Sunday, March 21, 2004

SXSW Roundup, Saturday (written last night).

10 am. A friend calls. I'm still asleep.

12 noon. Another friend calls. I'm still asleep.

3 pm. I arrive at the Club DeVille, which was supposed to be a brief stopover before hitting Red Eyed Fly AFTER the Tight Spot/Porchlight party. I never made it to the Tight Spot/Porchlight party, unfortunately, because it took me forever to leave today.

3:15. A buddy and I mosey to the Red Eyed Fly. The Mendoza Line is supposed to be playing, but Anders Parker (formerly of Varnaline) is running late. When we come in, he's playing a Rhodes-dominated Sensitive Song, a la Jackson Browne. After cleaning up my puke, we head back inside and find members of the Mendoza Line lounging on the couches indoors. We head back to the door to the outdoor stage, at which point friends from three distinct points in my life converge on me at once in a very odd bit of synchronicity.

4 pm The Mendoza Line at Red Eyed Fly. Oh, they hate each other. Best song was the last one, which is on one of the ML albums I have, but I can't identify right now, because I'm drunk, and they arranged it differently. Anyway, the goateed singer, who was obviously sick as a dog, had lost his voice, but still rasped out a song of pure malevolence at the female singer and completely lost the rhythm on his acoustic. The rest of the band kept the song aloft, even as it teetered on the edge of chaos, and the end result was as raw and beautiful as any live song I've ever seen.

4:45 Centro-Matic at Red Eyed Fly. Goddamn, are these guys talented. The songs are as achingly beautiful as they are well-executed. I loved it.

5:45 American Music Club at Red Eyed Fly. Vudi was decked out like one of Bob Wills' Playboys. Eitzel is sporting a full beard and a bit more weight than the last time I saw him and is, subsequently, the spitting image of Dave Attell. The songs were great, if mostly unfamiliar to me (I only have Mercury and California, and they mostly shied away from those two). I finally realized that I wasn't going to have time to run home and feed the dogs & make it back downtown for Jon Langford's Ship & Pilot if I didn't cut out. Mark Eitzel was announcing the last two songs when I left.

8 pm Ship & Pilot at Antone's. Composed of Jonboy Langford, Tony Maimone (formerly of Pere Ubu), Steve Goulding (the Mekons, Graham Parker & the Rumour), Bill Anderson (the Meat Purveyors), a slight and young Korean woman on fiddle, and the owner of the Yard Dog Art Gallery on mandolin, Ship & Pilot is basically an expanded version of Langford's solo show, Jon & Friends. They played some traditional tunes, a few new ones, and some Waco Bros songs (with Deano Schlabowske, who leapt onstage towards the end, adding a bit of fire to the show). I dunno - Ship & Pilot are kinda disappointing. Langford's best when he has a foil or four, and his friends in S&P let him indulge himself a bit too much. Case in point: when Deano took the stage, the show came alive.

9 pm Dirt Track Brawlers at Sake on 6th. Featuring former Trouble Down South drummer Scott Wiedeman, the DTBs play music that's a bit of an homage to the Sun sound and a bit of a parody. Sake on 6th should never have live music. The patio is just a pit of bad sound, and the management had put tents over everything, which effectively shut out any breeze that might have wormed its way in. The rhythm guitar was howlingly loud and the backing vocals were buried. The sound guy was indifferent. After 15 minutes of this, I finally walked up to the stage and told the rhythm guitar/lead singer guy to turn down and to tell the sound guy to turn up the backing vocals. "You tell him yourself," he said. Pretty rude, but I told the sound guy to work on equalizing the vocals, anyway. I helped Scott unload afterwards, and the lead singer dude gave me a complete brushoff without a word of thanks for the help with their terrible mix.

10 pm someone loud at Club DeVille. I sat in the back and drank beer and rested.

11 pm Consonant at Club DeVille. Aw yeah. I was right up front next to Clint Conley. J. Mascis was standing right next to me (I gave him a High Hat sticker and he looked at me like I was an asshole to even speak to him, which is exactly what I expected). Thank the lord I had remembered to bring my earplugs. Consonant were really fuckin' loud. Chris Brokaw was amazing, and the band rocked like hell. First highlight of the night. When I was getting ready to leave, the guy who owns Tight Spot Records (who I knew by sight, but had never met) came over and hugged me and told me that he wished I'd been at his party. His girlfriend, who's a friend of a friend, came over and we talked about all the famous people we'd met over the last couple of days (she'd met Thalia Zedek and Robyn Hitchcock earlier). Clint Conley joined us briefly, and Chris Brokaw shook my hand when he went by. We made jokes about how esoteric our name-dropping was.

12:15 am The Pee Wee Fist at the Hideout. The Hideout is REALLY FUCKIN' SMALL. I didn't realize that when I came in, I was going to be basically right on stage. I was late, and Pete was in mid-song, without vocal amplification, on the edge of the stage. Yeesh, I felt 2 inches tall. Even though they only had Pete the singer/guitarist and Jon the keyboardist/thereminist, the PWF still did their typical mixture of folky acoustic songs and loud, abrasive experimental noise. Great stuff, and I'm not just saying that because they were using my amps and I know that Jon is going to read this.

1:10 am La Zona Rosa. Camper Van Beethoven was supposed to start at 12:50, so I was surprised that Cracker was still playing when I got there. I was more surprised at how jam-bandish/frat rock they'd gotten in the last 7 years since I'd seen them live. Cracker, which is basically CVB plus Johnny what's-his-face on guitar in this incarnation, continued playing -- and sucking -- until 1:45. The nadir was when they brought some caterwauling woman onstage for a super-obnoxious blues song. I couldn't believe that I was missing the Decemberists for this bullshit.

1:45 am Camper Van Beethoven at La Zona Rosa. It's amazing how different things got when Johnny RockGuitarDude turned his patchcord over to Greg Lisher. They didn't raise the lights or anything; one guy unplugged his guitar and the other guy plugged in, and all the sudden the band was a completely different beast. Sure, they're cashing in on the novelty value, but they rocked those songs like it was 1989 and, tired and drunk as I was, I felt like I was on acid, which, in fact, I was on when last I saw CVB in 1989.

The set, which had almost no breaks:
* O Death
* Eye of Fatima Pt 1
* Eye of Fatima Pt 2
* All Her Favorite Fruit
* Sweethearts
* Balalaika Gap
* White Riot
* Wasted
* Good Guys & Bad Guys
* Shut Us Down
* Tania
* An instrumental I didn't recognize (not in the catalog)
* A song I didn't recognize (also not in the catalog)
* Take the Skinheads Bowling
* Pictures of Matchstick Men

I got out of there at 2:40 and hired a pedicab to take me most of the way back to my car. Now it's 4 am, and I've been writing this up for the last hour. Gotta crash.


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