Positioning yourself in the forward half of the audience at a This Moment in Black History performance is like sitting in the front row of a Gallagher show without an umbrella, but with a much better payoff for your Â‘participation'. It turns out that Bay Guardian Music Editor Kimberly Chun was inadvertently kicked in the head by the very same lead singer that chose to hop into my chair with me. He holds a vendetta against Bay area music journalists, perhaps? No matter. Maybe we're both sadists, because from what I can tell, we both rather enjoyed the rough treatment. This could be because the bands start to blend together after a while when you're in the midst of four 13-hour days of music. If it takes a little of the old ultra-violence to command the crowd's attention, then let me be the first moodge to take one in the yarbles.
And speaking of rough treatment, the 25-foot RV my companion and I rented and drove in and parked just east of downtown each day was egged by some disgruntled locals, a gang of East Austin street toughs or quite possibly a certain Sixth City punk frontman. But other than that, the RV experience was a good one. It was easy to find parking each day, we had some measure of maneuverability for getting to some of the shows a little south of town and we had what amounted to a roving, sun-splashed studio for writing, editing photos and drinking wine. I would highly recommend it for would-be festivalgoers next year. Sadly the festival was not without its bumps for our contingent, as my companion lost her driver's license midway through the festivities and had to have her passport overnighted. I'm looking at you for this one too, T.M.I.B.H!
Transportation issues aside, though South-by-Southwest was a frantic music-gulping success and an unforgettable spectacle, I share some of Kimberly's frustration -- expressed in her Guardian piece -- that some of the bigger-name indie bands (Arcade Fire, New Pornographers, LCD Soundsystem) were nowhere to be found, and that I'm left considering a trip to Coachella to catch them just one month after the biggest music extravaganza on the continent. But I look at South-by-Southwest, along with CMJ and Noise Pop, as a place to catch some of the up-and-comers before (or at least at the same time as) the music press and bloggers get a hold of them and make it near impossible to get tickets.
When the dust settled on the last two days of this year's festival, there were a few more standouts to add to the list in my first post, Crazy RV Music Adventure, on the 2007 festival.
Already blogged to death, so just go see them:
Datarock -- Playing Mezzanine March 29, 2006 -- TONIGHT!
The Ponys -- On a bill with Deerhunter at 12 Galaxies April 13, 2006.
Annuals -- Opening for Blonde Redhead at Bimbo's April 23 and 24, 2006.
Menomena -- Coming to the Independent June 9, 2007.
Ripe for the plucking, but not coming to town any time soon:
Apes & Androids -- Eminently danceable, Apes & Androids' spaced-out funk-and-soul sound dovetails nicely with their off-the-wall stage presence -- headbands, velour and face paint.
Ariel Pink -- Definitely the most random and oddest act I witnessed at South-by-Southwest, which is saying a lot. A quick look at his influences on myspace is not possible, it requires quite a bit of scrolling. I heard Jackson Five at one point in Austin and Bauhaus soon after. What does petulant singer Ariel Rosenberg want to sound like next? I'm happy to stick around and find out.
The Mint Chicks -- Remember that lame-ass Cars reunion a few years ago with Todd Rundgren? Hopefully you skipped that. Now go see The Mint Chicks instead. It's cheaper and they've got loads of that good ol' youthful energy.
Alela Diane Â– With soulful vocal chops akin to Gillian Welch or Emmylou Harris, and forthright and confident lyricism, Nevada City-born Alela Diane's ongoing ascent simply cannot be doubted or stopped.
Micah P. Hinson -- For a spur-of-the-moment, stripped-down set, Abilene singer-songwriter Micah P. Hinson, with his full-bodied vocal, delivered a moving and sonically eloquent stunner of a performance, far more than just warming up the crowd for Daniel Johnston.
O'Death -- Imagine if you will that Captain Beefheart broke into a pawn shop in Appalachia and made off with all the musical instruments. I doubt there are many music fans that couldn't get behind this boisterous blend of punk, country, bluegrass and eccentricity.
HEALTH -- A soul-shaking sonic clamor with the random deviations of free jazz and the succinctness of the Minutemen.
Two-Ton Boa -- If metal was more literate, more twistedly bipolar, and built around dynamic, haunting and evocative vocals instead of hiding behind guitar-hero posturing, it's name would be Sherry Fraser.
Mariee Sioux -- Part of the Grass Roots Records family, along with Alela Diane, Mariee Sioux picks out beautiful, smart folk ditties and delivers them like fellow Nevada City resident Joanna Newsom taken down a notch. What is in the water in that town?
At the very least, after four long days in Austin, there are about 35-40 bands that I won't have to clamor to see whenever they decide to embark on a West Coast tour. Alas, I'll still be looking to the desert in late April and considering getting in line with the sweat-ringed throng out in Indio yet another year.