Chicagomuzik

I've got a whole city to hold down

March 24, 2004

The Austin Adventures of Lazlo Hollyfeld (cont.)

Chicagomuzikblog's roving correspondent collides with South by Southwest, part 3 of 4.

Day Three: Too much hype already

Friday 3/19
11am
Austin Motel

The TV and daily print supplements are still buzzing about the arrests made on 6th St. two nights earlier—what’s been dubbed the case of the Ozomatli 3. Seems that, per their usual shtick, some Ozo dudes playing horns and drums wrapped their set by marching off the stage and leading the crowd out of the club. Police ordered the band back inside, a scuffle ensued, and in the end two of the band members and their manager were arrested.

11:45am
El Sol y La Luna

Chorizo migas stare me down, but not for long—it only takes about three minutes for me to devour the plate. I eat migas for breakfast down here nearly every day. And then they’re not eaten again for another year. I’m sure there are a hundred sources for a good plate in Chicago; I just don’t know where. Feel free to use that comments button below if you have a good recommendation.

12:25pm
Bloodshot Records party, Yard Dog Folk Art Gallery

I feel about 10 years older upon entering Yard Dog today. The crowd that assembles for a Bloodshot event these days—when the label seems like a shell of its once vital self—can do that to a man.

I’ve dropped in partly out of hometown loyalty and partly to track down a couple of friends. Within minutes, the tired routine of Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys nearly leads me to lie down in a corner, pull some hay over myself as a makeshift blanket, and slip into slumber.

I’m awakened by Dollar Store, a new Bloodshot act that just as easily be called Waco Brothers Lite (slogan: Half the band members, half the fun!). Led by Jonboy sidekick Deano Schlabowske, the originals are limp. But I’ll admit to enjoying their two covers: Cher’s “Believe” and the Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You.”

Next up is Bobby Bare Jr., who’s in typical entertaining form. He’s got a new disc coming on Bloodshot sometime this summer, called something like Beast on A Leash, but he doesn’t preview any of those songs here.

We stick around for a handful of songs by Jon Rauhouse and his Steel Guitar Rodeo, then migrate out under the glow of a beautiful “Accentuate the Positive” sung by Miss Kelly Hogan.

3pm
Waterloo Records

Not only one of the best record stores I’ve ever set foot in, but they host hourly in-store performances during SXSW. Oh, and did I mention the free beer? Just line up in the aisle on the far right.

Belfast’s Snow Patrol is up first, and the band’s Belle & Sebastian-meets-Coldplay sound proves better suited for this venue than the vast emptiness of Stubb’s, where they’ll play later tonight. I give myself a pat for getting it out of the way now.

A whole mess of Def Jux performers are next on the bill, but the only ones who show are the Perceptionists, a new collabo featuring the MCs Mr. Lif and Akrobatik and DJ Fakts One. My partner, Bald Willie—who has made a sour face anytime the indie-rap topic has been broached all week—is converted by the freestyle battle between Lif and Akrobatik.

4:30pm
Caucus (Outside)

There’s two stages at this party. One, located inside, near the bar, is a clusterfuck. (That’s because Iron & Wine will be playing it shortly. While I got much love for Sam Beard—I mean “Beam”—this isn’t the setting for his subtle tunage.) The other is set up outside, on the second floor, against a hill. Here the Deathray Davies are into the latter stages of a crowd-pleasing set. It’s not as entertaining as when they used to have the attractive female keyboardist—who would play with her right hand while drinking AND smoking with her left—but still a good time.

Then there’s the Wrens. Third time I’ve seen ‘em in two months, but it seems to get more intense every time (or maybe my connection to the songs is what keeps building). Now Bald Willie is not a very rhythmic man, but so it’s a true testament to the power of the rock to witness his shoulders shaking with intensity, his body bouncing, as a song like “Happy” builds to its climax.

6:15pm
In the alley outside the Fader/Levi’s Lounge

On Wednesday this was a good time, open to anyone, but today it’s become an industry-only hangout. That means you have to either be on the special guest list or wearing some funky blue wristband, handed out by who the fuck knows.

