Hannah Hancock Rubinsky
No matter how much you try to ease yourself into SXSW, it always exhausts you; even on the second day, it’s sort of surprising that it’s only day two. Much like yesterday, I run around interviewing bands, asking them all the same questions, getting surprisingly different answers. It’s always interesting to hear the varying perspectives people have, especially when they are all playing supposedly the same genre of music.
Most of these bands have been coming to SXSW for years but some are here for the first time, so the levels of jadedness are massively disparate. It’s nice to hear that for some SXSW is still fun, with a lot of good experiences. Don’t get me wrong, everyone we speak to is grateful to be here; even if there are issues with the level of corporateness going on, no one takes for granted being able to play so many shows to so many people.
After some food on the run (not recommended I must say), I head off to see Pittsburg natives 123 at Club de Ville - a frightening looking club from the outside. The stage is up against a rock wall and the lighting is excellent, but the sound isn’t great. 123 are pretty good, a little generic but with a 1960’s rock edge.
Tristan texts to remind me of Beach Fossils. Oh what a set to unpack. I really like their music, they’re a talented and interesting bunch. However, they do throw a bit of a fit, saying ‘fuck you’ to the venue and being generally peevish about the sound / guitars / everything. It almost seems like they play their songs in double time just to get the fuck off the stage; unfortunate because damn they’re good.
After that I go to see Savoir Adore again, at a night show - a great decision. They’re really alive, the audience is pumped; the whole show is just fantastic. Time and time again, they remind you why they are here and why they should be really famous.
Coming out of the basement of Easy Tiger, a cupcake trailer presents itself to me - perfect for the journey to French Horn Rebellion’s set. This proves very true, the surge of sugar exactly the impetus needed to push me across the highway to The Windish House. The album version of French Horn Rebellion is good, but it ain’t nothing compared to the live version. They create an atmosphere, but more importantly they create a story. The show has an arc; it’s theater. After dancing with every person in the room, it’s the perfect end to a very long day.
What could possibly have convinced me that I was stronger than South By Southwest? Friday dawns cruel and unforgiving, the aches and pains of the previous night’s Japanther show finally making themselves known, as my stomach gurgles a soliloquey courtesy of late night take away. No rest for the wicked. Or weary? Or righteous? Either way I guess I’m all of those this morning as Day 2 of SXSW gets underway. I climb onto my bike and am off.
Today though feels better. Thursday night deflowered my eardrums, and the ringing I fell asleep to is now only a faint chime. And though I’ll be deaf by the day I’m 30, it feels kind of good. The music today also feels kind of good. Even the somewhat over-hyped Times New Viking are fun to see, quickly becoming the bubblegum chewyness of Bearsuit. Lovely.
I’m often heard to complain loudly that nobody dances at these things. It’s sort of a chicken or the egg situation in placing blame: is it the band’s fault for not playing music to move to or does the blame fall on the audience for not finding it within themselves? That’s sort of a narrow way to look at it. Every culture has its own dance traditions. The fact that indie rock’s dance tradition is more of a bang-waggle, more of a microscopic bop is neither good nor bad. It just is.
So today is a day for acceptance, as sheepishly, I now join the masses in a subdued little shimmy by the stage. It feels good not to fight it anymore. Maybe this is how skeptical members of a cult feel right before they stop calling their families forever, or the moment of peace right before a death by drowning. Acceptance.
But no! Shall I go quietly into that good night, like this? Complacent and compassionate? What kind of a critic is that? Well. Perhaps there’s a happy medium. Peace and love or sex and drugs? I’ll let the fates, and whatever’s on my plate decide. Saturday, in all its glory, awaits.