Austin is weird, that's for sure. I've seen a walking Fleshlight (holding the hand of a pornstar, nonetheless), green lasers shooting out of the sky for hours, a presidential candidate with a boot for a hat and the weirdest thing of all - a guy in a full suit walking with Jansport backpack, right through the madness. I'm digging it down here, though. It's 70 degrees, slightly overcast and packed to the brim with music makers, music lovers, money makers, show promoters, talent scouters, venue operators, food truck creators and many, many more.
I hoofed it down Red River to the SXSW hive mind (also known as the Convention Center) to make Bruce Springsteen's keynote address. The Boss didn't disappoint. His speech took listeners through his musical influences decade by decade, starting with Elvis and doo-wop artists ("The most sensual music on Earth, the sound of silk stockings rustling on backseat upholstery, of snaps of bras popping across the USA, of wonderful lies being whispered into perfumed ears, runny mascara, smeared lipstick, the high school bleachers...") through Roy Orbinson ("He sang about the tragic unknowability of women. Tortured by soft skin, angora sweaters, beauty and death, just like you."), through The Animals (singing "We've Got to Get Out of This Place," and declaring it every song he's ever written, including "Born to Run," "Born in the USA," "everything I've done in the past forty years."), all the way up to Woody Guthrie (who would be 100 this year).
Hearing the detailed musical influences of one of my favorite musicians (including a variety of short performances of his work, his musical influences' work and a crowd singalong to "This Land Is Our Land") was such a great start to the day, I couldn't really conceptualize it getting much better. Luckily, I was wrong.
I toured the rock poster convention, reminding myself of the (small) amount of money in my wallet, the pain of carrying something relatively fragile around all day and the realization that I could order something online later if I really loved it and still was not able to stop myself from purchasing something. I bought a beautiful screenprint featuring Austinites and Jagjaguwar-signed Okkervil River and headed back to the madness of 6th Street.
Under the Radar's three-day showcase at the Flamingo Cantina had carpeted bleachers, which was a relief (they became less of a relief and more of a social anxiety escalator when I accidentally kicked over two drinks in less than a minute, however). Taken by Trees was taking the stage as I arrived. As much as I hate to dismiss any band, especially one attached to a local label, I was completely bored by the performance. It allowed me time to piece together my schedule for the rest of the night with mellow background music, so there's that. My interest in the performance was decidedly piqued by a cover of "In the Air Tonight" (I've obviously revealed myself as a die-hard Phil Collins and Bruce Springsteen fan in the course of one post)
Following the mostly boring but for the Phil Collins-related-blip set was Brooklyn's Bear in Heaven, who played only new tracks. There was a definite Depeche Mode feel to their set, which increases the likelihood I'll buy their new album by 500x.
After a brief stop at Pop Montreal Festival showcase, where we caught the similarly Depeche Mode-inspired band Trust, we decided to navigate to the rapidly (and rabidly) growing line for Fiona Apple. This was the first moment when I realized how prized the badge I'm currently wearing around my neck is.
I was able to get through the line to see Apple during her much-publicized SXSW "comeback" tour. I'll address that performance in a separate post. Suffice to say, she was amazing. Watch a clip of her performance (including the many bobbing heads of my fellow crowd members) below.
I finally hooked up with some Hoosiers at the MOKB-affiliated show at Uncorked. Oreo Jones and DMA sufficiently weirded out the seated crowd on the patio. They closed with their newest release, "The John Wayne," which has a hook that can't be beat. It was perhaps not the best venue for the artists, but they gave it their all regardless.
The members of Hotfox (our delightful guest SXSW bloggers) were in attendance, right in the middle of their scheduled slew of performances. They'll play today at the MOKB show at Peckerhead's on Friday.
I made it over to the Secretly Canadian showcase in time to see The War on Drugs. This show felt to me like the band has reached another level. I was able to peer down from the elevated patio at Mohawk, but at that point the exhaustion hit me like a wave of...I'm so exhausted I can't come up with a comparison. My writerly wiles have left me completely. I'm disappointed that I didn't hang out through Sharon Van Etten's performance, but I'll catch her in Bloomington on April 1.
By my count, I saw...well, actually, I have no idea how many bands I saw today. During the day I wandered in and out of so many clubs and caught snippets of so many bands that I wouldn't be able to include them all. I've also been watching shows with these artists. Artists receive wristbands that allow them access to shows throughout the festival, and I've resisted the impulse many times (and given in to it about as many times) to ask people who they're with. I'll be back with more posts from the Live Music Capital of the World in a bit, but sleep beckons.
Fiona Apple performs at the Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW: