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SXSW 2000 : Wednesday

Today's plan : wake up in Arlington and go to sleep in Austin. All else is malleable. After a quick jog and a shower, I pack, say goodbye to the fine friends who put me up for the night (Thanks, Jeb! Thanks, Anna!), and hit the road. Or, I drive around madly, looking for one of the two Krispy Kreme outlets that exist in Texas. Once I hit that, I drive south on a mind-bending sugar rush. Whee!

I pull into Austin at about noon and check into the Super 8 motel. My room's much nicer than I expect; there's even a microwave and a fridge. Classy. I unpack and consult the schedule - the fun begins NOW!

One-ish : My wallet is 97 bucks lighter. I've now got the fabled wristband that allows me access to any SXSW-approved show I want. Of course, I still have to deal with fire codes, but that bridge will be crossed (or not) when I get to it.

2:15. As I walk in to Waterloo Records, I'm struck by how utterly empty it is. I mean, my information says John Cale will be playing (playing what?) here about 15 minutes ago. Sadly, this is not the case. The PA system is not yet complete; no scuzzy roadies are shuttling guitars to and fro; no aging Rock Star outside having a smoke. I don't know what's going on, so I move on.

2:45. 33 Degrees. A girl that looks exactly like Christina Ricci, yet looks nothing like her at all, checks my bag. I tried to get my laptop working; no free Ethernet ports anywhere, my NetZero account fails, and the disk drive fell out, so no live noding from Austin. For shame! There's a band playing, the first of many - I'm prepared, I've got 10 ear plugs on me.

3:15, still at 33 Degrees. I'm hungry and horny - have I mentioned why I love Austin so much? The women. Dear Lord Almighty up in Heaven, the women. There are exactly three girls in all of Tulsa with short hair and tattoos; I know, I've counted them all. There's four like that in the store. It looks like I'm going to be a walking, talking erection for the next few days. I don't know the name of the band that just played, and I don't care to learn, either. A group called Roar! Lion is on stage now. They're cute and floppy, like puppy ears. I remember at the end of one song where they stop playing their instruments and just hop about and shout on stage. S'okay, but I've used up my cuteness quotient lately on Apples in Stereo albums.

4:30. I'm paying my bills in a Thundercloud Subs. Damn, talk about a great place. Three more insanely beautiful women, one great club sandwich, and a Sex Pistols album playing on the boombox. There's a bit of a to-do about a van parked in a handicapped parking spot, much pontificating about 'those damn frat boys' and abuses of parking priveliges, which appears to be a touchy subject to many Austinites. Refreshed, I head out.

6:30. I'm at Cheapo Discs, and there's a rockabilly revivalist band playing in a corner - The Cadillac Angels. The bassist kicks ass. She looks like an old porn industry reject (and if you saw the faces she made when she worked out a vibrato, well, you'd think the same thing too). Good old fashioned rock'n'roll. Near the end of the set, the bassist takes the stand-up into the middle of the crowd and proceeds to execute some insanely complicated maneuvers, mostly balancing totally on the bass while playing. Extreme Rock.

8:10, at the main punk club in Austin, Emo's. The SXSW organizers love going against type, though - Stubb's BBQ, where the chefs will serve what you want, as long as it's country-fried, becomes a big hip-hop venue on Saturday - so cutesy (twee?) rock/pop from Kindercore Records is in the smaller of the two Emo's rooms. A group called I Am the World Trade Center is on stage. This is their first show, ever. They must be terrified up there, too - first time out and you're playing to a room full of record executives. It goes about as well as can be expected - the lead singer's voice is flat and off-key, but it works in the context of the music somehow - and they finish up quickly.

9:05, Emo's. More equipment problems. Etienne Charry, a Frenchman, is lamenting the fact that his custom-made Kraftwerkian robotic back-up band is made for European voltage levels, not American. So, when he plays, there are these odd pauses where a prerecorded sample usually goes. But Charry does all right - he's got huge brown puppy-dog eyes and he's totally charming and you're fully entertained, if not by the music. I split a bit later and hit up Stubb's, to see an OK band called Crawdaddy-O (n'awlins swing, with tuba) and then I wander for a bit, checking out other venues with much less inspiring music. I seem to remember walking in on ThaMuseMeant's last song...

10:30, back at Emo's. This is the place to be, judging by the badges around. If I haven't mentioned before, the badges are roughly $400 and only for those in the industry or the press. Posession of one will get you into showcases before any wristbander or pay-at-the-door types, and they can get you into the private parties that are happening 24/7 all over this town. Badges I see here - David Geffen Records. Warner Brothers (it looks like they sent their janitorial staff). Nathan Thompson from The Onion. So, all the cool kiddies are at Emo's... if only the music was better. In the main room, The Dylan Group is barely audible over the snores. They sound like Tortoise, if you replace all the members with clones of pre-campaign Al Gore. The other room has more pop, a band called kincaid, and while the melodies are standard-issue, at least people here are awake.

11:30, Emo's. I standing next to Robert Schneider from the Apples in Stereo. He's a reflection of the perfect pop he writes; his blood is probably made of Prozac or something. The protégées of the Apples, a band called Dressy Bessy is on stage, and they jack up the sugar content of the club by four magnitudes. I'm experiencing a 5 minute crush on the lead singer, who a cheerleader-by-day, raver-by-night type.

12:50, Stubb's. I hang around while Dressy Bessy ends at midnight and proceed to catch the Essex Green - noodling psychedelia that heads nowhere. I split and check out some inspired polka by Rubinchik's Orkestyr at the Ritz, and then some of that aforementioned country-fried rock at Stubb's with the Damnations Tx. In the quest to get as many different styles as I can, I'm only getting two songs per band, maximum. There's no rest. Snap a few pictures of the band, run to the next club.

2:00, outside Emo's. Finally, it's time for blessed sleep. I caught about 20 minutes of Japancakes, who's (illegally) playing past 2 AM inside of Emo's, and who's more noodling psychedelia, but unlike the Essex Green, it's noodling psychedelia that seems to actually have a destination. So thumbs up there. Macha, one of the more hyped bands of the night, didn't start to play until 1:35, so I didn't catch anything that they did. The Gourds played at Stubb's, but they also had problems setting up - it looked like they were setting up microphones underneath the stage to amplify the (very) beefy guitarist's stomps and impromptu hoe-down dances. Well, whatever. I fall asleep on top of the bedcovers.

April 2, 2000