South by Southwest 2011 Music recap, Part I: The Headliners

“There’s music everywhere you go, all the time, which is just a beautiful thing.”

The 25th anniversary edition of the South by Southwest Music Conference & Festival went down in Austin, Texas this month and it was one to remember. The festival once again featured everything from semi-secret shows by arena-level headliners to all the latest “buzz” bands, to ’80s favorites looking to make a comeback. This wide mix of talent is exactly what makes SXSW so unique. With somewhere around 2,000 bands playing at roughly 200 venues over five nights, it was pretty much heaven on Earth for live music junkies.

The festival keeps growing in attendance every year, so the urban chaos factor has been increasing too, leading NPR to describe the massive city-wide party as seeming like “one big crowded bar.” It did have that vibe at times, but isn’t that kind of fun? Indeed, it is. Traffic often did look like a nightmare (you gotta have a bike, people) and there were a couple unruly incidents this year. But if you’re a party professional, there’s really nowhere you can have a better time, not to mention being able to mix business with pleasure if you’re a music industry pro. It’s the influx of party amateurs that threatens to mess up a good thing.

Two incidents exemplified this: the gate crashing at Auditorium Shores when the free show by the Strokes on Thursday had filled to its 20,000 capacity, and the mini-riot that took place at the Beauty Bar on Saturday night after it had filled to capacity for Death From Above 1979, who were billed only as “special guest.” But there’s just no excuse for such behavior. There’s only, like, 200 other shows going on at any given time; if your first choice is filled to capacity, then go see someone else, This is why planning is key – you always want to have two or three potential choices in any given time slot, because you never know when your top show will either be at capacity or across town from where you’ve wound up and don’t really care to travel to at that moment.

Bringing or renting a bike is key. A bike also allows you to zip back and forth to have maximum flexibility to see your most preferred shows. It’s simple Vulcan logic. The other great thing about having so many choices is that SXSW can mean so many different things to so many different music fans. It’s all out there, as every genre is represented. You can focus on one or sample them all like the massive musical buffet that SXSW is. If you’re not having a great time, you’re just not trying. Here follows one Gen-X rock ‘n’ roller’s musical menu, broken down into headliners, other evening showcases and day parties.

The Headliners

Foo Fighters, Stubb’s BBQ

SXSW Music has traditionally run from Wednesday through Saturday. But this year they decided to add some showcases on Tuesday evening as well. Yet there seemed to be something missing compared to the past two years. There was no blank spot in the Friday night lineup at Stubbs BBQ for a semi-secret arena level headliner (which turned out to be Metallica in 2009 and Muse in 2010.)

But then something stood out on the Tuesday schedule for SXSW Film – the world premiere of The Foo Fighters’ new rockumentary “Back and Forth” at the Paramount Theater, with the program stating that Music badges were good for admission to the screening. Then word came down through a local music blog’s Facebook page early on Tuesday – a Stubbs employee said the the Foo Fighters would be playing a “secret” show at Stubbs that night. Was it invite-only, or would which badges would gain admittance? This was unclear. But applying Vulcan logic, it was easy to conjure a likely scenario – if you attended the film, you would get into the show at Stubbs, because wouldn’t it just make sense to play the show for the people who were big enough fans to attend the film premiere?


Read the rest after the jump...

Me, Myself, and iPod 4/14/10: Amanda Palmer, the blowjob queen

esd ipod

Big, big, big selection of free downloads this week. Let’s get to it, before any more songs show up.

Teenage Fanclub – Baby Lee
If your first impulse when you saw the words ‘Teenage Fanclub’ was to say something snarky like “They’re still making records?” – or worse, “Who’s Teenage Fanclub?” – may we suggest keeping your fool mouth shut and giving this tune a listen. They’re not as in love with the feedback as they were in their Bandwagonesque days, but this golden slice of sunny guitar pop has medicinal powers that those Jamba Juice energy boosts can only dream of.

Amanda Palmer – Do You Swear to Tell the Truth the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth So Help Your Black Ass
“When I was seventeen, I was a blowjob queen, picking up tips from the masters / I was so busy perfecting my art, I was clueless to what they were after / Now I’m still a blowjob queen, far more selectively / I don’t make love now to make people love me / But I don’t mind sharing my gift with the planet / We’re all gonna die, and a blowjob’s fantastic.” Note to self: arrange a meeting with Amanda Palmer.

Olney Clark – Tea and Thunderstorms
The orchestral pop market has been positively flooded with sensitive minstrels…really, really sensitive minstrels, if you know what we mean. (Most of them are sissies, all right?) This track from Olney Clark, a duo comprised of a Scot and a Yank, gets the balance just right. And better yet, it’s available in Amazon’s download store, even though the album is still only available as an import. Better move fast, though: those imports tend to get delisted pretty quickly.

Kate Miller-Heidke – Politics in Space
Take the drum beat from Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and give it to KT Tunstall’s well-read older sister, and this is what it would sound like. Love those lower register background vocals, and the stinging indictment, “The ’60s were 50 years ago, you know.” True, dat.

Emanuel and the Fear – Dear Friends
ELO, kiddies. And unlike Cheap Trick, we mean the pun in that first sentence, because any Lynnephiles will instantly take to this nifty piece of baroque pop.

Charlie Faye – Whirlwind
We will readily admit to approaching modern-day country with a healthy dose of skepticism; that country-pop stuff feels like a wolf in sheep’s clothing to us, which is why we’re happy to see someone like Charlie Faye come along. Her voice is weathered (yes, Charlie is a girl) but not whiskey-soaked, and she’s mounting a rather ambitious tour where she’ll spend a month in each city, form a band, play a show, and then move on to the next stop. We still haven’t heard her debut album Wilson St., but if it’s anything like “Whirlwind,” we’re sure going to check it out.

Echo & the Bunnymen – Proxy
As much as we love when the band takes the occasional detour into mellow groove territory like 1999’s What Are You Going to Do with Your Life, they’re at their best when they reach for the rafters. This song, from their album The Fountain, doesn’t scale the frenzied heights of songs like “Do It Clean,” but good luck getting that piano riff out of your head.

Codeiene Velvet Club – Hollywood
This swinging side project of Fratellis frontman Jon Fratelli is still in power rotation. A boy/girl album of songs that recall ’60s-era Hollywood, this shows that the Fratellis’ last album may not have hit the mark, but don’t write them off yet. Indeed, Codeine Velvet Club might be Fratelli’s finest moment yet.

Ex Norwegian – Fresh Pit
This Miami trio casually sent us a friend request on MySpace last week, and proceeded to knock our guitar pop socks off. We asked if they would send us their last album (they’re currently working on a new one), they did, and we were amazed at the band’s versatility. This tune should pacify those jonesing for Band of Horses’ upcoming album.

Deer Tick – Twenty Miles
Is it just us, or did about a dozen Deer bands hit the scene at the exact same time? Whatever the timing, there will be no mistaking Deer Tick from the rest of the pack after hearing this track from their upcoming album The Black Dirt Sessions. Singer John McCauley sounds like David Gray crossed with James Hetfield, and the band’s blend of Southern Gothic will have Joseph Arthur pissing with envy. Good stuff, this.

  

Related Posts