19 March 2007

TXTing in Texas: the Mincetapes SxSW Report

(or: taking livestock, longhorn edition)

(is this an ape or an android? you tell me.)


i swore that i wouldn't "liveblog" from the conference... there's still something repulsive about that concept (or at least that phrase), reeking of all this PDA SMS RSS BS interpenetration of RealLife and the web two point oh, i dunno, suppose i'm implicated as much as anyone, with my old-fangled straightforward putting up of words and sometimes even images online. isn't it bad enough trying to juggle my celly and digicam while i'm supposed sublimating myself in the sacrament that is live music? the upshot is more work now, because, naturally, you require a recap. and you know this one's gonna ramble. so let's get it.

can i just say that the experience was superlative, and leave the adjectives at that? no i probably can't, but i'll try to limit those interchangeable superfluous superwords, to maximize their effect. certainly it was an overwhelming and often exhausting several days - physically mentally emotionally - but almost entirely in the good ways. despite spending four days doing little with my body besides standing in line and standing (or more usually dancing) at shows, my legs, back, and feet were miraculously not sore, especially beyond the first day. i did wake up every morning with an ominous sore throat - less the result of alcohol, second-hand smoke or sleep deprivation than just a ton of shouting and singing-along - but it always cleared up after a few hours, with the help of a wide assortment of beverages.

austin itself, ostensibly the primary focus of my trip, of course ended up seeming rather secondary to the music, but integral to the experience nonetheless. i liked it a lot - might say i loved it but i know that the immensely pleasurable weather during my stay (mild, cool and even overcast much of the time, sunny and perfectly warm a few days) was a dirty trick and that most of the time it's got to be intolerably hot. still, i loved there being all those coffeshops/cafés that serve alcohol and food and are open late (or always) - why don't we have those in philly again? matt (matthew stangoni i should say), playing tour guide as well as tour manager, made sure i saw kerby lane, austin java, halcyon, jo's, and especially spiderhouse (though not magnolia or the alamo draft house), and didn't fail to point out the bats that live under the bridge or the tower where that guy shot a lot of people.

meanwhile i somehow managed to make more new friends and acquantainces than i've done in at least the last six months in philly, and fall into a stronger sense of community than lately too. not too big a mystery how in fact - the combination of matthew's solid little crew of folks and the abundantly social atmosphere of SxSW itself, in which it's possible to strike up a conversation with almost anybody standing next to you in line or at a show (unless they're wearing a badge...then it's just intimidating) and be guaranteed a common interest. (theoretically one should be able to do that at a show in philly, but i just don't see it happening as much - or maybe i'm just not in the habit.) hard to know how much to just chalk up to these dizzying circumstances, but austin definitely came off as not just a friendly-ass town, but filled with a lot of folks with whom i could feel some connection. it just...makes you think.

(the artifical community of SxSW is also just a crystalization of the real community of the music industry. not that i really communed with many industry folks at all. it was interesting to be in the minority of people who weren't there for professional reasons...or was i?)

we (mostly me, matt, jenny, nicolette, who were the central crew along with elizabeth and sarah, and ol' nan '05) had a running metaphor of SxSW as Life, with the four days standing in for a development from babyhood to maturity, wherein we were to learn many valuable lessons, such as to keep low expectations. it held up pretty well (um, perhaps because southby is in fact, part of life), and by the end i had indeed learned a lot about how to navigate the festival, if nothing else. early on day 2 (adolescence) matt and i borrowed bikes, which gave us independence and mobility; we both carried backpacks that day but by day 3 gave up that dependence on material possessions and made do with what fit in our pockets. i had intended from the outset to avoid stressing myself out by trying to maximize my time and squeeze everything in, and ultimately it turned out that i was able to see practically everybody i wanted and make pretty damn efficient use of my time without getting stressed out. meanwhile, i partied but i paced myself, i had a transcendant spiritual experience or two, i fell in love a few times (more on that later), and generally reapt the bounty of my youthful folly in the blossom of my old age.

before i get into the specifics of what happened, which will almost certainly include far too much detail, here's a rundown by the numbers:

i saw
26 artists* (performing full or almost full sets)
12 more** (from whom i only caught partial sets)
10 countries***
13 venues****

*Amy Winehouse, Apes and Androids, Architecture in Helsinki, Brandon Patton, Budos Band, Busdriver, Datarock, Earl Greyhound, The Federation, Girl Talk, The Good the Bad and the Queen, Junior Senior, Lily Allen, Marit Bergman, Marit Larsen, Menomena, Nellie McKay, Peter and the Wolf, Peter, Björn and John, The Pipettes, The Ponys, Prototypes, Rjd2, Scanners, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Tunng

**Davey Jones' Locker, David Garza, Funky Nashville, Fujiya and Miyagi, Grand Island, Headlights, Irina Bjorklund, Lesbians on Ecstasy, The Pack, The Pipettes (again), Simian Mobile Disco, Stars of Track and Field, Todosantos

*** US, UK, Australia, Sweden, Norway, France, Denmark (and Finland, Venezuela, and Canada if you include the partial sets)

