Thanks to the oxygen sensor on our plane yesterday, the warnings from which delayed our flight four hours, Josh & I spent a sad amount of Thursday gathering the various wristbands we would've collected yesterday. To attend SXSW is to endure the eternal quest for access to all the parties, shows, and weird events that happen roughly 20 hours a day. Of course you'll never be able to make them all, and chances are you won't remember which you've RSVP'd for. And even once you arrive to pick up your credentials, there's a good chance your information never made it to the right people, and you're shit out of luck.
In a way, SXSW is all about greed. Not (necessarily) the financial kind, but something more abstract: access. Everyone wants access to everything, and SXSW's rigid class system (badges>wristbands>Joe Public) activates the gluttony centers in attendees' brains. You may not necessarily even want what's in that swag bag or to hear the bands playing that party, but you'll fight to the death to have the option.
So that's why it's important to run these errands instead of seeing music (for now)—I want to make sure Future Me can see anything he wants. That dick, always making me do shit.
Once Josh and I make the rounds to get the Perez Hilton, Carrera lounge, and Fader Fort passes, we finally head to the Found magazine party, which is headed up by friend o' The A.V. Club and all-around great dude Davy Rothbart. A crowd stretches along Seventh Street to Red River to get in, but there's a separate "line" for guest list. All of this converges on one poor door guy, who was fairly cordial given his nightmarish situation. A former door guy myself, I want to punch a dude in the face who isn't on the list and has the balls to argue with the doorman. He's not on the list, so he just wants to get in anyway because it's a free party. There are a couple hundred people in line, but he doesn't want to wait, so he wants the door guy to give him a break. No, dude, you give him a break.
And thus at the relatively late hour of 3:30, my day o' music finally begins.
3:27 p.m. – Starting the day off is "Northern Rock" band Great Lakes Myth Society, who makes me wonder why more bands don't use accordion. When I first walk in, they remind me a bit of Rocket From The Crypt (one of my favorites), but the similarities disappear pretty quickly. Singer Timothy Monger looks like he could be related to Arcade Fire's Win Butler, and the group's aggressive, off-kilter rock could segue well with that band. More apt: The band cites XTC on its MySpace page.
3:35 p.m. – My tweets are rebuffed with a curt error message telling me Twitter is over capacity. SXSW breaks Twitter; the world rejoices.
3:46 p.m. – "And just in case we get famous this weekend, we'll be signing autographs in the back," Monger says. "You never know!"
4 p.m. – Josh & chat with Davy for a bit. Found No. 6 is out now, there's a new book coming out (where celebs like Seth Rogen, Jim Carroll, and others, along with non-celebs, talk about good finds), and a film in the works. It's pretty bizarre, but hilarious: It's based on the true story of Rothbart's brief phone-sex relationship with a stranger who turned out not to be what he thought. (He wrote a story about it for GQ.) It's called Easier With Practice and should be coming out this fall. Check it out.
4:10 p.m. – We make our way to the Alternative Press party, which is traditionally a relatively small, invite-only affair with cool swag bags. Something's different this year, because a giant line stretches down the block to get in. I still haven't eaten today, so I say nuts to this, suckas.
5:15 p.m. – How much product does it take to make Esser dude's hair stand on end like it? The posters hanging around the venue make him look like Bello Nock, the self-proclaimed best clown in America. But I don't think Nock worships at the altar of Morrissey as much as this dude does.
5:40 p.m. – Following Esser is Blur's Graham Coxon, who plays with a simple setup of him and his acoustic guitar. During the opening song, Coxon shows off his guitar skills, going pick-less and using his fleet fingers to pluck strings. It looks tough, and Coxon shows his relief when the song finishes. "I got to the end—cheers!" he says.
5:53 p.m. – The buzz around SXSW this year is once again about established artists—Metallica's not-so-secret gig Friday, Kanye's similarly out-of-the-bag one Saturday, and tonight, Jane's Addiction at the Playboy party. To be honest, Perry Farrell used up all of the goodwill I had for him and his seminal band years ago. Seeing Coxon here, I kinda wish Damon Albarn were flying in for a Blur reunion. (My wife, who arrives Saturday, would be especially psyched to see Albarn walking around. "Oh…sorry, I took off my wedding ring by accident…")
6:01 p.m. – Coxon prefaces his third song by saying, "I had to stop this song yesterday because it was freaking me out," then adds a funny story about the soundman telling him his glasses were causing feedback. Just in case that total bullshit story is true, Coxon wears different glasses today.
