Thursday, March 25, 2010

TVD's Bubblegum | SXSW in Hindsight

I arrived on Tuesday, March 16th - a day early in an effort to learn my way around before the Music portion of the festival started. This seemed like a great idea in October when I booked my flight, but it turned out to be a terrible idea.

Free Margaritas + Music Badge = Disaster

Long story short, I lost my music badge the first night I was there. Note to self for next year: Do not wear your badge at any unofficial event prior to the beginning of the festival.

I lucked out the next day. First, a friend of mine hooked me up with a day pass. Second, I went by the help desk three times. The first two times I went by, there was a very bored looking girl who was keeping tally of the losers, like myself, and their emotional responses. Four had cried. I was not one of them (but I probably would have had she not told me about the tally).

The third time I went by, it was almost closing time, and there was a big, burly guy who after making fun of me and my obvious stupidity, gave me an "artist's" wristband, which is basically the same as having a badge. And he did it for free. FREE. Whew!

Anyway, I am going to give you a brief synopsis each day this week of one of the days last week. The highlights, the lowlights, the absurdity of it all.

Keep in mind, I am only 20, so I wasn't supposed to be in most of these venues anyway, so I'm not going to name them here. Also, I don't have a fake ID, I used my military ID, and most places didn't seem to notice that my birthday isn't until November. And it is because of their carelessness that I am able to bring you this report.
Day 1: Wednesday, March 17 - St. Patrick's Day

I didn't leave the hotel until the afternoon as a result of the previous evening. Please forgive me.


1. The Middle East - Brooklyn Vegan Showcase

This Australian band, is more than a band, they're a miniature orchestra. Seven people, and at least fourteen instruments. Each member maintained a certain ambiguity, no one seemed more prominent than the person behind them, everyone contributed both vocally and instrumentally.

Looking around the room, everyone seemed very focused on what was happening on stage, not just the music, but the feeling. Each person was taking part in the song being sung. This was especially apparent during "Hunger Song" early in their set - as I looked around the majority of the crowd were moving their lips. With each song a new singer sang, or would change from verse to verse.

They maintained a humility that was scarce at the festival. "Thank you all for coming to this crazy, hectic, madhouse, and thanks to our friends at Brooklyn Vegan," the tall, lanky one standing in the middle said while raising his hands as to "raise the roof." As they started the introduction to "Blood" an audience member broke the calm silence and shouted "Best song ever!" This could have been distracting, but instead an applause ripped in agreement. Despite being possibly the saddest song I heard last week, "Blood" was also perhaps the most beautiful.

2. Frightened Rabbit - Scottish Arts Council

One of the problems at SXSW is the lines. I mean, it's to be expected, but is frustrating when you dash across town to see another band. I didn't see as many bands as I could have because of this.

I stood in line for at least half an hour to get into the Frightened Rabbit show. Scott Hutchinson, the lead singer of this Scottish band, has managed to turn out hit after hit of melancholy pop anthems. They played songs from both Midnight Organ Fight and The Winter of Mixed Drinks - mostly the singles. It was a fast paced set, and the audience was alive during their latest hit "Nothing Like You," a quintessential "F**K You!" to whomever you previously loved. They closed with the bitter "Keep Yourself Warm" while leaving the stage, and trashing it, one by one until only the drummer, Grant, was left.

3. Serena-Maneesh - Brooklyn Vegan Showcase

I had heard a lot about that "psychedelic rock band from Norway" and wanted to hear it myself. I am not a huge fan of "psychedelic" anything (I never claimed to be cool) and was hoping that I could be enlightened. I was wrong. While they look really cool, like, all the cool kids will be wearing glittery ponchos and mismatched headbands next year after seeing this band a la Emil Nikolaisen. Unless they decide to bleach their hair and take quaaludes, because that is exactly what the bassist looked like. They have a sound that would have worked well in the seventies, but they missed by thirty years and even now seem more glam than rock.

On my way back to my hotel I found a lost Irishman sitting on a wall. He was in a band (duh) and had been walking in the wrong direction for an hour. I walked him to my hotel's lobby where the clerk called him a cab. And off he went, and I to bed, thankful to not be inebriated.

1 comment:

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