Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SXSickW Part One

I'm sitting in an enclosed screened in porch at the home of my dear friends the Bajoris family. It's a watercolor overcast grey morning in Austin, and the patchy wind doesn't seem to be bothering the bickering birds in the busy green branches above me. I'm wondering how to encapsulate this long sought after return to SXSW, without the usual overspray of complaints one would have( esp. moi) when they were beat up by a cold fist of sickness for the entirety of a vacation.

A vacation for me is here. SXSW is disneyworld for the music fan, an oasis of sound in an otherwise desert disguised-as-a-combo of suburban silence and the shit city beats of sirens in my Philadelphia nights. I haven't had a vacation in four years and this is where I wanted to come. I knew how SXSW had grown quite a corporate tumor since I was last here in 2010, which would make the math of seeing as many bands as humanly possible much more difficult because of the lines filled with badge flashing interns of interns of headphone hawkers and scheisters of streaming services. The most divine path of discovery was now, in my opinion, no path at all.

For those who don't know, SXSW is part music industry-con...with real live panels of industry experts and music biz veterans who sit on deuses in big convention rooms and schpiel their two cents on where the future of the industry lies..and part big hot mess of music spread across downtown Austin in a smorgasbord of showcases, parties and ad hoc gigs made up of thousands of bands and performers from all over the world who travel to Tx. for a variety of reasons. The reasons used to include exposure to new fans and industry types via showcases held by various record labels, but most of that era is gone. The showcases have been taken over by companies like Dickies, Spotify, and Doritos who end up flying in a handful of gigantic big name bands and call it a party where nobody who hasn't paid nearly 800-1000 dollars for a badge or is a member of the press can get in. Even with a badge, the lines are super long and a big fat waste of time. Who needs to see Coldplay, Ludacris, Keith Urban or the fucking Toadies anyway.

The real fun is going to the day parties usually held by small indie labels, several reputable blogs, and local Austin clubs who could not give less of a fuck about SXSW. They are free, awesomely hard to find(unless you have a friend who is a local or yourself are very net savvy) and always have diverse lineups of bands on dual stages. There are plenty of free parties, BBQs and picnics that drag on into the early morning hrs. as well. In my four visits to SXSW, I've never paid for a badge. It's pointless for a music fan familiar with the area. I spent all of my money on beer and tacos and medical attention.It would have been nice to see Soundgarden do Superunknown in its entirety, but I ended up watching it stream live from my sickbed(more on that later....

I got into town Wed. night on a delayed flight but my long time buds Alex and Jamie picked me up and we went right into town, starting off the night at the famous Threadgills (where ms. Joplin honed her craft before heading west)with two Lone Stars and a shot. Unfortunately we arrived just in time for the shiny faux rock of a band called Vallejo.(no link needed) There were immediate red flags..They were coiffed in too-perfect hats...their band is named after a band member(think Bon Jovi, Giuffria,Pink Floyd) and the lead singer had a guitar slung behind his back like Bryan Adams in that video, failing to use it unless a bland bluesy solo was called for..yeah....it was frat rock with a southern twist...the front man vamped during the FIRST SONG calling for everyone to toss back some shots. I wanted to toss mine back up. We bolted while the evening was still young and the moontowers were still lit. ....the next club was called El Mercado, where we stumbled upon a very cool unit(after more Lone Star(goes great with antibiotics) called the Startographers. Very heavy reverb and delay on both guitars, singer like a cross between Stan Ridgeway and Tom Verlaine during the decipherable parts... Loopy hearty shoegaze and the obligatory hot ingenue on bass..loved every minute of it, especially the dis on Austin crowds from behind the mic posing as a road weary well traveled band from Wisconsin...turns out their home base is Austin. I could taste a theme cooking up faster than a breakfast taco....the rest of the night was going in a circle to the left(kinda like NASCAR), me publicly urinating on a large shrub, and failing to find the mindblowing party my friend Alex had "heard" about.  More to come.... ................

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