Mar 162014
 
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Don “Childish Gambino” Glover performs at Butler Park

My last day in Austin…

Makeshift memorial by the Mohawk for the victims of the drunk driving accident.
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Mother Falcon play a day show at Peckerheads.
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Rare Monk at Peckerheads.
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The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at The Grackle.
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A wall wolf!
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6th Street
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Bittorrent. People, not servers.
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Dum Dum Girls at the Gypsy Lounge.
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The Magic Numbers play an acoustic set in the Embassy Suites hotel lobby.
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Childish Gambino at Butler Park. For a reverse view of the crowed, check out this photo on his instagram account.
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South Congress
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Later, 6th Street from afar
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Wet at Empire Garage.
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HAERTS at Empire Garage.
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Buffalo Killers, across the street at Holy Mountain.
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Pompeii at Lamberts.
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“Ladies and gentlemen, I declare it the end of Southby” – Dean Stafford of Pompeii

Mar 152014
 
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Jetta plays at the Universal Music Experience

 

My Friday at SXSW:

The Colourists at the Universal Music Experience.
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Jetta waits to take the stage.
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Imarhan Timbuktu & Sihasin from Mali on the International Day Stage.
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Temples play the Radio Day Stage.
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Howard Kremer and Doug Benson do the Who Charted podcast at Esther’s Follies.
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Front Bottoms at the Palm Door on Sixth.
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Walked by this strange silhouette.
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Connections at Lambert’s
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Motel Beds
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Swearing at Motorists
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R. Ring
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Washed Out at Bar 96
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Mar 152014
 
Swearing at Motorists

Swearing at Motorists

Is it too big? Is it too much for the city of Austin to handle? I feel I’m not one to comment, not living here and all, but I’d love to be able to stick around to read all the op-ed pieces either trumpeting the efforts of this city to keep it safe, clean, and running like a clock or damning the chaos that ensues. Every corner and crevice of every avenue is covered and called. I can’t fathom what it’s like to be here for a week. Some entrepreneur should bring sound-proof isolation chambers and set them up on Sixth, just for a momentary reprieve from the madness.
Don’t get me wrong. I love every minute of it. But it’s become so sensory driven, it seems my mind is more exhausted than my feet. There are few moments to think if you plan to get in the thick of it.

Friday, I opted to take it easy and head off the beaten path. It’s always nice to take in a record store and there are few in the country better than End of an Ear. It just so happened that Gotobeds, who I’d caught the day before, were playing. This Pittsburgh quartet rage with a youthful fervor I haven’t seen in quite some time. Though of barely of drinking age, they appear as crusty punks who prefer staying home, chugging cheap beer in the basement to devouring generic garage nuggets. The result is hallucinogenic psych-pop soaked with amphetamine. There’s a dynamic in them that hard to find, even during SXSW.

In the evening, heading out of the boundaries of the “normal” Sixth street experience was supposed to be an antidote in heading to Lambert’s for the Misra Showcase. But even in that somewhat once remote location, the sprawl had taken over. Apple had taken over Austin City Limits and Pitbull was playing their iTunes Festival. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga had taken over the Lambert’s private lounge to munch on BBQ and gather a crowd of onlookers. It was all a bit fashion over function on this side of Congress, another piece of evidence that Austin encourages the SXSW infinite expansion. Little did Gaga (now in her “ugly” phase, as she looked like an extra from Battlefield Earth) know, but Dayton’s Motel Beds were bringing down the house just above her head. The night had a very Ohio-centric line-up, highlighted by these gents rollicking revue of spartan indie-pop, bright harmonies, and that indelible Dayton charm that spilled over into the next set. Again, I felt a taste of home was in order (I had been on the road for the past eight days with my own band) and the full-set treatment from Swearing at Motorists was in order. Dave Doughman, whom I spoke about yesterday, is part soothsayer, part stand-up comedian, and part jukebox hero, and knows better than most how to put on a show.

Kelley Deal of R. Ring

Kelley Deal of R. Ring

Another trend that I found at this year’s SXSW was the rebirth of the ’90s indie-rock goddesses. First there was Ex-Hex, with Mary Timony’s recently christened trio banging out power-pop reminiscent of the Go-Go’s and Dwight Twilley to unsuspecting crowds. Then there was Hole’s Patty Schemel backing the new punk-twee of Upset. But on this night, it was Kelley Deal and R. Ring that exceeded expectations. Deal’s spent the better part of the last 12 months with her sister touring Last Splash, but as R. Ring she has had a chance to project her own songwriting chops. Last night, you could see her as scientist, kneeling above a rainbow of effects pedals, manipulating her voice into what she called “soundscapes,” or simply reverberating her enchanting coo over Breeders-esque doom-folk with fellow cohort Mike Montgomery. I’m highly anticipating whatever should come in recorded format, but was simply satisfied with the Shellac cover and the unnamed songs she played to in the very intimate venue. Personally, it was the most therapeutic way to end my (albeit abridged) week at SXSW.

