SXSW Outsider: Days 2 and 3 (still no waiting in line)

March 22, 2010

By admin

I haven't written about my SXSW experiences past Wednesday because on Thursday I shot video of 14 songs by 9 artists for our Pool Sessions (clever name- get it?). All my spare time since then has been spent editing and uploading those videos, which you can see on this page. There's more to come today, and interviews with some of the bands will be posted later in the week. Shooting at the La Quinta Inn was a great experience- the staff was surprisingly helpful and even seemed excited we were there. It was kind of the exact opposite of how I'd expect a Chicago hotel to react. I missed a lot of good day parties while shooting including NPR Music, Schuba's and Billions (a Chicago-based booking company), but I feel the one-of-a-kind intimate performances I got to record made up for it. After we wrapped up at the pool, I met up with a high school friend I'd run into randomly earlier in the week. He was at a vintage clothing store about 2 miles away from the center of the official SXSW action. A band called Rayon Beach (on Chicago's HoZac Records) were playing for about 9 people (and one dancing cowboy). The show wasn't that great, but it was nice to meet some actual Austin residents and get their perspective on all the craziness. The next stop was an official SXSW showcase in the heart of it all that inexplicably let us in for free. It was at a club called Wave and had bands playing on two levels. A newer Chicago band called Light Pollution really impressed me at this show (full disclosure- my brother is their publicist). Though this show was in the heart of the Mardi Gras-esqe craziness, I could see the appeal of having a badge for music journalists attending SXSW- things become so much more efficient when you can walk from door to door and see countless bands (and skip all the poor slobs waiting in line). Rolling Stone even had a guy attempting to review 100 shows at SXSW on Twitter. That just wouldn't be possible without a badge (and some kind of energy drink). DAY 3 I got a late start on Friday since I was working on videos all morning. Around 2:00 I rode the bus downtown (and of course I met a Columbia College student on the way). Side note- Austin just completed the first leg of their light rail system which should be up and running this week. It could really change how people experience SXSW in future years.

I was really excited to see Anni Rossi play at the Other Music day party. The Chicago multi-instrumentalist did a Pool Session for us and Friday performing with a full-band the same songs had an electronic edge to them. I highly recommend watching for her new album this summer. The Other Music party was held at a place on the near east side called the French Legation Museum. It was the best of all the free venues I experienced. The gently sloping lawn formed a natural amphitheater for one stage, while a tent at the top of a hill provided a more traditional place for the likes of Thurston Moore, J Mascis and others to perform. Add in free drinks and cheap BBQ and you've got a blissful afternoon. On a lark I tried to find a way into the much-talked about Hole reunion show at Stubbs next. Let's just say the stars aligned and suddenly I found myself amongst all the badge-holders listening to Courtney Love covering The Rolling Stones. From where I was I could have confused Hole for Guns 'N Roses, what with the top-hatted guitar player and Love's new-found resemblance to Axl Rose.

After a great dinner at Manuel's (a favorite of Chicagoans at SXSW, I'm told), the evening turned out to be kind of a bust. First I attempted to see White Mystery play at the In The Red records showcase. Even though the venue was at capacity, I considered breaking my cardinal rule and waiting in line while others in my cohort tried to pull strings to get us in. However, when I saw Chicago garage band CoCoComa was waiting in line, I realized my chances of getting in were slim. I briefly considered going to a Les Savy Fav show nearby, but the $15 cover and crowded tent changed my mind. I'd decided to call it a night when I got a text from Sound Opinions' Jason Saldanha that the midnight church show for hotly buzzed band The xx wasn't at capacity. I walked over to the Presbyterian church that Greg Kot calls the best venue at SXSW, but there was nothing I could do to get into the show. It was strictly a wristband or badge-only show. And at that I hailed a cab and went home- my earliest night yet!

Check back for my concluding post on the apocalyptic last day of the fest.

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