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SXSW Music Day 1 – Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cut Off Your Hands

First: back story time (I’ll keep it brief).

I’m not breaking out the violin here, but after being in Austin since 3/13, I was less enthusiastic than past years where I arrived fresh and ready to go. Don’t get me wrong. I was very excited for my friends to arrive and for the music portion to begin. At the same time I was envisioning getting more than 4 hours of sleep a night and having nothing to do on my schedule except take a nap and take my dog for a walk.

That being said, I was very thankful that I’d made the effort to attend the Interactive portion of SXSW in 2009. I had to pass the SXSW baton to my writer Jef Hoskins in 2008, and saw a big change in just two years. Every panel I attended was full to the brim, confirming the demand for an event such as this. The majority of the panels were relevant and highly informative. I dare say that most of the panelist not only knew their shit, but they presented it in an entertaining, dry wit fashion. I walked away with new information that will definitely impact my career and work in the year to come, and reconfirmed some ideas and thoughts I’d had on developing trends. I’m definitely looking forward to 2010.

Side note: In all my years in technology sphere, I have NEVER had the desire to troll for men. Now? Wow. The Fry’s geek who actually does buy Doritos, Pepsi and Playboy in the cashier line has been thankfully replaced by smart, fashion savvy (I have this thing for guys that wear Chuck Taylors, and they were everywere…so not trendsetting, but still hot), funny manboys that are as socially adept as they are with programming and backend development.

Okay, onto SXSW Music Day 1.

After my friend Jennifer arrived in town, I pulled her to my favorite spot to enjoy the twilight hours – Iron Cactus. After the first margatini and bowl of guacamole, we kind of had a game plan in mind. Two bands I’d discovered through the site was UME and Who Shot Hollywood, who were both playing at Maggie Mae’s across the street. But the line was too long and so we had to bail, choosing instead to get a head start on what we expected to be a line-waiting situation for VICE, which included Cut Off Your Hands, Von Bondies, Peter, Bjorn and John, and Glasvegas.

We had a bit of time to kill before the first band, so we wandered up to the top floor and got a pre-show show starring the Rockband performers. I assumed that these guys worked for the company, because they were just that good. Knew all the words and were tight, receiving a much deserved applause.

Having seen Cut Off Your Hands the week before at Hi-Dive, it was fun to see them perform to a full room. Nick Johnston worked their songs with a mix of aggression and lovely pop intricacies, melding with the fluid bounce of “Turn Cold,” “Oh Girl,” and other ditties that recalled the sparkling happiness of Haircut 100 and Alphaville, with the bite of fellow kiwi rockers, Mint Chicks.

I ran into Phil Hadfield (bass, backing vocals) upstairs afterwards, joking with him that they must be slacking at their measly 10 gigs planned for SXSW. He said they were working on getting at least five more planned, and that we may see them playing the airport lobby or during while you’re in line for your continental breakfast, so keep an eye out. We’ve also listed there other performance slots below.

Von Bondies took the stage next and by now the floor was getting pretty packed. We chose to stay up top until Peter, Bjorn and John came on. I had missed them in 2007 and was really looking forward to getting my second chance to see them. Well, this was the second time I was sorely disappointed this week, the first being my experience of shaking the girly soft, squishy hand of the indifferent and obviously annoyed B.J. Novak.

First, this is SXSW. Bands need to get in and get out, and I expect that most know that going in. Okay, so they can’t go with the house drum kit because they’ve got some other mechanics going on. But the damn soundcheck went on for over 45 minutes, and in the hot, crowded atmosphere of the floor people were close to passing out. The jungle got pretty restless and people starting yelling and clapping for them to take the stage already.

When they did, they apologized for technical difficulties. After lead singer Peter Morén stopped in the middle of song #2 and changed out his guitar, we were all fit to be tied. He started tuning the damn thing again and finally someone from the back of the room yelled, “What the fuck? This is bullshit!” Yeah, that pretty much sums up that damn set.

I was thoroughly disgusted and decided to bail and see if I could get into Echo and the Bunnymen at Emo’s. As I was walking towards the exit I overheard someone say that she thought they were on drugs, which is what Jennifer said as well when I found her after my first three songs shooting space. Either way, it was highly unprofessional and I can only hope that last night was an isolated incident.

I got into Emo’s a lot quicker than anticipated, being able to see the last few songs of Juliette Lewis, replacing “…and The Licks” with …”The New Romantiques.” She was as invested as ever in the performance, but I couldn’t decipher a huge difference between Licks and Romantiques, other than different accompanying players. One thing is for sure: Ms. Lewis loves what she’s doing and gives it 150%.

As I was waiting for Echo and the Bunnymen to come on, the affect of what I’ve put my body through were really taking hold. Everything hurt, but I was determined to stick it through. If only there had been a lazyboy set up in front of the stage, I would have been golden. They respected their fans, hitting the stage soon after Lewis, and with the grace and finesse, played the classics as well as tracks from Siberia and Flowers. As expected, the crowd was quite diverse, hipsters, psychedelic kids and 50-somethings all rocking out and singing along to “Killing Moon, “Cutter,” and “Bring Back the Dancing Horses.”

And that was it for me. Walking past the Best is Wurst stand I made it back to the hotel, thankful that I would soon be horizontal.

Today Mark (hotel roommate from Sweden) and I made breakfast just under the wire, which is the best way to start the day. Word on the busy street is the line for Radio Room/Paste Party is “occ” or out of control.

As I’m writing this I’m missing Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head at Fadar, but today’s loose game plan, if I make it in, is Passion Pit at Paste Party/Radio Room at 5pm, Peter Murphy (7pm, Elysium), Bam Bam (8pm, BD Riley’s), Ocelot (9:15pm, iheartcomix/Beauty Bar), Designer Drugs (10:15pm, iheartcomix/Beauty Bar), The Toxic Avenger & Franki Chan (11pm, iheartcomix/Beauty Bar), and then Flosstradamus (12am, Fadar Party), or Handsome Furts (12am – Subpop Showcase/ Radio Room), Blitzen Trapper (1:00am, Subpop Showcase/ Radio Room).

-Kim Owens, March 19, 2009

Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
Saturday – SxSeattle @ The Palm Door 3:00PM

Other Cut Off Your Hands Dates:
Mar 19 2009 4:00P Birds’ Barbershop
Mar 19 2009 11:00P Emo’s – Frenchkiss Showcase
Mar 20 2009 12:30P Stubbs BBQ – SPIN PARTY
Mar 20 2009 3:00P Radio Room – The Onion Party
Mar 20 2009 6:00P West Tent at Brush Square – NZ BBQ
Mar 20 2009 10:00P Aces Lounge – NME Showcase
Mar 21 2009 1:30P Waterloo Park – Mess With Texas
Mar 21 2009 4:30P Peckerheads – Party

Flickr stream of Wednesday’s SXSW pictures, or view below:

Cut Off Your Hands

Echo and the Bunnymen


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