SXSW Day Two

Wow; that was probably the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. But more on that later. I’m halfway into this year’s sxsw and already I feel like I’m taking advantage of the festival–I know a badge seems like a ton of money (and when I get home and see my electric bill then look in my wallet and realize oh shit, I might be singing a different tune), but right now it feels like I’ve paid for it a few times over. Yesterday was that good.

It didn’t start out that way, though, and I had my doubts that this year’s fest would live up to the ones I’ve been to in the past. I was wrong. First, the bad stuff.

I arrived downtown at around noon and resigned myself to thinking that I’d pay the $10 it costs to park semi-close to the goings on, but the closer I got to 6th St the more and more of an Austin bad ass I felt like, so I said fuck it, these streets can’t defeat me–I’m not paying for shit. They not only beat me, I almost died from walk exhaustion. For those of you familiar with Austin, I had to park like a block from Riverside (and I’m staying on Riverside for god’s sake), and the venues that host the shows are at least twenty-three miles away (rough estimate, of course). So my day started with feet aches. It was okay, though, because I was about to see the Shout Out Louds at my favorite place in Austin, The Parish. The line was tangled-Christmas tree chord long, and I had to wait at least an hour to get inside the door. So I saw two songs. Good songs, but two songs.

Thursday was becoming frustrating. But I didn’t let it faze me; I was about to see Destroyer (of New Pornographers fame) at some little place I’ve never heard of and for the life of me can’t remember the name; it starts with a V, though, and I think has two syllables. He went on at 2:00 and by 2:20 I realized that he really really didn’t want to be there–his vocals (the best part of the band as far as I’m concerned) were off, the guitars sounded bored and the audience seemed like they belonged at a Jansport convention or some shit. Yeah, it seemed like all of them were wearing backpacks and all of them were standing right in front or behind or next to me, bumping me with their carelessness. Which brings me to my sxsw proposal:

Anyone, regardless of age, sex, race, religion, or opinion on how shitty Nickleback is–will, upon second backpack wearing offense, be promptly killed.

I don’t know if it’ll stick, but here’s hoping.

In any case, after Destroyer I was all hyped to Vampire Weekend, back at The Parish. I should have known. Only people on the “the list” were able to get in. I assume this “the list” was a “the list” of all the American Apparel hipster 16 year olds in the Hill Country, because that’s who got in. Whatever.

So instead of Vampire Weekend, I went to Cedar Street to see Be Your Own Pet. Again, failure. I don’t know where they were or what they were doing, but they were supposed to go on at 4:00 and I ended up leaving at 4:30 without hearing one song. A friend of mine bought me a beer, though, so that ruled. By this point my day seemed almost lost. I really had no plans for an hour, so I made my way over to Emo’s because maybe I’d see someone I knew there and score another free beer. When I saw Los Campasinos at Emo’s, Jr I could feel my luck starting to change. They’re one of those bands that I’ve been hearing a lot about but for some reason never had the time to listen to, but my god they’re fun. A seven member band from Wales who play xylophone, violin, guitars, drums, and probably more who sound very very similar to Architecture in Helsinki. But that’s okay; Architecture in Helsinki is a good band to copy, right? And they’re from Wales, not Australia. So there’s your difference.

From there I went to Emo’s outside to see the sxsw ’06 superstars Tapes ‘n Tapes. I know these guys are sometimes scoffed at and sometimes maligned, but seriously, they’re great. They played crowd favorites “Insistor” and “Cowbell” on top of maybe eight new songs, and they all sounded as if Tapes ‘n Tapes is ready to be discovered again (I’m not sure they went anywhere, but still). Their new record is gonna get cha, I know it. The day shows were over. On to the night…

The first show I saw (after having a very good garden burger with my new best friend Ryan Jewell from Pink Reason and Psychedelic Horseshit, what up best friend Ryan Jewell…) was Noah and the Whale at Friends. This was, without question, the highlight of the festival so far (until a few hours later). There’s always that one band at sxsw who always grabs me and makes me realize this is the reason I shell out the money every year to come to this festival. It was Tapes ‘n Tapes two years ago, Beirut last year. This year it’s Noah and the Whale. If you haven’t seen the youtube video for their song “Five Years Time,” you should probably stop reading this and go watch it. Now.

The rest of the night was good but not great; I mean, I saw some bands I love (Wussy, Man Man–who sound like Tom Waits would sound twenty years ago if he loved to dance and not drink whiskey and not smoke a pack and a half a day, which is a good way to sound, obviously, and a set of trashcan drummers who sounded interestingly like Animal Collective, playing outside on 6th St.).

But the night came to a transcendent stop when I saw Mark Kozelek (from Sun Kil Moon and Red Housepainters) at Central Presbyterian Church. It’s hard, really, to put into words exactly how moving his performance was, so I won’t even try. It feels like I’d be doing a disservice to the music if I used merely words to describe it. It did feel as if the entire frenzy of the festival came to a quick halt when the 100 or so of us in attendance heard him sing “Pancho Villa,” which was the first song of his set. It was like living in a different musical world than the rest of the sxsw attendees. I honestly forgot where I was for a few minutes, the music covered me so completely. That moment alone was worth the price of admission. And there was an encore. An encore at a show at sxsw not taking place at Stubb’s is a very rare thing, but it seemed natural here. It’s sort of painful to try and write about it–I’m never going to have that moment back for the rest of my life, you know? The first time I heard the first note sung by Mark Kozelek. It sounds obsessive, I know, but what else is there?

See you again tomorrow…oh, and about the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. I got to sleep on a real couch last night and not a floor with dogs trying to chew my ears. I want to say it’s because Mark Kozelek’s voice is so amazing but that might be a jump in logic.

See you tomorrow…


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