20 March 2007

SxSW, blow x blow


[PART ONE here]

from left to right: rose, (riot)becki, gwenno. (huh? there's nobody else in the picture!)

day two started with breakfast at quack's and bike-borrowing, which i'd thought would, but actually didn't, take too long for me to get to the fort in time to catch the pipettes. we dismounted just as the set-opening drum beats of "your kisses..." (i think?) drifted across the courtyard, and i was inside with stylin' white wristband before the end of "it hurts me..." - matthew had sadly been in too much of an exhausted stupor the night before to r.s.v.(i.)p. with his name and "affiliation," but at least mine went through and was apparently up to the fader/levi's standards. so i got to see the 'pettes, er the pipies, who i've decided should be pronounced "pip" rather than "pipe" or "peep" (well, that's how they say it, right?)

it was almost disappointingly exactly how you'd expect, which is to say it was great (since i'm me.) even as i've grown to really like a lot of album very much, the live setting conveyed it fine but didn't do too much to enhance it. it certainly didn't clear up much of the mystery surrounding the group, as far as where exactly the creative impulses are coming from. it was kind of amusing watching them perform with a backing band (almost more like a backdrop band - but they were definitely solid) of indie boys in matching yellow shirts, which didn't quite match the polka-dot aesthetic. as for the girls, they were so made up and polished that they almost seemed plastic, or somehow hyperreal.

mostly because of that, it felt much closer to a musical theatre performance than a rock concert. which is cool - i like musical theatre. still, my favorite part of the set was when there was a false start to one of the tunes and the girls broke face and giggled for a minute. that made me think it might have been cooler if they did have a looser stage presence and acted more like themselves (at least in between songs); even though that's perhaps contrary the perhaps-logical dictates of the girl-group musical aesthetic. i think the music is strong enough for the project to work more like a "normal" band that happens to have a very strong and campily exaggerated '60s pop influence, rather than what's basically a novelty act based around a gimmick that requires a specific mode of visual presentation as possibly their most defining characteristic. (a snarky hipster zine that was making the rounds described them as something like "as hip as simultaneously degrading women and empowering them.")

from there (short-ish set - hitting the obvious highlights but not my darkhorse favorites "i love you" or "a winter's sky," nor "school uniform," natch.) m and i biked back out lamar to waterloo records, where a sizable line was already forming outside (during sparklehorse's in-store set) for lily lallen. we saw her going in while we were waiting in the queue...but we could barely see her half an hour later when we got inside and she was actually playing. it was just her singing, an acoustic guitar and a piano, and no more than five or six songs. she covered "heart of glass," and the kooks song again (except this time she said it was amazing, or maybe that the band was...) in general i was more impressed than the last time i saw her...but that's not saying too much. the setting did show off her voice, which is very pretty. like i said, i couldn't really see the rest of her.

we stuck around to see the ponys, who failed to impress me or even make much of an impression - they seemed like a competent but very normal rock band. (my favorite part was the record store dude announcing beforehand that they had been authorized to sell copies of the album - "audiophile vinyl, very cool stuff.") then we left to go to the whole foods flagship mama store across the street, where matt got a live nut patty after much deliberation, but back in time to see busdriver, who had started his set at least ten minutes before schedule. that was definitely the highlight of the three - in fact, he rocked the crowd so hard that they demanded an encore (for an instore!), which only happened one other time the whole week that i saw. (sxsw crowds are pretty hard to impress.) it was mostly new jams, which had markedly less interesting beats and clunkier hooks than the couple of selections from fear of a black tangent - "unemployed black astronaut," of course, but also, weirdly, "befriend the friendless friendster" - but the real standout was a lengthy freestyle, mostly ruminating on record marketing and sales (fittingly enough for the venue.) anyway bus is a weird and hilarious dude, though i do wish he would enunciate a little better, not that it would necessarily help much to understand his warp-speed flow.

next up (after a confusing meal break) was trying to get into the "stax 50 revue" at antone's, which i probably should have known was a lost cause from the start, but for reason i thought that maybe not a lot of people would know what it was, or something. nobody likes soul these days, right? oh well.

no dice there (will they do a tour? oh man they need to do a tour. guess not though) so i went to uncle flirty's to check out their "nordic nights" (three evenings of all scandinavian artists) - specifically to see marit bergman, a young swedish i'd heard of but hadn't entirely believed existed, on the hope that she would be like a cross between marit larsen and margaret berger, or maybe ingrid bergman (ingmar?) she turned out to be a fun and energetic performer, with a bit of broadway-style brassiness to her stage presence (she made good use of the odd but attractive curved metal railings around the semi-circular stage.) her music is very '60s-inflected, also somewhat broadwayish singer-songwriter pop, with big, lush arrangements (she had an eight piece band, including two guys who both played tambourine on several of the songs.) it somewhat recalled the pipettes at times, without the gimmickry, or a more dramatic and less winsome camera obscura.

the faah-bulous ms. bergman and her tambo-urine ensemble

the crowd was fairly thin, but not embarrassingly so, and when marit announced that the next song would be a dance competition, there were two couples brave enough to take the floor, along with one enthusiastic hipstery dude, and me of course. the dude and i admitted to one another that we really wanted the prize, a very small white marit bergman t-shirt with a cute line drawing that on closer inspection turned out to be of a ninja stabbing a bunny. in the end she awarded it to me since she figured i was the only one who might be able to actually wear it - and i dutifully put it on over my other shirt so as to make myself look even more ridiculous. she was quite warm and friendly in our brief interchange after the set, and i got a copy of her cd from her manager, who was giving them out for promo purposes. (everybody was impressed by the foreign language blurbs on the cover sticker.)

stayed for a couple songs by the next band, a danish country outfit called funky nashville (instead of going to see joan as police woman), but gave up on that fast and went in search of something else to do. decided not to pay $25 to get into antone's after all for sondre lerche, sparklehorse, and small sins with nan. managed to meet up with nicolette down on south congress at an all-day festival of local music and crafts which was then coming to a close (but not before i saw a bit of local favorite david garza's party-style rock/folk jams, including a cover of local classic "wooly bully"), but almost as quickly back north across the bridge (followed by some silly folks who were inexplicably taunting me by calling me "leg power.")

ultimately the only other music i heard that night (except for ween's chocolate and cheese, which was bringing some philly flava to the halcyon coffeeshop) was a late set by my old buddy brandon patton, part of the dubious "heart of texas quadruple bypass festival" (one of a handful of "festivals" timed to coincide with southby.) i had noticed brandon's name on the mega-list of free shows, and tried to contact him, but ended up just surprising him at the gig, which was in a ridiculous pirate-themed bar. couldn't stay for the whole thing (b/c matthew was tired, except that after i left we spent a half-hour trying to get into an after-hours party), but i did get to hear the dynamite "counting the paces" (his signature tune as far as i'm concerned), and some nicely rocking new tunes (gotta say the set-opening confessional folk piece was pretty cheesy though.) unfortunately i never managed to hook up with him later in the festival, but hopefully i'll catch him back on the east coast.

more soon...