By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
STAGE THREE: BARGAINING
I have a breakthrough moment on Saturday, surrendering to pragmatism and managing to actually get on the list and arrive in time for Art Brut’s very last show of the festival. I am rewarded with the best set by a new band I can recall. Before almost every song, singer Eddie Argos says, “Ready, Art Brut?” The female bassist is like a more feminine, less drunk Kim Deal, the new guitarist is like a comic send-up of Interpol, complete with a paranoid sideways stare, and the general approach is tight/loose; pretentious/unpretentious; alternately heavy on complex verse lyrics and mindless gang-vocal choruses. Perfect. So glad they “Formed a Band”! Art Brut, Art Brut, Top of the Pops!
Next I check out Nine Black Alps for about four black minutes (musta been the drony/boring part of their set) and instead opt to taste-test the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Wow. Talk about a band that have been fooled by their own hype. I foresee a long post-hipster career for this group on the jam-band circuit, where people are too high to realize how astonishingly tiresome they are.
So I figure, hey, why not forget the cool young buzz bands and just go for the melodies, the key changes, the timeless romance? I decide to check out weird ’70s singer-songwriter-Lindsay Buckingham-look-alike enigma Andy Pratt, followed byMatthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, doing their tribute to ’60s beauty-pop. This ain’t cool-buzz shit; I’m sure to get in! Foiled again, dude. The line is halfway down the block, even for people with badges, and a so-called friend refuses to let me cut in line. Fair enuf, dude. I’m out.
I decide to wander the streets like one of the many unwashed untouchables without connections or party invites. Hey! The Living Things are playing at Buffalo Billiards! Oof! They’ve canceled! A mess of Athens bands are at some coffeehouse! Blammo! It’s packed! A buncha bands from Manchester are at another bar! Zowee! I wait 40 minutes for something called Longcut to play, then fall asleep within the first minute of their set!
Finally I surrender and call my girl Lina, who has all the passes and parties and connections. I fake my way into a private Gang of Fourshow, and spot the elusive yet ubiquitous hobbit, Elijah Wood. Unfortunately, I arrive just as GoF are entering the self-indulgent/audience-punishing part of their set, torturing their newfound fair-weather fans with endless swords of feedback and non-melodic, arrhythmic goo. They sound amazing; I know they’d be amazing if they were playing songs.
STAGE FOUR: DEPRESSION
We end Saturday night at some Dim Mak/Cobrasnake thing, who seem to be hosting half the underground events here. The Outsiders is being projected silently on giant walls — we’re at some sort of half-outside loading dock. It’s raining, and I find that in Texas, apparently, two girls sitting under an umbrella is considered a conversational invitation for the most annoying of Texas’ college boys. I kill them with silent arrows, as I kill the drunk blond girl who keeps bumping into me, as I kill Steve Aoki himself, up on his DJ booth like some self-appointed royal, poorly mixing Neil Diamond. Yeah, I got a little cynical. Depressed, some might say.
Sweden’s The Sounds brightened things up, though. The female singer is the femmiest androgyne I have seen since the drugboys of ’80s hair metal (or, possibly, Hedwig). Her voice ain’t much but she Cherie Curries it up real good; likewise, the songs are forgettable, much like cuts off some Patty Smyth album. All this is proof of how interesting the singer is, because despite it all, I got much respect! I think she may actually be a possibly dangerous lead singer very soon.
Thank you, dear, for ending my SXSW on a positive note.
STAGE FIVE: ACCEPTANCE
By Sunday, I realize that SXSW is a microcosm of life: You get back what you put in. If I’d planned better, felt better, been kinder and gentler, I might have had a better experience. I wish that Flaming Lips moment had lasted forever.
I spot Art Brut in the airport, and am happy not to say hi. It’s barely noon.