Which isn't surprising in slightest.
I'm not sure what it says about me, but I think I would have enjoyed all of the events chronicled by both these fine young fellows. I'm especially sad I missed Datarock @ Whisky Bar (where I saw truly stellar sets from Turing Machine and The Hold Steady at SXSW 2005 -- relatedly, Travis wanted me to add that he sat next to Les Savy Fav on his flight home), as well as the Unusual Animals party. Then again, that may be why I asked Nick and Travis to contribute to this feature ...
In the wake of my fourth SXSW (third year performing) I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of conflicting accounts about the artistic and commercial worth of the festival. Some feel there’s too much advertising, booze, and socializing and not enough music; others think it’s a great opportunity to see a lot of good bands in a short amount of time. Whatever your opinion of this ever-changing festival, one thing remains true of almost every performing musician in Austin last week – if you’re playing SXSW then you’d like to make money playing music. I say this not as a cynical criticism but as a simple fact, a fact that ultimately should quell any complaints that SXSW is more of a trade show than a music festival – of course it is. Complaining about the presence of “the biz” at SXSW is like complaining there are too many Mexicans in Acapulco (unfortunately, I make this joke out of real-life experience and not just spontaneous wit… in other words, I’ve actually heard someone say it). One blogger in particular who caught my eye wrote at length about the saturation of commercialism and that he “can’t really remember much” about the bands he saw. To all those who lobby such complaints--maybe you’re just seeing the wrong bands.
Of course, I have my own complaints about the festival - this year in particular - but that didn’t stop me from having an incredible time and seeing more amazing music and friends from all over the place in 72 hours than I usually do in six months. What follows are some of my favorite moments of the festival, most of which failed to grab the attention of anyone with a blog or press credentials:
Best Fwends @ Beauty Bar – Wednesday night
I was talking to my friend George yesterday and he said, “Dustin from Best Fwends is a comic genius” and I’m going to have to agree. If you had told me last month that one of my favorite moments of a band’s set would be the band and half the audience dancing to an R&B song I wouldn’t have believed you. Damn if it’s not true.
Lambchop & the Tosca String Quartet @ Habana Calle 6 Patio – Thursday night
Famously grumpy Kurt Wagner was on stage before playing his final song (and first dance at my wedding) “Theone” and he wept. The man was crying, and who could blame him? The quiet, slow, heartfelt, and reserved music and utterly silent audience was the polar opposite of the endless Loud resounding through the streets of downtown Austin. An amazing set from one of my all-time favorite songwriters.
Shapes & Sizes @ Emo’s Lounge – Thursday night
I can’t really properly describe the place this band has in my heart as they’ve not only become one of my favorite rock bands but also some of my best friends. Equal parts musical ingenuity and youthful exuberance, these guys totally killed it on what was at times a somewhat awkward evening at Emo’s Lounge.
Dengue Fever @ Emo’s Main Stage – Thursday night
Hands down the best performance of the entire festival. Within minutes the huge crowd who seemed unfamiliar with the band (probably early arrivers for Voxtrot later on) were hooting, shouting, and raising their fists in the air at this (I’m sorry but I have to swear) fucking amazing band. The best bass player in rock music got so into playing during their penultimate song “Sni Bong” that he leapt in the air. The crowd erupted.
Boat, Faintest Ideas, Tullycraft @ The Parish II – Friday night
I don’t even really like indie pop, OK? I spend a lot of time in my partner’s car dreading the moment Tullycraft comes up on shuffle. Let’s face it, I’m a grouch and I don’t listen to music that would ever be referred to as “fun”. This night I decided not to be a grouch and have fun. Guess what? I had fun! (Admittedly, I was too tired to stay for Tullycraft but I saw them during the day at another show so I’m not technically lying)
Unusual Animals party @ Okay Mountain Gallery – Saturday afternoon
Yes, I planned this party. Yes, I am saying it was the best single event at SXSW 2007. No, you cannot argue with me. Between songs, Keith Zarriello of The Shivers started screaming, “I think this is the real Austin! Not that shit over there!! That’s the L.A. Austin!!!” The fact that someone can plan a show without any “big name” bands and still get that kind of an audience with that kind of amazing atmosphere should be enough to convince anyone that SXSW is the greatest, no matter how much crap there is each year you don’t like. The Field Guides, W-S Burn, The Theater Fire, The Weird Weeds, The Shivers, Peter & the Wolf, and Castanets all performed on what will remain as one of my all-time favorite shows for the rest of my life. If you don’t believe me just watch this clip of tons of great people having great fun watching a great band at a great gallery in a great city. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
I've wanted to do SXSW for as long as I can remember, but I never got my act together until this year. I went in with no expectations and a clear agenda: to see as many bands as possible in four days. I exceeded that. Days felt like weeks. Time stopped – or actually time became a whirlwind, no longer a straight line. Basic human necessities became a luxury… we slept a few hours here and there, we ate when we remembered, we drank when it was free. Communication broke down to the basics: "Uh, Chromeo?" "Yeah."
By the end of the week, my whole body ached. I was no longer able to walk. My ears felt like the were bleeding. My eyes were crossed. Total sensory overload. SXSW kicked my ass... and it was worth every single second.
I don't remember anything as a single event. Each showcase blurred into the next... Highlights though:
- On the first day standing outside a bar and looking across the street only to see Yo Majesty DANCING in the street... stopping traffic and hollering. They were the party, and I don't think they ever stopped.
- Dancing and shouting to Datarock's "FA FA FA." We caught them at the Whisky Bar which is the tiniest venue in the universe. People were bouncing off the walls – dancing and singing. It was amazing. I couldn't talk for an hour afterwards, and I don't think I have ever danced so hard.
- Having my high tops photographed by every single photographer in Austin. Um, they're shoes! [ed note: I looked all over the interwebs for a pic, but I couldn't find one...]
- Partying with Spektrum. I love those guys. They did their first American show, and it was a total treat. These guys deserve to be huge.
- The Scanners make me cry like a little boy. They're just so beautiful and intense.
- All the random "rockstar"sightings on the street. Word.
- Kiiiiii. Omg. Those girls are crazy.
- Either Matt & Kim are the best live band ever or I was super drunk or both. I'm afraid of what I might've said to them. Though dancing with Kim later that night was a definite laugh out loud highlight.
- Lots and lots of free ICE CREAM!!!! Ice Cream is my favorite dessert ever.
- Realizing everyone isn't connected by six degrees but rather two. Everybody is a friend of a friend.