SXSW Recap

Posted by in Music

I am slowly recovering from SXSW. After taking Heather to the airport yesterday morning, I went to class and then came home and fell into bed, where I then spent the majority of my day. It’s a taxing week to be sure, but I miss it and everyone already. While I’m glad the invasion is over and traffic patterns have returned to normal, I miss having so much great music at my (relative) disposal, and the random encounters and planned meet-ups with friends. In short, I need to get out more. But drink less. After a week of good drink and food, the replacement key for my treadmill could not have arrived at a better time.

I’m not a music geek – I can’t tell you that the drummer from band x used to be in band y, and their lead singer came from band z. (I do good to get the Uncle Tupelo/Wilco connection straight). But I collect songs like some people collect coins, feel that anything can be made better if you have some good music going in the background, and know what’s good, and what isn’t getting the attention it needs. The good thing about SXSW is that many of these bands are the ones coming to town. What’s bad is that suddenly I’m not the only one who knows about them, and find long lines to get into shows. The good thing is that there is another good show just around the corner.

I may be mentally ill. Well, scratch that – we know I’m mentally ill, but now it’s just manifesting itself in other ways. While sitting on the 18th Floor of Capital Place very early Sunday morning, a seed of doubt began to form, and as a result, I have more of that damn thinking to do. In short, I’m 29 years old and still have no idea what I want to do with my life. 🙂

One thing I don’t have to doubt is that I have great friends; they have great friends, and we live in the coolest town in the world. Here then are my SXSW highlights:

My New Favorite Band: Elliott Brood

Me: “They’re Canadian”
Brian: “Whaa?? Canadian??? We hate Canadian bands!”*
Gus: “I know. She tricked me.”
Me: “Should we ask to see their visas?”
Gus: “Nah, anyone who can rock a banjo like that deserves to be called American.”

When the list of SXSW bands was released, I naturally checked out the Alt Country category first. Elliott Brood was listed there, with a most intriguing description – “If Wilco + Richard Buckner went on tour covering Johnny Cash songs”. The only way you could have gotten my attention more is if that sentence ended in “…about poker.” I checked out the song from the SXSW website and found a few others on teh intarweb, and decided they deserved to be on the “must-see” list.

So Sunday, at 1am, Gus and Eva and I made the trek to the Capital Place to see their show. I presume the 18th floor normally functions as a penthouse suite of some sort, given its open space and amazing view of downtown. During SXSW it functions as a nice, intimate setting for seeing a band. We secured seats (yes, seats!) in the second row and settled in for the show.

While I appreciate the opportunity to sit down, especially when you’ve been walking/standing all week long, there could not have been a worse show to offer seating for. It’s impossible to sit still listening to these guys. Try it, you can’t do it. It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered a band that was so fun to listen to, but in an edgy, slightly dark kind of way. Plus anyone who wears a suit for a performance wins points with me. After really hearing them, I’m not sure how much I agree with that initial description, but I appreciate the difficulty in answering the “what’re they like” question. Go have a listen and see what you think.

*There was a party, there was drinking involved, and during the course of conversation it was determined that Canadians were evil. It’s been a running joke since.

Show I Really Wanted to See But Didn’t Even Know It: Soft

Friday evening found us having a few post-tattoo beers with Gus and friends at their regular hangout. After telling his story about “Detroit guy”, Gus’s friend Brian mentioned that he was on his way to see Soft at Spiro’s. “What??”, I said. “They’re here??” “Yea” Brian replied. “Really?? Seriously??”, I continued. At this point Brian begins to look at me like I’m crazy (which, we know I am, but not so much for this). “Would you like to come with me?”

I’ve written about Soft before. The fact that I somehow missed them on the list of SXSW participating bands was beyond my comprehension. So what if there were 1300+ bands on the list; they were Soft dammit! I thanked Brian profusely for mentioning the show, and off we went.

