And so it begins… South By Southwest 2006, the 20th year of musical madness in Austin, Texas, the self-proclaimed "music capital of the USA!" Eight billion bands play in any available nook and cranny, some already massively popular, some hoping to catch the ears of radio programmers, media, and honest-to-goodness music fans. (And sometimes all three.)
But first there's the plane ride, always filled with people going to SXSW, chatting about the shows they're going to see. We hear a woman say she's going to see Wilco, and even get a little excited–they're not scheduled to play, and SXSW always springs a surprise or two–but it turns out she's pretty damn wrong. Wilco is playing in Mississippi tonight. Alas, only 1, 300 more bands to choose from.
But you've gotta wait. The first day of SXSW Music (it's preceded in the week by SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive) is a zoo, and everybody who purchased or somehow earned a badge (the all-access–sorta) must wait in a line to get it. A SXSW worker–they're everywhere!–tells someone behind us in line, "Everybody has to wait in this line. Everybody who gets a badge is the same. The Beastie Boys had to wait in this line. Elijah Wood had to wait in this line." We think he said, "Charlize Theron didn't have to wait, though." After getting the badge, you're set free on the town–the vast majority of venues are right on 6th Street, all clustered near each other. And so begins our blow-by-blow.
7:08 p.m.: To the average Joe, he probably just looks like a weird, possibly homeless guy, but he's a celebrity here: While waiting for a table at a Thai restaurant, in ambles Dinosaur Jr's J Masics, with grey mane attached. We dine with Eric Bachmann of Crooked Fingers, official "friend of The A.V. Club, who tells us that he's trying to finish up a solo record, to be released in August. Nice.
8:14 p.m.: At the opposite end of the indie-rock celebrity spectrum… We spot former O-Town member (they're the boy band from Making The Band, remember?) Jacob Underwood, who now sports big ol' dreadlocks. Does anybody else here recognize him? It's doubtful. Kyle says, "It looks like all the indie-rockers from all over America came here and started their own city."
10:30 p.m.: We end up at an invite-only party for Blender magazine's 20th anniversary (are they that old?), which is taking place at a produce warehouse outside the main drag. The event promises a "red carpet," which I, for one, can't resist. The promised celebs (Elijah Wood, Tommy Chong(!)) never materialize. There's a scramble to take photos of a guy we don't recognize, so I offer Kyle $20 to ask him who he is. He sorta wusses out by instead saying, "What's your name?" It turns out to be jazzy Brit singer Jamie Cullum, which excites mostly no one. Also appearing on the red carpet: Singer-songwriter Rhett Miller, who looks way too dressed up.
11:55 p.m.: The music finally starts, with buzzing Twin Cities band Tapes N' Tapes, who are at least partially worthy of the hype around them here. Like many bands, they're scheduled to play here 3-4 times over four days. The fashion-forward crowd seems unenthused–they're not here to be enthused–but the band is pretty great. We don't stick around for Echo & The Bunnymen or Spoon (or all the free liquor).
12:32 a.m.: I accidentally catch the tail-end of an unintentionally hilarious British band called The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, which is sorta proto-modern-metal-punk that seems to love Danzig and hardcore. I just assumed they were weird no-names on a British showcase, but apparently they're hep enough to rate an upcoming collaboration with UNKLE… Makes me wanna hear the record. Sort of.
1:06 a.m.: The Rakes may be this year's future of Brit-rock–funny, cutting, catchy, and great. Singer Alan Donohoe looks and dances like Ian Curtis, but the band sounds like a fashion-unconscious Bloc Party, with tight songs more important than their presentation. That makes for a riveting performance, which includes the monster single "Retreat," as well as a Serge Gainsbourg cover. Amazing.
More from me soon. Some from Kyle and Marc soon, hopefully!