The bouncer is a barely-five-foot twerp projecting maximum NYC attitude. (Interesting touch: He’s wearing a brand new pair of Converse sneakers, and a Converse box rests between his feet—containing his original shoes perhaps? I have no idea.) Remembering that there’s an open-air exit in the adjacent alley, we duck back there in time to enjoy the last few songs from the Decemberists.

7pm
Iron Works BBQ

Akrobatik is in line next to me, so I compliment him on the in-store. Upstairs, some older industry dudes are seated next to us, and I overhear one raving about British Sea Power. This is a bad sign. I was all excited to finally catch their live act, but I can tell already they’ll be tonight’s Franz Ferdinand, drawing a block-long line of insider half-wits just dying to get in.

8pm
Stubb’s

All my indie street cred could quickly evaporate if I hype a sincere singer-songwriter like Patrick Park, but I’ll do it anyway. Trust me, the album’s great.

Park’s leading off at this big outdoor venue; the crowd is mostly still trickling in for later acts, but there’s a few hundred intense fans crushing up front with enthusiastic responses. For his part, Park—who’s finally touring with a three-piece band rather than solo acoustic, which is how he opened for Polyphonic Spree and Grandaddy in recent Chicago shows—sounds fantastic.

8:40pm
Emo’s

We race down Red River to try to get into the PunkVoter showcase. Main mission for the night: See David Cross. It will be packed, so there’s no guarantee we’ll make it, but we’ve got veteran guile on our side.

See, the Emo’s complex has two stages: A large indoor/outdoor venue with an entrance from 6th St. (on the south), and a small indoor venue—the Annex, or Emo’s Jr.—that you enter from Red River (on the west). They’re technically two venues for SXSW purposes, but they’re joined in back by a shared courtyard, and you can move freely between the two that way.

Knowing that the vast majority of bidness lemmings and casual concertgoers will throng the Emo’s main entrance on 6th, we duck into the Annex and walk straight through to the main room. (This trick has been known to work even when the big room reaches capacity and SXSW staff shuts down the front door. Cue evil laughter.)

Anyway, inside we join a fun, young crowd. Gainesville’s Against Me! is your standard fourth-generation goofy, shirtless, shout-along punk band. Special touch: At set’s end, the guys kiss, just to provoke the crowd.

Then comes the downer. It seems that the face of PunkVoter.com is none other than Jello Biafra, a former hero who’s become a sad, self-promoting sideshow a la Wavy Gravy decades after Woodstock. He’s taking up precious David Cross time! I nearly start booing, but hold back when my self-preservation instinct kicks in.

10:06 pm
Here he is, the highlight of my SXSW, Mr. David Cross. He delivers a fantastic 50-minute set, full of all the Bush-rage you’d expect, plus crazy-funny riffs on wanting to lower the age of consent to 15 and how your friends all get boring and whiny when they get hitched and start families (“Having kids isn’t tough. Try talking your girlfriend into her third straight abortion!”). The big finale is a deconstruction of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” Don’t want to ruin a bit he may reprise on a future tour, so I’ll just say it involves a fictitious cornball country star named Hoyt and a rather lascivious God.

11pm
Blender Bar

Exodus is jammed out the door for TV On The Radio. Figure I’ll catch them Friday at the Bottle, so I skip to Blender—manned by the same bouncer who nearly tangled with Bald Willie last night. Inside, the Catheters proceed to blow out what remains of my eardrums.

11:40pm
Rockstars

Walking past, we notice that the Hidden Cameras never actually made it to town and have canceled. That leaves the heavily-hyped Rough Trade showcase relatively empty at this hour—which means we’ll get to see British Sea Power after all! First up, though, it’s the Fiery Furnaces; I’m a fan and dig this set, but they seem to elicit a mixed-to-negative reaction otherwise.

On to British Sea Power, who justify at least some of their hype. Shtick: Pre-show, dudes in uniform march back and forth in the club. Once on stage, the drummer occasionally grabs a military drum and marches into the crowd, banging away on it (and briefly trying to make out with the lass behind me). Anyway, if you ever need some surplus camouflage brush and a stuffed owl to complete your onstage look, this is the band to see. The show—and the night—ends with the guitarist climbing first onto the bar for a final solo, then swinging Tarzan-like from the pipes above the stage.

Tomorrow: Day Four - The Big Finish