Friday, March 27, 2009

SxSW '09: The Sights and Sounds, Pt. I

I'm slowly getting my hearing back and remembering what it's like to fall asleep without a beer buzz. South by Southwest '09 is officially over. And though some memories remain a little fuzzy, I've jotted down a couple of highlights from those warm days past in Austin.


After a recount, I can confirm that I caught 38 bands' sets in four days; a breakdown can be found below. Metallica, however, was not among them. Going into SxSW, haters (myself included) speculated that their set would only last 20 minutes and retweeted rumors that their intimate Friday night performance at Stubb's would be impossible to get into. But much to everyone's delight, the lines weren't that hellish—and more importantly, the band went old school. The well-oiled machine played for almost 90 minutes and even threw the vintage cover "Breadfan" into their encore.

Do I wish I tried to get in rather than deciding to see Tricky and Devo at the Austin Music Hall (halfway across downtown) instead? Sure. Maybe I'll check Metallica out when they play MSG in the fall, but I still don't think I could ever absolve them of their sins against metal.

Am I glad I kept my SxSW tradition of seeing acts I'd never normally check out otherwise? Of course. Devo were really interesting to watch, especially considering the only songs of theirs I knew going in were "The Girl You Want" and "Whip It." I kept thinking about how avant garde they seemed—more than 20 years after they came out.


Overall, this year's SxSW didn't include the most top-shelf lineup I've ever seen, nor did it provide me with any transcendent musical experiences. Still, it was great seeing so many artists I like and people I know in one warm, sunny place that smells of BBQ and Lone Stars. It seems that there's no such thing as having a bad time in Austin, so I'm pretty certain I'll be back next year.

Brooklyn Vegan Party:
1. Young Widows - The tightest I've seen them yet. Can't wait to check them out next week at Europa.
2. The Bronx - Great set as always.
Evening Showcases:
3. Worst.Band.Ever - I seriously don't remember the name of this band because I blocked them out, but c'mon, a Flying V and a horn section do not belong in the same band with a mousy chick on a keyboard. Ever. Done.
4. Mariachi El Bronx - Though I don't think I'd hire them for my quinceanera, the Bronx's Mexican outlet was fun to watch. And all the songs were still about blow.
5. Blower - If you like Detroit rock and have an appreciation for platform boots, Blower is the band for you.
6. Arabrot - Recommended to me by Diane Kamikaze, these Norwegians would have been far more enjoyable if they kept their shirts on.
7. Iron Age - Part of a TXHC show at Red 7, these locals were truly throwback crossover. D.R.I. would be proud.

Quack! Media Party
1. Dios Malo - Nothing like some local shoe-gazers to start off my morning. Thanks for the drink tickets, Al!
Magadee Records Party
2. Brothers and Sisters - Honestly, I couldn't tell you much about this acoustic country band because I was too focused on my Batter Blaster pancakes. Beer with breakfast? Why not.
Kerrang!/Guitar Hero Party
3. Rolo Tomossi - Screamo British invasion
Full Metal Texas
4. Kylesa - Fucking killed it.
5. Skeletonwitch - Old-school thrash + circle pits
Quack! Media
6. The Hold Steady - Great way to end my afternoon.
Evening Showcases:
7. Hull - Neurosis-influenced Brooklyn heshers
8. Dead Confederate - Southern gothic rock at its finest.
9. Ancestors - Tee Pee's latest droning stoners.
10. Chairlift - Inspired pop from Canada
11. Annihilation Time - Frenetic, explosive and angry, these guys are the new Black Flag.
12. Freeway - Though the State Property mainstay stuck with mostly new Rhymesayers material, I almost had a heart attack when he busted out into "Roc the Mic." Is Beanie in jail?
13. Early Man- Neanderthal metal

Metal BBQ /AAM Party
1. Earthless with J Mascis - The greatest post-Iron Works gig ever. Let the meat coma commence.
Evening Showcases:
2. Year Long Disaster - It always makes me happy to see Rich Mullins in Austin.
3. Datarock - I'm fairly certain this is an Andy Samberg/Lonely Island joke.
4. Tricky - So boring, so disappointing.
5. Devo - Amazing video and live show, but I still haven't joined the cult.
6. Cursive - It was so hard to tear myself away from this intimate gig, but I'm glad I left, because...
7. Gallows - ...catching Gallows was the best decision I made all night. They blew me away, but thankfully didn't kick me in the face.

HIGH TIMES Doobie Awards
1. Blower - Celebrating their one-year anniversary as a live band, it was fitting that Blower kicked things off.
2. Year Long Disaster - Played a totally different stoner-friendly set from the night before. Sweet.
3. Earthless - Fun as always, I can watch Mario play all day.
4. Black Water Rising - New York's contenders for the hard rock throne.
5. Bang Camaro - These guys were literally playing around the corner from HT's affair. How could I not show up? Glad I did.
6. Priestess - A great way to close out the Doobies.
Evening Showcases:
7. Explosions in the Sky - A mellow night at Auditorium Shores with a fireworks climax. Couldn't have asked for a better show.
8. PJ Harvey & John Parish - Glad I got to be in PJ's presence, even if it was for the last few songs of the set.
9. The Knux - Not as awesome as I thought they'd be.
10. Amplified Heat - Austin fuzz rockers brought out the local crowd.
11. Broken Teeth - Holy shit, Jason McMaster's new band (yeah, it's the guy from Dangerous Toys) was really good.

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