It was tough saying goodbye to the Tripwire's headquarters at SXSW. As you can see from the picture above, it was cramped quarters, but we made do. You know, as much as I always look forward to heading down for the South By Southwest music festival in my favorite city on the planet, I am always just as happy to survive the festivities and make it back to my own bed after four nights of drinking way too much and seeing way too many bands. I already miss Austin, Texas, but after finally walking into my apartment at 1am Sunday night/Monday morning, it was nice to be home. Going from 75 degrees in Texas to 30 degrees in New York did kind of suck though.
Although I have posted separate reviews of various performances up until now, I am going to condense Friday and Saturday nights down to one lengthy review. Friday night was action packed with way too many shows to catch than humanly possible. My first stop was an easy choice, as I was not going to miss Silversun Pickups. Their showcase took place at Spiro's, which ended up as a pretty sh*tty location. My crew got to the venue right on time, squeezing our way through the packed room to the middle in an attempt to see main man Brian Aubert and the rest of my favorite Silverlake-area band take the stage. SXSW is not known for having the best sound in all of their venues, and Spiro's was one of those where the PA was mighty horrible.
After at least ten minutes of the sound tech trying to get Aubert's vocal mic working, the show finally kicked off with "All The Go Inbetweens". The band's frustrations grew as the sound was still pretty awful, but being the troopers that they are, the show went on. Although I couldn't see keyboardist Joe Lester from where I was standing, I could see that bassist Nikki Monninger kept a smile on her face the entire time. They rocked through "Comeback Kid", "Kissing Families" and many other favorites, as well as a new tune that I am assuming will appear on their forthcoming debut full-length album. Sound issues aside, SSPU was still great as always.
Our next stop was just a few feet outside, as we were all in desperate need of some air after sweating our gallons of alcohol out in Spiro's. A break was in order, as was some food. 6th Street is not the greatest area for eating dinner, so we grabbed a slice of pizza from Roppolo's. Then came the debate of which pizza joint was better: Roppolo's or Hoek's. Erin and I had eaten at Hoek's (which we referred to as "Heavy Metal Pizza" all week) nearly every night during our time in Austin, Friday night we decided to try Roppolo's, which was literally next door to the other. The only reason we gave the non-heavy metal pizza spot a try was because they had seating, while Hoek's, which looks like Hell's pizzeria and blares heavy metal out to the sidewalk, does not. After trying a slice from both spots, I can say that Hoek's kicks Roppolo's ass. When in Austin, hail Satan and choose Hoek's.
Now with a belly full of pepperoni and cheese, Erin and I ran over to catch Editors' showcase at the Blender Bar. With a line of people eight zillion long, it was quite obvious that we were not getting in. Time for plan B: Metric at Stubb's. I know I have seen Metric before, I believe at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC, but I don't remember them kicking nearly as much ass as they did at this SXSW showcase. Even from what seemed like a mile away - Stubb's is a pretty large outdoor venue - vocalist/keyboarist Emily Haines' boundless energy and showmanship (show-woman-ship?) could be felt all the way to the draft beer bar clear at the back.
Although I missed a handful of Metric's set while stuck in the ridiculous line outside of Stubb's, I managed to catch plenty of my favorites such as "Monster Hospital" off their latest album Live It Out. The crowd freaked out and chanted along with the chorus: "I fought the war... but the war won." Another favorite was their extended version of "Dead Disco", which helped end their performance of high-energy greatness.
After a lengthy delay, Magic Numbers were next up at Stubb's. Bleary eyed and full of Shiner Bock beer, I meandered back towards the stage, although I was still too far away to snap a decent photo. They included the toe tapping "Love Me Like You", which marked the first time I have heard the glorious harmonies between frontman Romeo Stodart, sister Michele Stodart and Angela Gannon since last year's SXSW. As much as I enjoyed their sunny, Beach Boys influenced pop songs, it was time for me to begin my thirty-minute walk back to my hotel.
As I walked down Red River towards 6th Street, Austin was in complete party mode. St. Patrick's Day was in full effect, with drunken partygoers stumbling around the packed streets. After watching one fight, one hammered college girl fall face first onto the street, one idiot knocking over a police barricade in front of four street patrol officers and other various green beer induced stupidity, I witnessed something that made me question my sobriety. Was that actually a small marching band heading towards me? Yep, it sure was. Complete with drums, trumpet, trombone, sousaphone and other assorted instruments, these guys were marching down 6th Street, surrounded by an entourage of folks captivated by this late night jam session. I have to admit, these guys were pretty damn cool. Marching bands during SXSW... damn I love Austin.
