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
Thursday: Lest We Forget How Fortunate We Are
Okay, so I actually cried tonight. No sobbing, mind you, but a little snot and big tears. About five songs into Le Loup’s remarkable, thrilling set at Emo’s IV Lounge, they hit upon a combination of chords and chorus that — coupled with my joyful mood and the feeling of how lucky all of us assholes in Austin are to be here and not, say, Baghdad, or Darfur, or the Gaza Strip, or still living in the parents’ basement, or one of the many homeless people displaced by our good fortune — rushed from my ears to my heart and head and flooded my eyes with tears, beautiful tears. We’re so lucky.
Le Loup’s a relatively unknown D.C. group whose first CD, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly, features pretty, rhythmic electro-acoustic sounds. But live? A whole other animal: seven players, including three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, a keyboardist who doubled on French horn, lead singer Sam Simkoff on banjo and banging. They were a fucking blur of inspiration, starting songs slow and intimate, singing in glorious group harmony, gradually building to massive crescendos that filled Emo’s Lounge with complimentary and complicated waveforms that swirled around the room like John Hancock’s signature. On the brilliant “Sea Took Me,” they offered structure and melody that collapsed midsong into a mess of noise and French-horn blurts and moaning, only to reconvene into this monster chorus that prompted my unexpected rush of tears. I live for these moments. I had another one of those golden snapshots on the last day of the festival, when the Morning Benders from Berkeley loaded onto a cobbled-together outdoor stage, plugged in their two Stratocasters and bass, and the drummer sat at his kit. The band, whose members are in their late teens, is tight, strong and confident, delivering jerky post-punk. Like most musicians here, except for Lou Reed and Van Morrison, they’re working their asses off during SXSW, consumed and driven to prove that of the 54,322 bands here, they are to be paid attention to, have something interesting to offer. (RR)
Friday: I Fucking Hate People
This whole thing is a nightmarish clusterfuck that would do Hunter S. Thompson or Hieronymus Bosch proud. It’s oh so easy to get lost in the throng of tarted-up girls marketing Miller Light; young kids who will eventually take over their family’s insurance business handing you demos; bloggers capturing exclusive “content” on their cell-phone cameras; and drunk people.
For those who claim this thing is all about the music, I will — by way of contrast — offer my experience of SXSW point by point:
. Most of the bands here suck and are doing it for the wrong reasons.
. Most of the audience here has bad taste and is listening for the wrong reasons.
. Sponsors are a necessary evil, though that doesn’t lessen their evil.
. I fucking hate people. (This last point is actually an aside. Sorry for editorializing.)
I’m sorry I missed the Lou Reed covers extravaganza at the Levi’s (sponsored) FADER fort. The line ran around the block, and though I’ve heard reports from those who got in that it was underwhelming, Lou Reed actually showed up. Basically, Reed and Morrison get it. They, too, seem to hate people who think today’s dominant youth culture has anything to do with the kind of art they make. And Reed in particular understands that blogging about boxing has more to do with rock & roll these days than any youth-culture festival. (Alec Hanley Bemis)
Friday, Part 2: The Unifying Power of Devin the Dude
If the going hasn’t gotten weird by the third night of SXSW, you clearly aren’t trying hard enough. By now, you’ve surveyed the land and recognized certain unalterable realities: the crooked spine that needs to be snapped back into alignment, weary calves that feel like they’ve been slit open and filled with cement, and, most important, the surprisingly difficult endeavor of procuring proscribed narcotics that may or may not have been prescribed to you in California. Which would’ve all been well and good had I been taking a calculus exam tonight rather than seeing Devin the Dude, the legendary Houston rapper who has built a 15-year career around two themes: weed and women. Showing up sober to a Devin show is like reading Playboy for the articles.
It was a perfect Austin night as I took a long, slow stroll down Fourth Avenue. Eighty degrees, thick, clean air, and people buzzing every which way, flitting from show to show, the sun on its last legs and a weak March wind just starting to kick up under the cover of the inky, encroaching darkness. Thousands of people sprawled past, while I — alone and lost in thought — sipped an iced coffee and inhaled this frazzled energy. Creeping from behind, a slightly off-his-rocker but wildly likable homeless man sidled up to me, rattling off old jokes, asking what band I’m in.
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