SXSW Overview: Where We Were, What We Saw, What We Missed

View the SXSW archives for complete coverage .

Strange Boys drummer Matt Hammer at the Beauty Bar
Strange Boys drummer Matt Hammer at the Beauty Bar
Randall Roberts

It's all a blur, but a few snapshots remain. Many who follow the fest, of course, were there and damn sure weren't anywhere near the Internets. We were. We were blogging. Over the past five days a few of us raced around Austin chasing music, and logged it in West Coast Sound. For those of you catching up on sleep and information, here are a few glimpses we recorded.

What did we see?

Patrick McDonald profiled Fannius, who "drove 22 hours straight in an Econoline van to Texas, played a South by Southwest show in front of a wild, drunken crowd on Friday night that, according to her bassist, wanted to "interact" with them, and replaced her rented van with a new one because the old one suddenly caught fire." As well, McDonald chased Metallica to the Four Seasons and then to Stubb's, and checked out Quincy Jones' keynote, reviewed the Soft Pack show, and spoke with -- and saw -- Devo.

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Weekly freelancer Jeff Weiss found some new voices in hip hop, concluded that rappers need better editors, and pondered what exactly it is about LA rapper Blu that makes him so special. He was impressed with LA's Nite Jewel, NYC's Dirty Projectors, and was very taken with the Secretly Canadian showcase.

I threw a self-righteous tantrum over Metallica's perceived arrogance, and then got my ass chewed by Peter Davis (scroll down to comments) for not getting to the Southern Lord showcase early enough, and for not properly covering the LA scene.

My five favorite performances of the week:

In the Red Records, the mighty rock & roll label out of Highland Park, delivered two of my favorite shows.

1. Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkeys at Emo's Jr., where the former Cramps, Gun Club and Bad Seeds guitarist honored his two fallen lead singers (Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Lux Interior) with covers of their songs. Kid Congo also played tracks from his new In the Red album Dracula Boots. The best cover of the week, by far, was his version of the Gun Club's "For the Love of Ivy." I told everyone I saw about this show, and, tragically, even some of my most knowledgeable friends had no idea who Kid Congo was. People need to know. And they need to give him a variety show.

Strange Boys: Maximum R&B, minimum production
Strange Boys: Maximum R&B, minimum production
Randall Roberts

2. The Strange Boys, also on In the Red, was one of the big buzzes of the week, and I was right there buzzing along, telling everyone into rock & roll to see them. What they did at their SXSW showcase gig, one of probably fifteen they played over the four days, was perfect: Imagine those early 1964-1966 Rolling Stones, Kinks and Yardbirds r&b-infused singles, and you get a general idea of where they're coming from. Now toss in In the Red's requisite trashy aesthetic, their low-fidelity buzzing, and you get closer. Equally important to the label peeps: the youth of Strange Boys have this incredible charisma, this gloriously detached confidence.

3. Grizzly Bear featuring Beach House's Victoria Legrand doing "Two Weeks." I've seen Grizzly a few times in the past year, so didn't necessarily need to see them again. But walking past Cedar Street Courtyard, the harmonies pulled me in. The Brooklyn band trades in beauty, doo wop and girl-group harmonies, and with the addition of Legrand, whose voice is as dynamic and unique as Stevie Nicks' -- that smokey flavor, those competing tones -- the band seemed a whole other animal.

Pelican at Emo's Annex
Pelican at Emo's Annex
Randall Roberts

4. Pelican at Emo's Annex. Recent signings to LA's Southern Lord imprint, the instrumental metal band recalls Black Flag's record The Process of Weeding Out, and guitarist Greg Ginn's Gone period. Coupled with that duel-guitar metallic frenzy and an appreciation for structural variation that never descends into pretentious wankery, the band, long an impressive live act, proved it deserved to be on the mighty Southern Lord.

Crystal Antlers at SXSW Mess with Texas show
Crystal Antlers at SXSW Mess with Texas show
Randall Roberts

5. Crystal Antlers at the Mess with Texas party. Long Beach band just returned from an extended European tour, and you can tell: their double-drum, distorto-keyboard, and off-kilter guitar stuff came across as the missing link between the Birthday Party, Question Mark and the Mysterians, and the Southern California surf sound. Great day for music overall at Waterloo Park.


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