March 20th, 2010 | by Local Cut Music | Posted In: Columns, Live Cuts

LocalCut at South By Southwest: Friday

     
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Real EstateDay three of SXSW! The LC staff (Casey Jarman and Michael Mannheimer) is still in Austin, trying to survive the epic 3 am bus rides and horrible sunburns. Here's our Friday diary, featuring more tacos, Danish pop, and churches.

Best band Casey saw: Band of Horses
Best band Michael saw: Alphabeat!

11:30 am, Coffee Bean on 41st and Red River
One of the drawbacks of staying out of downtown is that it's hard to find a coffee shop with decent wi-fi, let alone a coffee shop at all. I couldn't pick up any Internet reception at Amy's crib so I walked about 8 blocks to find this place, and it kinda sucks. Every hour the connection goes down for 10 minutes and the screen turns to a Coffee Bean sponsored add that tells you that it's time to "refuel" with another cup of Joe. Fuck this, man, I got bands to see! -MM

Noon @ Home
The top five things that lead to immobilization at SXSW, which I need to keep in moderation in order to enjoy the thing: Booze, sun, blisters, tacos, lines. -CJ

1:10 pm @ A horrible line
In line for the Purevolume House. It's a slow line and the music sounds generic at the moment. It's also "fueled by Taco Bell" and I'm pretty sure the two meal times (at 3 pm and 6 pm), were referred to as "feedings" via the RSVP email. Why am I in this line, then? Chalk it up to morbid curiosity. Why would anyone want the worst tacos in the world when the best tacos in the world are all over the city? Who are these people? -CJ

1:40 @ The Purevolume House
I'm eating a bean burrito from Taco Bell, drinking a free beer and listening to an exacting-but-forgettable rock band that I'm pretty sure has the word “death” in its name. I'm one of those people. -CJ

2:30 pm @ Coffee Bean
Still trying to get the blog up. I hate my computer, I hate coffee, I hate just about everything right now. Trying not to think about all the free drinks and bands I'm missing and focusing on finishing the post before it's too late. -MM

4:15 pm @ 6th and Red River
I'm trying to hurry over to Club de Ville to catch the Antlers at the Brooklyn Vegan showcase, but it's hard because I keep on running into wackos. Crossing the street in front of me is a dude dressed up in a squirrel costume, and he's yelling "lemme see those nuts!" through a megaphone. Are the Flaming Lips playing down the street? I'm surprised Austin doesn't have a "weird people dressed in animals costume" convention. Oh, wait. -MM

Squirrel

4:30 pm @ Club de Ville
OK, first band of the day! And it's the Antlers, who released a great little tearjerker of a record called Hospice last year. It's a nice afternoon, but it's not as hot as yesterday and I wish I was watching something more upbeat. Some of the Antlers' material is too slow and weepy for me but when the band is on it is ON. "Bear" and "Two" are totally majestic and sweeping, somewhere between the raw emotional pull of Neutral Milk Hotel and the pure joy of the Arcade Fire, and they are such solid sing alongs that I can't help but dig it. Who knew songs about a terminally ill child would make such a perfect afternoon soundtrack? -MM

5:10 @ Austin Convention Center
Making a grueling decision about seeing Jakob Dylan and Neko Case or drinking margaritas with my just-arrived best friend. A double-check of the schedule reveals that Dylan and company are playing later at a church. My decision has been made for me. -CJ

5 pm @ Jaime's
Drinking a crushed ("do you mean frozen?" the waitress asks) margarita and eating way-too-thick queso dip. It occurs to me that this festival would really suck if you were underage. Not only are almost all of the shows 21+, but the thing is entirely fueled by (often free) alcohol. Not that it'd be too tough to get drunk as an 18-year-old Texan: Even the all-ages venues have bars, and there's little to no alcohol monitoring going on. -CJ

6:30 pm @ Mess With Texas Party
SXSW is much more than a music festival. It's also a huge clusterfuck of corporate sponsors, free handouts, and unavoidable advertisements. Basically every show is sponsored by someone or something, and so even when you head out to a big field to see Billy Bragg and Frightened Rabbit you are force-fed fliers and Harley demonstrations. There's a line about 10 deep to sit on a motorcycle and rev the engine while it sits in place. For a city that's so Green and environmentally conscious, there's a lot of exhaust spitting out from the back of the bike. -MM

