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Music

SXSW 2006 #5 - And I'm Spent

Posted by John / March 22, 2006

stills.jpg(Photo by Liam Maloney)

What do you call it when you learn an obvious lesson through experience and then repeat the mistakes you made all over again? Oh yes, stupidity. Maybe that's a bit harsh -- it's more that I knew it's almost impossible to both attend SXSW and write articles about it as it's happening, let alone also put up blog posts.

Even with a few years of experience to fall back on, I still managed to get completely overwhelmed by the whole thing. Or maybe it's that I was a more diligent attendee of afterparties than in previous years, which led to a later start writing the stories I needed to file, which meant missing more afternoon shows.

Anyway, I've philosophized about SXSW's conceptual good and bad points ad nauseum already, but it's worth noting that this year's festival didn't seem quite so ridiculous and that cynicism was not my only emotion as everything drew to a close. I overheard dozens of conversations in which people voiced the same concerns I've noted in the past -- that the corporate presence is a bit too pervasive, that the blatant dealmaking is unsettling, that the accelerated pace of cultural exploitation is something to be worried about -- but I also hung out with a lot of (mostly Canadian) bands who were so genuine and friendly and fun that I almost felt hopeful.

But let's talk about the music.

Where were we? Right, Thursday. I spent a good part of the early afternoon with the Stills, who had rolled into town with Liam Maloney, a Montreal photographer who was documenting their RV ride from Montreal to Austin. They had a handful of clothing fittings from the moment they arrived, and clothing fittings are pretty hilarious. They're textbook Thomas Frank: corporations seeking coolness by associating themselves with the counterculture. Only bands of a certain stature get such perks, and, to the Stills' credit, the ones who didn't skip the fittings altogether pretty much really needed pants. Tim Fletcher, especially, had a tear that permitted graphic scrotal views.

The first band I actually saw that day was the BellRays, whom I've seen in Montreal multiple times, and who were better than ever. They were playing at a Vice magazine party in a vacant lot east of downtown, and had surprisingly excellent sound (these party venues are often hastily thrown together). Their performance probably ranks among the best of the festival, but I was not there to see them.

Up next: the Fuckemos, about whom I was tipped off by MP contributors Sara and Mike a few years ago. They're from Texas, I think, and are pretty much a deliberately offensive hard rock band fronted by a morbidly fat balding guy who sings through a vocoder. They never play shows, really, and enjoy a weird cult status for being hilariously bad. Or not bad, but maybe parodic. Anyway, they played, and were very funny, and the singer's t-shirt pulled out of his pants almost right away and his massive gut bounced hideously for the rest of the show.

The remaining details of the shows I attended are here in my Gazette wrap-up story. I didn't really see the point in discussing the Fuckemos in that publication, but pretty much everything else is there, in conveniently abridged form. There's also summary info in articles I wrote for Dose: one about the fast-growing SXSW film fest (the link to which I cannot find, malheureusement), a mid-week journal and a summary in the aftermath (which I wrote at 6 a.m. Sunday after stumbling back from the Vice afterparty).

My article about the Stills was pretty much impossible to write. I had the ambitious goal of writing a story that both profiled the band and documented the mechanisms of SXSW and the music industry. I don't think I was unsuccessful, but that kind of project would probably benefit from more than a one-day turnaround. It's not quite as concise as I wanted it to be.

Discussion

18 Comments

Jer / March 22, 2006 at 07:04 pm
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John, thanks for the week of music and scene updates. Those of us who could not experience the fest in person appreciated your healthy dose of skepticism and irreverent account of rock's emerging and established hipsters. And thanks for describing some of the music, since most accounts of the festival treat music as the least important part of the whole deal.

As an aside, in case others didn't know, boing boing put up a link to a torrent with mp3s of many of the bands.

<a href= "http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/04/free_music_and_movie.html";>SXSW Torrent Link</a>
rrrobyn / March 23, 2006 at 12:48 am
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Yes, John, you are the man - thanks for and talking about the music, hurrah!! and thanks for not being annoyingly gonzo journo. of course, I want to hear more of the making-fun-of-people-and-the-scene stuff too.
Marsaka / March 24, 2006 at 01:45 pm
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Re: "Driven by distraction" - It seem like every Stills article I read mentions Me, Mom and Morgentaler. It's becoming annoying. The Stills can make it big without MM&M references. Really, they can!
Russell Porter / April 5, 2006 at 10:16 am
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Hey..thanks for the cruel words about my appearance asshole...next year if you come back to Austin I'll be looking for you....let's hang out.....Hideously fat balding and morbidly yours ,.....RUSTY(fUCKeMOS)

p.s. I won't forget ya
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