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Lovitt Records Showcase: I had been looking forward to this showcase all week, since it was a chance to visit with some D.C. folks and familiars—Lovitt being a local record label, and all—in a city with better than average Mexican food. Also, I heard there was going to be free Vitamin Water, but it was pretty much all gone by the time I arrived. There were plenty of reasons to stick around, though.
Pygmy Lush played some of its quiet, non-hardcore material, from last year’s Mount Hope, sounded pretty good. Emotionally speaking, Des Ark doesn’t really have a first-gear. It goes straight from zero to hair-tearing emotional-basket-case. The last time I saw the band, at the ’08 Different Kind of Dude Fest, I’m pretty sure that the second guitarist openly wept while giving a soul-bearing pre-performance speech. Heavy stuff. Lead songwriter/guitarist Aimee Argote has a new, dry-eyed, backing band now, but the songs—including one number that’s apparently called “FTW Y’all”—are still achingly earnest. But the band’s eff-you attitude was pretty refreshing, given the throngs of shirtless butt-rockers that had been booked throughout the festival.
I missed Frodus the first time around, and I still wish I could have checked the band out during its heyday, but Saturday’s reunion set was good enough. Lots of stage diving, chair throwing, and water spitting near the end. Kind of hoping they that keep the reunion going for a while.
Kurt Vile: Somewhere behind all of that hair is a pretty great songwriter. A pretty great songwriter who, I might add, has good taste in guitar-pedals. His band, The Violators, looked kind of like they were plucked off of a Comedy Central late-night improv showcase, but they delivered the rootsy-space rock goods. My favorite non-reunion show of the whole festival.
Echo & the Bunnymen: Had I any sense, I would have attended the Echo & the Bunnymen show that took place earlier in the day, you know, before the band had the time to get too wasted to go on stage. The roadie stalled as best he could—tuning and then re-tuning the guitars and horsing around with Ian McCulloch’s mic-stand—until the band finally arrived on stage 45 minutes late. By that point, I wasn’t really in the mood, and McCulloch—who bore a striking resemblance to the septuagenarian Elizabeth Taylor—wasn’t doing much to change my mind. Took off after hearing “Lips Like Sugar.”
Daniel Johnston: My last concert of SXSW and a good way to end. Johnston did some songs solo, then accompanied by a band, and finally, a great cover of The Beatles “I’m So Tired.” “Who do you think is crazier: Daniel Johnston or HR?” a friend asked me, referring to the Bad Brains frontman whom we had both seen perform earlier in the week. I would argue that HR is, in fact, crazier. Daniel Johnson may have done serious time in a mental hospital and even pulled the keys out of his father’s airplane mid-flight, but these days he looks pretty together on stage. HR, on the other hand, had the all the presence of a damp t-shirt and seemed only half-aware that he was giving a concert. Were you to ask me who the better dresser was, though, definitely HR.