At one party we were at, they weren’t selling a lot of CDs or vinyl, choosing instead to go with tapes. Make of that what you will.
South by Southwest seemed especially intense and jam-packed with great acts this year, of which I’ll share a few with you below. Every year, the festival gets bigger, and now it seems like it’s breaking into sections. Indie rock and punk have taken over not just the area east of downtown, but also a tiny little street off downtown called Rainey that was poorly lit and pretty cheap just a few years ago. (All those people who sold their houses so they could become bars no doubt made a mint.) The size of the festival means that not only is there a much bigger diversity of acts this year than in the past, but that many bands play over and over and over again, until they’re kind of exhausted and delirious. I saw one band—not naming names!—play one show early in the week where they were tight and energetic and another later in the week where they were drunk and hungover and screwing things up all over the place. (It was still fun, because punk can be a bit of a trainwreck and still entertaining.)
Before I get into recommendations from the week, a word to the hordes of hipsters teeming out of dusty outdoors bars: You guys are great and your enthusiasm and fashion sense inspire me. But some of you—mostly young and mostly male—perhaps are a teeny bit too enthusiastic about the fact that you can see your favorite bands playing shows from noon to 2AM every single day. You’re beginning to neglect your bodies, which is your right as American, but—and there’s no way to put this gently—your neglect was infringing on my right not to endure your stench while trying to enjoy the music. I don’t know if someone told you frequent showering wasn’t punk rock or what, but we’re all packed in places pretty tightly, and being as clean as you can manage is just common courtesy.
To this, I say: Learn from the geeks. They’ve long struggled with the B.O. problem at conventions, and now have concocted some helpful prevention tips. I got this one from Dragon Con’s website:
Minimum Hygiene Requirements
- Bathe daily. DAILY. With soap, and hot water. You read this now and smirk because you think it’s a joke. It is not. - MANDATORY
- Wash your hands after using the restroom. - MANDATORY
- Wash your hands before every meal. - MANDATORY
- Do not stick your fingers in your mouth in public: that’s nasty. - MANDATORY
- Use deodorant. Ok, that’s not so much for your health, but at least it will make you more presentable around others.
- Keep spray deodorant on you in case you didn’t do an adequate job of deodorizing.
- Perfume/cologne/AXE Body Spray is not a replacement for this.
- Brush your teeth at least once daily. - MANDATORY
- If you plan on wearing a single costume for more than 6 hours, air it out and/or use Febreze. Its hot, crowded, and you will sweat.
- Change underwear daily. - MANDATORY
Now, some of these rules could be rearranged to suit music festivals. For instance, costumes aren’t so relevant, but that could be replaced with a suggestion to change clothes every day. Nor do I think all people need some kind of deodorant, if they’re really getting their scrub on in the shower. But you get the idea. To be clear, 95% of the men and 99% of the women at shows were following these basic rules, but as you know, a few bad apples can spoil the atmosphere.
Now for some awards based strictly on criteria like “what shows did I see” and “did I enjoy them”?
Best Ladies With Guitars Bringing the Sunny Garage Rock
This is a more crowded field than you’d think, with bands like Best Coast and La Sera out there. Neither of those two played, but Bleached, this year as last, did, and they killed it. Their album comes out in April. Buy it. Bonus: The singer and lead guitarist are sisters, and it’s fun to see sisters who work so well together.
Best Arty Punk Band that Reminds Me of 70s Bands Like the Raincoats, Kleenex, or Name Your No Wave Band
The Coathangers, who also have a record.
Best Band that Reminded Me of L7, Turning Me Into a Giant Ball of Nostalgia
White Lung. They have a record too!
Best Rapper, American
Angel Haze. You can download her EP here.
Best Rapper, European
Best Band We Saw Waiting for Another Band to Play
No Ceremony///, a Manchester band that somehow managed to make an acoustic guitar work with synths and a drum machine. They don’t have an album out, as far as I can tell. You can download a song at the link, though.
Best Cover of a Song I Never Thought I’d Hear Anyone Cover
Best at Doing the Retro Thing Without Being a Tired Retread
Willy Moon has a 50s-era rockabilly aesthetic, but injects it with hard rock and hip-hop elements. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
The guys from Young Fathers were great all around, but man, their dancing made me feel tired just watching it.
Best Show I Can’t Believe I Managed to Get Into
Some tales can’t be told out of school, but having lived in Austin for so long means I had a way to get into a rather tiny venue to see Iggy Pop and the Stooges (with Mike Watt on bass) perform. Here is a video from them performing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago. It was like this, except Iggy crawled around on the floor and kept throwing himself into the audience to crowd surf, much to the security’s chagrin. (The guy kept grabbing his boot and pulling him back on stage.) He’s 65 and gives absolutely no fucks.
Best Rock Legend I Saw Totally Unaware that He Was Supposed to Play
Because it was a hassle to update my online schedule on the phone, I had no idea Roky Erickson was playing this show I was at. His band was great and he was really having a great time, and the audience completely forgave him for forgetting the words to some of his own songs. Here is a video of the 13th Floor Elevators lip-synching by a pool in the 60s.
Here’s a 6 second video from their performance yesterday.