SXSW has come to a close and I’ve discovered that the key to an enjoyable week’s worth of music is saying to hell with the showcases and concentrating on the day parties. Times are tight, and if that means standing in line and chugging free sponsor swill like UV pink lemonade flavored vodka and Rose’s Austin-Jitos, well, so be it. This is what little I remember…
Anathallo – Arcade Fire without the French Canadian pomposity. It’s a joke! C’mon, I love French Canadians… except maybe for Martin Lapointe. I’ve heard that guy’s a dick.
Amanda Palmer – One half of the Dresden Dolls. She was getting a ton of word-of-mouth over the week, but 2pm in an Austin tent are not the best conditions for angry, Brechtian keyboard-pounding.
Black Joe Lewis – I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see the Bar-Kays this week. Catching the Black Joe Lewis set at the Paste Magazine party more than made up for that.
Port O’Brien – A Northern California band whose sound is very familiar. Very familiar. There’s some Band of Horses, a little M. Ward, a dash of Bon Iver… not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The Drones – Apparently I typed this at some point later that evening: “why am I liking this?” What I imagine the result would be if Sonic Youth was forced at gunpoint to play classic rock.
Passion Pit – Very fun and very exuberant synth-pop. I appreciate the fact that they all look like guys that would hang out at the computer lab in high school.
Bishop Allen – I had one of those odd time/space slips when catching a chunk of Mutual Appreciation on IFC the night before seeing Bishop Allen. When the fuck did calypso become the new black.
Daniel Johnston – Showed up late and immediately tried the patience of the shuffling throng of hipsters. God bless him… he still knows the basics of a good, catchy pop song.
The Wrens – Another band (along with New Radiant Storm King) that got dumped when Alan Meltzer purchased Grass Records and turned it into a factory for crap. Seeing these guys play live again and hearing rumblings of a new record makes you think that maybe things will get better.
Black Lips – Only Cole Alexander can rock a pancho/pilgrim hat ensemble and make that shit work.
Echo and the Bunnymen – Much like Devo later that evening across town—or even Metallica later on the same stage—no one needs me to describe this to them.
I need to address the Rachel Ray party separately because of the dissonant feelings it arouses. I realize this is the second year in a row she’s hosted a SXSW party and many have already gotten the WTF out of their systems. For starters, The Cringe (her husband’s band) had a prominent spot on the bill. Yes, The Cringe sucks in a way that makes you wince more out of sympathy than animosity but I still think it’s kind of sweet that she enthusiastically champions them on, hoping that her zeal will be contagious. Of course it’s nepotism in its most garish form but I find it hard to hate her for it. Who knows, maybe it’s all that corn syrup from the mojitos still in my bloodstream. Regardless of the personality throwing the party, the Hold Steady and New York Dolls were both predictibly great and the ancho-chicken tacos and mini burgers were tasty. Major quibble: why start the Thermals set and open the doors for a line that literally circles the entire block simultaneously? To serenade the arriving throngs? It’s pretty disconcerting to finally get in only to see gear being packed up.
Eh, there’s always next year.