Every blogger under the sun kept a running journal of their SXSW 2007 experience (we’ll be linking to some of our favorites later this week). Heck, even David and I did it early in the week before we experienced some technical difficulties which kept us telling you all the bands we saw. So, instead of going back and giving you a day-by-day account, I’ve made a Top 10 list highlighting my favorite things about this year’s music festival.
10. Running into old friends
Though there are thousands of people attending SXSW every year, it seems pretty easy to run into people you know on seemingly every street corner. As I have the past 3 years, I ran into Rudy & Tom, the hosts of CD101’s Independent Playground (I swear, I don’t see either of them all year in Columbus); my old Sony college rep Jason Hradil (sorry I didn’t make the Friday night party); high school friend Clinton Holley, who was in Houston with his girlfriend visiting a friend and decided to head down to Austin to see what SXSW was all about; Carol Schmaucher, who I met as a Sony rep at the CMJ convention in ’93 and is now playing in the Reigning Sound and backing ex-Shangri-La’s singer Mary Weiss (one of the best quotes during SXSW week came from Carol: “It’s been a real rough week. I started the week backing Mary on the Conan O’Brien show and then I had to fly down to play SXSW and play a packed club. Life is rough.”); Barbara Mitchell, publicist extraordinaire that I’ve been working with for YEARS but have never met in person; Stacey Jones (ex-Letters to Cleo, Veruca Salt, American Hi-Fi) who isn’t really a friend but somebody I’ve met many times over the years; and Johnny 99, who I used to go see hair metal shows with at places like the Akron Agora and the Real Flash Gordon’s back in the early ’90s – his excellent band Silver Needle played a non-SXSW show at The Wave and opened with an ode to a popular High Street regular, “Don Bovee”.
Silver Needle performing at The Wave
9. The Trucks @ Ballard Party at the Big Red Sun (Friday, March 16)
This party was way the hell off the beaten path and the only reason I went was because I was hoping to bump into Ben London (he wasn’t there). I stuck around to see The Trucks while I drank a free beer (see: SXSW Top 10 – # 8). At first I thought it was silly – the singer was wearing workout gear that belonged in Olivia Newton-John’s video “Physical” and the songs were sort of in the Peaches/Le Tigre style. Then I thought it was strange – I mean, were The Trucks for real or was this some sort of Gil Mantera-like performance? As The Trucks wrapped up their set and I headed to The Belmont Inn, a good 15 minute walk away, I realized that I was humming some of their songs and that’s when I realized that they were not silly or strange, but music gold!
The completely adorable Maris from The Trucks
The Trucks performing at the Ballard Party
The Trucks being interviewed following their performance
8. Free beer
The first year I went to SXSW, I had good luck in finding shows serving free beer. The next two years I wound up paying for quite a few beers as I couldn’t find a free one to save my life. This year must have been my lucky one as I didn’t attend a single day party that wasn’t serving some sort of free alcohol. To me, beer and rock n’ roll go hand in hand. Sure, I can watch a band play without drinking a beer, but, hell, if you’re going to GIVE me as much beer as I can drink while watching some great music, well, I feel obligated to take advantage. (Best free beer of SXSW? See SXSW Top 10 – #1)
7. Yo Majesty @ Creekside Lounge (Wednesday, March 14)
Kevin talked me into checking out the “three 300-pound lesbian rappers from Tampa” and I’m glad he did. We hung out on the back patio at the Creekside, shooting the shit with Ben and a friend we met who bummed a cigarette from Kevin. I went in to the club to use the restroom only to discover that Macromantics (one of the handful of artists that I truly wanted to see this year) was performing in this tiny, makeshift venue. After Macromantics finished up her tight set, we headed back to the patio where Yo Majesty was hanging out (not quite 900 pounds in total, maybe more like 700) and Kevin took some killer photos. And then it was inside to witness the insane performance which included the trio performing their “hit” “Club Action” TWICE (with the chant-a-long chorus “Fuck that shit”) and inviting the hip, indie (read: white, Pitchfork-reading) boys to jump up and down right in the middle of the performance. Yo Majesty lived up to 2 Live Crew’s mantra, “Nasty as They Wanna Be”. Did I mention that Jewel “liberated” her right breast from the confines of her bra?
Found this on Youtube from Yo Majesty’s showcase performance. Warning: Contains nudity.
Yo Majesty dropping their shit at the Creekside Lounge
6. Celebrity encounters
Do enough looking around and you’re bound to run into a celebrity. True, it might be a B- or C- list celebrity, but a celebrity is a celebrity and I ran into (and got my picture taken with) Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips (who was filming segments for The Tonight Show), The Naked Cowboy (what was he doing in Austin???) and William Mapother, known to LOST fans as “Ethan” who was a truly gentlemen when I asked if I could have my picture taken with him.
