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SXSW 2008 AUSTIN, TX

3/13 (Thursday)
Shout Out Louds @ Flamingo Cantina
Phosphorescent @ Mohawk Patio
Body of War @ Stubb's
(Tom Morello, Brett Dennen, Brendan James, RX Bandits, NO Ben Harper,
Billy Bragg, Mason Jennings)
Kimya Dawson @ Stubb's
Deer Tick @ Jelly NYC Garage (My Open Bar Party)
Augustana @ Stubb's
Mark Kozelek @ Central Presbyterian Church

3/14 (Friday)
Frightened Rabbits @ Emo's Annex
She & Him @ Yaris' YR Radio Tent
Raveonettes @ Stubb's (Spin Party)
Vampire Weekend @ Stubb's (Spin Party)
The Forms @ Red Eye Fly
RTX @ Flamingo Cantina
Rogue Wave @ Cedar Door
Helios Sequence @ Bourbon Street
Abra Moore @ 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn
South @ Creekside EMC at Hilton Garden Inn
Scouting for Girls @ Maggie Mae's Rooftop

3/15 (Saturday)
Longwave @ Cedar Street Courtyard (Filter Party)
Blitzen Trapper @ Volume (Stereogum / Paste)
No Age @ Volume (Stereogum / Paste)
Duffy @ Stubb's
Riz MC @ Latitude 30
Georgie James @ Dirty Dog Bar
Colourmusic @ Maggie Mae's Rooftop
The Autumns @ Maggie Mae's Rooftop
Jo Lean & The Jing Jang Jongs @ The Smoke House (Spin Party)


• I really really wish I'd gotten there on Wednesday. I think things would have flowed a lot better and I would have been able to catch more sets I'd hoped to see.

• I hate that I slept through Dizee Rascall on Friday morning.

• Shout Out Louds were the perfect start to my sxsw. The funny thing about this show was I didn't know I was going to it. I was meeting Ashley there who was meeting Rick there, and Rick had saying we were going to "team clermont under the radar" at the Flaming, so when I walked in mid-set I didn't much pay attention right off the bat but instead tried to order a "Lonestar" beer from the bar. Operative word being "tried" as the beertender regretfully informed me that his promised shipment of this, his personal favourite beer was already over day late, so I has to settle on a Corona instead. And I didn't really look up at the band until they broke into "The Comeback" and I danced over to Ashley saying, "hey, I DO know this band" and we laughed in realization that "team Clermont/ under the radar" was the party, not the band. Anyways. I love this band. So do you. Even if you've never heard of them, trust me, you've probably heard 3 or 4 of their songs and danced along. Hmmn, they kind of ARE under the radar after all.

• Yo La Tengo stayed in our hotel. We discovered this when we walked into the lobby to check in and two-thirds of the band were standing right there. Only, since I've only ever seen them live twice, I didn't immediately recognize them – instead I stood staring at Ira, trying to figure out where I knew him from. If Ashley and Susanne hadn't squealed "yo la tengo" under their breath, I quite possibly would have walked up to him and asked him how we knew each other. Um, yeah. Nice save girls!

• Phosphorescent = probably not my thing. I'd have to inspect the album closely (which I'm not all that likely to do) to see if I could learn to like them. I guess I don't do all that well with boy-fronted mopey-indie. (It took me YEARS to finally like death cab)

• Kimya Dawson = sort of awful live. Not that I don't appreciate her all over the Juno soundtrack, but she's not really a very good singer, and I don't think I'd have survived listening to her sing-songy voice for an entire set.

• Augustana - is not a cool band. I know this. They have hit singles, they opened for Snow Patrol, they are basically mocked by the indie elite, but I can't help loving them. What can i say? I'm a sucker for cute boys playing mandolin-laced pop. They played almost all new stuff, which I enjoyed - I can tell I'm really going to like their new album, but come on – you'd think they'd at least throw "Boston" in there for the finale. Although, hmmn. Maybe they deserve some sort of "cred" for not playing the single? I haven't quite made up my mind about that one. Having said all that, I really, really enjoyed their performance. Stubb's is by far my favourite place to see a show in Austin, it might even place in my top 5 venue list for anyplace, USA. The sound is great, the lighting is great, and in my experience, they never let it get SO crowded that you can't get to where you want to be with minimal trouble. The new songs sounded crisp, and were more upbeat than their older material with, dare i say, an almost Rilo-Kiley-esque sensibility in places? That might be asking too much.

• The Jelly NYC garage's rooftop was awesome. Although one would have hoped for functioning elevators and people actually IN the pool during the day times. Oh, and let's not kid ourselves – it was a HIKE to get to. But, it was pretty. And it had a great view of the city, and free beer – so what's not to like about that? The Deer Ticks were really pretty likeable – despite the fact that I thought they were "O Death" for a day and a half after I'd seen them.

