The best and worst of SXSW 2009

23 03 2009

Phew! What a week! I’m running on a five-day hangover of too much loud music, booze, sun and everything else imaginable, and I gotta say, it was one of the best weeks ever. Here are my top highlights from the week:

photo by James Trevenen, Playboy

Best Show: Jane’s Addiction @ Playboy’s Rock the Rabbit. What business did Jane’s Addiction have playing SXSW, who cares, cause this show killllled. To top it off, it was in an abandoned grocery store and included complimentary Jack and a buffet. What’s not to love? I get that this award is supposed to go to some up-and-comer waiting to be discovered, but screw it, Farrell and Navarro deserve it.

photo by James Trevenen, Playboy

Best Showcase: Tie: SPIN Magazine @ Stubb’s BBQ/Village Voice @ La Zona Rosa. I’m sure there were a few showcases that could compete for this award line-up-wise, but my time spent at Stubb’s was enjoyable, despite how crowded it became for Echo & the Bunnymen. Stubb’s is a top-notch outdoor venue, Echo was fantastic and tallboys were free and easily accessible. Village Voice is up there, too, for the free Mexican food (seriously, damn good), as well as the lineup, which I unfortunately only caught half of (saw: Crystal Antlers and Cursive; missed: Gomez and M. Ward).

Best Venue: French Legation Museum. This outdoor space was absolutely lovely (and only a block from where we were staying!) — big, green lawn, trees, WAVVES beating a pinata. I didn’t have time to catch much live there, but the time I spent just hanging out felt perfect. Someone also shared with me the history of what the French Legation Museum actually is, but I may have been too drunk to remember …

photo by Jillian Mapes

Best SWAG: EB101 Earbuds and Altec Lansing speakers, courtesy of the AP gifting suite. Booyah.

Best Meal: Brisket sandwich at some off-the-beaten-path BBQ joint near our house. I have no idea what the name of this place was, and I have never in my life had such unreasonably slow service, but oh wells, it was worth it.

photo by Nick Jones

Best Drink: Tito mixed drinks @ mayor’s media welcome reception. They may have run out of BBQ, but the beverages were delish.

Most Efficient Bathroom Line: Levi’s FADER Fort. They were running that shit military style. Bravo.

photo by Nick Jones

Overall Best-Of @ SXSW ’09: I’d love to say that this was hanging with my best buds from New York, spending quality time with good friends from out of town and meeting tons of new people, or any one of the many nutty situations I found myself in, but in all honesty, it was having my wallet returned. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Austin Police Department, for all your help and understanding.

And now, the worst …

Worst Show
: As I think back on all the shows I caught this week, none stick out to me as particularly “bad,” but there was one singer/songwriter wailing off-key from a rooftop downtown that immediately made me wish he would shut up. And the fact that it’s STILL vivid in my memory must say something.

Worst Venue: iheartcomix/Jelly NYC showcase: This event was a ways from downtown (in a strip mall? I think?), in what had to be the worst setup at the fest. After hopping in a cab just to get out there, the line stretched for blocks, and after running into some friends on their way out, they said it was 20x worse inside and infested with teenagers. So without even bothering to check it out myself, I’m declaring this the worst of the week.

Worst Meal: Rachael Ray.

Worst Drink: Whatever they were serving @ Vice Party. Waaay too sweet. Being able to smoke inside was nice, though.

Biggest Regret: Missing Rye Rye. I heard nothing but positive buzz about Rye Rye all week, and every time I tried to catch her, I missed out.

Overall Worst-Of @ SXSW ’09: Losing my wallet. Durrr.  — Jill Menze


Will Sergeant & Echo still at it

21 03 2009

Brian Phillips had the pleasure of chatting with founding Bunnymen Will Sergeant before the band took the stage at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin Friday night.

Devo’s Gerald V. Casale Talks New Record

21 03 2009

Akron, OH bred new wavers Devo are back with nerd-core for the masses in 2009. We checked in with founding member Gerald Casale before the band’s set at Austin Music Hall Friday night to talk about the new record and some of today’s artists that sparked Devo’s interest in making music again.

A whimsical overload with Andrew Bird @ Stubb’s, 3/19

21 03 2009

Is it just me, or was the Wednesday line-up at Stubb’s a brow-furrowing mish-mash of well-known acts within slightly unrelated genres (uh, Meat Puppets and Andrew Bird on the same bill)? Although the show had the potential to polarize show-goers for its lack of cohesion, Stubb’s was packed regardless. My M.O. for the night was to experience Andrew Bird in all his splendor, and I ended up catching English indie rockers Gomez, who played in the 10 p.m. slot before Bird, in the process.

photo by Jillian Mapes

I had only heard of Gomez in peripheral contexts  before coming to SXSW, and suddenly the buzz of parties and fliers pushed the band into my line of vision. At first I was not exactly sure of how to capture the band’s rock sound because Gomez seemed to mix many genres (electronic elements, blues, even alt-country and slightly jam-y), and fans seemed to enjoy their song-to-song variation and positive energy at Wednesday’s show.

photo Jillian Mapes

Next up was Bird himself, for which I pushed my way through the photo pit to get a few decent shots. Bird and his full band (yes, you heard me) appeared clearly flustered by technical difficulties as they began the set. Fans’ fears of a problematic set melted away after he eased his way into the first several songs until the track “Skin Is,” when technical complications arose yet again. But Bird chugged onward, eventually conducting an audience singalong with drum mallet in hand (please note: Andrew Bird does not play drums).

Jillian Mapes

As a barefoot Bird delved into old favorites, such as “Imitosis” and “Tables and Chairs,” he seemed less careful and perfectly plucky. Bird took his damn sweet time making his way around these tracks, equipped with hints of fuzzy feedback and slower tempos as his tools. These changes allowed Bird’s well-known tunes to take on a refreshed demeanor (much like myself, after I sleep more than five hours a night post-SXSW). Overall, the performance moved beyond “intimate,” a word many use to describe Andrew Bird gigs. I’d say this one was a bit fired up as well. — Jillian Mapes

Metallica IS Playing SXSW

20 03 2009

If you’re questioning whether or not Metallica was going to play SXSW check out this video from earlier today. They’re playing at Stubb’s BBQ tonight. If they don’t throw tomatoes at me.

The Avett Brothers leave audience hungry @ 3/18 NPR Showcase

19 03 2009

As I prepared to see North Carolina alt-country superstars (the fangirl in me thinks so, at least) The Avett Brothers for the second time in ten months (first time was at the Nelsonville Art and Music Fest last May), I was reminded how much the spacial context of a show can make it an entirely different experience. For a fest with few true “big name” mainstream artists, the show sure seemed like a big-time concert.

photo by Jillian Mapes

Crowds were packed into Stubb’s, a shockingly large sizable venue compared to the dive bars and patio stages common at SXSW. If the photo pit for press is any indicator, every music press outlet was vying for pics of Avett Brothes, and more importantly, The Decemberists.

The crowd seemed terribly unsatisfied with the six-song set from the brothers Avett and co. Favorites from “Emotionalism” and their latest EP “The Gleam II,” such as the touching tale of familial love “Murder in the City” (cue the *awwwws*). The band ended the set with a new piano-led ballad ballad, titled “I and Love and You,” whose harmonizations added depth to the stripped-down track. — Jillian Mapes