SXSW 2011, March 16-21, Austin TX
This was my third year going to SXSW and I blame the sheer volume of music I see there for this blog perpetually being one month behind. So this year I’m just going to give everything to you in a list of highlights, and you can use the pictures to fill in the rest.
Most amazing set- Ian Moore, hands down. His showcase at the Continental Club almost made me cry it was so phenomenal.
Second most amazing set- Ian Moore at the Guitartown/Conqueroo party
Best party line-up- Guitartown/Conqueroo. In addition to Ian I saw Caitlin Cary’s new band Small Ponds, The Hobart Brothers (Jon Dee Graham, Freedy Johnston and Susan Cowsill), Steve Poltz, Jon Dee & the Fighting Cocks, Slaid Cleeves, The Silos, Syd Straw (with her terrific “pick-up” band of Gurf Morlix on guitar, Walter Salas Humara on drums and Andrew DuPlantis on bass), Michael DesBarres (really), and Chip Robinson (with Brad Rice on guitar and DuPlantis again)
Best party- Rachel Ray. I made a lot of fun of this party the last couple years. I was wrong, it is totally awesome. I’d heard nightmare stories of lines around the block and three hour waits for food, but I walked right in and maybe waited for twenty minutes for food, which was totally worth the wait. I especially enjoyed the slider. Then there was the tequila. Co-sponsor Hornitos had bars everywhere at Stubb’s, and there was never a line. I approached one stand bearing their logo and asked for a margarita. “We’re only doing shots here.” I looked at her incredulously, but after she could neither confirm nor deny that it was a good idea, I said what the hell.
Band I’m most likely to scrap my plans for after getting all drunk on tequila embarrassingly early in the day - Ha Ha Tonka. I was supposed to go see Okkervil River at the Dickies party, and even though it was the only time I could see them, I decided I would much rather walk 13 blocks to see a band I’d already seen three times and would see again that night. What can I say, I love those boys.
Biggest disappointment- A tie between Her Space Holiday and Charlie Mars. Don’t get me wrong, both of these were still decent, but in a week full of amazing sets, these two just weren’t what I expected. Her Space Holiday was way more electronic than I had expected (even though I’d been warned that the record I like sounded nothing like his other material). The good news, even though it was packed by the time he played, I got in an hour earlier with no wait and a $5 cover (a very rare thing at SXSW). I’d seen Mars years ago opening for the Old 97’s and loved him. Since then he’s turned into a sort of Jack Johnson wanna-be, disappointing. But that’s the reason I was at the Rachel Ray party with all its perks to begin with, where I found…
My new favorite band- The Features. I walked in part way through their set and proceeded to have my mind blown. Fortuitous.
Band I saw the most- The only surprise here is that it is a tie at six apiece. Between Ha Ha Tonka (of course) and Jon Dee Graham, though half of his performances were as the Hobart Brothers. Jon Langford was runner up with four times, half with the Waco Brothers and half with Skull Orchard.
Band I wish I’d seen more than once- Great Lake Swimmers. Something about Tony Dekker’s voice just kills me. It is much harder to be mellow and awesome than to rock and be awesome. And they do mellow better than anyone I’ve heard. I resisted the urge to yell for “Imaginary Bars” during their way too short set, I wouldn’t want him to think “crap, it’s that crazy chick again.”
Band I wish I’d seen- There’s so many, but to name a few, Carrie Elkin, Sam Baker, Tim Easton, Rural Alberta Advantage, Wye Oak.
Band who understands the proper way to end a song- Eddie Spaghetti. For the duration of both his showcase and day party set Eddie ended every song with an emphatic shouted “cha cha cha.” Made me happy every single time.
Biggest mistake- Staying three miles from downtown. I could walk to S. Congress from the hotel, and I took the bus a lot during the day, but my assumption that I could just catch a cab home from 6th Street at the end of the night turned out to be foolish. There are a ton of cabs, but there are twice as many people looking for them. I never had a chance. I’m booking next year’s hotel tomorrow.