SXSW through the eyes of Sound Ops super producer Matt Spiegel
Ah, the joys of SXSW. They are many, but they take work to get to them. First is the emotional work: you must fight the feeling of being overwhelmed, and fight it hard. Is there always potentially something cooler going on than what you’re doing? Absolutely, in fact, inevitably. But if you spend your time trying too hard to plan, or fretting over lost ops, you’re done. It took me a full day before I could comfortably embrace the now.
But the nows were tasty. Auktyon! at Caribbean Lights on Thursday night was a Russian world music band: their native melodies and bombast, over often-Latin rhythms, with a New Orleans-esque tuba led brass band, and a front man who seemed a bit like Bryan Ferry on speed. I never knew stage banter in Russian could be so gripping. Earlier, T-Bachmann and I had hit Club De Ville, where Film School, from San Francisco, delivered a guitar drone onslaught with definite melodic control. Only the average vocals kept it from being truly impressive space-rock.
That was just a random hour on Thursday night. Then your feet start to hurt. Okay, maybe not your feet, but mine did. Must….keep…walking…and standing in line, and waiting. It’s always worth it.
Friday brought a pair of afternoon parties. Spin spent a lot of money on a mixed bag of bands at Stubbs’, where the barbecue was pretty lame; watery baked beans and fatty beef. But it was free, so 5 stars it is. But Daddy likes the Go! Team. Ebullient, sexy, energetic front chick-a in a cheerleader skirt can really dance, and her rapping and singing are solid enough. Mainly though, she emanated pure fun; a great vibe. The Subpop/Merge party was far better: outskirts of town, sedate, didn’t notice any food, but who cares. Britt Daniel of Spoon solo acoustic, a quick taste of stand-up from Patton Oswalt, and then a set from GBV ex Bob Pollard. My friend Jason Narducy was the full-on rock star playing bass, I must admit, but Pollard is a freak to watch -- slugging Tequila, smoking butt after butt, and fronting hard with abandon. The set was a bit like a Pollard record, though, too many songs that were too short, and his hit % was somewhere around 70.
Had a great Friday night, and thanks for asking. After Subpop, went to dinner with a mixed bag of Chicago friends, and nouveau Austinites. Definitely not a tourist meal at a great place called Café Josie. Then to Red’s Scoot Inn and luckily got to hear John Vanderslice. San Francisco again, with a great, groovy alt-pop thing happening, but what was most impressive was the amount of sound from a 2-piece. Vanderslice on guitar and vox, and his drummer did everything else. Triggered basic beats on a sampler, played snare with his left hand, played bass using midi foot pedals, and played keyboards with his right hand. Skills. Friends of Dean Martinez bored us out of there, and it was back to Stubbs for The Subways. 3-piece British buzz band; Kot played them on our Buried treasures show this week. They were great live, mature and excitable, great dynamics, intense.
The ridiculously long line for Dungen has helped drive me to the bed for some sleep, as I’m airport-bound at 6 AM. Almost pulled the all-nighter, but at the last minute I remembered I wasn’t in college. I must, though, give mad props to SXSW for making me think I was for a while.