chipmunk punk. Got a good wall of noise guitar groove toward the end. Pretty cool.
Then I walked all the XO@#! way over to Speakeasy to be greatly disappointed by Je Suis France (Athens, GA). Yet another wall of sound, but not even an interesting one. Sort of hard-rock shoegazers on crank...Eh...
So, on to Lucy's for Venus Hum (Nashville, TN). Bouncy Bjorkish sort of trip-trance sensual techno. Sort of like a bubbly upbeat, happy Lamb if there was such a thing. From Nashville? Huh?
Crossed the street to Mercury for a bit of Yeti (Fort Worth, TX). Loud pounding King Cromson-esque rock. Sorry guys. I didn't hear any jazz in the sounds you made.
I had two courses tonight. I took the would-be post-rock experimental jazz shit. Why didn't I take the punkabilly one? Why?
On the continuing experimental front, I went to Iron Cactus, for Mountain Con (Seattle, WA). Oh, this bodes weird. They're setting up turntables and country-looking guitars.
The effect is something like the Farm circa 1992 or so, with PIL vocals, mixed with your typical country hick hip-hop. Weird ass-shaking fun.
Did have a couple others to check out, so off to spend about a minute at Blind Pig Pub for Tiffany Anders (New York, NY). Eh... Sort of trailer goth caterwauling. Gave it a minute too much.
Then back across the street to Ritz Lounge for Lift To Experience (Denton, TX). Cockteau Twins reincarnated as a trio of hairy trailer goth dirtballs. And what a cool combo. Tempo & energy oscillating back & forth depending on whether the speed or demerol was hitting. Cow skull on the amp. Very nice.
On the way to Atomic for the 11:00 show, I diverted to Pecan St. Alehouse to catch a minute of Bridget Storm (Manchester, UK). Slow cello-infused morphine-drip balladry with some country twang. Not bad.
An now for something completely different. Atomic Café for Thrall (Detroit, MI). Wow. Mike Hard was obviously molested one too many times by a priest when he was a child. The result is the most completely psychotic spazzcore punk that can be found loose in nature.
I do miss the Catholic Schoolgirl costumed wife playing bass, while he molested her. That used to make it even more a carnival of perversity and decadence. But as a result, he spent more time throwing himself out into the crowd.
I'm so lucky. On one of his vaults into the crowd, not only did he lay hands on my head and heal me while screaming his manic we all have a love inside us screed in my face, he gave me a big beer-soaked hug and kissed me. Definitely NOT one of those dreamy I'll never was that spot again moments. I'm just glad he missed the lips.
As always, a total blast.
Hoping the other band I _really wanted to see was playing a longer set, I ran to Buffalo Club for Cold Blooded Animal (Beijing, CHINA). Last song only. Damn! A Great Leap Forward into really, really, blazing loud, really, really angst-impassioned really really viscious attack guitars.
Wow. Really, really good. Wish I could have heard more.
Slowing down a little after those two, I hit Pecan St. Alehouse for Cath Carroll (Chicago, IL). Slow, sultry, subversive soloist of a vaguelly country/folk bent but with a twinge of Curve somewhere in there. David Lynchian. Cool.
Thinking I needed to amp back up, I headed over to The Living Room for Mono (Tokyo, JAPAN). Japanese wall of noise guitar assault shoegazers on crank. Hmm... Did I say crank? Make that PCP. Wow. This hurt so good.
Slowing back down, I went back to Pecan St. Alehouse for My Morning Jacket (Louisville, KY). Sinister, twisted morphine-drip trailer-goth. Nice and depraved. Pecan Street Alehouse just brings out the David Lynch? Idunno. Cool, though.
I split for a small taste of some others, and bopped by Buffalo Club for a minute of Brown Whornet (Austin, TX). Loud, fast, frenzied, out of control, but just not as good as I've seen 'em before. And I can see 'em pretty regularly. Next...
Over to Emo's Jr. for The Black Halos (Vancouver, BC). These guys have Stooges written all over them. Sneering, viscious, old-guard punk, complete with an Iggy stand-in, strangling himself with the mike cord.
But continuing my 3-song rule, after 6 minutes (remember the length of punk songs?) I headed over to Atomic Café to catch some Sister Machine Gun (Chicago, IL) Hyper aggressive NIN-ish techno-punk? Pretty OK, but not a thrill.
Couple of bright spots, but again, not a thrill a minute.
Sunday is usually a disappointment. Often just local bands who don't have enough clout to get a better time slot, or hoot bands. But anyway, I've got the wristband, so ... Hmmm... half of these are non SXSW shows tonight. So much for the wristband...
Jovita's for The Red Elvises (Los Angeles, CA, I think). Not as tight as last year, partly because they're a 3-piece. Austinite drummer Avi was apparently ejected from the band, so it's all Russians now. Nonetheless, it's hard to not enjoy the hell out of these guy's shows, and dance until you're ready to fall down. Or in this case, until you've got to split for another show. :(
Got to the Continental Club in time for The Hyperions (Los Angeles, CA). Damn fine show. Psychobilly with a vibraphone on stage. Weird, but way cool. The Continental's pretty shitty sound mix (too much bass and drums) plagued them through the set, but they were quite good nonetheless.
After them The Dragons (San Diego, CA). Uno-dos-tres-quattro!
Jeeeezus! My ears were bleeding half-way through their set. Brutal, brutal, brutal guitar in your face quasi-punk (in a Ramones/Stooges way) cock-rock. "Turn the knobs up to eleven, and Rock Like Fuck!" indeed.
A damn fine show.
Staggered, but not injured, I stuck for Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express (San Francisco, CA). Guitar rock stuff. Pretty dull. As soon as I realized it reminded me of Ian Moore, I split.
Better to be at Room 710 for The Lower Class Brats (Austin, TX). Oi! Antagonistic, hostile, sarcastic, big, loud, old-school punk. Stage energy and antics were up to snuff, as well. But it's been a long while since I've seen such hair-art (on the crowd... the band is fairly normal... of hair, that is.)
On the softer, hipper side, was the show at Emo's Jr.. Yeah. I used Emo's and "softer" in the same sentence.
Anyway, The Fuzz Club (Austin, TX) was a DJ showcase interrupted by a damn fine set by The Waistcoats. So hip it hurts, this shindig was stark raving mod. (Not a typo. That's the Waistcoats albumn title.) Tres fun, with covers of old 60s tunes and some new ones in the same vein. If only this style of music and dress would kill the still extant 70s look-like-shit style which still pervades.
Special bonus: I chatted with Beatle Bob, the mop-haired guy who seems to always be at the coolest, hippest shows. Turns out he's a DJ from St. Louis, and comes to town for the Record Show and for SXSW.
And now for the Twist Contest... Fun.
But back to the mosh at Room 710 for The Cruel and Unusual (Austin, TX). Edgy old-school punk. Not bad, but not all that great.
And across the street to Red Eyed Fly for Pong (Austin, TX). Ein-zwei-drei-quattro. Quattro? Whatever...
One last chance... OK. Better. Still too quirky for even me, but not as annoying as previous experiences.
Back to see if the mod party is still going on at Emo's.
Some of the later stuff was only OK but overall an outstanding night.