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The final, full day of SXSW 2010, Saturday, March 21, was freezing cold. In fact, it was warmer by 20 degrees-plus in the northeast; at one point it was barely 40 degrees, but the winds wiping off the Texas prairie lands made it feel like it could snow. People with warm clothes, hats and jackets were cold, so you can imagine what it was like for all of the folks who dressed for typical Texas late March weather. Dallas got two inches of snow!
Visitors to Texas expecting warm spring weather in this near-tropical locale were dumbfounded. But, thankfully, people found ways to cope, and one way was to get a little to a lot closer, and that's a good thing.
Perhaps, James Mercer, of an IRC favorite band, The Shins, performing at The Mohawk patio with Broken Bells - a great new band featuring Danger Mouse - summed it up best when he said: "welcome to Portland," sarcastically referring to the cold, cloudy and windy weather residents of Oregon's biggest city know all too well.
Although the weather was a huge topic of conversation - and even curse words - it was in fact the tribute show at Antone's to honor the sudden passing of iconic musician Alex Chilton of Big Star, that was the talk of SXSW today.
Chilton, who was 59, suffered an instantly fatal heart attack on St. Patrick's Day in New Orleans, only three days before the much anticipated reunion of Chilton with most of the original and later members of pop rock icons Big Star. In what surviving Big Star members called a musical wake, the 80-minute tribute to Chilton included guest appearances from the Lemonheads' Evan Dando, Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood, M. Ward, REM's Mike Mills, and many others.
"O My Soul" - Big Star
"I'm In Love With a Girl" - Big Star
Ray Davies, of the legendary rock band, The Kinks (and one of the first rock bands to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), and who was also at SXSW for a solo performance (and honorary speaker at SXSW some years ago), talked about how Chilton came to his aid after Davies was shot in New Orleans in 2004 during a mugging in the French Quarter. "He would come over and lend me a guitar," Davies said. "He became my friend ...[and] helped me a lot." Davies proceeded to dedicate The Kinks' classic "Till the End of the Day," a song Big Star previously covered. In the past, Chilton had credited The Kinks as one of the biggest influences on Big Star's sound.
"Till the End of the Day" (1965) - The Kinks
So far it's been a sobering year for many music lovers. In the past few months, fans have had to come to terms with the tragic and untimely deaths of Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse), Jay Reatard and Vic Chestnutt. Yet as far as impact on music history, the sudden death of Alex Chilton is probably the most stunning of all, especially since Big Star were scheduled to reunite at SXSW.
Our Day Four got off to a slow start - after three straight days and nights of shows, often standing for 12-14 hours a day (that's a lot of standing, huh?), the freezing, overcast weather didn't help, and staying warm became more important than waiting in long, hardly moving lines outside. In previous days, long lines were cool because you knew it would be a great crowd, and probably a good showcase. One of the biggest downers about SXSW is waiting in a line for an hour or more and never getting in.
But with the case of Broken Bells show, unlike their shared showcase with Spoon, it was thankfully pretty fast and easy to get in. If only Austin's own indie rock band Spoon had been there too, well, that would have been something else.
Broken Bells' debut LP, released earlier this month, has created a lot of buzz. Broken Bells, dressed appropriately in layers, put on one of the festival's most memorable shows. Ironically, Mercer and Danger Mouse where collaborators with Mark Linkous, and performed on Late Show with David Letterman only a couple of days after Linkous' tragic death.
"The High Road" - Broken Bells
Following the Broken Bells, we headed inside to get warm with the Freelance Whales, who were performing in The Mohawk's so-called "cake shop," perhaps one of the smallest music venues in Austin. But because it was indoors, and smaller, the show was better than their outdoor performance at the Galaxy Room Backyard on Thursday.
After Freelance Whales, we headed over to The Parish where we unfortunately just missed Wye Oak, but were in time for Ben Gibbard's (Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service) solo set. In addition to playing a bunch of DCFC songs, Gibbard calmly did a terrific cover of The Magnetic Fields' song, "I Don't Want To Get Over You." The warmed up capacity crowd at The Parish were, not surprisingly, a bit older of a crowd than you see at other shows, but it was a highlight of SXSW to see Ben Gibbard, one of IRC's favorite singer/songwriters of the past decade or so.
"Cath" - Ben Gibbard
By early evening, rumors circulated that the line for the Alex Chilton/Big Star tribute show was insanely long. The same was also true for the Perez Hilton Party where Snoop Dog and Courtney Love (reunited with Hole) was performing. Well, we never planned on seeing that show anyway - much too much fake "A-list" Hollywood for us. And Courtney Love? Pah-lease.
