Monday, March 22, 2010
Year Long Disaster
I finally accomplished one of my life’s goals, which was to attend the South By Southwest music festival right here in Austin, TX. For the uninitiated, this 10-day music, film, and interactive marathon occurs every March at the Austin Convention Center, as well as at over 80 venues (yes there really are that many!) all across the city. Being the live music capitol of the world, on any given non-festival weekend, one can choose from an average of 40-50 bands playing concurrently throughout the city. And most of those shows occur within a three square mile radius of Austin’s historic 6th Street. But when “South-By” hits, the number of bands easily triples and…well it is something I’ve never really experienced to this magnitude before. Just walking down the middle of 6th Street, midway through the music phase of the festival, bands audible from every corner, a sea of people all around, was a humbling, breathtaking experience.
Ticket prices for the festival are nose-bleed expensive, with badges ranging from $600 - $900, depending on what level of access you desire. However, what I thankfully found out after a bit of online research was that you can easily see a ton of bands without paying much more than 20 bucks for all-day parking. There are numerous venues that have, with the help of local businesses, radio stations, and music magazines hosted free day-parties, showcasing 6-10 bands during any given party. Here’s how it works. The fine people at ShowlistAustin.com have posted an exhaustive list of all the non-Convention Center, non-badge shows, complete with venue links and RSVP e-dresses. It helps to RSVP ahead to guarantee entrance to the parties, but if you arrive early enough (45 min – 1 hr) you should have no problem getting in.
The first shows I attended were on Tuesday night, March 16th, which was technically one day before the music phase of the fest actually began. I saw Year Long Disaster at Stubb’s Amphitheater, who were opening for Motörhead. I didn’t stay for Motörhead as I’m not really a fan, but L.A.-based hard-rock three-piece, YLD put on a worthy opening set. After their show I walked two blocks down to the Red 7 to see Mike Hererra’s (MxPx) Tumbledown. As it turned out, I could have waited to see Motörhead’s entire show because Tumbledown didn’t go on until friggin midnight, which made my pre-planned early rise the next morning rather painful. It was well worth it though because Tumbledown was a whole lot of fun.
The next day I got into the Paste Magazine day party at the Galaxy Room on 6th St. Canadian folk artist, Basia Bulat opened the party, accompanied by her brother on drums and friend on viola/violin. She’s quite good and even played a 90-year-old (!) hammered dulcimer on one song. Next was Rock Island, IL folk-artist, Lissie Maurus, known simply as Lissie, who has seen sold out shows across the country after the release of her five-song ep, Why You Runnin’ last November. I had really wanted to see her play ever since reading the Paste review of her humble, ep, and her performance at the Paste party definitely didn’t disappoint.
After seeing Lissie I walked over to the Lustre Pearl for their day party, featuring a lot of bands I didn’t care anything about, but very importantly featuring one particular band I’d been wanting to see for a really long time. San Diego-based rock outfit, Dirty Sweet play a refreshing vintage rock all their own, but with a respectful nod to a few important 70s-era bands such as Humble Pie, Free, and The Alman Brothers, et al. Their 2007 debut, …Of Monarchs And Beggars has seen regular rotation on my playlists ever since I found out about them last year and their live show is one that should never be missed. I think they actually played a total of six different shows over the course of the four-day music phase of the festival. Their sophomore record, American Spiritual will be released on April 6th, but of course I already have a copy since they were leaking them out at the festival (shhhh…). It’s good. Really good.
On Thursday of the festival I stayed home to hang out with my favorite little people.
Friday was another long day, starting with the Filter Magazine day party at the Cedar Creek Courtyard. Up first was Southampton rock three-piece, Band Of Skulls, another group I’d been wanting to see for a while. These guys are really good (of course…otherwise I wouldn’t be seeing them) for having only existed for two years. Next was long time favorites, Delta Spirit, who I’d never actually seen live before. It was their last show of the festival, so they had an especially raucous set. And last was the slightly disappointing Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I really like their recordings but, as evidenced by their 2004 Cornell University show, and again at this show they seem to enter the stage with an air of condescension toward their fans. Maybe it’s unintentional, but it was definitely noticeable.
Band of Skulls
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
The final band I saw was the highly anticipated, sporadically touring super group, She & Him. The band, consisting of actress/musician, Zooey Deschanel and indie rock icon M.Ward formed after the two met on the set of the movie The Go Getter. They are backed by Bright Eyes/Cursive multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Mike Mogis and indie artist Mike Coykendall on guitar. Obviously, due to their other projects/commitments, touring and recording have to be carefully planned in between many other competing demands, which made this show extra special. Unfortunately this event turned out to be a badge-only event, but I was able to get a reasonably close view from outside the fence of the Lustre Pearl. By the end of their set there was just as big a crowd outside the venue as there was inside. The fence-line view was a bit too far to get any good photos, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that I was there.
So anyway, that’s it. Sorry for such a long post, but for those who care hopefully this was a worthwhile read.
Posted by Pinkey the Axe Fairy at 8:39 PM