AUSTIN, TEXAS—Sitting in a bed drinking Jager from a bottle. Good morning.
We’re trying to piece together the end of last night. A friend says he knows the whole thing, but I’m not really ready to hear about it yet, so he rolls over again. I recall some very minor tantrums, trying to not let the band into our room, a feeble attempt to lock them out of their own van (turns out they had the keys). So funny staying with a band that’s been on the road for awhile. I should likely not elaborate; in their current fragile state they may start de-friending me on Facebook or something terrible like that.
But let’s get back to the beginning. Morning at SXSW consist of pulling oneself together, and some days it takes a tad more pulling than others. Day Two’s start was just fine in that regard for me, personally, but then I’m sharing a room with 6 others so it can take a bit. We’re in the van, someone forgot something, we’re out of the van, they get it, something else is left behind, some indecision about route—you know the drill. We hit the liquor store first.
We were downtown and parked in time to attend the SOCAN river boat cruise. That was quite enjoyable. The weather down here is great! Breakfast burritos, some mingling, a few beers, and a river—how could you go wrong? Afterwards we hit the river bank. Two to a hammock, the odd hill roll, and generally feeling messier than the bulk of this particular Four Seasons’ clientele.
Next, I caught Hill Country Revue (former members of North Country All Stars). Met this great dude the night before who’s here organizing the Memphis event. He wants to turn the church that Johnny Cash first played in into a live music venue. Uh huh.
Now to the Austin Convention Center now for some demo listening. The panel was made up of A&R people from Warner, Elektra, Sire, and the manager/wife of the front man for MC5. Stacked. One member of the panel discovered and signed Madonna and Depeche Mode, among others; another picked up the B52s. This deal consisted of bands tossing their demos in a box, from which the panel would draw randomly and critique briefly. Our Warbrides/Foam Lake demo wasn’t picked, but that’s the luck of the draw.
The We Were Lovers demo was picked, thankfully. The whole thing was a tad nerve-wracking for me. The wait, the brutally honest critiques. Anyway, not sure how much I can say about this also and, of course, the band wouldn’t say much because they’re painfully modest, but their demo was loved across the board. It was the source of a lot of joy for me for the rest of the day. So glad I could be there for that.
Next up was Devo. It was a sit-down interview session with the band. Some funny L.A. majors stories and great banter. It was cool to see these guys, but also a bit sad in a way. They got old! Ha. What would one expect? It’s so amazing that they were approached by Bowie to do their first record, but he flaked out because he was too busy at the time and passed it off to Brian Eno who flew them to Germany to lay it down. It all comes down to being in the right place at the right time.
The hours that followed can be summed up as: barbecues, parties, people, and sun. It all changes when the sun goes down. Crowds fill 6th Street and spill into side streets, music blends into a cacophonous howl as you walk down the street, street vendors, street performers, a festival atmosphere. In the end it all comes down to the music for me, but it can be a bit of an overload, like spending too many days at the Louvre.
We tried to get into Grizzly Bear, but it was at capacity (even for badge-wearers). Instead we hit a fancy hotel across the street for some free juice. The free juice is everywhere. Believe it’s a new product, but I’m so oblivious that I can’t even tell you what it’s called.
We next checked in on a very competent Italian band (with front man originally from Ottawa) called A Classical Education. They’re a nice band we met at the excruciating, sound-problemed Peter Bjorn & John show the night before.
I parted company and headed solo to Red 7. What a venue. Part of this expedition is discovery, right? I need to figure this thing out for our guys to destroy this place next year, and destroy it they will. Back to the venue: it was dirty, dark, graffiti’d, and loud. Ideal. Crystal Stilts were late, so they had a local replacement act. Finally the band arrived and set up. They mumbled something about being late and not knowing they were playing there and wondering if anyone had any requests because they hadn’t drawn up a set list yet. The full crowd didn’t reply, but the band cut into it anyway. I was surprised at how green they seemed. Have they played live before? Or perhaps it was that they just didn’t care. Suitable for the sound of this act. I loved it. So full-voiced and distorted with a very well-put-together drummer. Totally watchable and more than listenable.
Afterwards, I hit the street for a quick falafel and a smoke and a hike way the hell out to Cedar Street Courtyard for the Black Lips and Primal Scream (apparently this was the Blackberry showcase—is that why my phone worked better here than anywhere else? Note the excessive Facebook status updates). En route I stopped at Radio Room for Vetiver and a lovely chat with a music journalist. Primal Scream totally exceeded my expectations. If you ever have a chance to see them, you simply must.
And evening and morning were the second day. Others may say there’s more, but the rest is at least R-rated and at most not Facebook-worthy. Bring on day three.
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