Today is starting off slow and low in the SXSW Day Stage at Austin Convention Center. Thanks to Center-wide free Wi-Fi and a constant flow of live music, this is the perfect place to re-cap the 17 bands I saw yesterday, sort through photos, and still not feel like I’m missing out on the action.
As I hammer away at the keys, Ravens and Chimes from Brooklyn, NY hammer at their own with a brief set (all sets on the Day Stage are a scant twenty minutes long) of piano-and-synth-driven jangly pop. Dare I say, cute? Well, it’s a good eye-(or, ear-)opener.
Heading in to the land of wax (ok, ok, Serato), Chicago, DJ duo The Hood Internet kicks out the jams mano-a-mano on the ones-and-twos, mashing up everything from MIA to Phil Collins in an intentionally brash, but nonetheless skilled fader collision sesh.
Pushing the mix a step further, DJ Weez-L puts down the sonic red carpet for his Edmonton stagemate, Emcee R. Pemberton. Known artistically as Cadence Weapon, Pemberton released his second album, Afterparty Babies, just this month on Epitaph records. Having a father who is a hip-hop DJ, C.W. knows his field well and comes highly acclaimed. His confidence on stage is obvious, and he’s a complete distraction from the work I am trying to tend. I’m totally not bummed.
Suddenly the room is brimming with people and, immersed in an editorial cocoon, I realize that time has flown by and it’s already 3PM.
The clear highlight of the day is British punk/folk/socio-politician Billy Bragg. Setting out to prove what one man and an acoustic guitar—and a barely amplified electric one—can do, Bragg perches up and belts out his powerful, opinionated numbers as quickly as he can, given the time constraints. Acknowledging the fast pace, Billy says, “Last time I played in Austin, the stage manager told me I had a fifteen minute set. I said, ‘Well, what do you want me to play then?’ He said, ‘Well, I like your first record; just play some of the stuff off that.’ I told him, ‘In fifteen minutes, I could play the whole fucking thing.’ And I did.”
Bragg’s dedication to his political views is relentless, and at times, seems a bit over the top. He sometimes resembles a cross (no pun) between a Socialist Worker street peddler and a southern Baptist preacher. Nonetheless his ideals are right-on; and set to a good tune, you can’t argue with that.
Once the capacity room begins to clear out an obvious shift in attendees occurs in a matter of minutes.
Next up is hip-hop neo-legend Murs, the lunatic genius. “For all of you who just came here to eat,” he says, “I just want to warn you, you’re gonna hear the n-word, the f-word… And this is weird. I never perform to people sitting down.” As soon as he says this, the whole joint stands up. “No. Sit down, sit down,” he begs.
Apparently we are lucky to have Murs, as he is afflicted with a cold. “You’re lucky I’m here, because the United States government is trying to kill me. I eat a vegan diet and I run two miles a day and still I get this. It’s a conspiracy.” His material is flawless; listen to it all. In particular, check out “Transitions Of A Rydah.” Gotta love a rap about skateboarding.
Finally done with the First Day Renegate report, I hustle over to the roof of the Speakeasy for the annual Alternative Press party. Known for its scenic rooftop setting, a fully stocked open bar, catered food for all-ivores and lavish gift bags, we are first in line so as not to miss a beat.
Always a star-studded cast, I’m stoked to find the boys from Does It Offend You ,Yeah are showing off on the decks. The AP big wigs are at hand, as well as a gang-load of rock and roll press norms and some of the finest publicists on the planet. While there is no live entertainment this year, the DJ’d music rules, and a mellow Austin afternoon is more than welcomed after the grueling day one.
As the sun sets, I head into the Fader/Levis party at the fort for N.E.R.D. The show is running a bit late, but that’s fortuitous, as I unexpectedly catch Thurston Moore followed by Moby, who is joined on stage by Lou Reed. At the end of the set, Reed says, “I love punk… And I’m the first!” to which the audience ‘boo’s him off stage. Smug fucking cunt, he is! Don’t get me wrong; I love punk rock—whatever the fuck that means; but claiming to be the first punk is like claiming to be the first dodo to die.
After a long, long, l-o–n-g set-up—to the point that I started shooting the stage crew because I was so impressed with their performance—N.E.R.D finally gets up there and rocks it. Pharell Williams commands the crowd knowingly and the fans eat it up like ice cream melting on a stick. It’s just a bumping show. Nothing more; nothing less. Just like we expected. If you can bump it at home, you have to see it live.
Speaking of seeing it, Gil Mantera’s Party Dream is beyond words. Seeing them at Emo’s melts my brain and makes me need a wine enema. Seriously, I’m not being lazy; I just don’t know what to say. After their performance tonight, Kevine Lyman invited G.M. on Van’s Warped Tour for the full circuit. Don’t be unmoved by the capes. They really are supermen. See for yourself this summer (or, see below).
Trash Fashion is back from the U.K. for the first time since the band’s visit last spring, and during that time, have had a bit of a make-over. I’m curious to see how their fluorescent short-shorts (and not much else) will go over at Chain Drive, a barely south of downtown gay bar. The boys seem either oblivious or complacent about their digs tonight. They are dressed more like a Hives cover band than the scanty tramps that they were on last visit in Frisco. I can only presume this is because they don’t want to come across as gay floozies; but I’m quickly assured their adaptation to ties and vests is just a development.
“We’re the same band, really,” assures vox/key jock Jet. “We’re a rock band, essentially; with a bit of electro there, and a bit of dances. We’re just trying to have a bit of a laugh, and that’s not gonna change. That’s part of the reason that we have to keep changing what we do, because people don’t give you the time of day because of what you look like. It’s hard to get taken seriously sometimes.”
This is true, but how seriously are people supposed to take a band of naked Brits in fluorescent skivs? Jet proclaims that after their first American appearance they were copy-catted by other bands who stole their concept—of wearing bright pink short shorts? What, did they invent Body Glove?? Give me a break!
Assuming that was sarcasm, I got naked and spent the rest of the evening in the hot tub. Actually, I saw Phil Collins and Peter Cetera sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with Cindi Lauper and Captain Lou Albano doing back-ups. OK, I just saw Trash Fashion taking themselves seriously. You should too. Shit’s pretty rad.
With that, mine eyes, like little slits releasing sweet, steamy vapors through the top layer of a pie crust, retire for a scant three hours, until the sun reigns over Austin another day.