After the Ben Gibbard show, we wanted to check out a new, promising band we previously featured on IRC - the Small Black at The Mohawk. However, five minutes before the set, there were literally seven people there. Tough decision time: at SXSW, you go for the energy of the turn-out almost as much as you do for the bands. One thing you learn really quick at SXSW, is that if a show isn't happening, either by attendance or performance - or technical issues - there are dozens of other choices unless, of course, it's a show you have to see. Anyways, we have the opportunity to see Small Black with Washed Out and Picturesque Airplane in San Francisco this coming weekend. We see a lot of potential in this exciting, and latest, edition to the "surf rock" craze of the past year or so in the indie rock genre.
"Despicable Dogs" - Small Black
Here's another video of Small Black performing "Pleasant Experience"
(Note: Now having regrets about not staying to see Small Black's Mohawk set)
Therefore, we headed out to catch a few songs from Minneapolis' Banner Pilot and fellow Minnesotian dance pop duo Swimming With Dolphins before walking back over to The Galaxy Room to watch the only Matt Pond PA show we knew of at SXSW at the Polyvinyl Records Party.
"Greenwood" - Banner Pilot
Matt Pond PA, our first time seeing them live, were joking with the packed room, and playing one terrific song after another, including "Halloween." We were disappointed, however, that they didn't play "Snow Day," one of their most well known songs, and it would have been so appropriate for the weather of the day.
"Halloween" - Matt Pond PA
"Snow Day" - Matt Pond PA
By the time Matt Pond PA wrapped up, SXSW was in it's final night of official showcases. So, we didn't waste much time; off next to see Titus Andronicus outside at Red 7, two blocks away. The Glen Rock, New Jersey band, whose new album, The Monitor, is one of our favorite 2010 releases so far, played a raw and energizing set of guitar rock, including a fifteen-minute, acid-freaked version of the guitar punk-rock song, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Right before the crowd-pleasing jam, Titus frontman, Patrick Stickles, said: "Thanks to Fuc*ed Up for making the world safe for 15-minute punk songs, like this..."
"Titus Andronicus" - Titus Andronicus
By this point, it was becoming apparent that SXSW was coming to a close, but we still had a few more gigs to catch before the ball dropped. So, we caught a bit of Woods set inside the Red 7 and then headed around the corner to Barbarella to see Abe Vigoda; doses of good guitar rock are filling up this part of the schedule, and Abe Vigoda lived up to expectations, as did the next performance by Canada's Two Hours Traffic at Mi Casa; they performed their best-known song, "Territory," with perfect musicianship.
"Territory" - Two Hours Traffic
The wheels are starting to come off - finished the official SXSW with Japandroids at The Galaxy Room and No Age at Barbarella. Both of those shows were packed and memorable as the night (it was now about 2 am) came to an end. It was time to say goodbye to everyone before turning in to warm up and rest aching feet. Next year, we hope to host a showcase, so stay tuned for updates about that in 2010.
"Wet Hair" - Japandroids
We would like to thank everyone - from the organizers (how do you do it?) to the venues, the musicians and bands, and the good folks of Austin - for a great first time SXSW experience. The past five days are like one long blur of venues, people and music, and it will take some time to digest it all.
SXSW typically kicks off the music festival season with big fests like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch, Lollapolooza, Outside Lands and many others in the pipeline. Look out for our special series of features on music festivals of 2010.
Over the next week or so, we will have more coverage from SXSW, including band profiles, playlist mixes, show videos and interviews, samplers, photos and more. We'll also profile bands we heard about but didn't get to see, and bands we like, even love, that we didn't get to see. One thing you learn at SXSW - if you get to see even two dozens bands you wanted to see, it's an accomplishment - but there will always be those shows you missed for one reason or another, and that's just part of the gig.
On that note, it is hard to imagine what it is like for SXSW attendees who go to conferences, panels and seminars all day, because a lot of the best showcases - and chances for actually getting into see a show - are the unofficial, often free day-time shows. It's also very different than the more exclusive night-time showcases, and gives you a entirely different overall experience in seeing how many non-industry people respond, or don't respond, to a particular artist or band. See our full SXSW coverage, including dozens of songs, videos and handy links of SXSW 2010 bands.
Tomorrow, it's back to our regular programming with the Best New Releases of The Week feature. There is plenty of great new music out this week, so check back for that, as well as more SXSW coverage. In addition, we are excited to share with you in coming weeks a bunch of artists and bands that you probably never heard of, many of who have contacted us in the past few of months with music submissions. The amount and variety of great music we receive just In Dee Mail (our silly way of saying music sent in to us via email) alone is overwhelming.
- SXSW Day One Coverage - March 17, 2010
- SXSW Day Two Coverage - March 18, 2010
- SXSW Day Three Coverage - March 19, 2010
- SXSW Day Four Coverage - March 20, 2010
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