I spent the past 9 evenings downtown doing the SXSW thing, and now I’m hella tired. It was a good palate cleanser, breaking my usual habits and stretching out a little while doing a lot of walking.
First weekend during the Film/Interactive portion, I just went downtown and hung out, people watching, trying to find the artsy stuff that the dotcoms put out for name recognition. I didn’t have a badge for entry to anything, but that’s fine. My friend Jana flew in to speak on an AI panel, so it was great to see her and spend some time hanging out. (She and her team rocked the panel, BTW.)
By the time the festival flipped from Film/Interactive to Music/Gaming on Tuesday, I was convinced by friends that I should get a music wristband. Glad I did. The ability to flit between venues without paying cover and with precedence over non-credentialed concertgoers was kinda nice, even if it did make my egalitarian bones itch.
I’m not going to drop a play-by-play of who I saw and what I did, because that would be boring and looks too much like actual work. So instead I’ll name a few bright points.
Daniel Myer of Haujobb has a side project called DSTR (a reformed Destroid); they played a messy set of great tunes, and it was fun.
Art School Girlfriend hales from England and her vibe is very laid back and moody, with a warm tone and difficult subjects. I was glad to see her play. Picked up two of her EPs on Bandcamp and am happy for it.
Saw Steve Earl. Mostly saw. He did great, but his sound guy did not. And that’s a shame. Never knew he wrote “Copperhead Road”.
You know who rocked the house? KOMFORTRAUSCHEN, that’s who. Those three guys set out to use traditional rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums) to make techno, and Ja Wohl! Ja! Such a great energy. Do yourself a favor and find them.
And continuing on the electronic kick, from Japan was machina, a one-woman pop-electronic virtuoso. Sure, there’s a laptop on the stage (as a data storage device), but she’s paying full attention to a modular synth and a load of knob boxes on her worktable, churning out the beats and laying down loops of her stellar voice in a mix of languages and tones. I wanted to see her twice.
On my first time sitting in the beautiful St. David’s Sanctuary, I saw HÆLOS do a set. Stormy adult contemporary, as big as a soundtrack, as textured as a tapestry. I’ll be digging into them some more.
And, of course, the outdoor stage of Cheer Up Charlie’s continued to deliver. Saw some powerhouses there. A Giant Dog brings up the dirty stuff; they’re hard-hitting glam rock for outcasts and deviants. Bambara punched ’em out with high energy; a dazed and confused trip through mescaline nights and roadhouse beers. Combo Chimbita brings up deep afro-caribbean magic and pounds it out through modern rhythms with force. And, on the other end of the spectrum, CHAI brings the kawaii at full speed with their eclectic mix of styles, panache, and choreography to bring the fun.
Among the others I saw out and about were:
- Grün Wasser (Chicago): really great and trippy set; eclectic experimental electronica duo
- :Papercutz (Portugal): worldbeat vocal electronic by Bruno Miguel and collaborators
- The Ninth Wave (Glasgow): fashion forward post-punk rock with warbling crooning vocals
- Jake Schrock (Dallas): lush analog synthwave played live (he has a Realistic™ branded clone of the Mini-Moog!)
- Standalone (Indiana): frontman Steven Seibold, frequent collaborator with Pigface, synthpop side project with found objects as instruments. Fun!
Finally, on a side note, I find that the more I say “never will I ever”, I usually do. I signed on with an electric scooter service because I decided that it might actually come in handy. And hell yeah it did. I was able to park outside of the paid-parking zones and walk in/scoot out for 10% the cost of parking in a downtown garage.
I get what people say, that they’re dangerous. I find more danger from people’s righteous indignation about how dangerous they could be than from actually riding. On the last night, I had some drunk bozo yell at me, “Hey, why you ridin’ a skewter?” as I zipped past him. I just crossed the green light and kept going. If it keeps me ahead of the likes of him, then I’m all for it. Just spare me the lecture.
All in all, it’s been a great week. My body is sore, my ears ring, and I have a stack of credit receipts to reconcile, but it was time well-spent. I want to shout out to my buddies Doug and John who graciously swapped recommendations and locations and who, on occasion, would be complicit with me in the goings-on of things. Good times.