Yes, they pulled it off.
For the past three years, Sean Carlson and Keith Morris, in conjunction with Transmission Entertainers, the founders of Austin's renegade
summer autumn Fun Fun Fun Fest, have thrown the Mess With Texas party, which features a few dozen bands on two stages in the very crowd-friendly Waterloo Park.
Last year was the first year that Mess with Texas did it at the park, and much to their credit, they somehow pulled off a huge, un-SXSW-sanctioned show featuring as headliners a reunited Breeders. This pissed off the official SXSW festival greatly, because the Breeders didn't play a sanctioned event. The camps have since reached an understanding, and the result is a big-ass outdoor party.
But then, anyone who knows Sean Carlson knows he doesn't play by the rules — which has made him a pretty polarizing figure in the indie concert world. His free-wheeling, PT Barnum-esque confidence that he can pull off the impossible despite being in his early 20s is pretty impressive, and even earned him a feature in the New York Times for his rolling F Yeah Fest tour last summer. This year the Mess with Texas line-up included King Khan and the Shrines, the Vivian Girls, the Soft Pack, Circle Jerks, the Bronx, Akron/Family, Japanther, Kid Sister and others.
I slipped by the party earlier today to see Long Beach's Crystal Antlers, who returned this week from a grueling month-long tour of Europe. It was a rollercoaster ride; halfway through that tour, the band found out that Touch and Go, the label that's putting out its debut full length, was laying off 23 of its 25 staff and ceasing to sign new bands, which left Crystal Antlers in a funny spot. They've been meeting with labels all week to figure out their next move.
But the tour also did something wondrous to the band: it made them even tighter and freakier and more frantically on target than they've ever been. And the good news is that the entire tour, and this SXSW stuff, has been being filmed by Videothing founder and filmmaker Michael Reich, who is recording a full-length documentary/feature on the band. The strange thing about the project? It's actually scripted, and at some point devolves (or evolves) into a fictional horror flick.
Reich, you may recall, was with Sean Carlson and Crystal Antlers manager Phil Hoelting in a notorious Hollywood Bowl incident last year in which Bowl-hired security guards allegedly assaulted the three after a Radiohead concert and took a videotape that allegedly showed the guards roughing up a fan.
There were no such troubles at Mess with Texas this year — at least so far; for all I know Carlson's in jail somewhere right now, and Reich is filming the whole thing.