Saturday, March 15, 2008

SXSW - day 3

Friday we camped out at the Pitchfork party from beginning to end. A stellar line-up alternated between the inside and outside stages every half hour. The temps were in the 90s, but Emo's offered free hydration options and more importantly, lots of shade.

High Places started off the day to a relatively sparse crowd at noon. Too bad because they were one of two great discoveries of the day. Think Animal Collective, with a more dancable beat.

The other revelation of the day goes to Swedish pop singer Lykke Li. Her songs were a rush of pure sugary pop, delivered with a magnetic stage presence that had the audience swooning. She's a crossover success waiting to happen.

Fuck Buttons will be blamed for any permanent hearing loss I may have suffered this week. I'm sure they would take that as a compliment and rightfully so. Their brand of Eno-inspired drone was hypnotic and driving.

When the dust settles, I'm betting that Bon Iver's several performances this week will figure among the most talked-about of the entire festival. Justin Vernon's album is heartbreaking in its solitude, but here in a three-piece band, his songs brilliantly translate into something new altogther. They won over the crowd instantly...Vernon even had hipsters participating in an irony-free sing-along. It was my favorite set of the week.

Love the album, but I wasn't sure what to expect out of Atlas Sound in a live setting. After seeing them twice this week, I can tell you that Bradford Cox sends out a assured and surprisingly jammy vibe that was a perfect remedy for the hot and the tired among us. And he's just such a jovial, witty fella. I don't understand any of the controversy around him.

Another highlight of the week, Yeasayer played a thrilling set near the end of the day. Their drum-circle energy is contagious. And in case anyone cares, 2080 is still one of my favorite songs.

Friday, March 14, 2008

SXSW - day 2

Dan the Destroyer at the Sterogum/Paste party. Free SoCo, but I'm a beer man. I'm forced to pay for my buzz. Dan plays several tracks from his new album, Trouble In Dreams, one of the best albums of 2008 so far. He wins prize for set of the day.

Just a sample of the crowd along 6th Street. People-watching is always half the fun. You've never seen so many hipsters in one place (not even in Uptown), and everyone of 'em has a Blackberry or iPhone.

The Big Sleep perform at the Red Eyed Fly's Little Radio/NoisePop party. They packed a surprising punch of intensity.

Headlining the Little Radio party, The Black Angels play a bit of new stuff from their upcoming new album. All's well but the new material sounds like a retread of Passover.

We close out the day at Auditorium Shores on for a Spoon show, fresh off their sweep of the Austin Music Awards earlier in the week. The crowd here was bordering on ACL Fest size. I love Spoon like no other, but their live show has always left me unimpressed. Maybe it's just me, but they just don't translate as well on stage. It was a great time nonetheless and a beautiful backdrop for a concert.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

SXSW - day 1

Landed in Austin by noon, rented the car, checked into our hotel and on 6th Street by 1:30. First day and all, the crowds were still sparse. We strolled into parties of our choice; no lines yet. We eventually settled in at the Terrorbird Media/ForceField PR party at Emo's outside stage. Sets by These New Puritans, Yacht, The Raveonettes, The Mae Shi, all excellent. My highlight of the day was saved for the conversational performance by Khaela Maricich of The Blow, complete with an awkward game of bingo for the audience.

I hate to admit that I forgot my camera at the hotel so I haven't a single pic to post. That's poor form and I apologize.

Anyway, the day shows were winding down by about 5:30 and by this time, Jose and I were dragging. We didn't have the mental cleverness or stamina to even attempt the evening showcases. Instead, we headed back to the hotel and recharged. I would have been content headed to bed early, but the night was not over for us. Not gettin' into details, I'll just leave you with this pic of Jose to intrigue your curiosity...this is Texas after all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Goals for SXSW

I have my ideal schedule all worked out, but based on my experience last year back-up plans must be at the ready. Some of these venues will reach capacity before my spot in line hits 100 yards of the entrance. It's part of the fun.

