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
NEVER SEEN IT THIS THICK BEFORE
The Dolls were sad. "This is sad," said a girl. "Let's go sit down." It wasn't quite pointless, but it felt like it was going to take a lot of exercise to get a good time out of the experience. Sylvain Sylvain was probably just happy to get a hot meal.
Getting a badge doesn't mean anything at SXSW anymore. You need a laminate and your name on the list, and even then admission is not guaranteed. It's a bad sign when a band's publicist and the music writers assigned to cover the show have to watch from a drainage ditch. The situation results in long naps after languid whiskey sessions. So what are the hot bands this year? Who knows?
Photo by Aubry Edwards
HORRIBLY DISFIGURED; DRANK HIMSELF TO DEATH STATESIDE
[00:00:00STARTTAPE]Awful blah at the SPINbarbecue. Louis XIV sound like a bar band, which is what the Dolls were supposed to do, except ironically. Hope they're saving their money. Buy their iTunes; keep scum off the streets.
[00:19:46GAPINTAPE]Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes: good name, and they looked it, sort of a camp-y Cramps riff on girl-group shtick that went way off the rails and turned into—well, not disco punk, but they were very dirty, and the drummer played the offbeats on the high hat. Bassist Kris Vlasic is an old-time Arizona rock & roller—so talented, actually, that he managed to move away and so cheerfully slimy that he found enthusiastic welcome in the sex parlors of decadent ghetto-dwelling art-school dropouts. That would be the two girls with shedding spangles hot-glued to their panties; one sang (one of those glass-cutting operatic falsettos) and the other did sexy dancing but wasn't really putting a lot into it. She was too polite: she pretty much gave the speaker tower a firm handshake and a kiss on the cheek.
[01:10:34GAPINTAPE]Ninety-minute wait for food at Casino Camino, plus lots of whiskey.
[01:32:12GAPINTAPE]Something in a street. There was a horse there. Possibly pizza.
[01:16:07GAPINTAPE]Rolling Blackouts played the same songs they've played for two years, plus two new ones. They need to get famous soon or at least land a residency on a cruise ship. (Oh, yes: the Willowz were at this show, bouncing around. Earlier, they'd played a solid set to a pile of lumber, a little kid and Keith Morris—now with trimmed, travel-size dreadlocks.) It's always nice to see the Blackouts—they're the friendly sort of guys who'll yank you off the street into a van and then put drugs in you.
[00:46:52GAPINTAPE]Some bar. People tip with change, sadly. Bartenders scoop in extra ice, angrily. Red and yellow lights.
[00:23:14GAPINTAPE]The Mae Shi are very efficient: three or four songs all at once, superconcentrated into something you'd download and decode if you could, but you can't, so you just listen. Thoughtfully arranged, carefully planned-out music, but after 20 minutes of guitarists running around in the crowd and drums that cut in and out on no discernible signal whatsoever, you may feel like you are being fucked with. Possibly that is the point.
[00:10:06GAPINTAPE]Dios Malos: sad songs by drunk dudes.
[00:14:37GAPINTAPE]Wives: refer to the Mae Shi, but they hauled a whole platoon of crazy people onstage. Girls with elaborate hair and bugged-out eyes, Mike Moran grinning through the viewfinder of a video cam, etc. "Bracing," you might say.
[00:05:47GAPINTAPE]Mean Reds: "Suck by suck WORST!" they were yelling, wearing painters' smocks over jeans. They're ripping off Bad Brains, etc., a lot these days, which is a welcome graduation from ripping off Le Shok. Kids shooting for the stars—always a beautiful thing. LA royal rock sleaze holding court: Aoki, Frankie Chan, Cobrasnake, maybe Cali DeWitt, camouflaged by facial hair.
[00:08:45GAPINTAPE]Some SPINhouse party, but also some walking around, sleeping in a place or possibly a location. The night winks caustically, etc. Overheard later: "Give him some water so he won't die."
THE NATURE OF THINGS
Overheard: "Blog me shit, asshole!" Also: "Who was that sleeping on our floor last night?" Also: "All music is worthless garbage." Untrue, actually—that last one's a famous quote. From, um, Heraclitus.
Staying with a band in Austin means tinkling guitars late at night, friendly kittens and coconut popsicles (instead of vending-machine Doritos) when you need a snack. If you're lucky enough to stay with a band like Shearwater (one that includes a foodie and an ornithologist), it could mean cinnamon-spiced glasses of horchatain secret taqueriasand nature walks in Zilker Park as well. But it also means lo-fi computer access, which makes blogging difficult.
THE HIPSTER GENERAL STORE
At the FaderTrading Post, you can buy groovy jeans and hip accessories on your way in or out of a show. In the back yard, cushy chairs and plush couches are set up under a black tent. A cute DJ spins dance and R&B. You're instructed to hang out until Bloc Party is ready for their interview. Everyone there has this perfectly disheveled style. It's as though you walked into an Urban Outfitters catalog, and it gives you a sinking feeling you haven't experienced since you were in the cafeteria on the first day of junior high. There are a few other journalists in the house, including a smiling radio crew from New Zealand. You've each been promised 20 minutes with the band. The publicist leads all of you to an outdoor staircase, where you must stand beside a security card who looks a bit like a Diesel model. He adjusts his corduroy wristband and holds a finger to his ear phone as he awaits further instructions. You are afraid of what is at the top of those stairs. And you just realized that your 20 minutes with the band will be shared with the other reporters. When you're finally granted clearance, there's another guard in the room upstairs, along with an untouched pizza, a bowl of miniature candy bars and several racks of neatly folded bandwear. You and the New Zealanders are led to a patio overlooking the main drag of Sixth Street and under the hum of the elevated I-35. There are two terrified 23-year-olds facing the doorway when you pass through. It's Kele and Russell of Bloc Party—you know, the Next Big Thing? They're a couple of kids who are even more nervous than you, but they're so serious and sweet you just want to kidnap them. You want to take Russell out for cheese enchiladas or vegetarian barbecue (the bashful herbivore is afraid he might starve here). You want to sneak Kele into LCD Soundsystem or MIA (he didn't know they were playing until you showed him the SXSW schedule), but he hasn't been given a wristband to allow him into shows, and Bloc Party has performances in conflict with everything he wants to see. They're playing six times over the four days. At least. They're certainly not complaining about their situation, but they do seem a little sad at the moment. Unfortunately, they're too heavily policed (and well-behaved) to sneak them out, so you have to leave them alone with their hype machine. And when they say they hope to see you at the show, they really seem to mean it.