I’m normally not a big fan of pop-y rock, but again, when something is good, it’s good and you can’t pass it up. Soft has a signature sound, and a large part of that is the guitar layering in each song. Recorded, they provide a solid background for the dream-like vocals; live, they just rock the place. Had I had a bit more liquor in me, I would have been dancing wildly like the people in front of us (and then Heather would have been laughing at me too), but due to my hungover state that morning, I was fairly sober and instead just bopped around in my little area, singing along and thinking about how glad I was to have run into Brian. It was a high-energy show and I think the band earned themselves a lot of new fans with it. If my first two posts about them didn’t motivate you to check them out, maybe the third time will be the charm.

Show I Would Have Liked to See More Of, But Damn That Stubb’s Line: Mark Mallman

Call me the Queen of Delayed Reactions this SXSW. While I didn’t go last year, I grabbed all the songs from the showcase artists and spent a good month going through them all. I’m very picky about what goes on my iPod – it has to be something that I’m going to want to hear time and time again. Thus, there are but a few standouts that I selected from the 100+ files from last year. Hardcore Romantics was one of them. I love the song and always crank the iPod when it comes on, but for some reason, I had a disconnect between the song and its singer. When I was checking out the schedule for this year, the name Mark Mallman rang no bells. When I hit Hardcore Romantics in this year’s downloads, the light went on, and I made a note to check out the show. When Ryan mentioned he was going, the light went off and I made a note that Ryan was going, and he has good taste, so it might be someone to check out. When he mentioned it the second time, the light went on again, and this time finally stayed on, at least long enough for me to get to Exodus to see the show.

And the show? Picture Meatloaf on steriods. Well okay, maybe not steriods, because Meatloaf doesn’t exactly need any bulking up, so maybe crack or speed; whatever the kids are taking these days that makes them bound around a stage in a frenzy while screaming at the top of their lungs and banging on a piano. Not a show for everyone (and Eva and Heather stepped outside shortly after we got there), but it’s definately not your typical rock show, and for that alone it deserves some attention. And I dig his music, cause I’m kooky that way. Had to leave early to get in line for the Dresden Dolls, so hopefully I’ll get another opportunity to catch his show.

Band I Wish I Had Seen, Based on Information After the Fact: Silversun Pickups

Where was I Friday at 9pm anyway…? Oh, that’s right – Black Cat Tattoos. Seems like there was another band on the schedule for that time slot anyway, so I likely was not destined to see them. But not only did they get a recommendation from Ryan; Gus saw them three times. Three! He shared the CD with me, and I like. Going to have to catch them the next time they hit town.

Other Random Highlights From The Week:

  • Finding out that I’m not alone in seeing bloggers everywhere. As we passed a guy on 6th Street – “He looks like Kent”. At a restaurant – “That guy kinda looks like Chad”. “Hey, that midget looks just like Iggy!” The best of course was the tattoo artist who bared a striking resemblence to BG. While he possessed the same sardonic wit, he just wasn’t the same conversationalist.
  • Being stopped in the middle of Red River by two guys needing to use a cell phone. Gus starting to offer his up and then asking “You’re not going to call Mexico are you?” [Yea, I know, you had to have been there and/or know Gus to really appreciate this, but it kept me in giggles for a full day, and this is my highlight list afterall]
  • Saturday night at Mugshots with Eva and Gus
  • Eva flirting our way into the BottleRockets (thank you again!)
  • Running in to all sorts of random people every night, none of them anyone I would expect to run into during SXSW.
  • Having to pee multiple times Thursday night, most notably during a 6 block bus ride and a desperate cab search at 3am Friday morning. I am such an old lady…
  • A fantastic brunch with Joel and Jay, where we started the day off drinking.
  • And ended it bowling with Gus, where I actually scored over 100 on the second game. Gus is a good teacher, that’s all I can say.

Randow Lowlights:

  • Missing Kat
  • Have I mentioned the long-ass line at Stubb’s yet?

In sum, fantastic time, let’s do it again, yadda yadda. As the SXSW website says, it’s never too early to start planning for next year. At this point, all I know for sure is that I’m getting a badge from now on. It may double the price, but…see, there’s these lines…

It’s also never too early to start planning a trip down for ACL Fest. Band info not released yet, but Wilco is there practically every damn year, so it’s a safe bet they’ll be there this time too. I know I’ll be.