Night Two: Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl (and me)
So after a long, but great day of taping on Thursday, I try to go to one party well off the 6th
Street circuit to try and catch Best Coast, but end up at another one accidentally, where I watch a random and cool performance by GZA.
I head back to 6th
and scope out the lines. Like Andrew, I'm averse to lines, but let me give a little background on how the official showcases work at SXSW: Badges (which most industry folks, press, and/or those who purchased them at $595 - $750 -- there are discounts for early purchases -- have) get priority into shows. Some shows are only opened to badges, however the vast majority of shows will also let in those with wristbands (priced from $129 -- 180) enter, but only AFTER badges are allowed inside. The final way to get in is to pay to see each show individually. Prices vary on the latter, however many of the big shows will be at capacity from badges alone, so it's unlikely that a person will be able to walk up and pay to get into an in-demand show.
In short, having a badge is the equivalent of gold in these parts (Thank you, SXSW, for my press clearance each year), but it still doesn't mean you're going to get into what you want to see, and for the buzzed-up shows it means you will wait, badge or not. Rule #3 if you're a veteran and have a badge, and really, really want to see something -- get there early. I'm off to see Broken Social Scene at Stubb's, an outdoor venue that has seen the likes of Metallica, PJ Harvey, Beastie Boys (and tomorrow, the "surprise" Muse show) and other arena-worthy rock during past SXSW fests. It's a relatively intimate outdoor venue for such large acts (there seemingly is always one "surprise act" gracing the Stubb's stage yearly), so you do end up in queues often there (even if you arrive early). I fall into my first line of SXSW for BSS while Band Of Horses plays, seemingly the big draw at the venue that night. Yay, Emily Haines from Metric is in da house for one of my fave (if not my favorite) BSS tunes, "Anthems For a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl." They also play material from their forthcoming album, Forgiveness Rock Record
, which is due in May.
I wasn't going to bother going to Mohawk to see the xx (a young band with crushing-out female-male vocal interplay whose eponymous debut came in at #3 for my Best of 2009 list), since Mohawk's not a large venue and the xx is a band that is seemingly universally adored, and with good reason. But low and behold as I wander from Stubb's on my way back to the hotel, there is no line at Mohawk and I skate in to the super packed and loud club for the last half of their set. Rule #4: sometimes Rule #3 doesn't apply and getting to the show late might mean getting in easily. The xx's come-hither lyrics and minimalistic electronica pop seems bigger than on record; it drowns out the cacophonous crowd noise and it is the perfect way to cap off the night.
Day/Night Three: Still no Broken Bells and I lost my Muse. But I've found a Hole, someone's F-ed Up, and it's not me
Friday day I plan to hop between Pitchfork's party and Spin's party at Stubb's, but I'm on the guest list for Pitchfork (a good thing as there's a crazy long line for walk-ups), but they won't check the guest list unless you "get someone with a purple wristband." What?? OK, I'll just go to the Spin party. I wander in on time to catch a little Rogue Wave, and it's a nice, chilled-out ease into the day. That is until F-ed Up take the stage and all hell breaks loose.‚ Suffice to say frontman Pink Eyes aka Father Damian lived up to the group's moniker sporting a self-inflicted bruise on his forehead, while he bantered about mutual masturbation and other strange things. It's a rousing set, which included him running around the audience in his skivvies and reminding us that punk rock LIVES. Courtney Love followed with a new lineup for Hole. This was their first appearance Stateside in more than a decade. Her voice was fiery, even if the new material was not.
The fest is more than halfway over and I've yet to see half the bands I set out to see, which is bumming me out. I'm also discovering I'm starting to get sick (no sleep and plenty of running around does that to you). A surprise show from Muse is scheduled for 10 at Stubb's on one side of town, and Broken Bells is playing an hour later in a whole other part of town. I walk by the badge line for Muse and it's around the block, so I skip it. Yes, I skip probably the biggest band in the world at the moment (shut up, I've seen them already a few times. I'm OK with skipping this!). I head back to the hotel to rest up for Broken Bells. Rule #5 for SXSW veterans, don't get sick (and take it easy if you're starting to). I recruit my roommate to come along for the ride, call a cab, but none ever arrives. We set off to walk clear across town for Broken Bells, but then I see that Jakob Dylan, Neko Case and Kelly Hogan are performing in a nearby church! We head there instead. And though there's a line, it's a quick one and we catch a beautiful set comprising a forthcoming album. This has to be as spiritual as SXSW gets. It's another good example of how the best-laid plans are ones not planned at all.
On a lark I head to another church to hopefully catch the xx again. This was another buzzing show, and I was fairly certain this one would be hard to get into as there's maybe only room for 300 people or so. It is a badge-only show, however, and I walk in with no line (!!!), sit in a pew and catch a breathtaking, and more intimate one than the night before. Oh yes, this is
as spiritual as SXSW gets!