Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Big SXSW 2008 Wrap Up

So the annual music marathon that is SXSW has come and gone once again, and the hardest task is to make use of the brain cells that are still left after the daily doses of free booze and try to remember everything that happened. There's also a constant ringing of the ears which doesn't make it any easier. My week of music started on Monday night, and once I sat down to make a list of all of the bands I saw I had to look back over the schedule more than once to figure out where I was, and when. I took a few hours of video over the course of the week that I was planning on including in this long-winded summary of events, but my camera was inadvertently ruined by a group of Israelis, and a weeks worth of cool SXSW video went down the drain, which I'll get to later. All source photos are linked from whence they came.

Monday night we waited in line with a bunch of other folks to check out The Laughing (still not doing it for me), Til We're blue or Destroy (still doing it for me) and Tokyo Police Club (unimpressive). People have told me that Tokyo Police Club put on a great show, but I personally couldn't stand more that three songs of it. Overall it was a fun night, but mostly just for talking it up with friends over a few drinks.

After running errands on Tuesday afternoon I stopped by to see what Daytrotter was up to, and they happened to be recording a couple of my favorite locals in Octopus Project and Brazos. I soaked that up for a while (thanks Sean) and then went up the road a few blocks to see what was happening at Ms Bea's. Met the Ninjasonik crew there, who I'd end up running into over and over again all week, and watched Free Blood (potentially good) and Juiceboxxx. Juiceboxxx is a white rapper from Milwaukee who put on an entertaining performance, jumping around all over the place and getting the crowd moving. At one point, in mid-song, he tried to climb up on the roof of the covered stage and immediately fell right through it, taking out some of the lights with him. He wasn't injured or anything, so it was pretty hilarious. A true professional, he never stopped rhyming and offered to pay the damage bill after the song finished. After that a friend and I stopped by Emo's for a drink and watched a band called The Last Vegas (meh), before heading to Red Eyed Fly for some rock & roll. Pearlene (rocks) was ripping it up when we got there, a solid psychedelic blues trio from Cincinnati. I stayed to catch a few songs from Amplified Heat before calling it a night.

On Wednesday I started off the day with some free refreshments at the Fader Fort, meeting some Canadian friends and catching sets from The Whip (pretty good) Jeremy Jay (okay I guess) and The Kills (kick ass). After that I moved over to the Canadian Blast just in time to see a smorgasbord of DJs including Grand Analog, Skratch Bastid, Megasoid, Cadence Weapon, and Ghislain Poirier. For the late night festivities I helped a good friend get into the showcase w/Black Keys at Emo's (thank you Frank), and as he was a non-wristbander we were stuck there for the long haul. The first band we saw was Longwave, who were truly awful. It was like listening to a bad radio station at high volume for 45 minutes. Thankfully Delta Spirit played next, and their spot-on performance was like a breath of fresh air. Be Your Own Pet followed with some high-energy garge/punk rock, and vocalist Jemina Pearl routinely flashed her underoos which the crowd didn't seem to have any issue with. Autolux came on next and gave a really outstanding performance, with bass lines so hard and low that they had my ears rattling. I haven't paid much attention to Autolux since Future Perfect came out in 2004, and their live show was much, much better than I had expected. The Black Keys closed out the show with a guitar-rific set, pounding it out in front of a huge crowd packed in shoulder to shoulder and playing a bunch of new stuff from the new album.

Thursday was pretty much completely dedicated to the party that I put together along with Sonic and Cubik. All of the bands were great and we were all thrilled to be able to work with them. On the outside stage, most of the people I talked to were really impressed with Table Manners Crew and The Death Set. On the inside stage Dead Confederate absolutely burned the house down, and they're such big UME fans that they cut their set a few minutes short and graciously asked them to take the stage for a few songs. I have come to realize that I am completely in love with UME, and would recommend that you find a way to see them live. After we wrapped up the party I was drunk, hungry, and exhausted, but still managed to make it downtown to see Fucked Up and Jay Reatard. I'm not an avid listener of hardcore music nor do I go see much of it live, but Fucked Up are absolutely phenomenal at it. A wall of speed-driven guitars, ass kicking drums, a tough chick on bass, and a humongous frontman with no shirt and a bad attitude thrashing all over the venue with blood on his forehead. I'd say that is pretty legit. It was cool to finally see Jay Reatard after he opted out of his last trip to Austin, but somehow the live show just didn't quite pack the punch that Blood Visions does.

