Houston Calling

SXSW 2006 recap

March 19th, 2006 · No Comments

Day 1 (Wednesday)

On the first day, I started off with an early drive to Austin. I had seen Mogwai at Number’s on Tuesday night so it was a late night, but I managed to make it to “Capitol City,” check into my hotel, find a decent parking spot, and make it to the convention center for my badge and free stuff in plenty of time to meet up with donewaiting.com founder Robert Duffy, graphic designer Clint Reno, and Chip, who were hanging with some of the guys from Columbus-based band Miranda Sound (who have a new album coming out very soon). I showed up at Emo’s just in time to catch Ohio-based Gil Mantera’s Party Dream, who are crazy but played a legendary set. I can honestly say I have never, ever seen anything like that before. Their album is at the top of my “to purchase” list.

I also caught What Made Milwaukee Famous at Emo’s before heading off to see Houston’s Southern Backtones, who I had written down as playing at 3pm. Wrong. Instead, I saw Albuquerque quirky duo called Fast Heart Mart, who were entertaining. I found out that the Backtones were instead playing at 5pm, so I caught Austin’s The Octopus Project at Red Eye Fly. They’re going to be playing Coachella this year, so if you’re going to the CA desert for that please do yourself a favor and catch their set.

Southern Backtones played a great set — and it was good to see Hank and the guys doing what they do best. I caught a few songs from Austin musician Johnny Goudie, who was nice to see live.

After their sets, I had an hour or so to spare and spent some time just sitting before catching God’s Temple of Family Deliverance at Spiro’s Patio. What a performance! Loud, loud, loud. I think someone’s ears started bleeding.

After their set, I caught the very impressive band The Headlights (from Champaign, IL) at the Polyvinyl showcase at Emo’s, along with Chicago-area band The M’s, who were too middle-of-the-road for me. I had heard good things about them but it didn’t impress me. Nor did Belle & Sebastian, whose show I waited 10 or 15 minutes in line for (with a badge) before splitting to catch New Zealand electro-disco act The Presets. To be honest, by this time I was pretty exhausted, and needed more “rock” than B&S could offer. The Presets were okay, and pleased most of the crowd, but nothing compared to the intensity of Wolfmother. This Australian trio mixes Zeppelin, Sabbath, Styx, ELP, and QOTSA and somehow makes it all work. There was definitely a lot of hype surrounding this show, but I enjoyed it — I know a lot of people left during their set though. The club was packed and hot, and by that time I was very tired, but I slogged through. Their energetic set made it pretty easy, actually.

Afterwards, I stopped in at Stubb’s to wrap-up the night and caught the last half hour of Mogwai‘s set. It was packed, loud as usual, and just as good as seeing them in Houston. Their new album, Mr. Beast, is out now so go buy a copy.

Click to read about my second day of SXSW…

Day 2 (Thursday)

My Thursday consisted of a good chunk of time at the Filter magazine day party, where I saw The Flaming Lips sit on stage and play songs from their new album from their computers. Frontman Wayne Coyne also did a brief Q&A before the band shuttled off to interviews elsewhere in Austin.

I watched a Leeds band called Duels, who put on an amazing performance — probably the best I saw this year, actually. This was their first U.S. appearance and I cannot wait to find their album, which promises to hold some impressive Britrock. Their set was intense and loud, and the crowd seemed really into it. Much thanks to Filter for the free BBQ.

Shortly after Duels, I caught Houston musician Lanky do his acoustic fare at Treasure Island (where my wallet was raped for a bottled water shaped like a flask — even the guy who sold it to me thought it was sad). From there, I caught Metric back at the Filter party and also ran over to see John Evans Band at Spill on Sixth, who played songs from his new album, Rambling Boy. Great shows by all.

I had a bit of a lag during the late afternoon during which time I tried to catch up with some friends but never did, tried to catch Mike Peters & The Alarm at an autograph session at the convention center (they didn’t get there in time), and walked through Flatstock (a concert poster convention at which I saw Clint Reno’s artwork).

I lived on free BBQ and energy drinks during the day, along with a coffee or two at some point. I waited around a bit at the convention center for a bus to Town Lake Stage and saw the huge turnout for the Spoon and Echo & The Bunnymen shows. I despise festivals — would much rather see bands in intimate settings — and seeing the throngs of people almost made me turn back, but I stayed and am glad I did. Both bands did incredible sets — it’s been a little more than a month since I saw Spoon in Houston, but nearly 20 years since I saw Echo & The Bunnymen live. They played mostly newer material, but threw in classics like “The Cutter,” “Bring On The Dancing Horses,” “Villier’s Terrace,” “Lips Like Sugar,” and even some Doors and Lou Reed covers. It made me very happy to be a part of the crowd. Many younger audience members obviously only know the band from their 1984 song “The Killing Moon,” which appeared in the semi-recent film Donnie Darko, but it was good to see such a large crowd for a band that reached the peak of their popularity in 1987 or 1988…

After that, I relaxed for an hour or so and chatted with the love of my life before meeting up with Chip for the walk to Factory People for a party that featured a bunch of DJs, including The Prairie Cartel (which features members of Caviar and Local H). We had to wait in line maybe five minutes, despite being on the guest list, but managed to get in with plenty of time to spare. I didn’t feel like carrying a goodie bag, so I am sure I missed out on some nice free stuff. More on The Prairie Cartel later, but I’ll just say that their set was probably the most fun I had today…

After their set, I left my friends and shared a cab with a very irate Australian woman and her cohort and made it to Elysium in time to see The Alarm. As you know from a previous post, I am a fan of The Alarm from way back and since Mike Peters was recently diagnosed with leukemia he wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to make the trip over to play SXSW (or ever in the USA again). Thankfully, he did — and apparently received good news from doctors at the Baylor College of Medicine in Dallas on Wednesday.

