SXSW 2011 may have been my last one. It's apparent that I’ve had enough of it when I
consider writing an entire piece discussing the best and cleanest bathrooms to
use after eating a plate of chorizo and beans at Cisco’s. It’s been a nice run, and I know nobody
will miss me in 2012 when they’re taking to the streets of Austin in search of
the best post-dubstep band that the festival has to offer, but I figured what
better place to announce my retirement than here?
I want to point out that I don’t think I’m giving up on my
yearly trip to Texas because I’m becoming an old fart, but more because I’ve
really enjoyed the times I’ve spent down there in the past, and I know if I go
back, I will without a doubt become that cranky old fuck who talks about the
way SXSW “used to be.” I know that
for a fact, because I’m sitting on my couch in New York in my pajamas, chugging
coconut water to rehydrate before I go back to reality, and already comparing
this SXSW experience against all the others.
Everybody has caught on to SXSW at this point, but it wasn’t
like it was some huge secret to begin with: a yearly music festival that
takes place around the Spring break part of the year, in one of America’s
greatest cities; I mean, who the fuck doesn’t like the sound of that? And I know I can’t really claim veteran status, but I’ve been
down a few times, and each time it’s fun because the basic formula has been: I
drink, I run into friends I don’t get to see often, I chug 5-hour energy
drinks, and wander the streets looking to hear bands I’d otherwise maybe never
hear about. If you like music,
that’s about as great as it gets.
The thing that
was different about 2011 is that I put a cross through “looking to hear bands
I’d otherwise maybe never hear about,” because SXSW no longer seems to be about
that. The goal doesn’t seem to be
discovery, but oversaturation.
Bands that might make it big are playing nearly every single venue down
6th street; famous rappers are showing up to pick up indie points, The Strokes play one show, and everybody who spent the last decade making
fun of them are inexplicably willing to bake in the sun to hear the bands' continued
slow fade into irrelevance. Also,
everything is brought to you by something*; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,
but this is a pretty good sign that the bums are losing, and Uncle Corporate is
turning the whole thing into one big advertisement for wild and young fun. Austin is staying weird, but its premier
festival is slowly but surely becoming the next Daytona Beach, Cancun, or any
of the countless other places you should be terrified to visit when the
colleges let out for their springtime break.
But don’t let my end of the world prophecy scare you into
not booking your early ticket to 2012.
I could be wrong. In fact,
I usually am wrong, and had I not gone down this year, I would have missed out
on the following things.
The Stereogum/Sacred Bones showcase
I said prior to SXSW that this would be the best
showcase, and according to everybody who stuck it out–and the parts I got to
witness–that was the case.
With all due respect to all of the artists on the fantastic lineup, everybody should really begin discussing Slug Guts and Pop. 1280,
right now. Sadly I failed to see
either of those bands throughout the weekend, but those who did see them told me they were worth it. I was however lucky enough to catch the
entirety of Human Eye’s set, and as I tweeted, though it’s taken me a long time to
close the casket on Timmy Vulgar’s previous band, The Clone Defects, the
set I witnessed outdoor from Beerland was what I imagine a set by The Pagans
or Rocket from the Tombs would have looked like when those bands walked the earth. I hesitate to say it was
magical, but since I’m suffering from sunstroke, that’s the term I’m going with.
02 The various nocases I saw in backyards and
Austin bars that had nothing to do with SXSW were pretty stellar this
year. From the old guy playing
Townes Van Zandt tunes in a gas station parking lot, to the soul revue I was
treated to by some guy named something like Bert Leg. From what I gather, the guy has no label, and might not have
even known there was a music festival going on, but what I was treated to was
something out of the Daptone Records people’s wettest dreams. Chicago-style blues backing, with a guy
straight out of the Fortune Records catalog as the lead singer. It was maybe the rowdiest, most
unpretentious part of the entire weekend.
I honestly never, EVER have anything nice to say about people who make the
loop-skip-yodel stuff that is so common these days, but this guy seemed to be
having a really good time, and frankly, it didn’t sound half bad.
04 I still stand by my claim
that everybody is going to be jocking the Bubu music tip. I’m more excited by this prospect since
I randomly went to the same house BBQ as Janka Nabay did.
05 Fungi Girls at the Hozac showcase. I heard myself muttering “fuck yes,
fuck yes” through their entire set.
06 Yip Deceiver and Carnivores at the Athens
Seeing Carnivores was my only real “holy shit” moment of
SXSW. They have his weird 80s Bomp
Records sort of thing, but also call to mind bands like Beach Fossils. Nobody was watching them, because they
were probably all too busy waiting in line to get Fader Fort wristbands.
I guess it might be weird to tell you that I scrawled “pop
obsessed version of Future Islands(?)” in my notebook when I first heard Yip
Deciever, but these guys were energetic and catchy. So much so, I’m worried they will become the favorite band
of the types of people who get their music suggestions from Urban Outfitter CD
Gayngs “affiliated” showcase. A
few months ago, I was wondering what would run out faster: Gayngs shtick, or
the Kanye West money supporting it?
Then I found myself standing outside a showcase featuring Justin Vernon
and fifty of his closest friends just have some good old post-irony fun and I
realized that the joke was on me.
08 Wandering into J Mascis play a solo set at the Brooklyn Vegan party, then seeing Low a few minutes later.
09 I was inspired enough to create a Tumblr called “Crust Punks Doing Work.” I'm looking for submissions.
10 The guy with a bong fill of salvia who was looking to share.
11 The black haired guy who really wanted everybody to think he was friends with Mistah F.A.B.
*Except Impose's parties, of course.