Hey-ya, and welcome to the music portion of our SXSW coverage. Leonard has already been letting you know—via blog posts—what’s up with South By Southwest Film, and now we’ve got FIVE faces on the ground to relay the music experience.
Today started with a slight hitch, which you already know if you’ve been following our bad-ass Tweets. (A kajillion people are here Twittering—Pop Candy, Pitchfork, etc. etc.) Anyway, the hiccup: a flight delayed for about 4 hours. For a while there, it looked like we wouldn’t make it to Austin at all (“All flights on all carriers to Austin are booked,” came the ominous announcement) but the rock plane—I’d say 75% SXSW attendees—eventually made it out of Chicago. Amen to that.
We missed a little bit, including a reception for press at the mayor’s office that Sean O’Neal can tell you about. (I should mention that, unlike in prior years, we’ll all be submitting stories separately. So hit the “see all” button on the front page to get the full, immersive experience. Oh, and follow our Twitters. We’re getting paid per twit.
So, after checking into the hotel and getting badges (no line at 9pm, which is nice), the first band I actually saw at this year’s fest was Fol Chen, a bunch of young Angelinos whose debut record came out earlier this year on the Sufjan-associated Asthmatic Kitty label. (This was, I should mention, the AK showcase.) The record is weird and occasionally fantastic, but the band doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with themselves on stage, particularly the main singer fella, who wore elbow-length fingerless gloves. Did I mention they all had raccoon-eye makeup on, too? Still, there’s something to be said for a band that describes itself as a mixture of Prince and Amon Duul II, and whose best song sings the praises of Janet Jackson’s “When I Think Of You.”
In the next room, a band with the terrible name Desolation Wilderness played. If they weren’t sloppy and in a tent, I might’ve enjoyed them more. As it was, just so-so.
Next up was the extremely young-looking Scottish band whose name I can’t be bothered to spell correctly, but you can check Kyle’s blog: Bananandanakyroyd or something. They were young and goofy and had two singers who shouted a lot, but it didn’t translate into anything too exciting for me, so I headed off to see if the line for The Decemberists was insane or not. It was. Badgeholders get preferential entry, and there were probably 300 of those in line, along with a couple hundred lesser citizens—those with only wristbands. No big deal, though; I’m not terribly keen on seeing the band’s new rock opera performed start to finish, and that’s what was on the bill. I held onto fond memories of seeing them at Buffalo Billiards five or six years ago.
I went back to the Asthmatic Kitty showcase to see DM Stith instead, which was decidedly not crowded. His A.V. Club-approved disc sounded pretty good (and Bon Iver-ish) to me on first listen, but after an interminable soundcheck (that cut into most of the set) and some over-earnest stage banter, I couldn’t hang. Sorry DM. Maybe next time, in a better setting. Here’s a song anyway.
I’m ashamed to admit that the band I was most excited to see tonight was Cash Cash, mostly because I find them to be endlessly confusing. Their debut disc, Take It To The Floor, arrived at our office early this year, and it demanded immediate attention, particularly a song called “Party In Your Bedroom.” It’s the most manufactured, pre-fab pop you’ve ever heard, but it’s played by a bunch of dudes—a couple of ‘em look like they’re about 17—from New Jersey who look like rejects from the All-American Rejects. They’re somewhere in between The Jonas Brothers and The Killers. “Party In Your Bedroom” should be as huge (and disrespected) as Ace Of Base’s “The Sign.” But who the hell is going to love this? It’s impossible to tell. Cash Cash is a puzzle wrapped inside an enigma.
Anyway, the show: There were maybe 40 people watching, with 3-4 completely intoxicated by the singer’s insanely tight jeans and zebra-striped headband. Every inch of these gents looked well worked-over by a stylist, from the drummer’s T.Rex shirt to the various kerchiefs on display. They should be playing at malls, but they’re going to be on this summer’s Warped Tour. I’m breathlessly curious about how the mall-punk kids will respond to something this insanely straight-forward being marketed to them. Are they the new Avril Lavigne or the new Fall Out Boy or… Some bizarre post-ironic hybrid? I just found an article in Seventeen online about Cash Cash’s tips for getting signed. I am so confused.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re not good. But I think I like Cash Cash in the same way I like the circus, not the way I like actual music. Anyway, listen to “Party In Your Bedroom” and then try to scrub it from your brain. And if Cash Cash plays in your town, check ‘em out. (If it’s like $7, don’t go crazy.) See you tomorrow, okay? Not sure what's on tap, except for the late-night Playboy party with lots of special surprise guests (ahem, Jane's Addiction, ahem).