• I started my Saturday with Longwave, who I'd never managed to see before, but were actually... pretty good. I always knew I "should" like longwave, but I never really got around to listening to them. I feel like maybe alone in that, because for a band who had SO much buzz back in the day, they haven't exactly caught on in a big way. Definitely up my alley musically, maybe especially since they're a little rockier and less distortion based than they used to be (per Ashley). In any event, I liked them enough to catch them a week later at The Mercury Lounge, for a more full set. A band from Brooklyn (is it bad that all these years I thought they were boston-based?) that I hadn't already played out. Who knew?


• I <3 Blitzen Trapper. It's official. They make my little pseudo-hippie-alt-country heart beat a little faster. Big ups to stereogum for having them at the dell lounge, it was my favorite set of the festival by FAR. The 6 of them banging away onstage with their quasi-southern-semi-mountain-all-american rock had me stompin' my foot immediately, but the kicker was 4 songs in when they broke out their single "Wild Mountain Nation" which you might SWEAR was a classic rock cover from the 70s, because it sounds so immediately familiar. But you'd be wrong. They're just THAT GOOD. The lead singer has an uncanny ability to channel the Robert Plant wail in certain songs that's downright eerie. Plus who doesn't love a band with a bright turquoise Melodica? Amrit leaned in mid set to say that he felt like he was watching a countrified Dead set – I whole heartedly agreed, adding that "this is what would happen if Jerry Garcia got into the moonshine". These crunchy boys rock, and they rock hard.


• No Age – is quite simply not my thing. This was exaggerated by the fact that I saw them directly after Blitzen Trapper. I only lasted through about 3 songs, so I can't tell you much, but I can tell you that I don't need to see them again.

• Frightened Rabbit. They were first on my list of "must see bands" for sxsw. Oddly enough, I discovered them over the holidays when I was poking around for new indie xmas songs and found their absolutely brilliant, "Its Xmas so we'll stop" which is quite possibly my favourite song of 2007, Christmas or otherwise. Anyhow, I picked up their album on itunes shortly thereafter and decided straight away that this was the band for me. First off, they're Scottish – and not with one of those melt-away accents, we're talking full-strength, heady Scottish brogue here, and it's delicious. Secondly, they have this sort of delicate folk sensibility that gets all tangled up with dirty, garagey guitars, and hooky pop, and the result is somehow something that I feel like I haven't seen before, but somehow manages to end up sounding like home. And third – they have a way of building up songs into these sound explosions that make your insides feel like you're on the verge of something amazing. Right, so I was incredibly psyched to see that they were going to be playing sxsw, and they didn't disappoint. Live they were LOUD and every bit as frantic and intense as I could have imagined. I saw them outdoors in a tent the middle of 95 degree heat, and yet the amount of energy that poured out of those boys was absolutely staggering. They thrashed about sang their sweaty hearts out. I'm telling you now: rabbits who are scared. They are awesome. They are Scottish. They kick albino bunny ass.

• Zoey Deschanel has a really pretty voice. I thought this after "Elf", but seeing her sing live confirmed it. Plus she's so goddamned adorable. Random sidebar – i sort of knew her parents were Hollywood-types, but only in watching Twin Peaks on dvd last weekend I noticed her dad Caleb directed a bunch of episodes. And only now, after seeing her imdb entry did i realize that her mom played Lara Flynn Boyle's mom on the show? Crazy.

• Abra Moore was easily the biggest disappointment of sxsw for me. You may or not remember her "hit" single "Four Leaf Clover" in 1997. I do. I worshipped that song. She was a slightly edgier Lisa-Loeb type with a more precocious sounding voice, and her album "Strangest Places" resonated with me. But like much of my cd's from the late 90s, she's been gathering dust for some time now. Fast forward to 2007, my ipod digs up her song "Trip on Love" from the Cruel Intentions soundtrack (which I've always liked, but much ignored these past 5 years or so) and I fall in LOVE with the song (9 years after the fact). This prompted me to look into what she might be up to nowadays, which is when I noticed she was playing sxsw (a native Austinite – this was no big surprise). Had I dug a little deeper, I might have stumbled onto the progressive path her music has taken in the last 8 years. And I might not have been so annoyed by the jazz trio she seemed to be performing in at midnight on Friday. Honestly, I think I got gypped by the trumpeter. He's only featured in one song on her new album, and yet she added him to what I have to assume are new arrangements throughout her set. Which gave the whole thing a very avant-jazz / adult contempo / "for the love of god will this song never end" quality. Why Abra? WHY? ::sigh:: I wanted to love this set, on the 18th floor of the Hilton with floor to ceiling windows and a stunning view of Austin splayed out behind her. It should have been magical, instead I mildly appreciated one song, "After All These Years" which picked up the pace (and my spirits) momentarily. But afterwards it was right back to the trumpet solos from hell, and I had to call it quits. Oh Abra, I wish I'd seen you back in the day.