8:53 p.m. – At the Jagjaguwar showcase, I see another variation of the old Beatles shirt: Malea & Sasha & Barack & Michelle. Can we please stop making these now? And while we're at it, cease the variations of "Listen to Black Sabbath," like the one I saw at Jimmy John's today: Listen to Kris Kross. Oh well, complaining about dumb ironic T-shirts at SXSW is like cursing the sky for being blue.
9:05 p.m. – Bishop Allen begins their set with "The Ancient Commonsense Of Things" from the new Grrr…. The band has the breezy charms of Vampire Weekend, but lacks that group's annoying preciousness. Well, calling a record Grrr… is pretty damn precious. Hmm, maybe I like Bishop Allen more because they play more straight-ahead rock without going off on self-consciously worldly tangents. Have I belabored how boring I think Vampire Weekend is yet?
9:15 p.m. – Signs making explicit and threatening prohibitions about the use of cameras adorn every SXSW venue, but they're completely ignored. You just can't stop technology, folks: Everyone has a camera in their phone, and festival staff don't even bother trying to stop people from taking pics with their tiny point-and-shoots. The phenomenon makes me chuckle when Bishop Allen plays "Click, Click, Click, Click"—chorus: "Take another picture with your click click click click camera."
9:40 p.m. – Sean mentioned in his Day One post about the curative properties of a SXSW hip-hop show, and I have to agree when I arrive at the Rhymesayers showcase. On stage is Minneapolis' I Self Devine, a big dude flanked by two MCs performing with an aggressive intensity that could not have sounded better. He's got a new album dropping July 21, The Sounds Of Low Class America, which I'll definitely pick up.
10:10 p.m. – God bless hip-hop shows, where it takes no time for transitions between performers. Just a couple of minutes after I Self Devine finishes, Abstract Rude ambles onstage, his flow sounding positively buttery compared to Devine's gasping exhortations. Unfortunately, I have to miss the rest of his set—and, frustratingly, the ones by Eyedea & Abilities and P.O.S., who I really wanted to see—to queue up for the Playboy party. It's undoubtedly the biggest, buzziest party at SXSW, and Shelley, its publicist, warned us all: Get there early, lest ye be shut out.
10:57 p.m. – Last year's Playboy party was in an old warehouse building with a few different rooms. This year's decommissioned Safeway lacks the same cool vibe. The emphasis this year is clearly on the performers, as a giant stage dominates the entire room. (In Houston, where I grew up, there were a couple of venues in similarly decommissioned stores: The Unicorn, where I saw my first real show—Jesus Jones and Ned's Atomic Dustbin!—and the International Ballroom. Ah, memories.) Hip-hop outfit Kenan Bell performs first, and I'm underwhelmed by the California MC's posturing. His live band is a nice touch, but his style comes across as a little prefab, at least compared to what I just saw at the Rhymesayers showcase.
11:30 p.m. – A remix of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" booms over the PA. Sean: "I'm gonna need to drink a lot more."
12:15 a.m. – Bassnectar lays it down after Kenan Bell, and his DJ skills put Shepard Fairey's last night into sharp relief. His danced-up take on Nirvana's "In Bloom" is a hit with the crowd, but he seems to play for an eternity.
1:37 a.m. – It wasn't really a secret that Jane's Addiction was performing tonight, just like Metallica's show Friday at Stubb's is an open secret. Like a lot of people, I'm skeptical of reunions, especially Jane's Addiction. And with good reason—they seem to reunite every few years, with middling results. That said, I'm struck by the boldness of opening with "Three Days," a slow-burner from Ritual De Lo Habitual. At the end of the song, frontman Perry Farrell puts his arms around eternally shirtless guitarist Dave Navarro and gives him a kiss. They're clearly enjoying themselves, and their enthusiasm makes the whole reunion feel much less like a crass cash-in.
1:48 a.m. – By "Ain't No Right," I have officially forgiven Farrell for the interminable Satellite Party set I endured at Lollapalooza a couple years ago. Jane's Addiction is tight, enthusiastic, and pretty fucking great. The rest of the set follows suit, with the crowd eating it up.
2:33 a.m. – A mass exodus follows the Jane's performance, though DJ A-Trak still has his set coming up. I've reached my limit of Izze-with-vodka, and we're all ready to go. Besides, nothing's gonna top that.