SXSW Day Three: Juxtapositions Edition
We started off the day going to Flatstock, which is a collection of concert poster artists hawking their wares, and is well worth dropping in, even if just to look or buy postcards. I did buy two Devo posters, from La La Land Posters, but the poster that cracked me up the most that he had was this one you see above, for Best Coast and Wavves. The guy who sold it to me told me he directed a Devo video that hasn’t been released yet, and asked if I wanted to see it. (Devo fans have a lot of in-group generosity.) It was for their song “What We Do”, and it will be interactive (including an option to click on people’s outfits in the video and buy them, demonstrating why Morgan Spurlock should really pay some attention to Devo before thinking he’s so clever.) It’s an awesome video, and I’m looking forward to its release.
After getting the posters and dropping them off, we headed to the French Legation to meet friends and basically wait for !!! to play. The first band we saw was The Cults, who were pretty damn good, right in line with that 60s Cal pop thing that’s so popular. The singer reminded me a bit of Fiona Apple—little girl, big voice that can get really dirty at times—and they had clearly absorbed the understanding that a pop song is best if cut to a length that keeps ’em wanting. Though I suppose that makes me a hypocrite of sorts, since I love !!! and their 3 hour long songs (joke). But they’re dance music, so they can do what they want. Anyway, here’s a Cults song.
Next up was James Blake, who is definitely a buzz artist this SXSW. Tons of people talking about him, trying to see him, etc. So we figured, “Cool.” This was a mistake. His music was not just sleepy, but boring and, I thought, kind of unimaginative. The crowd around us was eating it up, going apeshit at one point for what I thought was a pretty standard set of electronic beats. But we endured, knowing that the chance that the people around us sucking this stuff down would be frightened away by the first bar of a !!! bass line, and we would be able to move to the front rapidly. Also, Twitter allows you to make the best of a bad situation by cracking jokes quietly through a set.
Our gamble paid off and we got to stand basically at the stage as !!!, which is where you want to be as long as you have earplugs and don’t suffer from bad knees or a heart condition, or an aversion to actually brushing up against sweaty penises. (No sweaty penises were applied to anyone’s body on purpose as far as I could tell.) They did like four songs, and all of them created a crowd of people jumping up and down, boogeying, and pumping their hands in the air. The lead singer Nic Offer, whose inability to dress himself doesn’t manage to hurt his charisma in any way, spent a solid portion of the show in the crowd pumping people up, as you can see here. Shilpa Ray came on and sang back-up vocals, and tribute was paid to Nate Dogg. Honestly, it’s a matter of will that I don’t just follow !!! around SXSW, but really, it’s about quantity as well as quality here.
Since we were sweaty and gross walking out of there, the initial plan was to go back to the apartment and clean up, but we stopped at a food truck, ate, and remembered how, in Austin, sweat just dries right off you in the spring. And so we were not gross at all! I suggested to Marc that we just push on and see Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers at Buffalo Billiards, and call it a night more like midnight than 3AM. This turned out to be the right call, as I found myself banging my head against the floor in amazement that I had not already discovered Shilpa Ray and her rocking out on the harmonium and her general bad assery. She’s intense in a way that is very 90s, and once again I found myself gleeful that the 90s are back. Her music and show is really dark and anger-channeling, and absolutely fucking amazing. I immediately bought her LP.
The bands afterwards were Beach Fossils, who had an epically bad set. I dissed them on Twitter, but would like to modify that somewhat. I have no beef with the rhythm section of that band. The bassist was very nice and charming while the lead singer threw a temper tantrum over a (really not that bad) mix and a broken guitar string. I realize they’re one of those bands that Pitchfork sucks up to and you can get an ego over that, but I wasn’t that impressed. I mean, they weren’t bad, but I wasn’t going to kill my mom over them or anything. The Screaming Females followed, and while it’s true they have an immensely talented lead singer/guitarist—she’s a bona fide shredder—I just wasn’t feeling their songs, and so we took off. Got some sliders and beer and called it a night, so we could finish out with something resembling a good night’s sleep.