Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SXSW Adventures and Highlights

Hello, I (James Squeaky) would like to share a story about my adventures/highlights at SXSW.

The first I ventured into the SXSW world, I found it wholly unappealing. At some nihilist college kid clubhouse while a nervous band vainly attempted to be the room’s focus over a few trouble-makers attempts at aggravating the audience into a frenzied mosh pit, primarily consisting of people hitting back after being intentionally slammed into. The band looked worried their stuff would be destroyed. The floor could cave in. A drunk young lady jumped from nowhere, wrapping her legs around my waist, trying to drag me to the ground. Even more drunk young adults were flooding into the beyond capacity space, practically barricading the door. I was stoked to soon leave.

A restful night’s sleep followed by a grocery store finding mission and a grand salad later and I’m still in no hurry. The place I’m staying is about five miles north of downtown and I’m on bicycle. The first day out was full of frustration, meandering, backtracking and lucky guessing. After that, I trusted the newly implemented bicycle directions on googlemaps and I hesitate applause, but that’s a killer app.

An unfortunate situation on Red River and 7th; couldn’t find Beerland, finally did, but missed The Spits. I took a risk and ventured a mile to a block with only one bar, Charlies, was featuring a showcase of lo-fi rock bands. Not to be confused with Cheer Up Charlies, this was a bar with friendly bartenders and male strippers. The show was on the patio and some regulars were taking in the ridiculousness. I felt comfortable and ended up sticking around until the end of the show, even making some new friends.

Highlights: an Austin band, Harlem’s sloppy/catchy pop songs, alternating singers and instruments. The band was reckless, but still tight when it matters (like my Kiwi heroes The Clean!) and the icing was surely the brevity of their songs. I have a lot of stuff to do, so I love short songs! Smith Westerns, four awkward late teens from Chicago were a band that really impressed me. Influences from grunge, glam, other 90s pop, creating familiar sounds in a fresh perspective. Their lead guitarist shredded like he was destined for a 70s glam rock band, but without ego, as the kid looked nervous as heck and none were dressed the part. Just real honest life shredding at a minimal volume, blending blissfully with the rhythm guitar. The bassist seemed like he could have been playing Black Flag songs. Yes! Hunx and His Punx included some pretty wild front-man antics by the under-dressed Hunx. It was a loving crowd and banter was whimsical.

Thursday morning was excitement while we got ready for the KRS showcase at Cheer Up Charlies. It wasn’t long before all was smooth sailing. Talk Normal was gracious to open with booming bass/drums, murderous themes, and other dark stuff in the hot noon sun. Everyone helped eat a huge stack of breakfast burritos. Next was a band that I can’t think of any reason to not love, Grass Widow! Great songs/lyrics that stick with you. Each instrument distinct and the exciting harmonies. A highlight of the day was meeting Viv Albertine (The Slits), a classy lady with enchanting stories to tell both while she’s singing and while she’s tuning. A whole lot of people showed to not be disappointed by Explode Into Colors nailing their set. I was sipping on free expensive juice and vodka while looking at the birds in the trees over the VIP area. I can’t prove it with science, but I swear the birds were responding to the rhythmic sounds of EIC. Thanks for the tweets! Quasi rocked out really hard and damn are they so talented and natural at their instruments. Epic jams! Horse Feathers transitioned us to early evening, Justin’s lovely crystal voice sweeping through the dirt and into the Texas sky. I think everyone liked the show and the convenience of the proximity to the port-a-potties.

I had been looking forward to this “Night of Rage II” event on the East side. Benny and I stacked our messenger bags with beers to fortify our rage, but everyone seemed already exhausted. Caught a few great performances. XYX, a blistering bullshit-free garage rock guitar and drums duo from Mexico with a great 7.” Live they met my high expectations. Eternal Tapestry are Portland buddies, and I’ve seen them play many times in many different configurations. Their current focused five-piece incarnation make them a band to watch out for. Strong bass playing, wild saxophone, double guitarists and exceptional drumming. Watching them in a room of mostly vacated audience, I felt like it could have been as good as seeing Hawkwind in 1970. Also dug Broken Water from Olympia. They reminded me of some of the better things going on in 1995-1997.

Friday morning I took a jog around the residential neighborhood I was staying, tripping out on the local crows wild spring mating feather flashdances. I totally love cactuses and huge prehistoric looking stabby plants and there was a ton of that stuff.

More confident about navigational routing, it took half the time to get down to the East side on the speedy road-bike. Ended up at Domy Books as Portland’s underage skate punk weirdos, White Fang were gearing up… and better yet, Lisa from Explode Into Colors played additional drums. Not the audience participation frenzy I’m used to seeing at a Portland Fang show; it gave me a chance to meditate on the band’s bratty pop punk anthems. Every city needs a band like White Fang to keep the old punks on their toes. Met up with Benny to check out the French Legation Museum. Relaxed on a grassy hill to the Woods’ blissful jams. I bailed early to get a spot right up front at the alternate stage for Pierced Arrows. It sounded great and loud and some of their lyrics really make me think about life in a optimistic way. Then it was back to Cheer Up Charlies to see my good friends Abe Vigoda. What can I say, these dudes are so dear to my heart and rule too high to die.

Just when I felt like everything was perfect, I hit a couple-hour lull, hanging out alone, saw some bands I didn’t care for, killed time waiting for the B.P.P. showcase at The Broken Neck. A bit out of the way, but I found the warehouse space in a row of auto repair garages. Felt at home, like the kinds of places I am used to playing on tour. A grip of friends from all over to catch up with. The DJ played Sleetmute Nightmute and was interested to hear about what their live shows were like; I sure saw a lot of them in 2001-2003. In a sensible world, Will of Weak Sisters would be funded to explore his sonic sculptures of feedback compositions on a massive scale. For now, I can occasionally enjoy his quick visionary portals in 5 minute bites. I’ve seen him play enough for perspective on the range of his vision. After he played, I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years and the evening descended to a heavy blur.

Saturday, slept in for awhile. I can’t explain my disappointment to find the weather had dropped from 65 the day before to around 40 and continued to drop as the day proceeded. Not dressed appropriately on what ended up being the day when I walked around a ton with Benny getting lost. Tried to see KIT and soon realized the place we were trying to reach was much too far to walk in the cold. We found Spiderhouse, a spot that seemed like such a cool place to hang out, but again, the cold made it a drag. Still, I forgot my troubles watching Dum Dum Girls and was pleasantly surprised at just how blessed-out and still dark, dark they sounded. Somewhere in a realm of Black Tambourine and Quix*o*tic and other sour-mood pop bands I will never get tired of. I’m going to become a fan of them on facebook for sure! Our reason for braving the cold was Grass Widow, who I closed my eyes and made a wish for them to magically manifest finger-warmers, as the temperature was not an easy obstacle to play through. They persevered and I tried to imagine how great their new songs are going to sound pressed on their upcoming record! Can’t wait!

The remainder of the night was more hanging out with old high school friend followed by an excruciatingly early and hung over flight home. I was kept entertained by Benny illustrating comics over every page of the inflight magazine and the amazing luck of Dewey from Eternal Tapestries having the seat next to us. There was so much to talk about!


Anonymous said...

how do u do?

aubrey hornor said...

sounds like it was such a great time! i saw that harlem band awhile back and bought their record. and i love those abe vigodans. i wonder when they will be back here to visit anyway.