****Beauty Bar Patio, Chugging Monkey, Emo's, Emo's Annex, Exodus, The Fort, Jo's, La Zona Rosa, Mohawk, Northby Tent, Treasure Island, Uncle Flirty's, Waterloo Records

amount spent on tickets: [$10 + $15 + $20 + $15 + $12 + $15 =] $87
lowest price for wristbands (guaranteeing no cover and admission to all shows until they decide to only let in badge-holders) seen on craigslist before we started spending money on tickets the first night: $90
amount spent on concerts per artist seen: $3.35 per artist (not counting partial sets)

amount spent on alcohol: $0
alcoholic drinks consumed: 8(+?)
non-alcoholic drinks promising to restore, regenerate, replenish, rejuvenate, renew, and/or otherwise improve my physical experience: g.t.'s trilogy kombucha®, the ginger people's ginger soother®, ℞ehab®, rockstar®, nutriwater®, airborne®, and goodflow juices (orange and grapefruit)
number of these managing instead to repel, revulse, reject, and/or regurgitate: well, only a couple

free ice creams and popsicles enjoyed: 4(+?)
free bbq: none, interestingly enough, though i did have an unwitting opportunity
enchiladas/tacos/flautas/wraps consumed: at least 10
best freebie: peaches guitar pick (part of the "sxsw survival kit")

# of purple ink stamps on my wrists/palms/back of hands:
a whole bunch

conference anthem
: "young folks." matthew's prediction was that they'd be whistling it in the streets. (sigrid snickered and wrinkled her norwegian nose, but there's no question i heard this song more times that week than any other, and i somehow managed to avoid seeing pb+j live more than once.)

text messages sent/recieved over the four days: approximately 193*****
suggestions for renaming the conference accordingly: SMSw; TxtW; um, the Verizon Music Conference at South by Southwest.

*****not counting mass textos. judging by the speed with which that filled up the storage capacity of my phone, that's as many as i usually exchange in three months or so. alyssa thinks i should write about this, because it probably betrays something interesting about modernicity or some such. maybe so...but on the other hand it just kind of makes sense, since most everybody involved in the con are at shows most of the time, and so can't talk on the phone, but need to coordinate the next stop on the agenda. one almost wonders what it would have been like before text messaging rose to prominence. and then one remembers.


celebrity sightings (unimpressive):
• john darnielle and sharon jones (outside of their respective shows which i wasn't able to get into - i said hi but they didn't notice)
• simian mobile disco (on the street wednesday morning)
• john pareles (slipping out about two songs into fujiya and miyagi's set)
• james iha (on the street before good bad queen saturday afternoon - wouldn't have recognized him but someone pointed him out)
• brandon stosuy (of pitch4k sorta-fame, watching GBQ)
• marit larsen (flutter flutter...um, seen at the northby tent norwegian showcase, after her three-song set which i missed)
• amy winehouse (backstage during sharon jones performance saturday night - amy's two backup singers danced with sharon on stage during "genuine")
• probably some philebrities on the plane/plane/train back to phil, but i'm not very good at philebrity-spotting. the very tired guy on the septa seat in front of me (with a red wristband) seemed like he might have performed at the conference though.


well, i guess that's about all you needed to know. just kidding! of course you deserve and shall receive nothing less than a full painstaking blow by blow account. but it's getting to be past my bedtime just now.

well, i already more or less covered day one: day party at the mohawk; ran into nan; apes and androids rocked my world; architecture did the whirlwind (which apparently requires two people to play the temple block part) and some songs about beef and chicken; no luck @ 4AD showcase (though we did get to see emma pollock from behind through the band load-in door - she sounds pretty much like the singer from the delgados); luck with mellow beardos tunng (who i keep wanting to think were finnish) and that irrepressibly tight'n'plucky swedish sandwich.

one thing i didn't mention about pb+j is that at one point (i think it was in the middle of "paris 2004") a fight nearly broke out less than ten feet in front of us. it was more of an aggressive staring contest between a couple of clearly insensitive inebriates, but it eventually required physical intervention from adjacent audience members. seconds later, ten feet to the left, a couple kissed passionately - so there you had pretty much the full spectrum of human emotion on display. so i commented to caitlin sxsw (as my phone knows her), whom i'd just met and bonded with over the swellness of swedishness (actually, first she and matthew bonded over being from colorado.)

actually she's kind of pertinent to that point i didn't make earlier, since our friendship (has?) developed almost exclusively through text messaging. we did eventually meet up again, on saturday (day 4 - i'll get to that), but in the interim we conducted a handful of exchanges; most memorably the following:

me: I'm heading back to scandinavia

caitlin sxsw: Come to sugar's
me: Where?


me: Who's there / where is it?

(extended pause during which i ask the older woman working the door at uncle flirty's if she knows where sugar's is, assuming that it's a venue. she doesn't know for sure but thinks there are several of them, maybe on lamar.)

caitlin sxsw: It's a strip club! Ha
me: Ah. Ha!
caitlin sxsw: It should be silly
me: Are you there??
caitlin sxsw: Yes


me: Well where is it?
caitlin sxsw: I don't know. but the cabs do

me: Not sure i'm up for that tonight. Stumbled across the pack and am enjoying that. Maybe we can meet for some day stuff tomorrow
caitlin sxsw: Deal

notice that this exchange could easily have been abbreviated, notably if caitlin had just included all of the pertinent information in one message. but how much more nuance there is when it's extended this way. now that's a real connection developing, some real repartee! um yup.

but i'm getting ahead of myself - day 1 ends with jenny (or was it nico?) giving us a ride back to the house, some feverish research on the next day's shows, and late to-bed.

as now i must once more. but! i'll be back tomorrow with actual reportage on actual concerts, and (fingers crossed) even some photography!