By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Aubrey EdwardsSouth By Southwest, the yearly Austin, Texas, music-industry extravaganza-cum-smorgasbord, takes 1,300 bands from around the globe; stirs in a generous helping of record-label cretins, glassy-eyed music critics and eerily robotic publicists; adds copious amounts of barbecue, Tex-Mex and Shiner Bock beer, sprinkled with a dozen squirts of whatever that stuff was oozing down Sixth Street; turns the knob up as high as she'll go; and simmers until a savory, aurally pleasing broth develops. Or doesn't. Our annual report, reprinted from the Weekly'sRadar Orange music blog (radarorange.blogspot.com):
ELVIS' MILLION-DOLLAR CD
Buried in the yarn he was weaving Wednesday about the differences between the Imposters and the Attractions, the "faces" performers assume in public, and the relative ease with which lyrics travel from his brain to paper, Elvis Costello told SXSW interviewer Bill Flanagan the following extemporaneous statement: "I hate seeing [Joni Mitchell's] Bluegoing for £5. It should go for £50. It should appreciate like a piece of art, like a Rembrandt." Costello went on to say that CDs from musicians of the same quality—Dylan, for instance—shouldn't be marked down with stickers bearing "Super Saver" or "The Nice Price." What?This theory of CD economics is hogwash on so many levels. For one, Rembrandt paintings appreciate to unfathomable values because they are each one of a kind, whereas a CD is a mass-produced piece of polycarbonate costing less than a buck per unit. Furthermore, prohibiting impressionable, exploratory ears from affording modern classics signals a death knell for the preservation of rock & roll history. Does Elvis really want to relegate songs such as "Radio Radio" and "Watching the Detectives" and "Alison"—because, after all, he isof the same echelon as Mitchell and Dylan—to the stereos of the filthy rich, where they will be played significantly fewer times than in the slovenly, 400-square-foot Bronx studio of an aspiring something-or-other? The reasoning behind limiting the barriers of entry for oldies but goodies is similar to the reasoning behind file sharing and offering dirt-cheap MP3s: it encourages listeners to broaden their musical appetites without much commitment, which in the long run translates to steady vs. erratic sales. Anyway, that's thisyear's model.
DON'T MESS WITH TESTES
The buskers were out in force along Sixth Street Thursday, the SXSW sonic hub. A husband-and-wife duo played a country-tinged version of Inner Circle's "Bad Boys." "I wish I walked by during a better song," remarked a bystander. Another malnourished singer/songwriter sat on the sidewalk singing, "Go on and walk faster/All you self-absorbed bastards." The real musicians with real publicists fared a little better in the Sixth Street clubs. TVT Records made up for too many Buck-O-Nine albums with a $4,000 bar tab and nachos at the Hard Rock Cafť. The vocals were high in the mix in the bathroom for some reason, revealing Tsar's inspired lyrics ("All my brothers are proud rockers/Tripping on acid"). The Blue Van did the whole white-band-imitating-white-bands-that-imitated-black-bands thing with panache, culminating with a cover of "Have Love Will Travel." Fatal Flying Guilloteens literally sang from the treetops in an outdoor show. Later, Tamil the Tiger, Sri Lanka's beloved children's television character, joined terror bombshell MIA onstage. At 1 a.m., the rumor of a reunited Dinosaur Jr playing a surprise show was revealed to be a publicist's ploy to bring a larger audience for Merge label mates Spoon. Didn't work: most of the attendees, suffering from their second hangover of the day, simply walked out and returned to their presidential suites.
In line at La Zona Rosa, a pair of seasoned British rock journalists are trying to one-up one another. One of them is looking forward to a Willie Nelson interview while he's in the States, but the other casually mentions he'll be heading to Nashville next to chat with Little Richard. His cohort is not impressed:
"Litt'l Richard? We ran a feature on him about a year and a half ago," he says. "He's mad. Ment'l, you know?"
"Is that right?" asks the second guy.
"He claims that he's Jewish, yet he's constantly going to church," the first guy says. "Seven Day Adventist. Absolutely batty."
"Sounds delightfully mad to me."
TRASH: PICK IT UP
The must-breeze-through hipster daycare shows were MIA (fun fact: Tamil Tigers are the only terrorist group with their own air force) at some screwy venue only those cash-flush enough to hire cabs can get to and the New York Dolls at the SPINbarbecue, who will reportedly unveil a 20-years-in-the-making new low by wheeling out Johnny Thunders' casket for a grand-ish finale. Even more reportedly: after a private viewing that demands a special SPINlaminate to attend, Thunders will be re-interred in an Austin mausoleum (alongside Bobby Soxx from the Teenage Queers and the guy from the Vomit Pigs who choked to death on a log of barbecue) with a coterie of Bettie-Page-haircut girls to attend to his corpsely needs in the afterlife. Later tonight, the Dolls will play a set theoretically open to the public, and then they will be gently dabbed with cool washcloths and propped upright in their leather backseats of their private limos. Local band watch: somewhere, the Alleged Gunmen and the Geisha Girls played an unofficial and possibly illegal party/show/firetrap. Celebrity dish: Har Mar Superstar in an elevator; poster artist Tara McPherson beaming joyfully, as she is known to do. Non-celebrity dish: lots of ugly dudes in ill-fitting cargo pants, unfortunately charged with finding and marketing the Next Big Thing.