Harley ride

6:51 @ Mess With Texas Party
Billy Bragg is lecturing his audience about fighting the good fight. "Dont ask yourselves, 20 years from now, ‘What did I do to change things when we had our chance?'” he implores the crowd. I look around. A few are watching, but most folks are checking schedules, texting, talking about what bands they've seen so far. 20 feet behind us there's a promotional Harley Davidson—you can “test drive” it while the bike stays stationary—revving it's engine. Bragg goes into "I Keep Faith," and the words slide past. I'm disappointed in my generation's attention span. -CJ

7 pm @ Mess With Texas Party
The Mess With Texas party is great; it's free and easy to get into, outside, and there are two stages that you can rotate to and see a lot of music. YACHT is playing out of the side of one of those pickup trucks that doubles as a stage and soundsystem. I'm not sure which side this Transformer is on, but I'm gonna guess Megatron. It's my first time seeing the new full band with Bobby Birdman on bass and keys and Jeffrey Jerusalem on drums, and I really dig it. I've always liked the band's songs but wished Claire and Jona would cut out some of the conceptual shit and focus on their positive vibes dance steez. The band covers X, and Claire kicks and screams like a real front women. Crazy that I grew up with this girl! -MM

7:10 pm @ Mess With Texas Party
There are bikers at the YACHT show and they look pretty surly. -CJ

7:20 pm @ Mess With Texas Party
Wow, when did YACHT become such a bro-friendly band? All the dudes that would have labeled 'em gay in high school are dancing, screaming and yelling out for "Psychic City." My, how the times have changed. -MM

7:25 pm @ Don't Mess With Texas Party
A random guy jumps onto the stage during "Summer Song." You can tell YACHT is used to this, because Claire totally takes it in stride and coyly says, "ladies and gentlemen, this guy!" Well played, girl. -MM

7:45 pm @ Mess With Texas Party
Frightened Rabbit really knows how to put on a good rock show. It's been fun watching these guys evolved from a whispy sad-sack emo outfit to one of the better and more tuneful alt-rock bands around. Boys really have a lot of heart. -MM

8 pm @ 6th Street
The only way I'm getting into the Band of Horses show at Central Presbyterian Church in an hour is to go over there now, and even then it seems like a longshot. But I waltz in like I own the place and find a few half-empty pews. BOH's Tyler Ramsey is playing some lovely-but-sleepy acoustic tunes and I settle in for the long wait. CJ

8:15 pm @ Klub Krucial
I decide to stop by the Gorilla vs. Bear show at Klub Krucial to see what the scene is like, since I intend to return in a few hours for Real Estate. Weekend is onstage, and the drummer is just insane. He takes his shirt off to reveal a tattoo-laden torso and then promptly returns to beating the shit out of his drum kit, hitting the cymbal so hard that his stick cracks in half. He's like an indie rock Dave Grohl! These guys rule. -MM

Weekend

9 pm @ Central Presbyterian
Band of Horses takes the stage, and Ben Bridwell seems genuinely stoked to be performing in a smaller venue. This band is still a mystery to me: So much of what it does, musically, is familiar and even predictable. But BOH has a unique sound—a big, wide, life-and-death type sound—and Bridwell, despite looking increasingly like Shane McGowan, has that incredible Perry Farrell meets Hank Williams voice that just ties everything together and lends the music unpredictability. The band, which spends a lot of time on new material, goes into “Funeral” and it's one of those perfect moment. -CJ

9:30 pm @ Klub Krucial
I find a spot upstairs to sit down, recharge my phone (Twitter totally drains your battery) and watch most of Pearl Harbor's set from afar. If I remember correctly the band is made up of three sisters, and the youngest one is like 16 years old. The band has a nice vibe that falls somewhere between the hazy chillwave scene its been lumped in and more meandering guitar stuff like Galaxie 500. -MM

10:15 pm @ Some warehouse above the Coyote Ugly
I'm tempted to stay at Klub Krucial for the rest of the night, but it's lacking one thing: free drinks! I get a text from my friend Ben about a warehouse party, and it turns out they have two kegs and lots of free whiskey. One of Ben's oldest friends is playing, and the band has a nice bluesy psych vibe. -MM

10:30 pm @ Warehouse above Coyote Ugly
So many free drinks! They give you two at once! I'm finally getting drunk! Turns out all the alcohol is provided by the Austin Foosball Club. I have a new favorite sport. -MM

Psych Fest

11:00 pm @ Klub Krucial
Anyone who knows me understands that I have a serious weakness for laconic, meandering guitar rock. Real Estate is the best of the current crop, and they sound fantastic tonight despite the fact that singer Martin Courtney says the band literally ran over here from a show that ended less than an hour ago. I saw Real Estate at Holocene in November but the band sounds tighter and more focused now, and the new jams it played rivaled "Fake Blues" and the rest of its debut record. -MM