Admittedly, this year there is no Iggy Pop-caliber performer; nothing at that same level of must-see madness, but there's plenty to be excited about. Here's my top 5 wish list, excluding acts that are only playing showcases (e.g. REM, My Morning Jacket, Ya La Tengo, etc.)

Man Man
Bon Iver
Atlas Sound

Since it is so hard to name just five, I'll just keep going: Jens Leckman, Okkervil River, Shearwater, Fuck Buttons, Yeasayer, Matt & Kim, Handsome Furs, White Williams, Fleet Foxes, Ola Podrida and of course, The Breeders. A predictable list and surely a common one, so here's hoping for some unexpected discoveries. If I'm able to see half of these bands, I'll come home happy (and tired).

List aside, I think all I really want is to do is see Lou Reed in person. Just run into him on the street. Forget the music. If I could just meet Lou, that'd be it. I'd drop everything and head home early.

Tomorrow's travel day and I'm waking up at 4am. Best be going.

Monday, March 10, 2008

This friend of mine, I’ll call him Jose, has an uncanny ability to take advantage of opportunities that come his way. He’s just one of those people who can talk their way into anything. Superhuman charm. He’d kill as a salesman, a talent agent, a PR man, you see what I mean. As you might guess, he saves his best tactics for subjects of a female persuasion, but his formidable powers are useful in other arenas as well. A classic example took place a couple of years ago when he was down in Austin for ACL. A highly-anticipated TVOTR gig at Emo’s was sold-out, with the crowd overflowing into the street. My wife and I had tickets, and for whatever reason, Jose and his girlfriend did not. No ticket, no entry. They’d have to head back to the hotel or go wander 6th Street. Nope...instead, by the time we get into Emo’s, there sits Jose and his girlfriend relaxing, having a Corona, waiting for the band to start. My personality-type is basically the polar opposite of my friend Jose, so for me, this is nothing short of amazing to behold. Without breaking a sweat, Jose used his superpowers to cripple some unsuspecting bouncer, talking his way into a sold-out event, free of charge, for two people!

Fastforward to this week. Jose and I are both headed down to SXSW on Wednesday. Neither of us have wristbands or badges. You see where I’m going with this. My plan is to go the day-party route, like I did last year. It’s a fantastic and affordable way to go. You see dozens of great bands for next to nothing. I was even planning to abandon downtown Austin once the sun had set. I briefly tested the waters last year and there wasn’t a chance in hell for someone (like me) to get into the showcase events without a badge, wristband, or waiting in line for hours counting on a mircale that there’d be remaining room for a lowly ticket buyer. My friend Jose has other ideas. My friend Jose believes he can wield his powers yet again to gain entry into exclusive events. I’ve seen him in action but I’m still skeptical. If he IS able to get his way in, he sure as shit won’t be able to do it without a bribe. But he’s a determined man. Already, Jose has shamelessly tried to obtain VIP access into just about every blog-sponsored showcase, by basically loitering on their front doorstep. Not a single bite. Jose needs to be there in person, face to face with his target. That is when he's at full strength.
Shameless plug for my brother-in-law Johnny Blaze, a talented multi-instrumentalist and irreplaceable member of countless Minnesota upstart rock bands. I caught one of his shows this past weekend in Duluth, performing with jam band The Rez. Must say buddy, I was very impressed. Keep me updated on future gigs.

Friday, March 07, 2008

It's been a while...

...over a year in fact. First, let me apologize to my loyal readers for the unannounced blogging hiatus. Attention spans are low, so I guess I'll have to e-mail all three of you to let you know my site still exists. Phew, and that sidebar needs updating, too.

The last year has been one full of sadness and joy, both of which were too overwhelming to allow time for this little hobby of mine. Or that's my excuse at least. It's true that free time is still at a bare minimum thanks to this fella but I'll figure something out.

The important thing is that I'm headed back home to Austin for SXSW next week. Check back soon!