Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Knee Deep at SXSW: Day Four - This Boy is Exhausted

It's ironic that on the day I thought my feet could travel no further (again, if you go to SXSW wear shoes that are MADE FOR WALKING) I ended up doing the most hiking around. But overall, it was worth it as this might have been the most idyllic, pretty awesome day of SXSW for the most part because I pretty much threw my schedule and itinerary out the window. I was sick of seeing bands! Or so I thought. I just needed to find the right place to be.

Given that I think both Nick and I wanted to find a place in the shade to just sit, it worked really well that the Mess With Texas party at Waterloo Park was happening on Saturday. We hiked out there early and found a spot on the dirty ground to sit and watch some shitty band play on the main stage. Then the sun came out and we were hungry and there were NO CORN DOG VENDORS like last year so we hiked all the way out to Opal's Divine Freehouse for hamburgers. We took a detour by the capital building where, wouldn't you know it, there was an anti-war protest a-goin' on.

Look at this beautiful happy dog!

In fear of being tazed, or something like that, we made our way to hamburgers, which like I said, was a hike. A LONG hike, but worth it because I must say, the hamburger I had was one of the best ever. And not only did I get to eat a delicious burger topped with coleslaw, grilled onions, and BBQ sauce. And on top of that, we got to listen to some great tunes courtesy of Kepi Ghoulie and Kevin Seconds playing on the outside porch. I drank many iced teas and was completely relaxed.

Then we hiked back to the convention center which might have been a bad idea given that there was a record sale going on upstairs and I um, ended up spending too much money because the vendors from Euclid Records in St. Louis had pretty much every record I'd been waiting to come into Love Garden forever. And reasonably priced. I blew $75 bucks, but could have easily blown more had Nick not talked me down and helped me to limit my picks. I have a bad habit.

After that, again wanting to stay away from clubs and venues, I went with Nick to the Four Square Punk show Sean and Alison had been raving about the last couple days. It was a hike, but I cannot express how much it was worth the walk. We walked into this vacant lot with four little stages set up adorned with four punk bands. In the corner, a roller skating rink and in the back free Budweiser tall boys. And best of all, undercrowded. Just the right amount and the right kind of people: People looking to throw down. Team Robespierre are by far the highlight given that they played a tune shortly after we walked in that involved everyone rolling around in the dirt, getting sprayed with free beer, and bodies throwing themselves everywhere. Cerebral Ballzy were pretty fucking cool too, but not so much when it came to Golden Arrows and She Rides, who were both pretty boring. But man, when Team Robespierre played it was fucking insane. Eventually they started talking shit on the people sitting on the bleachers and at one point, went INTO the bleachers where I saw one of the dudes chuck not-quite-empty beercan at the back of a kids head (I don't know if it was on purpose or not) and the look on that kids face was a look of "WHAT THE FUCK MAN." Had it been me, I'd have gone on the attack or something but man, that kid just sat there and I think he started bleeding. Kind of a dick move on Team Robespierre's part but they had a point: This was a punk show, no one should have been sitting (although I sat when the shitty bands played, but hey, they sucked). Especially not during Team Robespierre and Cerebral Ballzy where crowd involvement was kind of mandatory. Yeah, check out Alison's write-up on the Four Square Punk event, that pretty much nails it. For now, I'll say the rest with pictures:


So it was awesome. And after the round robin punk thing was over Valiant Thorr played and that was pretty sick.

I didn't want to leave, but there was down time and I got a text from Christine at Pirate! saying that the Dirty Projectors were playing at the French Legation Museum at 7PM. This place had amazing shows last year and amazing shows this year but a.) I could never find them listed online and b.) I had no clue where it was. Nick said it was pretty close to where we were so we hiked in search of it...about 9 blocks away. Seriously, my feet, but whatever, Dirty Projectors were playing and they were in my top ten of bands I haven't seen that I need to see at SXSW. Eventually, we stumbled upon it and I must say it is the most beautiful place that I have seen in Austin. Like, this amazing patch of green and beauty in the middle of dust and drunks.

When we got there Melissa Auf Der Maur of Hole was playing a solo set and it sucked really bad so we decided to go back to the Four Square Punk thing and then return around 7 for Dirty Projectors. Hiked the 9 blocks back and checked out the new crop of bands on the stages. I basically just wanted to see These Are Powers again, Ponytail, and DD/MM/YYY. These are Powers have grown SO much since I saw them in Lawrence last year when they were just a screamy weird punk band. Now they have discovered dance beats and there's a whole aura of cool that surrounds them (they look so cool). However, more people had shown up and they were all acting like a typical bored SXSW crowd unlike the first round. At one point during a Ponytail song they had one of the little kids that had been running around all day in Saucony t-shirts on stage and he was rocking out with these huge headphones on. It was pretty much the most adorable thing ever. And it was all pretty cool, but man, after being to the French Legation Museum I wanted to go back immediately, sit in some grass, drink some beer and watch a cool avant-indie band. So we hiked back.