Mar 142014
 
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The Strypes play at the Swan Dive

A photographer’s dream panel. Legendary photographers from the 1970s and forward talk about how they capture the perfect portrait. Bob Gruen, BP Fallon, Ken Weinstein (not a photographer, but a man who hires photographers), Lynn Goldsmith, Piper Ferguson. The panel was rife with technical problems and you can see the techs here still scrambling around to make everything work.

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Agit Reader associate editor Kevin Elliott with his band Connections!
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Superego records a live podcast at Esther’s Follies
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The media mess near the Mohawk, where the devastating drunk driving accident happened the evening before. Every Austin venue had a moment of silence at midnight in memory of the victims.
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Comedian Hannibal Burress performs at Esther’s Follies.
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TJ Miller
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Amanda X at Beerland
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Amanda X
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Nina Nesbit at Swan Dive
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Jeremy Messersmith at Swan Dive
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The Strypes from Ireland at Swan Dive. I think these kids are 12.
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The Strypes. Right after this photo I was shoved by a video cameraman into the photographer behind me. When I looked back to apologize I see I was shoved into the legendary photographer Bob Gruen, who I had seen in his panel just this afternoon. Obviously, I soon move out of his way, because who would want to be blocking Bob Gruen’s view.
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Merchandise at Cheer Up Charlie’s.
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Baptist Generals at Cheer Up Charlie’s inside.
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Future Islands back on the outside stage.
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Mar 142014
 

Merchandise

It’s been almost eight years since Swearing at Motorists performed at South By Southwest, but I can remember a time when Dave Doughman was the self-proclaimed mayor of SXSW—and he owned that title. The prodigal son returned from exile to try and conquer the festival again. He epitomizes everything that made the festival great in the past: showmanship, ingenuity, humility, self-promotion. It made sense that the day began at Side Bar to see his first set of the week. Mixing songs from his upcoming record and old favorites, Doughman showed why this festival exists: for guys like him with a heart and a song.

Most of the day was spent volleying between the Side Bar and Beerland. In the former, the Midgetmen Jumpstart included a number of guitar-heavy, pop-punks. There was Cleveland’s Herzog, who play Superchunk-esque fastballs, even covering a spot-on version of The Mice’s “Not Proud of the U.S.A.” And there was Liquor Store, New Jersey slackers intent on sounding like an eternally stoned basement version of Foghat. Meanwhile at Beerland, the Can’t Stop the Bleeding collection of bands pushed the levels of volume and velocity. While current favorites like Obnox and the Gotobeds made a considerable racket in the dungeon that is the club, newbies, including the Empty Markets, were particularly impressive. The Austin band wowed with adept precision and hooks that seemed to lock themselves outside of the usual wall of distortion.

In a surreal turn of events, which is always likely to happen at SXSW, Melissa Etheridge made a surprise visit to the Side Bar to play a cover of Tom Petty’s “Refugee” with the guys from the Midgetmen and Diarrhea Planet. Though I’m not the biggest fan in the world, I couldn’t help but be a little starstruck that such an icon would make an appearance at such a small gathering. She definitely trumped the preceding mess of aggro-garbage projected by Big Ups.

Big Ups

The night continued through the same penchant for power-pop and big guitar glories, with Wet Nurse, Potty Mouth, and Philadelphia rookies, Amanda X, before legendary Belfast band Protex took the stage. Another pleasure of SXSW is seeing men in their twilight years destroy everything and everyone that came before them in the day. This was perhaps the most energetic crowd I’ve seen thus far.

My nightcap at Cheer Up Charlie’s included an abbreviated set from the ever-evolving Merchandise. They still play moody, hypnotic, dream-pop, but now the edges are sharper, it has more shape, and the lead singer continues to hone a persona unique to the landscape of modern rock. I had to ditch them, though, as Denton’s Baptist Generals were playing inside. It’s a rare occurrence for them to play their rustic, nearly-graceful, laments, so that is how I decided to end the night, in troubadour bliss.