Friday was another eventful day, starting out at the Fader Fort for some hip-hop via The Knux and Denmark new wave action from The Fashion. Next up was a stop at the Mad Decent party with Cubik for a beautiful view of Austin from four stories up, a free scotch bar virtually all to ourselves, and some fine Argentinian beats from El Remolón. We soaked up as much of that as possible before making the jaunt over to Red River where I caught Yeasayer and No Age in the sweltering heat on the outside Emo's stage. Yeasayer had all of the girls fanning themselves with a groove-filled set and No Age were even better than when I caught them at south-by last year, playing some great new stuff that I'd never heard yet. At one point guitarist Randy Randall jumped up on someone's shoulders and moved through the crowd while banging away on the guitar, which was a cool sight. After cooling off and chowing down I went over to the east side where a party was supposed to be happening, but no one was there. I still haven't figured that one out yet. So instead it was back over to the Mad Decent party for more scotch and warm Keystone Light. The first thing we saw after waiting in line for-ever was DJ Blaqstarr, which turned out to be one of the most awesome things I saw all week. He was bumping out some of the dirtiest Baltimore beats with some of the coolest backing visuals that these eyes have ever seen. A big breakdance circle formed right in front of us and everyone was pulling out their cameras to get shots of these dudes totally flipping out. It was an unexpected amount of fun. When Blaqstarr turned off the tables Simian Mobile Disco got started on the opposite end of the rooftop and quickly had the whole garage bouncing. I'm talking about a huge mass of concrete that has no business moving up and down, and you could actually feel it throbbing under your feet and shaking with the collective movement of the crowd. It was a great way to end the night.

Saturday I started out at Stubb's for Black Moth Super Rainbow, who put on a good show for the small early day crowd. Then it was up to the campus area where I caught Sian Alice Group, who were lovely and hooked me up with an album. Holy Fuck took the stage next, who Lou Reed said were by far the best band he had seen all week. After that it was back to the Fader for Lykke Li, David Banner, Hood Headlinaz, BLK JKS, Santogold, Spank Rock and 2 Live Crew. David Banner was phenomenal, repeatedly jumping out into the crowd to spray a few beers in the air and throw some fans around in the mosh pit. Spank Rock was equally good, performing his unique blend of hip hop and dance music in front of a sea of appreciative listeners. Santogold was a big hit not just at the Fader, but at Stubb's also. 2 Live Crew was a sight to see if only for nostalgic reasons, and they played most of those memorable songs that you were never supposed to be listening to in the first place. We stayed for about half of their performance before fighting our way out of the crowd in order to head south for the big Do512 bash. The good times were in full swing there, and Man Man closed out the party with a banging set of their foot-stomping singalongs and stage antics. We had planned to have a nice little afterparty with a few close friends, but The Von Bondies, who were acting like douchebags the whole time, stole most of our vodka.

On Sunday I took the opportunity to finish off the week with a few more bands at the Panache day party at Beerland. After a full week of debauchery I kind of expected the scene on Red River to be a little more low key, but Monotonix and The Mae Shi squashed that notion with two equally fun-filled performances. Monotonix are a garage punk trio is from Israel, (Tel Aviv to be exact), and they put on what was by far the wildest show all week. Trash cans were thrown, various beverages were projected back and forth between band and crowd, and during their final song all three members jumped up on top of the bar (instruments and all), rocking it out to the fullest extent. I caught some great video of this, as well as lots of other stuff I saw last week, but it all got ruined in a soaking wet demise thanks to repeated dousings from Monotonix. After a couple of fairly average sets from Mika Miko and Finally Punk, The Mae Shi took to the stage for their umpteenth performance of the week. They threw a huge white sheet over the crowd and played a short set of their unique, high-energy experimental punk that was recommended back in February. This is a band that I would love to see a nice long set from in the future, because they were pretty damn good.

So over the course of six days the final tally of acts added up to 53. I didn't get a chance to see everything that I wanted, but I saw a bunch of stuff that I never would have expected, and that's one of the things that makes SXSW so great. The 10 Best Shows I saw all week were: Dead Confederate, David Banner, Fucked Up, Spank Rock, DJ Blaqstarr, No Age, Man Man, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Holy Fuck, and The Death Set. Next year we'll see if I can surpass the magic number of 53, and do so without having any equipment casualties. Thank you to every one I met, partied with, and to all of the organizers, sponsors, bands, friends, and everyone else, it was a blast.


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