Hannah Hancock Rubinsky
Saturday is the last real day of the festival. There is music on Sunday, but not a whole lot; mostly the day’s spent traveling home after a long long weekend. The streets are teaming with folk drinking and partying as I run from Stubbs’ Rachel Ray day party to talk to Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, a very wonderful pair of dudes, then to Maggie Mae’s to talk to The Novocaines. It gets real hot real fast, people are sweating, eating BBQ and drinking Margaritas and beer. It’s the kind of full city party that could get out of control, but miraculously stays just this side of dangerous.
Back at the house we’re crashing at there’s another day party, the highlight of which are School. They play the kind of ambient-y stuff that’s coming out of Brooklyn so whole hog these days, with a Caribbean inspired beat that creates a really nice combination of emotions. As the sun starts to go down and the heat tapers off, the reality of it being the last night sets in; everyone gives it their all.
Bright Eyes play an amazing show to a relaxed audience at the Auditorium Shore Stage. The band perform some of their new stuff, which is frankly brilliant, and their old hits as well. It’s a perfect beginning to the final evening, remembering the past and creating a new present.
After the show I scurry back across the bridge to see Prince Rama play at Mohawks. Piqued by their name and the label ‘experimental’, I go in with a dubious ear only to be totally blown away. They make a wall of sound that is pretty awesome - no discernible words, but a shaping of music that really gets into your soul.
Next up, Braids. These canuks have been hyped throughout the festival, and having really enjoyed their recorded material I’m eager to see what they can do. The band meld together in a way that can only be gained after years together, creating some of the most interesting stuff through the lens of pop music I have heard in years; they can really play.
At 11.30 I head over to The Beauty Bar to try to catch Death From Above 1979. Alas, the venue closes out the line to everyone except those with badges, and a bouncer comes through declaring that no one’s moving and the likelihood of getting in is super slim. None of the fans told to leave do, instead choosing to stand around being pissed off. As I walk down the tiny alley outside, it feels more than a little scary. It’s a relief to be getting out of there.
Instead I pop in and out of venues along Red River Road, seeing a bunch of forgettable bands before arriving at Mohawk Patio in time for the end of Ty Segall, and the start of Quintron And Miss Pusscat. The purveyors of Swamp Techno perform a puppet show that involves Magic Pizza, and then the music begins. It’s sweaty and fun, and ends with a song where the only line is ‘I’m a motherfucking badass,’ and you know what? He really is. Jumping into the crowd, swaying along and pushing himself all over the place, it’s just the kind of thing you want to end an exhausting but exhilarating experience with.
And then Quintron reminds us not to walk outside with our drinks or we’ll get arrested; a timely reminder of why I live where I do (New Orleans, Louisiana), and why a vacation to SXSW is great, but exactly that, a vacation. Now, back to the place where I can walk outside with my drink and dance to Swamp Techno until the sun comes up.
South by Southwest has finally come to an end. I write from the herafter; a hazy Monday I began exploring around 3pm, when I finally woke from my healing chrysalis state.
I have a confession: starting Friday evening, I began cheating on South by Southwest. The official shows are only one small fraction of the overall pie, and chances are your favorite band, listed to play a whopping three shows over the weekend, is actually performing about ten at various bars and clubs around town in an effort to recoup the cost of coming here.
So I began looking for the unofficial shows. In order to lend myself and my mission an aura of cool, I have dubbed it my search for the SXSW Underground.
And tell ya moms. Cause I found it.
Easily the best music I found this year at South By Southwest was featured at the Sexbeat SXSW party at the 21st Street Co-Op.
Headlined by Japanther (Brooklyn, NY) and backed up by Moon Duo (San Francisco, CA), Indian Jewelry (Houston, TX), Reading Rainbow (Philadelphia, PA) and Still Corners (London, UK). The bands themselves are each strong and unique acts. All share a central, punk-black sun, but orbit wildly away.
I came here quite randomly, interpreting signs as they say, and trusting a hunch that the further away from 6th street, the epicenter of this maelstrom, the richer would be the reward.
But like all such things there was ugliness too. Good ugliness, ultimately, but still brash and young and stupid. Nasty sunglasses and sneaky sweater gossip were all around me, and the politicking continued unabated, in the sarcastic recital of text messages and distribution of drugs.
The 21st Street Co-Op is part of the University of Texas. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a bunch of college kids eating organic food and tiling their courtyard in the flattened chassis of beer cans. The thing was vanity at its best; tall, languid women as striped and spinning as barber shop poles went careening through the crowd and the brims of ironic trucker hats slid like shark fins among the audience.
No official badges here, and I tucked mine securely into a pocket.
The Co-Op is best described as a sort of co-ed Ewok village, where each suite of rooms is connected to the other by a tangled and heavily tagged series of stairs and platforms. You get the sense, leaning down to peer over a railing, of being at the zoo.
Warning: Do not feed the animals American Spirits.
The bands, each following the other in a chanting, distortion-riddled litany, stitched the night together in a crashing eulogy to South By Southwest. And when it was finally over at 4 am, sent the audience home happy—cause rock and roll is alive and well. It’s just sometimes you gotta look for it.
Reading Rainbow followed still corners’ lead and re-enforced what I have suspected for a while: that mixed sex bands are more interesting.