Final thoughts on SXSW: Sorry!
As Ricky Ricardo used to say to his hapless wife Lucy, “you have some ‘splainin’ to do.” Indeed we do, and we admit some apologies are also in order. First up, we want to apologize to you, dear reader, for leaving South by Southwest (SXSW) two days early. Without going into too many details, let’s just say we had to make the call to throw in the towel quite reluctantly. Even though we were in the SXSW slipstream for barely 24 hours, it was still a fruitful visit.
So, let’s get started. We want to apologize to the band Wild Flag, which we had every intention to see during SXSW. The new quartet’s members have been in a number of bands, most notably Sleater-Kinney and we loved guitarist Carrie Brownstein’s new TV show “Portlandia.” So why didn’t we see ‘em? I couldn’t find Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop, the actual bicycle shop owned by Lance Armstrong. Wild Flag played a show for KEXP-FM in Seattle and we missed it because I’m a terrible navigator. However, I found the place in time to see ’80s synth-rockers Orchestral Maneuovres in the Dark the next day, and I’m glad I did.
Also apologies are due to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., whom we saw at the Paste magazine day party on Thursday. It’s hard to describe the band’s music, despite the numbing stupidity of its name (which is brilliant, by the way) but let’s just say this Detroit three-piece puts out the least wimpy pop-rock we have heard since, well, never. I heard ‘em playing in this place on Sixth Street and walked all the way across the street and actually had to flash my ID to enter and hear this phenomenal music up close. Josh Epstein, singing and flailing on his bass guitar while Daniel Zott kept the beat, cranked out some exceptionally tuneful rock that has me looking online for something more to download. You can start with this one, it’s legal.
Also, let’s apologize to The Cave Singers for leaving South by San Jose during their electrifying set on Thursday afternoon. Let’s just say the reason is tied to our early exit from SXSW … but we caught enough of this Seattle band to realize these guys are gonna make a big noise in a lot of places and we hope you are there to hear it. Don’t ask any questions – if The Cave Singers come to your town, go see ‘em. Thank me later.
YouTube: “Black Leaf” by The Cave Singers at South by San Jose, 3/17
Also wanna say “I’m sorry” to metal band Elysion Fields, for bailing on their set Thursday morning at Emo’s. My son, who is knowledgeable about metal bands, stuck around and said EF was “pretty good.” He also liked the band Better Left Unsaid, but he eventually also wandered away from this day party because it got to be too much of the same thing. Elysion Fields and Better Left Unsaid stuck out in the crowd, though.
I am truly sorry I missed Jack White’s impromptu two-song acoustic set on Wednesday, in front of his rolling record store van. Not that I’m a big Jack White fan – but I’m now a fan of his SXSW marketing scheme, using his prominence and his Third Man Records rolling record store to draw attention to acts he supports, like the Greenhornes and Wanda Jackson. It was too bad that many of the people who came to see Wanda play at South by San Jose apparently did so hoping to see White. I say that because, once it became obvious he wasn’t going to show, people started bailing from the 72-year-old Jackson’s blistering set. They probably missed this gem: when time came to perform one of the songs off her new album The Party Ain’t Over (produced by Jack White, of course) Jackson pulled out a sheet with the lyrics on it. “I haven’t been playing these long enough to learn ‘em right,” she explained. She went on to say she once saw Elvis Presley do the same thing: read off a lyric sheet to perform a new song. “And if it’s good enough for the King,” Wanda said, “it’s good enough for the Queen!”
Finally, I am really sorry that I missed the Strokes show in Auditorium Shores. I chose Wanda Jackson instead, but members of our party went and they reported the songs off the band’s new album Angles, particularly “Under Cover Of Darkness” and “Taken For A Fool,” really clicked live. Of course, there seemed to be a riot goin’ on off the stage and some people were injured (not seriously, thankfully) in the melee. But the incident has the Austin folks talkin’ and you can bet SXSW won’t host another huge band in this free venue any time soon, which is too bad. Hire some more security, boys, and let’s rock again! You can check the Levi’s jeans Facebook page for some exclusive video from the show but the audio is terrible. Try this homemade video instead, of the fireworks-enhanced finale “Last Nite.”
Thanks Austin, for hosting SXSW. Sure, you’ve turned it into Spring Break but hire some more security and keep it rockin’. There were some unfortunate incidents this year that SXSW director Roland Swenson seems to want to blame on the free side parties that he says attracts an undesirable element seeking only free beer and free music. Most of these incidents happened at your “official” showcases Roland – figure out how to live with the free side parties or your “official” festival will fade away.
Honestly, there is no musical experience in the world like SXSW. If you can get down to Texas next year, start planning now. Think twice about buying a badge or a wristband (many people say those wristbands are worthless), but come down here for the music and we’ll be happy to give you a big ol’ Texas welcome.