SXSW Day #4: This one’s for the fans
Phew, back from a full day traveling. I probably shouldn’t give idjuts like this any attention, but this showed up in the link backs, and reading it in the context of absorbing so much of the SXSW greatness really drove home to me why it was worth the hassle of getting to Austin and back. I promise you that nothing really makes you love the warm, happy vibe given off by the music lovers at SXSW like reading a joyless, humorless wingnut and his readers bitch about evil women, evil hipsters, evil non-white people, anyone who they dislike existing, much less being happy and feeling free. I read that briefly and then went out downtown and walked by one club or parking lot after another with a band shoved up in the corner and crowd upon crowd of people dancing, singing, hugging each other, looking good, and bouncing up and down with the love of the music and of each other. What an amazing contrast!
It was fucking cold, too. That just makes the whole thing so much more remarkable. The weather report up until the cold front actually hit put the temperatures in the low to high 50s region. But it was actually in the low 30s to low 40s. For locals who had access to their winter coats and hats and sweaters, not that big a deal. For people who traveled in and had only their spring jackets and lighter shirts, it was daunting as hell. And yet, we came out in droves. We shivered in line, shivered as we walked, shivered at outdoors shows until the music played, and then we danced even harder to warm up. Because even though it was the last day of the festival, people couldn’t stand to know that there were great bands to see, and dammit, they were going to see them.
This week, for these reasons and others, really was a reminder of how important it is to live joyfully if you can. So many times walking in to a club and seeing friends that were already there, grinning their heads off out of sheer enthusiasm for being here, and being alive, and being able to be a fan of music, and being able to share that with others. So, with that in mind, I’m going to focus on the crowd’s reaction to the bands I saw yesterday.
Ume. Second time to see this band, while hanging out at a day show. This time, it was a full set, and you could see a handful of fans up front who knew the words and were singing along. Those were the younger people, but the crowd had a lot of people my age, too. We were clearly digging the return-to-the-90s vibe this band gives off hardcore. I think I’m a fan now.
Andrew WK. Fucking finally. I don’t even want to tell you how hard it was to get into one of his sets, even though he appeared to play one million of them. He was playing the Brooklyn Vegan showcase of Canadian bands. He’s hard to explain, but his effect on the audience is not. They eat up everything he does, because he sells it with so much talent and humor. He had a bunch of young, hip types singing along to silly nonsense lyrics about how great small dogs are while he played piano recital type music. You don’t know why you like it, but you do.
The Hood Internet. I think a lot of their mash-ups are lazy, but I figured it would be a fun dance party, and I do like some of them. (Like the one below.) It was fucking hilarious. Theirs was the second to last show of a day party in a parking lot, and by walking in, Marc and I committed to being like the only non-drunk people in the joint. Drunk people plus mash-ups plus a burning desire to stay warm equals some of the goofiest behavior. Before it was all over, I wanted to warn a woman standing next to me that her drunken attempts at grinding with her friends were getting her perilously close to the filthy, beer-soaked ground. And I saw a guy do the worst version of the robot I’ve ever seen. And people making out while dancing on the stage. And crowd-surfing. And worst: When they mixed “Whoop There It Is!” into one of their mash-ups, a good half of the crowd debased themselves by yelling, “Whoop! There it is!” like it was the coolest thing they’d ever heard.
Really, it was a great time. And people totally loved this mash-up:
The Bitters. Young-ish punk band with lots of talent. The crowd was literally night to the Hood Internet’s day—they were sober and fashionably dressed and were not going to be doing any grinding no matter how drunk they got. This is the crowd that paces themselves because they’re going until late that night, unlike some day show crowds that blow it out by 8PM. Everyone liked it best when this band drifted into surf rock by the way of the Ramones kind of sounds, and liked it a little less when they indulged their emo side. I put them on my schedule because I want to hear some rock music on occasion, and this night was shaping up to be dominated by dance music.
Go Chic! The one CD I bought, because a) they made it easy to buy and b) they were bar far the best discovery we made at SXSW. I’m almost afraid to put it on, for fear that it won’t be as great as the show was. They’re from Taiwan and they have attitude The lead singer basically can’t not be joking and ironic with everything she says; fucking loved it. (Check out this interview for a taste.) Like I noted on Twitter, some times you go to see girl bands, and there’s a bunch of dudes that hang out right in front of the stage in order to be as creepy as fuck. They don’t dance, they don’t seem to care about the music, and sometimes they’ll even get a little pissed if the band actually defies their expectations and rocks out. (I saw this happen with at least two dudes at this show.) They want to see cute girls suck, so they can get a sexual thrill while also feeling superior. It’s something a lot of female musicians have to deal with.
Go Chic kicked ass, causing everyone to dance and actually create space where women were able to start sharing the front space, which had previously been a wall of dude. They made fun of white dudes with Asian fetishes, dudes who just stand there and won’t dance at shows, people who try to impress them by speaking in Japanese to them, and people who get disappointed when they find out that the drummer is a dude instead of another cute girl. And they caused me to jump up and down for the first time in a long time, and the crowd rushed the stage after the show and snatched up their CDs.
The Juan Maclean. I only was able to catch half his set at the outside show hosted by Red Bull. At this point, it was 10PM, and so people were beginning to really not want to go to outside stuff, because it was only in the 30s at this point. But my friends came out of the crowd (where it was surprisingly warm) to greet us, and they were all eyes shining and smiles from dancing to these genius DJs. The Juan Maclean only played vinyl—no computers at all—and it was on another level. You hear someone like that, and you can really grasp the giant gulf between a passable DJ and someone who really knows his shit. We were sorry to leave, because everyone was dancing like crazy people and we couldn’t believe that we heard stuff like “Funkytown” like it was brand new, but we were going to meet some other folks at one last show.
Angry vs. the Bear. This band is probably going to break and become huge at some point. We saw them last year, and were impressed by how much they brought to the table despite only being a band for a few months and only having like 6 songs. This time, they were polished and they were playing for a crowd at least twice the size of next year. And the crowd went nuts. Because deep down inside, we all love the trashy 80s pop sound. And keytars.
It would have been awesome to ride the dance pop energy in that room into crossing the street and going to see the Scissor Sisters, but there’s no way that anyone was getting in to that Scissor Sisters’ show, and plus we had to get up at 6AM, and it was already midnight. So we walked all the way back to our place—a 15 minute walk, which isn’t bad, except that we were wildly under-dressed for the weather. But it turned out okay, because all that crazy SXSW energy kept up almost warm enough.