Gonna kick it root down–that was the big story at SXSW's second day. Beastie Boys made a surprise appearance Thursday night, opening a show at Stubby's that featured Deadboy And The Elephantmen, Noisettes, The Fiery Furnaces, The Dresden Dolls, Gomez, and Nickel Creek. Word traveled quickly late in the afternoon that the Beasties would perform, and the teeming masses converged on the club in the hopes of getting in. A TV news van was parked outside, a news helicopter circled overhead, and an overwhelmed club staff tried to cope with an unruly crowd intent on getting into the venue. A guest-list hook-up spared me from the anarchy.
Stubb's is a medium-sized venue, with a large outdoor stage and a large, sloping ground for the crowds, so sightlines weren't bad (once you got passed all the phones and cameras being held up). The Beasties took the stage to "Brass Monkey"–from 1986's License To Ill–of all things, and the crowd went crazy. People's enthusiasm made them easily forgive the B-Boys' obvious rustiness, and the Beasties kept the good will going by playing a set full of hits, from "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" to "Body Movin." A guy standing next to me, who was filming the whole thing, exclaimed at the beginning of their set, "Damn, they look motherfuckin' old!"
They were only supposed to play from 7:15 to 8, but how do you kick icons off the stage for an up-and-coming band? Answer: You don't. The Beasties stepped off around 8:30 or so, and they clearly enjoyed themselves the entire time (though MCA looked pretty winded during their set). The crowd then pretty much bailed en masse, without regard for buzz band Deadboy And The Elephantmen, who were next on the bill.
And now, the minutes of SXSW, Day The Second:
4:30 p.m. – Neko Case soundchecks with "Star Witness" in a tiny field house in a park overlooking the city at a party thrown for her by Anti- and Chicago club the Hideout (where case used to tend bar). The bass is feeding back, so the group stops for a minute or two before resuming at "Hey pretty baby get high with me / we can go to my sister's if we say we'll watch the baby…" SXSW simply doesn't get better than a small show with great music, free alcohol, nice weather, and an awesome view of the city.
8:47 p.m. – Guy walking crossing Sabine on Sixth Street talks on his phone: "Every time someone thinks I'm a loser, I can feel it." Blabbing on your cell phone at top volume isn't helping.
9:17 p.m. - En route to get some food, I notice numerous Red Hot Chili Peppers logos spray-painted on top of other people's posters and flyers with the release date for their new album. Because if anyone needs the help of viral marketing, it's a multi-platinum artist with a large, devoted fanbase–never mind the unknowns or relative unknowns whose posters are getting covered up. "There's buzz to build, people! We've got to keep these guys relevant!"
10:02 p.m. - Man walks down Sixth Street in a giant plastic ball, waving to the crowd and trailed by people in giant alien and insect costumes follow. SXSW has a little bit of a Mardi Gras kind of atmosphere, which may explain the Bible-beaters roaming the streets and urging people to repent. As the evangelicals shout over a megaphone, a woman next to me yells, "Elvis is my personal lord and savior!"
10:10 p.m. - Deadstring Brothers take the stage at Bourbon Rocks for the Bloodshot Records showcase. The vibe of the club is sports-bar jockiness (female boxing and the NCAA tournament are on the five giant HDTVs behind the bars) mixed with choad-y meat market. Waitresses walk the crowd with test-tube shots, and an MC talks constantly between bands in a cheeseball radio-DJ voice, "Hey folks, don't forget to try a shot, on $2! All right, stick around for more great music from Bloodshot Records artists!" What, no mention of jalapeno shooters?
10:11 p.m. - Deadstring Brothers singer Masha Marjieh asks, "Am I forced to watch TV while I play?" Answer: Yes. Singer-guitarist Kurt Marschke adds sarcastically, "Gimme some of that female kickboxing!" The Deadstring Brothers play an excellent set of country-fied Southern rock, which makes me want to revisit their Bloodshot debut, Starving Winter Report.
11:24 p.m. - Scott H. Biram–"the dirty one-man band"–plays a song about getting hit by an 18-wheeler, which actually happened to him. Biram's pleasantly abrasive hard blues is excellent, and he's a pretty electrifying performer–no small feat for a man whose setup consists of his voice, his guitar, and some kind of kick-drum contraption. He swears a lot.
11:37 p.m. - Biram debuts a new song: "Well if it tastes like chicken, and it smells like pee, you know that fish didn't come from the sea!" A few seconds later he adds, "That's all I got for that one." Really, does he need more?
12 a.m. - The cheeseball MC continues haranguing people over the PA to remind them that photos and video are STRICTLY prohibited. STRICTLY! I have a photo pass, so I'm okay, but it doesn't seem like any of the laid-back Bloodshot artists could care less about having their photos taken. None of them has yelled "You've stolen my soul!"
12:13 a.m. - Bobby Bare Jr. complains about the red-and-yellow stage lights before his band starts playing: "Could you turn off the yellow lights? I feel like I'm a cheeseburger in the yellow lights of life."
12:27 a.m. - Bare, son of country-music legend Bobby Bare, plays an excellent set of rocking Americana, a nice mix of country twang and rock bombast. He and the band are heading to Nashville to record a new album next week. He prefaces one song by saying, "This is a real beautiful song about staying up all night and watching your friends destroy themselves with cocaine." People cheer–for the cocaine reference or for the song?
1:10 a.m. - The Bottle Rockets take the stage, but the crowd has thinned noticeably. The group's new record comes out, purely by coincidence, on June 6th (6/6/06–get it?). They play the new album in its entirety. But by the third song, I'm feeling tired, and the new stuff isn't grabbing me, so I take my leave.
Day three promises to be a very long day. My feet are killing me. Why didn't I learn my lesson at CMJ about wearing Vans? But on Friday, we're scoring free shoes at a party. My feets is tired–but my soul is rested.