Wayne Coyne, The Naked Cowboy, William Mapother
5. The Shys @ Exodus (Thursday, March 15)
On a bill with heavyweights like Jack’s Mannequin and Against Me!, The Shys held their own in front of a very respectable-sized crowd, many of whom seemed to be there to specifically see the band whose album, Astoria, was my #2 pick for “Best of 2006”. Debuting a number of new tracks – and some new band members since the last time I saw them – The Shys put on a great show and made me wonder why they weren’t more popular than they are. Singer Kyle Krone channels the stage moves of singers like James Brown and Greg Dulli. He makes ME believe in him and I’m sure I’m not the only one who firmly believes that the guy has all the makings of a true rock star. The only disappointment was not finding Kyle after the show as he said he had a CD of new material to give me.
Kyle Krone of The Shys
4. The Twilight Sad @ Emo’s Annex (Wednesday, March 14) and the Mohawk Patio (Wednesday, March 14)
I’m a sucker for Scottish bands and The Twilight Sad represent everything that I like about those bands – thickly-accented vocals and loud guitars. The short show at Emo’s was probably the loudest show I experienced all week in Austin, it was like a young Snow Patrol as influenced by My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr. Deafening. Later that night the show wasn’t quite as loud but the response was just as enthusiastic. These guys aren’t the most seasoned performers (yet) but given some experience, this band could be playing enormodomes within the next 5 years. I particularly enjoyed my pre-show conversation with the bass player, Craig Orzel, who told me about the band’s travels up and down the East Coast of the U.S.
3. The Prairie Cartel @ Emo’s Inside (Wednesday, March 14) and The Belmont Inn (Thursday, March 15)
Last year’s performance at The Factory People was a DJ gig with Mike Willison manning the iPods and Scott Lucas (Local H) singing atop the pre-recorded music. This year, The Prairie Cartel made their SXSW day party debut as a full band (Willison playing bass/keyboards, Lucas playing guitar/keyboards, Blake Smith playing guitar/keyboards and Dan Marsden on drums). The band had the advantage of playing one of Austin’s best-known clubs in one of the first spots of the week (12:30 on Wednesday) which meant they played in front of a LOT of people. Basically, The Prairie Cartel is Fig Dish/Caviar (Smith and Willison’s former bands) with a few new members and an updated sound (keyboards, samples) and I couldn’t be happier. Lucas was handing out Prairie Cartel CD-Rs to anybody that asked (thanks Scott) and he played a solo, acoustic show on Friday to an appreciative crowd at Momo’s.
Blake Smith of The Prairie Cartel at The Belmont Inn
Mike Willison of The Prairie Cartel at The Belmont Inn
Scott Lucas of The Prairie Cartel at The Belmont InnThe Prairie Cartel @ The Belmont Inn on
2. Great Northern @ the Filter Party at Cedar Street Courtyard (Thursday, March 15)
I didn’t even make it through one song on the band’s debut album, Trading Twilight for Daylight (Eenie Meanie Records) before reserving a spot on my “Best of 2007” list for Great Northern. Rachel Stolte has such a beautiful voice and it’s paired up nicely with Solon Bixler who either sings co- or lead vocals on many of the CDs tracks. This was one of the few bands that I had on my MUST SEE list for SXSW 2007 and while I knew they wouldn’t disappoint, I was truly enthralled by their performance under the warm sun during Filter’s excellent party (cheers Samantha!). I only wish I had had a few more opportunities to see Great Northern during the week but it just didn’t work out.Great Northern performing live at the Filter party
Rachel Stolte of Great Northern
Solon Bixler of Great Northern
1. The Aussie BBQ @ Brush Square Park (Friday, March 16)
My third Aussie BBQ in four years and probably the best one I’ve attended so far (and that’s saying A LOT). The Australian Music Collective really know how to throw a great party with great food, great beer (Cooper’s Ale) and even better bands. While I did do a bit of jumping around during the day on Friday, I found myself continuously returning to Brush Square Park to watch some great Australian talent. Started off with The Panda Band, a pleasant sounding indie band. I also caught performances by Dallas Crane (who somebody in the comments section nailed perfectly when describing the band as “AC/DC meets Slade”), the Hoodoo Gurus (great show even though I was probably the only person watching them who has never heard any of their music), Wolf & Cub (an awesome band that should open the only-in-my-head Black Rebel Motorcycle/Wolfmother co-headlining tour), and Airbourne (the biggest and best surprise of SXSW – long-haired metal dudes playing AC/DC-style hard rock … AWESOME and LOUD). This show was packed all day and, to be honest, if you skipped out on RSVPing to the party this year, make sure you attend next year as hand’s down it is continuously the best party thrown at SXSW every year.
Wolf & Cub at the Aussie BBQ
Airbourne at the Aussie BBQ
Hoodoo Gurus at the Aussie BBQ
Dallas Crane at the Aussie BBQ
View all of the SXSW 2007 photos that I took.