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We’ve had some technical difficulties, but the rest of our South by Southwest coverage is coming today.
The South by Southwest music conference grinded gears Friday with late breakfasts, an inadvertently caught but kinda badass Tejano band, Spin‘s raging conflict-of-interest party, an impenetrable Charles Bradley showcase, camera equipment falling on and injuring folks, surrendering to temptation during Kurt Vile, and watching Kisses at Lipstick.
It’s important to note South by Southwest stemmed from the host city’s alternative weekly, The Austin Chronicle, in 1987. For the last 30 years, the Chronicle has diligently worked the beat of a rising arts scene. After swimming in archives that don’t live in digital databases, journalists Austin Powell and Doug Freeman finished editing The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology, a treasure chest of I was there, man profiles, reviews, and essays: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Daniel Johnston, Butthole Surfers, Roky Erickson, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Sandt, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Spoon, Alejandro Escovedo, Okkervil River, The Black Angels.
Arts Desk spent the flight down glued to the Music Anthology’s divided-by-decade, 300-plus pages, and looked forward to the book’s corresponding South by panel early Friday morning downtown at the convention center. Logistics quelled the dream but this one should be a coffee table centerpiece if you dig the idea of a flippant, aggressively local, and forward-thinking weekly paper netting a greatest hits package.
By day three of four, Arts Desk had thus far ignored the scores of open bars lulling you inside, masking uninteresting tunes and quesadilla buffets. The Rhapsody Rocks party provided free pancakes, photobooths, and Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea—-carbonated cans of bourbon, sugar, phosphoric acid, and potassium citrate. They’re revolting but it became increasingly fun to yell J. Weed! between sets.
Glasser, aka Los Angeles’ Cameron Mesirow, is toned down in a white v-neck and the low stage made it hard to see her beyond 15 feet. She was listed as “tropical pop,” which meant sunny electronic nuggets from last year’s Ring. Kurt Vile, on the heels of a breakthrough album review, found himself playing higher than the poster indicated. He was steady and grimey, speaking in one-word would-be trending topics, like “Violated.”
Deerhunter or TV On The Radio? Two free 5 p.m. sets were across the street from each other—-yet the day was spiraling into frivolous wandering with fanboy shows Arts Desk knew the words to. TVOTR, Stubb’s, and the Spin party it was. The Kills were a welcome added bonus, but people were networking and crowding the open bar. TVOTR, of the universal and tiring praise, was reliably wonderful. “Dancing Choose” stirred an early frenzy; they closed with “Wolf Like Me.” The Brooklyn collective’s romantic side is vastly underrated but that may change with “Will Do,” the band’s most structured ballad to date. The lead single from next month’s Nine Types of Light, it logically implores for forbidden love: “You don’t want to waste your life in the middle of a lovesick lullaby.” There was a dude missing and a quick Google search revealed that bassist Gerard Smith was diagnosed with lung cancer a week ago. This is terrible.
After the early evening catharsis, the line to Odd Future was madness. It was also skewed by MTV2 fluff like Matt & Kim and Smith Westerns. No worries, there was an in at whatever is going on at Austin’s Big Orange studio, the new full-time Daytrotter bureau. The grounds were a fort of individually-sized Doritos bags, tin tubs of Shiner, dogs hoping you drop a burger off the grill. There was no music, but with an hour to kill between unofficial parties and official showcases, it was time to suck it up and charge phones.
Punk staple Emo’s once had a third, adjacent branch. The space now serves high-end Mexican food. By 2014, Austin’s entire Red River punk district will be forced off the property, a casualty of the important but downer Waller Creek Tunnel Project. Red River Street will become a flowing creek that’ll extend to Lady Bird Lake; Stubb’s will double in size to accommodate decidedly bigger names, and vulture chains will make landlords offers they can’t refuse. Austin will be San Antonio.
Whatever, Arts Desk wanted camarones a la diabla. During dinner, local Tejano crew Son de Rey began familiar bass and keyboard lines. The lack of pretension when they performed a Cumbia-tinged, Spanish cover of “Careless Whisper” was refreshing.
At 9:30 the lines were brutal. Even for hip-hop b-listers like Freddie Gibbs and Pharoahe Monch. Even for Duff McKagan, Filter, and Puddle of Mudd. Even for Men Without Hats. Even for Baltimore’s Lower Dens and the Gorilla vs Bear/Mexican Summer showcase. Even for something called Ludachrist. The only D.C.-area artist with an official gig Friday was True Womanhood. But first, Daptone Records’ latest analog-recording, revivalist soul stirrer, Charles Bradley and The Menahan Street Band. He was exciting: Bradley’s first band broke up because they were drafted into Vietnam; new singles like “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” recalled James Brown/Willie Hightower street soul. The bass lines were crazy good.
Then, more lines and no shows.
Arts Desk ended down the night at Lipstick, a lesbian bar that tonight featuresKisses. The Los Angeles-based duo was called “Bernard Sumner jamming with Belle and Sebastian” by the Guardian. Cool stuff, but the band took the stage late and after singer Jesse Kivel nervously bugged the sound man by name between every song, the executive decision to call it a night was reached. Damn you, Son de Rey.