Bands seen: Eight full sets, start to finish
Tacos: two (grand total: five)
Shows I failed to get into: none
Overall drunkenness (1 to 100, a la WW's new movie rating system): afternoon score 96; evening score 20
Today I opted to stick around only a handful of showcases start to finish, instead of running around trying to see everything all at once. I woke up at a reasonable hour, but neglected to eat breakfast, as I was uninformed that breakfast tacos were just around the corner from the hotel at the IFC studio (thanks for nothing Ezra). So I was ill-equipped to enter the Insound showcase and their offer of $3 all-you-can-drink beer.
It is true that the first two beers satiated my hunger and left me feeling confident about my ability to last through the day. But then somewhere along the way, there was a dare to drink a Mike's Hard Mango Punch. This was a mistake. Mike's Hard Mango Punch tastes like cancer with a li'l kick of fructose. It kills not only brain cells but also tarnishes the soul for eternity (there is a warning label on the bottle about this). I feel fairly certain that it is pre-roofied. Then they ran out of beer and there was nothing left to drink but Mike's Hard Punch. You can imagine what happened.
[NOTE: Mercury Music Editor Ezra Caraeff claims that I drank two of the Mike's Hard Pomegranate Punch. This is a baldfaced lie. I had one (1) Mike's Hard Mango Punch, and then followed it with a Mike's Hard Pomegranate. They were both terrible, but the Pomegranate is slightly less evil tasting.]
Oh there were some bands too. Spain's Delorean makes trancey motorik music, and sounded just the right about of garage-trashy at the live shows. Surfer Blood are as good as the hype (although probably not better) and their anthemic jock jams are definitely fun. And new band Small Black are growing into their music, which falls on the side of excellence. Give these guys a few months of solid gigging and they should be unstoppable.
I knew I needed to eat something but, despite all our taco talk, you should actually be aware that tacos are surprisingly hard to come by at the SXSW nexus of Red River & E 6th Streets. Having boasted earlier that I would eat nothing but tacos at SXSW I was loathe to buckle and get some street pizza or something. So, no tacos, and lots of Mike's Hard Punch. I went back to the hotel to collect my wits and ended up accidentally taking a much needed nap.
Woke up and got dinner at Jaime's, which has perhaps the greatest location of any restaurant at SXSW and watched a friend almost get into an altercation with a loud woman at the next table. They ended up friends, I think, and referred to each other as "Dick Size." It's a long story, and was funny at the time, but probably won't make sense in repeating it.
My plan was to hunker down at Stubb's for the full night and catch, in this order: the Besnard Lakes, the Soft Pack, Drive By Truckers, Band of Horses, and Broken Social Scene. I've actually seen all those bands before, but since Besnard Lakes and Broken Social Scene are two of my very favorites—and since I figured it would be murder trying to wait in line to see Broken Social Scene later in the night—I opted to stick it out at Stubb's. (That sounds dirty.)
It was a good plan. Besnard Lakes were fine, although their huge sound got a little lost in the immense backyard at Stubb's. Their new song "Albatross" is their best yet, although some of their other new songs meander. I was a little less thrilled to see the Soft Pack; I loved them when they were the Muslims, but have cooled on them recently. Turns out they were really good and reignited my interest. Drive By Truckers took the stage to the strains of Big Star's "September Gurls," and played a cheerfully rocking set of tunes from their new album The Big To-Do. Patterson Hood briefly eulogized Alex Chilton before closing the show with "Let There Be Rock," and he seemed a little lost for words. He kept talking about record stores and how important they were; it is true that most people probably discovered Big Star thanks to a knowledgeable record store clerk.
People shoved to the front to see Band of Horses, which was probably the band I was least excited to see. Whatever, they're fine. "The Great Salt Lake" and "Funeral" are still terrific songs, and they played both, along with new material that sound a little like Poison-y power ballads.
Then Broken Social Scene, who I was super excited to see. One of the best shows I have ever seen was the "Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew" show at the Aladdin a couple years back. And the Canadian supergroup came out blazing, with a perfect blend of old and new songs, all the members doing their thing. Including the horn section, I believe they numbered 13 last night, with a couple special guests. Emily Haines came out and sang "Anthem for a 17-Year-Old Girl" which was amazing. As the show drew to a close at 2 am, Kevin Drew didn't want to leave the stage. I'd warrant that he is probably one of the best frontmen in rock, even though the Broken Social Scene sort of prohibits the idea of a frontman. (Well, Drew is a frontman, it's in his bones, he can't help it.) At the end of the show, he incited the crowd to shout "Fuck this!" Then immediately followed it up by having us shout "Thank you for my life!"
When you think about it, those two phrases are the fundamental basic themes of rock 'n' roll.