Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Day Three: The Race Continues

FRIDAY, MARCH 16

12:06pm: The line outside Red 7 for the first day of the David Cross-curated "Mess With Texas" party is HUGE. Andrew W.K. will kick off the day there with a motivational speech.

12:45pm: You've gotta try one panel at SXSW–they're what make this thing more convention-ish! "Comedy On The Music Circuit" gathered some funny people to discuss a not-too-funny topic: stand-up performed at rock clubs instead of comedy clubs. Funny panelists made it worth a look, though: David Cross and Zach Galifianakis teased each other and moderator Bob Mehr; Jon Wurster talked about bits that didn't work; Henry Owings of Chunklet magazine is always good… And it was revealed that Andrew Earles, one half of the crank call team behind a hilarious disc called Just Farr A Laugh had, along with his partner, signed to Matador. (Maybe that was a joke…) Key moment: Galifianakis took the little sign with his name on it, then wrote on the back in marker, "Buy my fucking DVD" and displayed that instead. Here's another panel title: "Why Does Today's Music Sound Like Shit?" Duh, I could answer that with three words: "Too many bands."

2:16pm: I reach Buffalo Billiards in time to see Andrew Bird's last song, "Scythian Empires," which he's performing in a small-ish room for broadcast on a radio station. His new album is pretty undeniable, especially those bits that sound like Red House Painters.

3:01pm: Next it's to Stubb's for the yearly Spin Magazine party, which always attracts worthwhile names: Mew ends as we arrive, and Galactic (which will feature some guest rapppers here) starts up.

3:59pm: But it's a quick jump down the street to see the full set by Toronto's young saviours of rock, Tokyo Police Club. They have just one EP out and barely enough material to fill an opening slot at this point, but they're fresh-faced, energetic, and pretty much completely amazing. Yep, they sound a little like The Strokes, but there's no hip vibe at all, just bushy-tailed enthusiasm, handclaps, and straightforward, tuneful rockinginess. This is the best set I've seen by any band this year.

5:15pm: Is Zach Galifianakis the funniest person alive? I imagine I'm in the minority even considering it, but he is so dry and silly and smart, I think it must be true. He reads one-liners off a page, and then says, "I don't have any jokes written down here. It just says, 'Be yourself and have fun with it."" Buy his new DVD, Live At The Purple Onion. Just buy it. His twin brother Seth will haunt your dreams.

5:45pm: Maritime plays an acoustic set in a bar that looks like what people thought the future would look like in 1974, even though it was clearly built recently. They are great. (There's a theme here, of me catching many of the bands that played our party but that I didn't have a chance to watch closely!) This party, and everything else at SX, is branded "slacker.com"–but NO ONE that I ask knows what slacker.com is selling. Or doing. Or about. I'm typing at a computer that's connected to the Internet, and I can't be bothered to investigate. The logo must not be very effective.

9:31pm: Okay, this is pretty amazing: One of the huge, ugly multipurpose rooms in the Austin Convention Center has been converted into a set by DirecTV, who are hosting and filming bands all day. It's bizarre. Peter Bjorn & John, buzzed-about pop whistlers from Sweden, are finishing their performance and I feel like I'm watching Top Of The Pops circa 1986. In a good way.

10:54pm: I have sent more text messages today than in the rest of my life combined; they're the only sure form of communication when loud music is pouring from every surface. This one says: "Stubb's. Perry Farrell. Yuck." It's his new-ish band, Satellite Party, featuring the guitar player from Extreme and Farrell's wife, whose job is to dance around like she wants to do sex. (Yawn.) Perry says to the audience, "I want to come out there and fuck all of you." (Yawn.) He does bust out one Jane's Addiction song, "Ain't No Right," so that's something.

11:30pm: I'm incredibly tempted to see Yo Majesty again, but I choose to savor the memory of Wednesday's performance instead.

12:06am: One of my favorite albums of 2006 was Headlights' Kill Them With Kindness, a sweet, bubbly pop album full of boy-girl vocals and buoyant energy. The Champaign, Illinois band is even better live. And they tour constantly, so get in on the fun.

1:11am: The "special guest" at the Arts & Crafts label's party turns out to be (no surprise) The Dears, who are pretty terrific all around. (Here's a fun story: On our plane to Austin, singer Murray Lightburn was in my seat. He politely asked if we could trade so he could sit next to his wife, who's also in The Dears.) Lightburn introduced the band as "Broken Sexual Chocolate" and "Token Social Scene" (those jokes are funnier if you know that he's black) and rollicked through a gang of songs from last year's Gang Of Losers. Lightburn needs to tell guitarist Patrick Krief to stop making those sexual O-faces when he's solo-ing though. Ugh. For a brief moment, I think, "What a great way to end this year's SXSW!" Then I realize I've got another day to go, which brings feelings of anticipation mixed with fatigue. Anticipation wins out.