As an annual tradition, Day Five kicks off with the Bay Area BBQ at the house where I stay. It ends up being an all SF Bay Area day, as we venture out for music later; but in the meantime, we’ve got Oakland’s Saviours represented at the BBQ, as well as Frisco’s Thee Oh Sees, who’s singer/guitarist John Dwyer (Coachwhips, Ziegenbach Kapf, Pink & Brown) picks me out from across the room. “You’re everywhere I go,” he tells me. “There’s actually two of me,” I reply.
Later, I sneak out of the party and hitch a ride downtown to Emo’s, where Thee Oh Sees have a dusk set. As soon as I get a beer and sit down, the door swings open and in walks Dwyer, astonished, saying, “Dude, it’s really true.”
They pull out the stops and throw a flying middle finger at anybody who says this is a wind-down day. Dwyer jumps around with rock energy as it’s the first day of tour, and, co-vocalist Brigid Dawson belts every note while keeping a steady tambourine shake.
Just across the street at Room 710, S.F.’s newest buzz band, Dodos are setting up for a set of their signature edgy bluesy rock. They do keep it pretty mellow compared to the raucous TOS set—and to previous sets I’ve seen from the Dodos themselves. Don’t get me wrong, though; it isn’t a sleeper. They’re a meticulously good and thoroughly impressive twosome.
It’s a good thing revelers recognize that Red River Street is open to traffic tonight (it’s been pedestrians-only for the past four days), or the hospitals would have a lot of run-over victims on their hands. Back across the street again, SF’s Master Slash Slave plays a short, but highly energetic (and unannounced) before, once again, Thee Oh Sees take the stage at Beerland, belting out an even more thrilling set than the one at Emo’s. Now that’s just showing off.
Finally, we officially wrap up SXSW 2008 back at the house, where Saviours have initiated a pants-off dance-off to Billy Joel. Having heisted Thee Oh Sees tambourine (to be returned back in Frisco), I pull that shit out of my bag, drop my drawers, and commence the jigglin’.
Having seen some sixty bands in five days, composing 8,000 words, and shot 2,500 photos, I can’t say there are any regrets. I saw almost everything on my list, and a whole lot that wasn’t.
I do wish that I had seen Jim Ward (At The Drive-In, Sparta) in his side project, Sleepercar; Apparently Crystal Castles were phenomenal; and there was a long list of rappers and hip-hop groups that I would have checked out if I had more time or had a clone blow-up doll in my luggage.
Rumor has it REM was phenomenal, and in all the years I’ve been a fan of them, I’ve never seen them perform. Same goes for Motorhead. And though I’ve seen Iggy Pop, I would have liked to have caught The Stooges.
On the bright side, Hong Kong Blood Opera blew us away, and our hearts were warmed by the Wombats and Does It Offend You Yeah–neither of whom we were familiar with at all until we saw them. Trash Fashion also brought pleasant surprises with changes in their sound and style.
Next year I’m making a point to take in a lot more of the foreign bands, because there is so much buzz and hype around American acts that they are pretty much already blown up by the time SXSW is over. The foreign bands are where the hidden gems tend to be, and that will definitely be a focus next year.
For now, it’s been a blast, but I’m glad it’s over.