Upon waking up on Saturday, I promised myself that no pizza would be consumed for the remainder of my SXSW extravaganza. After hitting a few daytime parties, grabbing a few of those pineapple juice Southern Comfort cocktails, eating a rather mediocre chicken sandwich for dinner and making a pit stop for some pre-concert beverages with a few friends, it was time for my first performance of the night.
It was 8pm and time to head over to Maggie Mae's for the Brooklyn duo Shy Child. Our good friend Elissa from Gigantic Music has been hyping these guys for a while and totally got me hooked on their album One With The Sun. For just two dudes, these guys can really rock the stage, even with a keytar! Pete Cafarella played the hell out of his keytar, providing both the melodies and the bass lines to their upbeat indie-dance-rock tunes, such as the awesome track "The Noise Won't Stop". Drummer Nate Smith is a machine, cranking out insane beats that rival what you'll find on traditional dance music. After catching them live, they are rapidly becoming one of my favorite new bands. Funny that it took me going to Austin to catch a NYC-area band for the first time.
Next up was right across the street at the Jackalope, which sorta looked like an old western saloon, but with punk rock. We caught a few songs by Live Fast Die, a straight up punk band that features Ethan from Some Action on lead vocals. The "supergroup" quality continues as Mike from the DC Snipers slays the bass. While my tastes don't lean very punk, these guys tore it up on stage. We did see one of the largest cocktails ever made being served at the bar. This gallon-sized martini glass truly was "Texas sized". If you look closely at the picture below, you can sort of see this mighty beverage.
Needing a break from the noise, my crew walked up the steps to the bar (Cucaracha?) that adjoins the Jackalope for some cheap drinks. Our bartender turned out to be famed Roller Derby Girl Miss Conduct. She was totally cool, and I have no doubt in my mind that she could easily kick my ass.
After a few $2 Lone Stars, we were off to the booty-tastic "venue" Fuel to catch a relatively new Dallas band called Sunward. While the downstairs area was bumping to the latest from P Diddy, Puffy, Diddy, or whatever in the hell he is going by these days, the upstairs room was set up with a stage for rock groups. It was an odd setting for such a spacey, hypnotic band, but they made do. The group combined various elements of Mercury Rev and Sparklehorse to make up the sound of their slightly psychedelic pop. It was great seeing former Tabula Rasa member Doug Kershaw back at it again.
As we headed towards our next destination, I happened to notice what looked like a strip show being performed in the window of a random club along 6th Street. Although the ladies didn't get all the way to their birthday suits, they definitely caught the attention of every guy (and a few gals) that walked past the window. Proof that you never know what you'll find during SXSW. Oh yeah, and remember that promise I made to myself for making Saturday a pizza-free day? Well, by midnight I broke down and hit up Hoek's again for a slice. That makes four days in a row. My stomach is still recovering.
After debating which late-night party was to be my final destination, my time attending official SXSW showcases had come to an end. It was so great catching up with so many awesome people throughout my days in Austin, sharing drinks with my Tripwire crew Erin Chandler & Matt DuFour, Gabby @ KMBY, Elissa & Issac @ Gigantic Music, the entire Silversun Pickups gang, Christen @ Vice, Miguel @ V2, Kevin from Chatterton, Peter Berard @ Domino, Tobi/Rachel/Meiyee @ XM, Dennis & Katie @ KUSF, Jason Hradal @ Sony, J from the Cloud Room, Polsia, Steve Nice, Jeff @ Dangerbird Records, Greg @ World's Fair, Matthew Kaplan, Emily @ Astralwerks, Miss Conduct, Amanda @ Nasty Little Man, Hoops @ Jelly NYC, Moose & Finch @ CMJ, Tony & Teresa @ Crystal Clear, Jordan from Oliver Future, my UK pals Mel & Jo, Tom @ Equal Vision, Drew @ Sanctuary and far too many others to remember from my Red Stripe induced haze.
Thank you Austin for another amazing SXSW. Until March 2007, I will be dreaming of Iron Works BBQ and Shiner Bock beer. Oh how I miss you already.