by Josh Bis
on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 12:50 PM
EDS NOTE: Josh Bis is down in Tejas! If you're like me, you're lamenting the fact that you're not also there, watching a million bands in the sunny-sunny sunshine... What should he go see? Tell him in the comments! —Kelly O
I know that there are dozens of Seattle bands hustling around town, but let me know in the comments if there's something absolutely unmissable that I might have overlooked or tweet at me if you want to catch up to talk taco tips. —Josh
Café Tacvba at Stubb's
By the time I arrived in Austin last night, I'm pretty sure that Tardar Sauce had packed up his disapproving looks and Google Glasses to skip town with the rest of the moneyed Interactive set. Instead, the makeshift pedestrian mall downtown was already teeming with musicians, fans, and other hangers on in search of a[nother] free drink or tracking down the latest rumored ultra-last-minute surprise appearance. Apparently kids started camping outside the Myspace event based on a incorrect reading of a year-old Daft Punk prophesy.
Not that I was immune to the internal battle between herd mentality and seeking out flashy schedule additions. An e-mail from Dave Segal sent me chasing down an early, recently announced, Iggy and the Stooges performance at the Mohawk patio. Thousands of other people got the same memo, resulting in a city block transformed into one of those meditation labyrinths, hopeful attendees snaking around in an loopy yet orderly line governed only by the imaginations of the well-meaning volunteers giving it structure and providing hope that we might eventually be admitted. Instead, an hour behind two chain smoking Germans (whose only recognizable words included "Vampire", "Weekend", and "Stooges") passed with the line advancing only through attrition. Eventually, as Japandroids closed out their set, Iggy Pop parted the crowd with a white van, jumped out, waved to the fans outside, shed his shirt, and dashed through the back door and onto the stage.
Though plenty of fans turned street into a muffled listening party, I stayed outside for only a few songs and moved down the block to Stubbs, finding that I'd missed most of Nick Cave's set at the NPR showcase. At this point, I realize that SXSW is like a musical theme park except that sometimes you get to the end of the long line only to find out that the roller coaster has disappeared. Though the tech crowd at this conference long ago coined #fomo to describe the "fear" of missing out; the thousands of shows and hundreds of parties (all rsvp-able with a single click) pretty much insure the "fact" of failing to see even a fraction of the buzzworthy events playing a constant tug of war with your agenda.
Nevertheless, serendipity being the buzzword of the festival, I stuck around to see Mexico's Café Tacvba play a rollicking set that someone near me described as the perfect fusion of polka and ska to rows of screaming fans. They closed with some synchronized boy-band level dance moves and made way for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who debuted a few songs from their upcoming album ("Mosquito") into a mix that included plenty of the hits ("Y Control", "Gold Lion", "Zero", "Maps"), Karen O presiding over the crowd in a brightly embroidered and studded costume.
Rather than lingering in the BBQ pit for Alt-J, I faced the streets and yet another surprisingly long line at Red 7 to find that synthy Glaswegians CHVRCHES were far less undiscovered than I'd imagined. Despite their album not coming out until much later this year — they may have said September — the strength of last year's "the Mother We Share" delivered an overflow crowd who were hanging on every note. Down the street, New Orleans's Hurray for the Riff Raff brought affecting americana to the base of a stairwell at the back of a bar and supergroup Diving Fits brought all of the the electro-intensity, searing vocals, and guitar heroics to a foggy neon-colored set that you'd expect from a fusion of Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs, Wolf Parade) and Britt Daniel (Spoon).
This morning I woke up in time to catch Dave Grohl give a keynote address to a standing-room-only ballroom at the Convention Center. The pun-filled talk centered around the inspirational power of music in his life, reflected his intense desire for control (at one point, demonstrating his childhood primitive multi-track recording technique live onstage), recounting Nirvana's explosive trajectory and the cathartic birth of Foo Fighters, and arguing for the primacy of the artist. Throughout, one got the sense that he thought that punk rock ("ethically suffocating") was anything but bullshit.
By now, it's early afternoon and about a hundred events are calling: every time I start to look at the schedules, my head gets fuzzy, but I think that my main goal for the night is to witness what happens when Snoop Dogg transforms into Snoop Lion and/or to see the supergroup that forms from Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, and all of their friends. Aside from that, I know that there are dozens of Seattle bands hustling around town, but let me know in the comments if there's something absolutely unmissable that I might have overlooked or tweet at me if you want to catch up to talk taco tips.