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Sunday, March 21, 2010

SXSW Days Three and Four (Point! Counterpoint! Drunk! Cold!)

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Sun, Mar 21, 2010 at 8:44 AM

E 6th Street, Austin, Texas; March 20, 2010
  • Shut up and play with yer guitar; E 6th Street, Austin, Texas, March 20, 2010

SUMMARY:
Bands seen
: at least 24
Tacos eaten: Friday 3, Saturday 5. Grand total: 13, not too shabby, but shameful after last year's triumph of 16.
Bands I missed, or barely caught: Plants and Animals (twice), the Antlers, Pearly Gate Music, Superchunk, Sleigh Bells, Brazos, She and Him (sorry, Zooey).
Drunkenness level: What're YOU looking at!?!

For those that have been following End Hits' Twitter feed you will have some idea how Friday and Saturday have gone, so I might repeat myself here (but if you haven't checked it out, you should do so). You've likely already heard that yesterday, central Texas experienced a freakish cold wave. After three days of sun and mid-70s weather, the thermometer barely crept up to 45, and spent most of the time in the 30s. Still, getting ahead of myself. The past two days SXSW kicked into high gear and became an absolute whirlwind. Drinking and seeing shows (and drinking) becomes a matter of course, a natural rhythm that gains its own momentum, and Day Three and Four of SXSW become the time when you either ride the wave or get crushed by it. (I spent the past five minutes coming up with that terrible surfing metaphor and I cannot best it now; brain is utterly dead.)

Friday started with a trip to breakfast tacos (from here on out, the taco coverage will be spotty at best, I get it, you get it, tacos are delicious, who gives a fuck). Then a show by Malachai, a duo from Bristol who make hiphop-flecked British proggy psych for record nerds. I think they are absolutely great; every song on the record is strong, and live they have enough charisma to fill a tiny room as many showgoers' bleary first show. Then a trip to see Efterklang again, who are wonderful as always although they are cut short (I hear some longhaired prick give the soundman a tongue lashing for letting them play one more song). Then another Danish band whose name I don't recollect. The singer was dressed like Jem (of the Holograms) crossed with a pirate, and the music was poppy ska-ish something or other. Finished free beer and fled.

The next goal was to see Brazos at a hamburger joint, but was distracted by the open bar at a party at Austin's Beauty Bar. Stayed there longer than we meant to, then hurried over to catch Tobacco. The room he played was packed, so wandered outside to see Eddie Argos' new band Everybody Was in the French Resistance... Now! I initially hate this band (especially their name) but Argos wins me over with sheer force. Then Frightened Rabbit plays again, a totally energetic, entertaining set, but I won't blather on about them again (for now).

A long walk leads to a good dinner (no tacos) and then a sprint to Antone's to catch the last song by Plants and Animals, which is incredible. I vow to see them again before I leave. A little at a loss of what to do next, get a text that a friend is about to see Eugene Mirman, so I wander over there. He's fine, but usually funnier, and the jackass in front of me keeps shouting something stupid about Concord, Mass in a HORRIBLE Boston accent. Fuck you, fellow showgoer. Everybody here hates you. Then to see the Smith Westerns, who are great, but we have the bug (to see as many bands as possible) and skip the end of their set to see the much hyped Bear Hands. I liked them more than some of my companions, and their songs really grow into themselves over the course of the four or five or six minutes it takes to play them. Then a dash to see the Coathangers. We see the very end of their set, a hyper, screeched song that feels like someone yelling at you to take out the trash.

Some weird wandering as we try to find Klub Krucial. We find it and they don't let us in for a while. When they do, we discover that the management at Klub Krucial is dopey at best and incompetent at worst, there is plenty of room inside the venue to see Memory Tapes. With guitar and drums (and a shitton of backing tracks) they make ecstatic dance-rock music. It sounds better on record. I peel off to catch Les Savy Fav, and catch the last song of the Antlers. It sounds great. Then Les Savy Fav come out and destroy it, I think. Everything got pretty jellylike at that point. Harrington did some funny shit, and the band rocked out, and I ended up at the hotel, and that was that.