The Alarm’s set consisted mainly of songs from their new album, which hits U.S. stores in May. They also played “Sprit of ’76” — one of my favorites — and the song that got the band renewed worldwide interest, “45 RPM.” it was a good show to see and the crowd seemed really into it — most of it, anyway.

It was nice to be able to see two bands (Echo & The Bunnymen and The Alarm) that I first saw live when I was a teenager. A great ending to another fun-filled day at SXSW.

Day 3 (Friday)

I was invited to attend Filter magazine’s first blogger’s brunch at Cedar St. Courtyard. It was nice to finally meet Penny and Danielle, who work for Filter in L.A., and also to hang out with some of the donewaiting guys for a while. After some breakfast tacos and coffee (thanks again for the free food), I headed to Lucky Lounge to meet up with some friends. Instead, I saw another band I had never heard before — Metal Hearts — and ended up running into the friend of a friend, who works for Saucony shoes. A free grab-bag and a free pair of shoes later, I was heading to my car to feed the meter. That’s the weird thing about SXSW, to me at least: all of the free stuff. Ah, marketing…

I headed back to the Filter party (yet more free BBQ and drinks) to catch Silversun Pickups, who put on a stellar show. I love seeing bands I have never heard of — especially when they blow me away. It was a fantastic set, with plenty of energy (which, at 1:15pm, can be kind of tough for musicians). I also managed to make it to the Australian Music Collective‘s BBQ, saw the wonderfully shoegazey Decoder Ring — and had more free food.

Since I was so close to the convention center at that point, I went back to Flatstock and bought posters from Galaxyreno and from Yee Haw Industries, whose work my wife loves. Ran back to the car to drop off the posters and get some water, then I headed back to the Aussie BBQ in time to meet up with Chip to see a band called The Flairz, whose average age is 12 years old. No, really. And they rocked. No, really. Check them out here.

I left the BBQ and, against all logic and advice, walked all the way to Waterloo Ice House to see Tody Castillo, who I was told was playing at 4pm. I arrived at 4:10 or so, sweating like a pig, and saw no sign of Tody. In fact, John Evans Bands’ drums were on the stage. To say I was livid would be an understatement since I had just left the comforts of free food and free drinks, not to mention great music, to walk way too long to get to a bar whose doors I would probably never darken otherwise, and the band I wanted to see was apparently not playing. I decided to wait it out and had a drink to cool off.

Thankfully, I ran into Steve (the bassist in Tody’s band), who informed me they were third on the bill. Fine. Mando Saenz was awesome as usual, especially in such a small setting. Austin Collins, an Austin musician, was good as well. Both musicians play typical singer/songwriter stuff, but their songs have a more impressive bent that most. My friend James (aka “Hellvis”) showed up just in time to catch Tody Castillo’s set, which really had the crowd going by the end. The two or so hours there were a blur, and it was relaxing just to sit and not be bombarded with the preening and posing of the people on the 6th St. strip.

Eventually, I made the trek back downtown in time to catch Maserati‘s set at Whisky Bar. It was packed, but was a good performance. They will have a new record out this summer, and it was good to see so many people still interested in their music. Afterwards, I made my way to Stubb’s and ran into old friends Mike and Blake, and went inside to see Chip. I watched one song of the White Rose Movement‘s set, which blew, and left to meet up with Mike at Nuno’s for Goldrush, who were impressive live. I was never that big of a fan of their records but think they kill live.

I left Mike to go see Blockhead DJ at Oslo. It was a strange place — a lounge, something I am never quite comfortable in. But once Blockhead started mixing Tegan and Sara I knew things would be fine. I had hoped to meet up with the editor of Envy magazine, who got me the badge to SXSW, but he never showed up.

My camera ran out of batteries at this point so I have no evidence of the rest of the night, but I didn’t stand in line for Sharon Jones & Dap Kings, decided to avoid trying to get in to the Cordless Records showcase to see The Alarm, blew off David Garza’s set, and instead chose to visit with my aforementioned friends at Stubbs for Metric (again), The Magic Numbers, and Snow Patrol. This was basically a repeat of 2004 SXSW (not the bands, but the situation and parties involved — but a good time was had by all).

At 2am, the streets were full of aimless people and plenty of Austin’s finest. I made it back to the motel with minimal traffic and without incident, and slept like a rock. It was raining when I awoke, so I decided to call it a weekend and left for Houston. My plans for Saturday originally involved more day parties and a lot of “playing it by ear,” so I feel I really didn’t miss much — and managed to stay dry and safe. I was home by 11am and in my baby’s arms shortly thereafter. Another great day.

By the way, you can read my SXSW preview in the March issue of Envy magazine and should be able to catch my post-SXSW wrap-up, with various interviews and photos, in the April issue. Pick up a copy next time you see it (most places in Montrose and downtown have them for free) and let me know what you think.

Now Playing: the ringing in my ears…

Tags: Music