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SXSW: The Baby Jesus Weeps

March 20, 2008
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| Image by Artist’s Rendition

In anticipation of Music Editor Michael Byrne’s being kidnapped, drunk, and/or horribly lost during at least part of SXSW, we also had City Paper contributor Mike McGonigal combing the streets of Austin for the week to hunt out the best and worst of the nation’s largest music debauch. His report:

 

THE GOOD

1) Mingering Mike I met my total hero, and he’s a complete sweetheart! Soul music fanatic and self-taught artist, the Washington-based Mike seemed bemused that his work–joyful fake album cover art created between 30 and 40 years ago–has made so many people happy since he was discovered some five years ago by a law-firm investigator who found his stuff at a flea market.

2) Fuck Buttons Using toy instruments, feedback, and laptops, this young and stylish British duo folds noise and pop together beautifully, loudly, and freshly. They’re like a poppy Yellow Swans, or Skinny Puppy and Black Dice crossed with Animal Collective. But better than that.

3) Half Japanese The classic early-’80s big-band lineup reunited (with Ira Kaplan on second horn) and blared through “Rosemary’s Baby,” “I Know How It Feels,” and a dozen others that are bigger than Springsteen in some other, more astute dimension.

4) Jandek Now that some of the thrill of actually seeing this outsider recluse perform live is over, it’s up to the black-clad folk-doom dude to deliver musically. And he really is, with a Texas-based band that features brilliant pedal steel and a strong female vocalist. Nick Cave never sounded this good.

5) Blues Control BC sounds kind of like an easy-listening version of Royal Trux, and I mean that in the best way. The Brooklyn duo ruled an in-store at American Apparel, drooling their noodly noise all over the confused, starving sluts in the corner.

 

THE BAD

1) All the damn bands There are too many bands. You really are aware of this while walking down Sixth Street at 10 p.m. during SXSW; bands blare their music at you, and it’s so loud and usually just so (so!) terribly bad, it makes the baby Jesus cry.

2) Corporate street teams Scantily clad young women invade even the most underground venue passing out flashlights, cozies, and energy sodas. I understand the need to “monetize” and put banners up and all that, but this is creepy and almost-evil.

3) Stupid beards Every other twentysomething has a huge, oval beard. Why? College dudes look like escapees from Amish back country. It looks even worse than all those stupid C.H.I.P.S. glasses (which I thought were over four years ago, anyway).

4) Missing cool stuff I missed the Lexie Mountain Boys, Roky Erickson, Paper Rad, Ponytail, High Places, Wooden Shjips, David Banner, a gamelan orchestra from Houston, and Todd Barry. Fuuuuuuck.

5) People from Los Angeles I finally figured out why–aside from their dyed, feathered, sideways hairdos and brand-new tats–you can tell an L.A. person in Austin instantly: They don’t know how to walk! During SXSW, you have to walk a lot. They have no idea how to do this, unless it’s inside a mall. L.A. folks just collide with you on the sidewalk, even when they’re not, at that moment, texting.

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