• Following the Abra-disastah, I took the elevator down to South who were setting up to play in the creekside lounge. I'd juuuust caught them in NYC at pianos a few days earlier, but I loved seeing them so much I was hoping to catch even a few songs before running over to Scouting for Girls. Just like in NYC, they started off with two songs off the new album, both of which made me smile. There's just something about their particular brand of dreamy brit-pop that just makes everything ok for me, and I sorely needed to hear something beautiful and familiar to set me right again. I left the room smiling and thankful that they'd been able to save my mood and salvage the evening.

• Scouting for Girls - have an awesome single called "It's Not About You" that jed has been playing in my ear since last summer. It's catchy, it's poppy, it's superfun & danceable... it helped push their album to the #1 spot in the UK by January of 2008. And it made me really psyched to catch them play the last set of my sxsw Friday on the roof of Maggie Mae's. I wish I could rant and rave about how amazing I thought they were live, but something about this uber-poppy trio of brits doesn't quite translate live. Front man Roy Stride was adorable and incredibly charming, he got the whole crowd to clap on command & sing-along, and was just really great... company? How weird is it to say that about a lead singer? But true. I want to hang out with this kid, I want to buy him pints and listen to him tell stories, but not while he's mid-song – you know? Standing in front of him while he sang catchy tunes about wanting to be James Bond or how some girl was "fitter in her myspace picture", was just really awkward. I danced anyway, but it was just off somehow. Maybe this kid needs a lyricist, maybe they need a bigger stage, or maybe I should stick to listening to them when I need a serious sugar fix...


• Jo Lean & The Jing Jang Jongs – ok, so i didn't even know this band existed before sxsw, but Jed was MAD to see them. When it seemed that all hope of that had disappeared, he discovered they were going to play SPIN's after-hours closing party at the Smokehouse, and dragged me along. Dragged being the operative word. I had sxs-had it. I was exhausted, my feet hurt, I was cold and grumpy, I'd been subjected to the loudest band EVER only to have an equally loud yet significantly more annoying band follow them. But Jed twisted my arm, and one complimentary redbull & vodka (and a half hour on the couch in the lobby of the Marriott) later, I was ready to give sxsw one more chance to blow me away with a brand new band. Well – I got what I wished for and then some. What followed was the beginning of what was shaping up to be a STELLAR performance, followed by what can only be described as the biggest Rock and Roll meltdown I have ever witnessed. Jo Lean & the Jing Jang Jongs took the stage and rocked on contact. Five incredibly well dressed lads, playing a sort of 60's infused classic British rock & jumping up and down seemingly in sync with an incredible lighting scheme.... they pretty much demand attention. And then something went wrong. I think possibly an amp blew - I'm still trying to figure it all out. The one guitarist tried in vain to fix it while the rest of the band played on, the second guitarist tried to help, they plugged and unplugged dozens of wires, stepped on pedals in vain, and quickly became frantic – looking out at the deserted sound board at first pleadingly and then with increasing disdain. Here's the thing... NO ONE rushed to help them. No sound guy appearing from the wings, no techie surfacing from the wings, no nothing. And the rapidly frustrated guitarist gave up on his hissing and buzzing amp and... walked off the stage – while – the band played on. The second guitarist seemed to give it go on his own for a bit only to set his guitar down, pick up a loose snare drum and WAIL on it with a drumstick before chucking the stick into the audience and storming off after his bandmate, whilst once again – the band played on. This finally seemed to attract the attention whatever technical or sound guys were in the building and they peered over the stage pulling wires, yelling at each other and cursing at anyone who dare suggest it might be their fault, all the while the lead sing sang and the drummer drummed and the bassist plucked along. This seemed to encourage the guitarists to come back out again, but less than a minute later, the one who's amp was still non-functioning left again in a huff. The song finally over, "Joe Lean" started talking to the crowd, telling us the story of their band (he used to be the drummer of the Pipettes blahbity blah) quite clearly losing patience with the rapidly dissolving / increasingly distracted crowd's attention. When it seemed that they miiight actually pull it together and finish their set, guitarist 2 wandered off in search of guitarist 1 and came back empty handed. About 10 minutes into this debacle, Joe Lean sadly announced to the disbelieving audience that their guitarist was nowhere to be found, dropped his mike onto the stage, and walked off. Simply stunned by the entire display, we all just turned to each other in disbelief in a communal WTF? It was a meltdown. It was ridiculous. It was so very, very rock and roll.

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