SXSW 2007

This is my travel blog. It started as a way for people to keep up with my trip to Australia to watch the 2006/7 Ashes series, and continued with my trip to SXSW 2007 in Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas in March '07.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner! The much coveted Best Performance at SXSW 2007 goes to.......................................


I started this evening by visiting a venue a bit away from the centre as there was an Israeli guy playing there that I had met when Daniel Johnston played the SESAC stage at the convention centre. He had described himself as a sort of Badly Drawn Boy type of singer so, as I had no other "leads" I thought I'd take the plunge. Unfortunately he turned out to be more Poorly Sketched Lad than Badly Drawn Boy! After the Moz enspired 3 song minimum I gave up and went outside to see the other band playing on the patio. They went by the name Wax Fang and hailed from Louisiana. They were greaser rockers in the Motorhead tradition, but redeemed themselves by having the eccentricity to include a theramin in their act. I'm assuming it was a theramin (or similar device as the singer "played" it by waving his hand around a central aerial). I stayed til the end of their set and then wandered down to the Convention centre to the live TV set where a cable network had been broadcasting sets all week. I was particularly interested in seeing Stars of Track & Field who I had seen briefly on Weds (or possibly Thurs - the days and bands are beginning to merge into one). There was a reasonable crowd given that it was away from the main action areas. I enjoyed the set - they are a sort of slightly rockier Coldplay I suppose. I will definitely get their album if I can find it somewhere. They finished their set in true rock fashion - the bass guitarist trashed his guitar by smashing it on the ground in the finest Who tradition.

Then, as they were on next, and I had nowhere else to go, I thought I'd watch The Automatic. I got the album some time ago, but apart from the tracks Monster and Recover I hadn't been that impressed. They kicked off in fine fettle, and it soon became apparent that one of the band (the guy who plays keyboards and sings) was not a happy bunny. He made some comment about the stage manager being "disrespectful" and seemed to be picking a fight with his lead guitarist. All this led to the whole performance having a real edge for a studio gig with only 20-30 people in the audience.At one stage he threw his mike off the stage where it had to be fetched by a stage hand, and proceded to wander among the audience while still singing. Despite all this the band kept up manfully and the songs came over very powerfully. When they finished I turned to leave and saw a guy behind me with a festival badge that read "The Automatic" so I assume he was with the band. He was saying to his female companion "I think we'll let them calm down be fore we go back to see them". Whatever was the problem it certainly made for a great live show.

After that I went back to 6th street and queued for ages to get in to see Daniel Johnston again. The place was heaving, with a queue to get in stretching across the street. I wanted to see if he really was as I had remembered from the other day. I wasn't dissappointed. He was just as oddball as I thought, tho he had obviously been told not to tell the concentration camp joke again! With a person such as this it's a fine line between naive genius and freakshow. It's up to you to decide where you think he falls but I personally come down on the side of the former (just!). I have no idea if he has any recordings at all, and I suspect they would not capture the live performance that well.

The rest of the evening rather petered out - I tried to get in to see a band called +/- (plus/minus) but there was a long queue on a one in one out basis. I could hear what they were like and it didn't grab me so I moved on to another bar and watched a all girl trio of singers called Au Revoir Simone. They performed sweet sort of hamonic songs which were easy on the ear but to be honest had no real substance to them. I listened for a while and moved on again. I aimed to see a band called the Wildhearts from Newcastle but upon reaching the venue saw that their name had been replaced on the bill by someone else. I took this a sign and called it a night at about 1:30am.

So that's about it. I think there might be one or two places with gigs tomorrow but I will probably give them a miss. I have seen more live performances by bands doing their own material in the last few days than I have in the entire rest of my life so forgive me if I feel a little gigged out! I can now add SXSW festival to my travel CV and can heartily recommend it to any music lover.


At 5:17 PM, March 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's too bad you didn't get into the +/- show. i was there and it was great. easily the best show i saw all week.

At 8:08 PM, March 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James, faz here - reads like you've had a fab time. Now for some of that 70s Uk TOTP music that fills the Las Vegas streets. Try to find that uy that let me win on blackjack and this time there's no need to act like you're my minder

At 2:15 PM, April 02, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have once seen Daniel Johnston and I agree with you he is a genius if somewhat in a strange way! Didn't get the Nazi joke but had a few that were near to the bone before his performance very enjoable blog. Dave Stourbridge.


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