These Are Powers


We got back just as Laura Marling (who I love, but didn't really care for seeing that much) and were pointed in the direction of free ice cream! Not like ice cream cone ice cream but like ice cream truck ice cream on sticks from when you're a kid. I got the Ninja Turtles ice cream stick thing and oh man, childhood. It was perfect and wonderful. Then we randomly ran into Hector from AAM and Mona from Domino and I got to feel like I was doing work and hobnobbing with promoters and such, which was nice. I was then alerted to the $1 cans of Lone Star which pretty much made me freak out and I bought two, as evidenced here:

Finally ran into Christine and Dan and that was cool, and all as the sun was setting and the breeze was kicking up on this beautiful piece of land. Next year I'm coming to everything here. Hands down the greatest venue in Austin. Eventually Dirty Projectors played and I sat down in some grass underneath a beautiful tree and just listened to tracks from their new record Bella Orca, which, based on what I heard, is going to be astounding.

I wanted to stay there all night. I'd walked around all day and finally found the Shangri-La of Austin (ironically, we passed a bar called Shangri-La on the way there). But we had to go, and just went back to Ms. Bea's since there wasn't anything else going on and Blank Dogs were supposed to be playing, followed by Eat Skull. I'm not sure who played though, given that I'm not that familiar with Blank Dogs (I've really dug the few tracks I've heard) but I know for a fact that Eat Skull didn't play after then because I've seen Eat Skull and the band that was playing was very definitely NOT Eat Skull. But whatever, it was a great place to rest and drink more Lone Star.

I'd read in the guidebook that Immaculate Machine was playing at 10PM and, having nothing better to do, Nick and I headed to Habana Calle 6 to check them out. Here is where things got more weird, because I was searching around for the band (er, searching for Kathryn Calder) and could not find her. There was a band setting up inside, where they were supposed to play, but it did not look like Immaculate Machine. There were five people fronted by a dude with a mustache that kind of looked like one of the Immaculate Machine dudes. But they are a three piece, so I was skeptical. And neither of the ladies on stage were Kathryn Calder. And then they were introduced as Immaculate Machine and they played songs that sounded nothing like them. Then they played "C'mon Sea Legs," my favorite track from their latest record and the dude sung it and it sucked really bad. Actually, everything they played sucked...well, the three songs we stuck around for before I got really bitchy and realized it would be better to talk shit outside where I didn't have to listen to the shitty band instead of talking shit and having to listen to that garbage.

It kind of pissed me off, but whatever. Eventually I made my way to Emos Jr at 11 to see Voxtrot. Now, here's how Voxtrot works: They put out three really excellent EPs a few years ago and then, pressured by hype, put out a full length that was pretty terrible and were never heard from again. Until SXSW, when they announced they were playing a couple of shows. So I figured it would be great, getting to see them play to a hometown audience and all, and that maybe their new stuff would be a return to form. I was wrong. Very very very very wrong. This was easily one of the worst shows I saw at SXSW. Well, one of the worst shows by a band that should have been so much better. For one, they failed completely to engage the audience who, for the most part, stood motionless. And maybe it's because they played all of their old songs a little too slow (to the point where I was having a hard time singing along to them). They sounded like a band with their balls removed, and they were posturing like they were hot shit, and like their new songs were so so great which they absolutely weren't. The worst thing was that I regretted coming to the show. During, I had a text message exchange with my little brother, who I got into Voxtrot. He loves them too, and he was jealous until I told him what was going on. Maybe they were just rusty, maybe those new songs will sound better on record but based on what I saw and the new track they leaked (which sucked), I'm not getting my hopes up. I feel like they're destined to be one of those tragic bands who had three amazing EPs and then just couldn't get their shit together after flirting with maybe getting big.

By this point in the night, the last two hours of SXSW, my feet could take no more so I made a quick decision that I would go see Titus Andronicus again at Club Deville, a decision made mostly because Ponytail was playing there at midnight and I thought it would be neat to see them on a proper stage. Instead, I got there and crashed in one of the myriad chairs they have lying around all over the place. Ended up having a good SXSW conversation with a girl who worked the American Apparel sale on 4th & Brazos and eventually, Titus Andronicus played and they played pretty much the same set I saw them play before but I didn't care. I love this band right now, and the show was fucking engaging AND they played their cover of Spider Bags "Waking Up Drunk," which was a nice way to cap-off the routinely booze-fueled SXSW.

And while I planned on being exhausted and getting to go back to the hotel at 2AM, I was fucking jazzed and once at the car we traveled out to the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge for an alleged bridge show (last year's with No Age was the highlight of the fest for me). We found a random punk band under the bridge, who were actually really good but I have no clue who they were. On the bridge proper Psychedelic Horseshit was allegedly playing soon but by this time we were all tired and lazy and had to leave at noon the next day so we left. And that was it. I crashed hard and then we spent 14 hours in the car the next day because Texas is a horrible horrible state to drive in (THREE HOURS OF GRIDLOCK! Imagine, if you will, going 150 miles on the highway in 4 hours. That is not right). AND THAT WAS IT!

Ian Hrabe
KJHK Music Director

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