Skip to content

SXSW Music Day 2 – Thursday, March 19, 2009

Primal Scream

Gonna just get this off my chest right now. Austin, your wired quality is partying like it’s 1999. Internet at The Hampton Inn: almost as slow as dial-up. AT&T coverage? Access bars are passed out in the corner, drooling.

This lack-o-access to all-powerful 3G network has caused a flurry of blogs impaling the telecom company who should have seen this problem coming from a mile of cable away. One Wired post (SXSW: IPhone Influx Pushes AT&T to the Limit, put it succinctly, “‘It works like ass,’ said Kenny Meyers, a 25-year-old web developer from Seattle who works for Blue Flavor. ‘That’s because everyone and their mother has [an iPhone] now.’”

Earlier in the week I attended a keynote interview between Guy Kawasaki (Alltop) and Chris Anderson (Wired Magazine), and towards the end a nearby cell phone made a buzzing noise. You know, that alien noise your computer makes when you’re nearby cell phone starts to ring. Kawasaki quickly reacted, “It’s not my phone, since AT&T doesn’t work in Austin,” and the hundreds of geeks like me applauded, knowingly.

And this was after AT&T had promised “To accommodate unprecedented demand for mobile data and voice applications at SXSW” by adding capacity to cell sites. I saw no improvement the whole time I was there. Talk about lip service.

Thursday found me spending most of my day time at the Hampton Inn getting caught up on biz, email, and sifting through photos. Note to self: hire someone to take over those responsibilities next year. That is the pull and tug of covering SXSW, as other fellow writers know. Even if you’re up at 8am every morning (after hitting the sheets at 3 or 4am), it’s still pretty tough to keep up with it all.

Peter MurphyFinally turning in my computer for camera to venture, I ran into my roomie, Laurie Scavo, who reminded me of the free happy hour offered by the hotel. So we grabbed our beer and wine and met the other Denver cats hanging by the pool. Ricardo Baca (Denver Post) told us about his coverage of the Ticketmaster debacle with pre-sale Phish tickets ( and his on-site convention center interview with Superdrag, which was broadcasted everywhere in the center. A slightly surreal and odd experience indeed.

Laurie and I finally hit the streets in time to catch Peter Murphy ( at Elysium, meeting up with my friend Jennifer. We were all in line before the venue opened, and while he was definitely worth the wait, I wasn’t happy to see him playing already when we finally got inside. I appreciate wanting to stay on schedule, but why don’t you open in time to let most everyone in before the damn show starts?

Mr. Murphy’s in-between-songs banter was as entertaining as his singing performance. With a back-of-hand-on-head, he acknowledged his part in the birth of the post-punk era, how he “shed the blood for all those after me,” his voice pouring over with theatric and sarcastic angst. At another time he began reciting a poem, but forgot the words mid-way, smiling wryly, “I forgot the rest of the words, but when you have an English accent you can get away with merrr-derrr.”

Taking questions from the crowd, such as, when will he be touring with Bauhaus again and would he come to a party that night, he answered each like he was Terrance Stamp in “Yes Man,” whilst conducting a mega self-help seminar. That was until one young lass asked, “When you toured with Bauhaus in 1997 you held my hand. How did that feel?” Touché.

We headed from there to see our other roomie, Marc Krebs, a writer and musician from Sweden who was playing drums for Andy White (, Belfast N. Ireland) at the 18th Floor Hilton Garden Inn. We also took the opportunity to sit at the bar to enjoy the show, letting our feet take a breather from the pounding cement. I couldn’t help but overhear a chat between some guys, one of which was complaining about that if he wore his boots one minute longer his feet would become “a bloody mess,” and they proceeded to exchange footwear with each other. I had seen this go on between chicks, but when the dogs are barkin’, I guess machismo goes right out the window.

60 Tigres60 Tigres ( from Monterrey, Mexico, was next on the list. We entered the aptly picked venue, Flamingo Cantina, which was hosting a number of Latin bands that night. I’ve had many signs thrown my way telling me I need to pick up my Spanish again, and this was another one.

And that’s the thing more music fans have experienced in the past few years: the ability to greatly appreciate music even though you have no idea what the hell they’re singing. As our world grows smaller, music is at a central point that transcends language barriers.

