I had grand plans to write this last night, but "last night" was technically "this morning at 3am," and I figured some sleep was in order. Anyhow - I saw something like two dozen bands yesterday. Unlike last year's SXSW, where I felt the absolute pressing need to see each and every band that was on my schedule, no matter if it meant leaving in the middle of a set I was really enjoying, this year's been far more sedate. I've accepted the fact that I will not, and cannot, see every band I want to. I have been making sacrifices, and I think I'm a better person for it.
The highlight of the day was seeing the Luchagors from Atlanta. Featuring former WWE wrestler Amy "Lita" Dumas on vocals, I figured it would be worth seeing them for a lark. Surprisingly, they ended up being really good. The crowd at BD Riley's went from a handful to a packed house, as folks heard their L7 meets Toilet Boys trash rock and came in off the street. They knocked out a cover of the Cramps' "New Kind of Kick," which came off without a hitch - no mean feat at 2:30 in the afternoon. I checked 'em out again at 10pm as part of Texas Rock Fest, and while their set only ran about fifteen minutes, it did feature the additional entertainment of seein their quite drunk guitarist knock a full-size amp and headunit to the ground and continue playing regardless.
I also managed to finally see Fake Problems, a band whose albums I've loved, but keep missing for whatever reasons. They played outside at the Music Gym, which is a musician's co-op on the other side of I-35. I got there a little early, and managed to get my socks rocked off by the So So Glos, who sounded like a Modern Lovers LP playing at 45 instead of 33. It was a pleasant discovery, and I would have preferred to have been able to talk with their lead singer, Alex, without sounding like a complete idiot. I'm sure I said something about "finding new bands and being surprised," and I think he mocked me a little. Still, I've got both of their CDs now, and look foward to spinning them.
Most improved band that I saw at last year's SXSW and have seen thus far goes to the Turbo Fruits. Last year, they were just a Be Your Own Pet side project, but with the demise of that band, and the passage of a year's time, the band has really come into their own. I'm sure there's a host of factors as to why they were better this year than last - the passage of time, the fact that they're a regular band and not a side project, playing inside at Beerland to a fairly full house, as opposed to fucking nobody on the Mohawk patio... all of those could be it. Regardless, their garagey goodness is even better, and starting out with "Volcano," an ode to a speciality device for marijuana consumption (and a KJHK hit a year or two ago) wasn't a bad way to start.
Speaking of starting out well, the Homosexuals opened with "Hearts In Exile." Opening with your hit = punk rock, even if the hit was minor and three decades ago. The rest of their set was equally as entertaining, and I'm happy to see that Bruno is actually calling the band the Homosexuals, as opposed to a long-winded speech about how the band is actually a new band, blah blah blah.
There's a lot more that I could talk about, but really, those were the highlights. Texas' own Iron Age scared me, as did Trash Talk. I think hardcore isn't fun anymore. Evidently, "posi" is out and "scaring the shit out of Nick and making him fear for his life" is in, because I thought the dude from Trash Talk was going to kill someone. The bands put on shows, tho', which is a rarity. I mean, there was probably still more of a floor show than what was on stage, but the bands knew how to play to the audience by jumping out in the audience, etc. And at the Iron Age show, there was a distro. A DISTRO!!! With boxes upon boxes of records! I came into the hardcore scene (however peripherally) around '97, and distros were already supplanted by the Internet. This was awesome! And novel. The ATM was busted, so my checking account manages to survive for another day.
I'll just say that Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer played "Can't Stand It" and "That's the Way It Goes" back to back, M. Ward was pretty much ruined by flash photography, I could only see King Khan's guitar stock during his set with BBQ (although I did get to watch a bunch of little kids boogie down to that song that goes "I don't give a FUCK!"), and Anni Rossi did an Ace of Base cover ("Living In Danger," for those that wants to know such things). I leave you with something that I feel sums up the SXSW experience pretty well - a picture of someone taking a picture of Vivian Girls:
Keep up with all my stuff via Twitter. I am tweeting lots. More SXSW content from some great writers is also available at Pop Wreckoning. Disgustingly talented folks over there. -Nick Spacek