Thanks to some serious walking that had to be done, I spent most of SXSW Thursday in two places, with a couple of side trips. I started the day off seeing Ruby Isle over at the Flamingo Cantina. I went mainly to talk with Bill, who runs Team Clermont, and is probably the nicest, most reasonable promo person ever. He also books a damn fine show and promotes good records. Ruby Isle were dance-your-pants goodness, and seemed to me to be a lot like a more whimsical version of the Faint (less guitars). I enjoyed what I saw, but got sidetracked by a phone call from my wife, and missed most of the middle of their set.
There wasn't really a lot I wanted to see after that, so I popped over to the convention center after Ruby Isle got done and checked out the trade show and Flatstock. The trade show was bigger than last year, but still pretty much a bust in terms of anything worth my time. I grabbed a bunch of Irish and British comp CDs for Will D. and Across the Pond, so that's smething. Flatstock always leaves me feeling like I should be independently wealthy, with several thousand square feet of wall space.
I then hauled ass way the hell on the other side of the highway to Bird's Barbershop, where there was a show sponsored by Bust Magazine, Dewar's Scotch, and Steamworks Brewing Company. Quite honestly, my sobriety took a bit of a vacation for the next couple of hours. It was hot, there was no shade, and what better way to deal with the heat than cold, tasty, free beer? Yes, I know - water. But the beer was easier to get.
Anyhow... I saw Busdriver play a couple of songs, and I was actually pretty impressed. Live DJ, live instrumentation, not playing from a CD or iPod - usually a decent indicator for a hip-hop act. Still, the real reason I walked all the way over there was to see King Khan & the Shrines. No matter how good the recordings are, nothing prepared me for seeing the band live. I'd seen him with BBQ the night before at Emo's, but I was right there at the front of the stage, there was a go-go dancer, people in the audience were grooving, and this was just one of those great shows. It's like King Khan has studied every Otis Redding, James Brown, and classic r&b performer to just knock a show out of the park.
After that, it was a long, slightly wobbly walk over to Breakaway Records to see the Girls and Gentleman Jesse. A long, hot, drunk walk. By the time I got over there, my water bottle was empty, I was sweaty, and I was amazingly dismayed to discover that the bands were playing in a parking lot. Then the frontman, Shannon, came out wearing nothing but Chucks, sunglasses, a hat, and black bikini briefs, and I knew everything would be ok. They played something like five songs - one of which being "Transfer Station," and that made the mile or so I'd walked to get there totally worth it. Then Gentleman Jesse & His Men rocked it, playing a set that made me think that I should really have gotten their record a good long while ago. They're really Costello-friendly, and not a little like him doing the more upbeat numbers on Almost Blue. Country-tinged new wave guitar pop? Something like that. They were worth seeing twice, which is why I went and saw them again at Beerland that night. I would've like to have stuck around to see the Cute Lepers, but I have a chance to see them at Red 7 with Teenage Bottlerocket, and I had to meet the gang for dinner.
Now, before I go into detail about my night at Beerland, I do need to mention that before heading over there, I went to Red 7 to see Total Abuse. It was a mercurial show. There weren't very many people there, one of the guitars kept feeding back horribly, and the drum kit kept falling apart. There was a minute of regrouping between every song. But the songs... wow. Cyclical, ebb-and-flow hardcore that's obviously influenced by Fucked Up, but bordering on some sort of brilliance that I think Fucked up left behind. The kids didn't quite know what to make of it, and the one attempt at a pit seemed to just die a horrible death before anyone was really able to start wrecking stuff. One of my new favorites.
After that, I spent the rest of my evening at Beerland. It was a pretty enjoyable affair of seeing a lot of garage rock from Cause Co-Motion, BBQ, and Gentleman Jesse (again). All the bands pretty much brought what I thought they'd bring, and it was pretty cool to see BBQ solo.
The real reason to be at Beerland, however, was because the Circle Jerks were playing. However, before the Jerks played, there was a band called Easy Action, who sounded a lot like those old Confederacy of Scum bands like Cocknoose or Antiseen. Sadly, they weren't entertaining like those bands were, and pretty much just droned on and on for well past the point of welcomeness for me. The Circle Jerks were all right, but by the time they went on, I was exhausted, the club was full of wasted people, and the sound was muddy as hell. It was cool to see the band in such a small venue, but I think Keith blasted his voice the night before at Emo's. He also acknowledged the fact that it was past his bedtime. I was having the same problem. -Nick Spacek