As most fans sang along, the three of us were definitely the minority in the crowd who only knew the band by listening to a few MySpace tracks. In a live setting, the electro-aspects of those digital songs were transformed into a grittier rock show. The beats were still there, but the band’s passion was more raw as lead singer/bassist Roberto Polo bounced around the stage, at times colliding with the other guitarist and feeding off drummer/vocalist Alejandro Elizondo.

It was hard to leave, but I was trying to meet up with my other Denver bud, Serena, who had just gotten picked up at the airport by Kurt Soto from Vans. I had them meet me at Beauty Bar, where Deathset ( was about to go on. Before the two arrived, Deathset appeared and as they did, beer went flying. I was only able to get a few camera shots in before I had to bail for fear that I and my camera would get destroyed. After wiping off the PBR and checking to make sure everything was working, I was finally able to enjoy the chaotic, punk-rock-meets-Spank-Rock set from a safe distance near the bar.

I finally met up with said friends in the Vans Winnebago parked outside the venue, where Oliver “Ducky” Peck ( was at working his ink artistry and members of Gallows were kicking back.

Exchanging our show priorities for the night, I left as they set off for Devo and went back into Beauty Bar to enjoy some sitting/drinking time while Juiceboxx ( came on. After a rather drawn out, self-deprecating intro, he finally got going and rallied the kids to join in. Drink finished and tab closed out, it was time for Black Lips and Primal Scream at Cedar Street.

Black LipsI knew this one would be packed, so I found my way up top to get a spot to shoot from the balcony. Although Black Lips ( have built quite the reputation for debauchery during their sets (we’ve all heard about the antics that got them kicked out of India, but if you have not, check it –, I had a feeling we wouldn’t see urination streams tonight. I was right. Aside from Cole Alexander’s signature spit and catch-in-the-mouth trick, the 30-minute SXSW set limitations kept the focus on the music, which was as happy and catchy as ever…like a modern day Beach Boys Babylon party thrown by Brian Wilson and his buddy Charlie at Spahn Ranch.

Towards the end of the set and after I’d gotten a good number of shots in, security came through to check for VIP wristbands. Oops. Guess I passed right past whomever was supposed to be checking, so I made my way to the back bar to listen to the songs that remained (can’t actually see the stage from there). The bonus was meeting some cool folks and enjoying a cool beverage under the stars.

Although it’s much less hectic and easier to shoot from above, I dove feet first (so to speak) into the many that crowded the Cedar courtyard waiting for Primal Scream ( to take the stage. Aside from the drunk, idiot chick who insisted on using me as a support mechanism, I couldn’t help but absorb the sheer happiness, excitement and anticipation shared by all us sardines.

Having been a fan from way back, when the group was known more for their psychedelic Brit-pop tracks like “Loaded” and “Higher Than The Sun,” (Screamadelica, 1991) but never having seen the band live, Primal Scream was at the top of my “must see” shows for this year’s Southby.

The mere appearance of Bobby Gillespie’s smiling face before chord one, and the kids were already going crazy. It was obvious that this enthusiasm was driving the rather large bouncer a bit nutso. Time and again he would move in when things got too close to a punk show, trying his best to turn down the moshing action.

When Primal Scream went into “Swastika Eyes,” all bets were off. A rather small fellow (guessing he was a manager of sorts for the band), about half the size of the bouncer, finally pulled the big buy off the thrashing fans, giving him a talking-to, which I’m guessing went something like this, “I appreciate that you’re trying to do your job, but this is a rock ‘n roll show. I’m ordering you to stand idly by and let the boys and girls cause each other harm. Understand?”

That’s when I noticed that Gillespie was actually humored by how crazy things were getting and was encouraged to spark the flames even more, leaning into the crowd as he dove into “Get your rocks off! Get your rocks off, honey! Shake it now now/Get ‘em off downtown!” as we all sang along. Or should I say, screamed along. It was nuts and pure heaven.

When Primal Scream left the stage we all kind of stood there, sharing in the dirty, exhausted, ears-ringing afterglow/aftermath with big smiles and a shared but unspoken brother-sisterhood at what we had all just experienced. Even though it was only day-2 of SXSW, I knew nothing was going to top this. It was the type of SXSW memory that will stay with me, far into my golden years.

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


Sign up to our newsletter and get updates to your mailbox