11:45 pm @ Another Church
This two-church situation confused me last year, and it's confusing me again this year, but I arrive to St. David's in time to catch Black Prairie, the new Portland bluegrass/folk/postclassical group featuring members of the Decemberists. One such Decemberist, Chris Funk, is trying to convince the crowd that his band is from Saskatchewan. I'm not sure why. “We're really sorry about the snow,” he tells them. “You know, for the Olympics. We really thought it would snow more.” The band's set is gorgeous, and it receives the longest standing ovation I've seen yet in Austin. “We'd like to thank our opener, Jakob Dylan,” Funk says at the end, between giggles. Shit, I've missed Dylan and Neko Case again! -CJ

12:30 am @ La Zona Rosa
Hate on Twitter all you want, but I wouldn't know that my favorite Danish pop band, Alphabeat, is playing at La Zona Rosa without it. Turns out Alphabeat is on after Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and the club is running way behind schedule, so I end up seeing most of its set. I've never been a huge fan but the material is way better live, especially at a real venue with an epic light show and sound so loud that you can feel the bass vibrating your soul. After the set ends EVERYONE clears out, leaving about 75 people for a special treat. -MM

1:15 am @ La Zona Rosa
ALPHABEAT! HOLY FUCK! This is a situation ripe for disaster: the set is starting 45 minutes late; most of the crowd has left; the sound guy is having trouble setting up all the keyboards and vocal mics; it's the band's US debut; and the venue is so large and cavernous that it looks completely empty even though we're all packed at the front of the stage. The minute the band launches into "The Spell" I forget about everything that's bothering me and just dance my ass off. In a music festival and city where everyone is trying to out-cool each other, Alphabeat is the King of the Nerds. There is nothing cool about this band, and that's why I love 'em. You just don't find pop music this unpretentious and emotional and joyous these days. The minute they launch into "The Spell"—which sounds like a cross between ABBA and U.S.E. after a few Red Bulls—everyone goes nuts, leading to a crazy 30-minute dance party. "Fascination" is one giant sing along, for a few minutes I forget about my sore feet and missed bands and forgotten blogging and the world is right. -MM

Alphabeat

1:40 am @ Red Eyed Fly
The dude from Lucero didn't lose his voice, he just sounds that way. He's also got a sweet-ass horn section tonight and it makes even the forgettable songs sound incredible. The crowd here is more in line with what I'd imagined Texas people looked like before I ever visited: Tough-looking and drunk. Most people know the words and they're not afraid to shout them. It's a fun way to end my music-going evening. -CJ

2 am Walking down 4th street toward the Hilton
People always say that Austin is like Portland but in Texas, and I can see the comparison walking down 4th street, which is just like Chinatown at night . Soooooo many douche bags are on the prowl, looking to, as some dude screams, "get my dick wet." I guess the Beaverton shuttle just hit town. -MM

2:10 On 4th street
I hear "Party in the U.S.A" twice on my walk back downtown, first bumping from a club and then coming out of the back of a car. There's a lot of hate in this world, but I feel like a lot of it could be erased by this song. One of the great uniters of our time. -MM

waiting on a bus

3:05 am @ Bus Stop
Two girls ride by on the back of a bike-cab and ask anyone who'll listen, "Where's the weeeeeed?" A gaggle of drunk, punked-out kids crowd the bus stop, and we're worried we won't fit on the Night Owl bus when it arrives to take us the 75 blocks we need to get back to former WW Music Editor Amy McCullough's house. But cabs are pretty thin at the moment, and so we wait. The kids all pile into some farm-bound hippie bus and suddenly we're the only people at the stop. The bus never comes. A fat local tries to talk a bicycle cab into taking him home for five bucks instead of the usual ten. His friends heckle him: "Your fat ass gon' cost more than that!" We eventually find a cab and listen to the driver talk about what assholes bicyclists are, and how she may or may not have seen one killed earlier in the day. It smells like fajitas when we get back to the house at 3:45. -CJ

4:30 am @ Amy's House
I can't sleep so I play myself some Big Star on the headphones, and "The Ballad of El Goodo" kills me. Then "Thirteen" about breaks me down entirely. If a more beautiful song has ever been written about teenage angst, I can't think of it. I still remember the first time I heard Alex Chilton's voice. I immediately had to buy everything I could find, and It still moves and baffles me as much as ever. Thanks, Alex! -CJ


 
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