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  • Photo Recap: South by Southwest (Day 1)

    Thu, 13 Mar 2008 15:44:15

    Photo Recap: South by Southwest (Day 1) - The first day of the music industry's spring break

    The Raveonettes Videos

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    You know what's a really bad idea? Not sleeping the night before sparking four endless, indistinct loops of open bars and wannabe rock stars at South By Southwest. The reason being the catatonic state I'm now in after enduring Day One. (Note to self: Don't ever attempt brewing hotel room coffee again. This stuff's watery with a battery acid finish.)

    Sunburned Hand of the Man (photo by: Andrew Parks)

    Some brilliant music left me feeling (and looking) like a walk-on role in a George Romero movie, so let's get right to that, shall we? The strongest day party yesterday—a surprisingly packed schedule considering the amount of people still trickling in from Austin's airport—was easily the one thrown by Force Field and Terrorbird, two west coast P.R. companies. One of the first, and best, acts that played was The Raveonettes, the Denmark-based wave-of-distortion duo that's currently up for SxSW's Hardest Working Band award. (They seem to be playing a new party every other hour.) Sticking closer to a template of sun-baked surfer hooks and hypnotic Phil Spector melodies than their usual blend of Jesus and Mary Chain bliss, the band blew through a brief taste of their recently-released Lust Lust Lust LP, as well as choice back catalogue nuggets like "Attack of the Ghost Riders" and "My Tornado." All while keeping that just-crawled-out-of-a-crypt look of sleek black clothes and pasty, mascara-brushed skin—attack of the ghost riders, indeed.

    Two other standouts from the Terrorbird/Force Field party were the Mae Shi, a shrieking, instrument-swapping purveyor of contagious noise pop, and Anticon's most promising artist in years, Why? While the band's been playing twisted indie rock for a while now, their new album Alopecia is the finest release I've heard from frontman Yoni Wolf since his pair of genre-jettisoning LPs with the cLOUDDEAD collective.

    "No one likes the new songs," Wolf said jokingly. "You just play them until they do." True to his word, Why? bounced between fan favorites and Alopecia's tightest tracks, including an icy "Good Friday," a heavy-hearted "These Few Presidents," and a goose bump-worthy closer called "The Hollows."

    Fatal Flying Guilloteens (photo by: Andrew Parks) | Lindstrom (photo by: Andrew Parks)

    Did I mention The Blow also played, drawing a room full of recovering Punk Planet readers and X'd-up teens? Much like her former bandmate Jona Bechtolt (he played the party earlier as YACHT), sole Blow member Khaela Maricich toes the line between electro-pop karaoke and comedy routines complete with stilted punch lines and Robocop dance moves. Entertaining stuff, in other words, although Maricich could certainly benefit from bringing a beat-chopping laptop technician onstage. After all, someone staring at their PowerBook is much better than someone performing to a CD-provided backing track.

    Once this whole day party deal wrapped up, I grabbed my press badge in record time from Austin's Convention Center—as in 10 minutes, which is astounding considering the hour-plus wait in past years—and prepared for the festival's first night of complete incoherence. (Seriously; no matter how much you prepare, a few hours at SxSW feels like a year of shows being thrown at you within 10 downtown blocks.)

    Be Your Own Pet (photo by: Andrew Parks)

    Some highlights … Sunburned Hand of the Man played a surprisingly-focused set of swirling melodies and hammerhead drum beats for a crowd of devoted noiseniks—the kind of people that bow down before a photo of Thurston Moore every day. Fatal Flying Guilloteens were just as gnarly; maybe even more so, thanks to their Drive Like Jehu-ish snowplow sound and the constant stage antics of frontman Shawn Adolph, who climbed Marshall stacks and swung from the rafters like a sinewy reflection of Iggy Pop. The crowd ate up his every yelp, too, often letting him dive right into their hands as if the band and their fans were on the front lines of an epic battle with one another. Be Your Own Pet had the same intentions—stirring up a (much bigger) crowd of intoxicated devotees—but stuck to a jittery, Pixie Stick pop approach that lacked the chaos theory feel of Fatal Flying Guillottens. Not that singer Jemina Pearl Abegg didn't give it her all, as she shouted incessantly and pogo'd across the stage as if her feet were actually moon boots. An A for effort, and a B for the lack of danger in her delivery.

    On a much more muted tip, Lindstrøm performed his first official solo disc, June 2's Where You Go I Go To, from front to back with the help of a glowing laptop and several small MIDI controllers/effects processors. My first impression of the space disco don's latest LP? Expect lovely set-adrift-on-memory-bliss jams, as well as some epic-sounding synth work. Speaking of epic instrumentation, a Dan Deacon/Jimmy Joe Roche-composed performance of the duo's "Ultimate Reality" piece was both deafening and awe-inspiring. Led by two inhuman drummers, the song rode a peak/valley/peak routine of sine waves and candied keyboards while abstract videos played on a massive background screen. SxSW goes all art school on us? Indeed.

    Dark Meat (photo by: Andrew Parks)

    Last but not least was Dark Meat, a recent Vice Records signing from Athens, Georgia, that has nothing in common with that city's claim to fame, R.E.M. (A ridiculous queue made seeing those indie rock legends impossible at their midnight set.) If anything, Dark Meat is its own beast, a revolving door of 17 mad men that see nothing wrong with bringing a mini horn section onstage if the vibe's right. I'd heard these guys were going to play the Stooges' seminal Fun House LP from front-to-back and, well, what do you know? They killed it, from the clanging chords and "I feel alright!" squeals of "1970" to the windmill riffs of "T.V. Eye." One-off rarities like this (performed to a tiny crowd of 30 or so, no less) are exactly the kind of random moments that make SxSW more worthwhile than seeing middle-aged men play "It's the End of the World As We Know It" for the millionth time.

    Now, time for a nap.

    | SXSW Recap: Day Two |

    —Andrew Parks

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    Tags: The Raveonettes, The Blow, The Fatal Flying Guilloteens, The Mae Shi, Why?

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