by Charlie Brite
It hurt my soul to go back to a 9 to 5 today after spending a week at Austin’s SXSW festival. For five days, I did nothing but dash from one end of the city to the other, listening to some of the best, most innovative musicians in the country. There were even moments around 3:30 AM when, for the first time in my life, I felt like I’d had my fill of rock; but then some band like The Wavves or Soft Pack would start to play, and I’d feel like a teenager at her first punk show all over again. This was Indiehouston’s first time showcasing atSXSW, and we rolled back into town Sunday night a little wiser, a lot deafer, and pumped to ensure that next year, Houston bands will make an even bigger impression at SXSW.
Eighteen bands played on two stages at the Indiehouston.org SXSW showcase. B L A C K I E kicked off the show with a characteristically ear-splitting, gut-wrenching set, followed by Muhammad Ali on the Sugar Hill stage. After telling Joe Mathlete that he had, “the friendliest face. That I’ve ever seen . . . Maybe,” Jana Hunter serenaded us with some new hits-in-the-making, like “A Dog’s Dick,” ” Two Cocks” and “Batman,” which, in the words of Jana, “is about that time, from the official franchise, when Batman gives up and his friends have to convince him to come back.” Her band operates like a jazz trio, watching each other intently, changing tempo and time signatures without a hiccup.
News on the March was up next and had us dancing to those feel-good, upbeat, folksy tunes, “Clapping Good Time” (which is about wife-beating) and “The Whole Universe is Gonna Die.” The Riff Tiffs mellowed things out again with their mesmerizing, psychedelic rock. Halfway through the four-song set, Chris Rehm drew a laugh from the audience when he announced, “We’re gonna play two more songs-it might sound like one. We just played two-they might’ve sounded like twenty.” Indeed, each of their slowly swelling, cavernous songs bleed seamlessly into the next. As always, Buxton, The Young Mammals, The Wild Moccasins, and The Ton Tons played tight sets which had the crowd dancing and singing along. After it got dark, DD/MM/YYYY bounced on our brand-new stage like it was a trampoline, threatening to cause an avalanche of sound equipment with their high-energy rock. The lead singer doubles on drums for a massive sound, and I was especially impressed with their keyboard player who plays two synths at once, back to back, meaning one of his hands is playing upside-down and backwards. Tambersauro closed out the night, despite the vulture-like cops slowly circling our tents. They asked us to “turn it down,” but in the words of Rob (director of Indiehouston), “How do you turn down that insane drummer?” All day long, the free Tito’s vodka and sweet tea was pouring, thanks to our sponsors and all the other bands who played: Sings, Paris Falls, Watermarks, Kristine Mills, Gormeh Sabzi, Fat Tony, and Giant Princess.
Top 5 Moments of SXSW (OTHER than our showcase):
-The Dirty Projectors final show at French Legation: In an idyllic park, Dave Longstreth and his beautiful, insanely talented sidewomen blew our minds with a long set of almost entirely new music. Half the band was sick, but it was their best show of SXSW.
-The Wavves at the Peacock Room: Inside a shoebox of a venue that would make a sauna feel like a fridge and your Zangief’s armpits smell zestfully clean, The Wavves played a raucous set despite the overwhelming heat and humidity.
-The Indiehouston staff eavesdropped on Daniel Johnston at East Side Pizza an hour before his show. He was intently pressing a marijuana leaf to his nose while discussing album artwork with his posse.
-The Wild Moccasins’s showcase was on the news!
-Devo: I wasn’t there (no wristband, sniff), but apparently it was totally amazing and rocked everybody’s socks off, blah, blah, etc. Yea, I’m jealous.
Most Heartbreaking Moment of SXSW
B L A C K I E, one of the most original and hard-working artists I’ve heard anywhere, ALMOST played a guerilla show on Austin’s Lamar bridge at 3 AM Saturday night, almost played the last great show of SXSW. Members of Buxton, The Young Mammals, and Giant Princess helped him haul his giant speakers onto the middle of the bridge-they were set up in ten minutes. A number of other bands were taking turns playing, and despite our urging him to blast them the fuck into the Colorado River, B L A C K I E decided to be a gentleman and wait until they were finished. So there he sat, on a chilly, windy night, on top of his truck-sized sound setup, the river reflecting Austin’s skyline behind him. It was an impressive image, and many Austinites stopped and asked me who he was and what was going to go down. A crowd gathered around and started chanting “B L A C K I E, B L A C K I E.” As the last band finished, the five-hundred or so people on the bridge started to conglomerate around the setup. My heart wanted so badly for him to play, just because he deserves the exposure, just because anyone who sees Mike LaCour perform can never forget it and can only crave to hear him again. But right as my ears were itching for that painfully loud, “Oooooohhh FUCK! A KID JUST GOT SHOT, ” I saw one of the most heartbreaking images of my life–ten cops, strutting up the bridge, waggling their flashlights in people’s faces. We were told to disperse or be arrested. But it WILL happen next year, and you need to be there.
Photos by Richard Ramirez II