When we wake up Saturday, it is cold and rainy. Like, borderline freezing cold. The day starts with a free, complete breakfast from IFC (tacos: three) then a trip over to the east side for the Portland indie showcase. Due to the rain and the cold, things are behind schedule (as they are with almost every other daytime party, the vast majority of which happen outdoors). Finally Shellshag get things underway, and good lord it is cold. Cold cold cold. Brr. You get the idea. World's Greatest Ghosts follow up. Still cold. Free beer is nice, but it, too, is cold. Fuck, it's cold.

Frightened Rabbit at IFC
  • Frightened Rabbit at IFC

I'd love to stay longer, but have been invited to Frightened Rabbit's taping at the IFC studios, so I try to catch the bus back to downtown (this doesn't work). A long, hurried walk (which warms me up slightly) gets me there in time to be one of the select few who watch the performance. It's warm, and sounds great in there, especially after four days of half-assed rigged PAs at shitty clubs throughout the city. Awesome experience. And another great, short set by Frightened Rabbit. The new songs get better every time I hear them.

Plants and Animals are playing, so I go over there, but Andrew WK is playing the same show outside, so the line is very long. Damn you Andrew WK. Eventually we get in, but P&A are already done. We watch Local Natives set up, then play about four songs (including a Talking Heads cover), and come to this conclusion: Local Natives are boring as fuck. Seriously, duller than dishwater. Sorry, dudes. Other people seem to like you, so you'll be fine.

A quick break to chill out and watch an hour of basketball becomes an accidental nap. I wake up to go see another set by Malachai. (They are serving Torchy's Tacos inside the venue. I eat two.) Malachai are opening what was supposed to be the Big Star show, but has now become the Big Star tribute featuring the likes of M. Ward and Mike Mills from REM. The place is already a little crazy, and they aren't letting anyone in who doesn't have a badge. They relent and let in my braceleted friend when they learn we are just there to see Malachai, who unfortunately suffer from a big, unfilled room. I still like their music, but my friend doesn't understand why, especially after I've been talking about them a lot since seeing them yesterday.

Then a trek over to see Visqueen. Oh my god, they are unbelievable fucking fun, and singer/guitarist Rachel Flotard is pretty much the coolest person ever. Her between-song banter is by far and away the best of the festival. Then we go to a back patio to see Titus Andronicus. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but Saturday was cold. And the patio show is fucking freezing. Titus stretches four songs out into a 30 minute set and sound glorious.

photo-4.jpg

We don't know what to do yet, so we wander into a metal bar but fail to see any band playing. I misread the schedule to see Black Prairie is playing at a church. When we get there, I find I have the day wrong, but we go in to see what's playing. Oh my god. It is an earnest young man named Stephen Jerzak playing the most transparent, cheesiest teenybop stuff imaginable, to a thin crowd of teenage girls. There is a picture above. Look at the drummer's hair. We have entered the Disney zone. Jerzak plays a Taylor Swift song and makes it sound even more bubblegum. This show is amazing. I am so glad I accidentally came here. Things have gotten totally surreal and I am delighted.

Here is a picture of his merch:

Happy DOES look good on me! When I asked the merch guy if it was okay if I took this picture, he said, Sure! Just dont infringe! God bless you, Stephen Jerzak.
  • Happy DOES look good on me! When I asked the merch guy if it was okay if I took this picture, he said, "Sure! Just don't infringe!" God bless you, Stephen Jerzak.

There is another show elsewhere in the church, so we go down there and relax in the pews while Sleep Whale plays gorgeous instrumental stuff. Then I'm off to catch the great Wave Pictures, who are as good as I'd hoped. They sing a song whose chorus goes: "A sculpture is a sculpture, marmalade is marmalade, and a sculpture of marmalade is a sculpture but it isn't marmalade."

This makes a lot of sense to me at the time.

Then the home stretch, which I decide to see the Fresh and Onlys. When I get there I realize I've seen them before. And the girl who sings on "Peacock and Wing" isn't in the band anymore. And all their other songs are so-so. I stick it out, and they play "Peacock and Wing" at the end and then I am done.

I make no apologies for this blog post. It is Sunday morning after four days of drinking and very, very loud music and I can't think straight. My feet and legs are still killing me, I am happy and exhausted, and marmalade is marmalade.

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