Wednesday, March 25, 2009
SXSW in tow, pt 3
(Pictures by Rama and Christina)
Let's talk about the image above. During last year's SXSW I overheard a friend's awe at the crowd in 6th street. I never made it there last year so I was unprepared to witness it on Saturday night. Imagine a downtown street as dense with people as a crowded bar. Imagine it being so crowded that someone decided they needed to chain their bike to the sign post above Mike's bike.
Anyway, I woke up Saturday morning tired, a bit jealous, and wondering about my criteria for good music. I was afraid I'd taken in too much. Like going for one too many helpings of mashed potatoes. Regardless, there was a lot happening today and I wasn't going to miss out. I figured following Rama downtown when he left around lunch time would make transportation easier than yesterday.
Once parked we made our way to the convention center for the guitar trade show. Afterwards, we sat in the SESAC day stage on the same floor as the trade show.
"I am Natccu," she said before bursting into her first song. J-Pop rock with a healthy dose of gurrl. Really reminiscent of anime soundtrack music, so this one's for my anime watching friends. I was digging the show but Rama wanted to leave in the middle of it.
We made our way almost a dozen blocks toward Waterloo park. This year's Mess With Texas party was already underway.
Last year the party hosted 3 stages and introduced me to Yeasayers and Black Mountain. As dusty and crowded as the park was, a long list of prospective bands in one free venue was compelling.
I said in part 1 that you don't go to SXSW to see bands you've heard of. However in a venue this size, even shrunken down from last year, room is plentiful. Last year, Mike told me about an indie punk band called Cursive. He wanted to download them but they had removed themselves from emusic. Their song, The Recluse, found it's way into one of my Pandora stations and I dug it. I gotta say, they play The Recluse better in person than on the album. Rama wanted to leave in the middle of this performance too. I was getting tired of his watching habits.
I eventually found myself alone and watching the death metal band, Trash Talk. I actually find death metal fans more intriguing than the music itself. The mosh pits, the guys jumping at the microphone and even climbing on stage to scream lyrics with the band. There was a rather death metal looking gentleman to my right holding his dog's leash. He was bobbing his head, pumping his fist and shouting "Yeah!" on occasion. We were a few yards away from the mosh pit. "Damn dogs are the bane of my existence," he said. His dog lay on the ground, lazily sweeping sand over an electrical cord.
I've been debating whether I should mention that she's Vietnamese here. On the one hand her name gives it away and it's kinda racist of me. On the other her deep, soulful voice was completely unexpected. It's reminds me of Cat Power or even Feist.
At this point I was simply exhausted from inadequate sleep and tons of walking. My shoes were covered in a fine layer of sand. King Khan & The Shrines, Japanater, Vivian Girls, and Thermals all probably deserving of some mention but at this point I could hardly parse the music anymore.
I needed a palate cleanser and it was 10 blocks away. Christina, Mike and Rama were in line for the movie 500 Days of Summer.
Gosh, I guess this is just how Rama rolls. That's Zooey Deschanel. The movie itself had surprisingly high production values for such a limited budget. During the post show talk the writers revealed that director Marc Webb's innovative techniques came from his music video experience.
With my pallet properly cleansed we walked down the 6th street I described in the first paragraph. Thumping base emanated form venues left and right. Bands with no gigs set up and played right on the street.
Mike looked into one window and saw interesting instruments. Christina looked in the SXSW brochure and determined Moriarty was playing. A friend's recommendation and a $5 cover was enough to convince us to go in.
What can I really say. They put on the best show I saw all SXSW. I guess I'm a sucker for talented folk music. But their stage presence was really the star. Clever coordination and a charming sense of humor.
You see the man in the red tie? He's preparing himself for an intense xylophone solo. During Mess with Texas Rama mused that small shows were better than big concerts. While watching Moriarty, it was hard to disagree. Intimate, live music is really the ultimate way to experience the medium. So much energy of a performance is lost when you cut out the band's presence. By the end of the set, I was sold.