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

SXSW Day Three: Halfway Between Living And Dying

2pm: I'm tired, yo. "Oh, poor Mr. Rock Journalist is exhausted from partying and now he has to go cover more free concerts all day." Exactly. Thanks for your sympathy.

2:15pm: That line at Red 7 for the Mess With Texas party is fucking ridiculous. Good thing I already saw Les Savy Fav and David Cross on Wednesday.

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2:30pm: I scribble the following in my notebook: "Paul Scheer and Aziz Ansari just cut the line at the Pitchfork party!!!" Then I realize that they're probably performing inside. Paul Scheer looks like he's on his way to junior high. He has an unusually large backpack and a "sour puss," as my grandmother would say.

3:20pm: Menomena whips through some of the avant-pop tunes from Friend And Foe, one of my favorite records this year so far. The band looks a little worn out, and their voices are cracking. "Puberty is hard, especially when you're 30," the drummer says. Despite a great set, I spend most of the time worrying about the band's laptop, which is perched precariously on the edge of their keyboard and shudders with every bass note. I have a real anxiety problem about such things. It's why I bought one of those stupid ostentatious carrying cases for my iPod—though thus far I've turned the "Myspace wagon" down twice on their offer of a "free iPod sock or veggie dog."

4pm: Poor Aziz Ansari—a really funny guy with an unfortunately tiny voice—is fighting to be heard over the crowd. I can only catch a few words here and there over the chatter. A guy next to me asks, "Who the fuck is this and what the fuck is he talking about?" "Aziz Ansari and rape," I say.

4:30pm: Girl Talk is thoroughly enjoying his own set. Within the first five minutes he does a handstand on his turntables, tosses himself into the crowd, and does some of the most persistent yes-yes-y'alling I've ever heard from a skinny white boy who wasn't one of the Beastie Boys. Nobody takes him up on his offer to "move it in, 'cuz I don't give a fuck," but there's plenty of white indie rockers getting their freak on. This is fun, but I have to say, it seems too easy. Really, can't anyone throw on "It Takes Two" or "Bust A Move" and get people to dance? And the songs he's sampling aren't exactly crate diggers. I mean, half of his set is made up of Notorious B.I.G. and Clipse. P.S. To the guy playing "Spot The Sample" over my left shoulder: Dude, everyone recognizes Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is." It's right there in the fucking lyrics.

5:05pm: I've seen a lot of reprehensible fashion trends this week—cardigans, all-over print hoodies, neckerchiefs, girls in cankle-making cowboy boots—but this guy in the Russian-style fur hat with ear flaps wins. It's 75 degrees out here! And I'm pretty sure you look like a jackass in that even in New York.

5:15pm: My desire to see Peter, Bjorn & John is outweighed by my desire to eat a sandwich and watch last night's Lost. (Oh my God, Jack, WTF?!)

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10pm: My buddies from Misprint magazine are shut out of Red 7, which for some reason is only admitting people with badges. It's a totally bullshit decision on the label's part, considering the bar is barely half-full.

11:15pm: Portland's 31 Knots appears to be taking forever to get on stage, and the bass player is just standing there at the microphone staring off into space. Just as I'm starting to get frustrated a guy in a gold-spangled marching band uniform blows a whistle from out in the crowd and suddenly the band kicks in. The uniformed guy takes the stage and I see that it's frontman Joe Haege, who leads the trio through an absolutely blistering set. I'm not sure why these guys get tagged with the words "prog" or "math" so often; it's not like they dissolve into noodly solos or excessive wankery. Is it because they actually know how to play their instruments? Haege makes several costume changes, including wearing a devil mask and stroking a Bible and stripping down to a hand-lettered shirt that says "Consider Ate Motherfucker." Oookay.

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12am: I have sorely misjudged everyone's desire to catch The Dears on a tiny stage, so I've arrived at the Arts & Crafts showcase an hour early only to find, to my disbelief, that there's barely anyone here. Now I have to sit through the Broken Social Scene spin-off Apostle Of Hustle. Their soothing adult-contempo rock for aging hipsters isn't doing it for me—I half expect them to pull out a Santana cover—and the band looks like it was thrown together on Craigslist. The second guitar player looks especially incongruous: a white guy with Korn dreads and a do-rag dressed head-to-toe in death metal black. This sucks.

12:30am: The guitar player from The Dears turns to me in line for the Porta-Johns and asks, "Why do they have to put so many chemicals in these things? I'd much rather have the smell of piss than all this fake fruity shit." I remark that the smell always reminds me of high school, which we both agree is a bad thing.

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1am: I guess it's official: No one cares about The Dears anymore. Either that, or everyone already saw them when they opened for Bloc Party yesterday. Two years ago I couldn't get into their show to save my life; now they're playing for maybe 50-60 people. Their sound is huge, glorious, everything I wanted it to be, so I'm happy. Josh already stole the bit about how Murray Lightburn introduced them as "Token Social Scene"—which you saw me write in my notebook, Josh, you effing poacher—and he's already told you all about the guitar player's unfortunate case of Oh-face (as in "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm making these awesome sounds come out of my guitar") so I really have nothing else to add.

2am: A series of texts confirms that nearly every scheduled after-party has been broken up by the cops already. I smell a conspiracy. Could the SXSW committee be colluding with the police to put a stop to every unofficial showcase? Or has the Austin PD really just had it with turning a blind eye to all the late-night partying? Staying up until the wee hours at Factory People is one of my favorite SXSW traditions, and this year it's been taken away from me. I feel a palpable sadness going home this early. SXSW is almost over, and I've yet to have a night I can truly regret. Let's hope tomorrow's Stooges show takes care of that.

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