SXSW 2006 Recap and Review

Submitted by TheBaba on March 22, 2006 - 2:15am.

That time has passed yet again where Austin is set upon by music from the four corners of the Earth. This year marks my first time attempting live on-the-scene coverage, or "moblogging" the event. Moblogging, for those of you technologically rooted in the era when "e-mail" meant you got on CompuServe or MCI, is live web logging from a mobile phone, PDA or other such gadgetry. For those of us technologically rooted even earlier, let's just be happy we got here at all.

So, join "moBaba" and ATL Gretchen ("mo-G") as they rock the SXSW in the ATX... [read more]

Also don't miss: 10 Things I Learned Volunteering at SXSW

Items to note:

  • The Scandinavian people rock at a disproportionately high level relative to their total proportion of the world's population. This is good.
  • Morrisey: old
  • Jello Biafra: old
  • mo-G: The fact that its dark 6 months of the year in their countries does something to the music from Iceland and Norway. Witness Dr. Spock and Hurra Torpedo.
  • Jello Biafra may be old, but he still rocks. His Alternative Tentacles night at the Jackalope was one of the best times we had this year.
  • Japanese girls with guitars rock (ex-Girl). Irish girls with guitars are hot (Gemma Hayes). Bands with hot girl bass players rock (k-os & The Ponys). Man, I need a girl with a guitar...
  • If you think SXSW is "too commercial" or "an industry jackoff fest," bite me. More than 300 Texas acts had official showcases, giving them unprecedented exposure. I usually hit acts from every populated continent of the world each year. Plus the "meta" festival of day-shows, free BBQs and other events means you could do SXSW without spending a dime and still see 30-50 acts. At very few other times and places can you find such a concentrated dose of diverse and interesting music. Love it and rock or get out of my way.
  • Despite my tendency towards international acts at SXSW, U.S. bands can still rock my house. Witness Lords of Altamont from L.A.
  • Local act Tammany Hall Machine made #8 on the Chronicle's Best New Band of the Year list. Go see these guys if you haven't yet.
  • The mini-mag Misprint (Hyperliterate smut for the disaffected) "sxs wasted" issue was highly entertaining. Good job guys.
  • Buy the AT re-issue of Timeless from Zolar X. It is good. Damn good. Really damn good.
On with it damnit, get to the music . . .

[ Wednesday March 15th ]

and so it begins . . .

Susan Gibson (Singer-songwriter - Austin) @ Gingerman
Local singer-songwriter who wrote the Dixie Chicks "Wide Open Spaces" performs at Gingerman's lovely beer garden.
The New Mastersounds (Jazz/Funk - Leeds UK) @ Caribbean Lights
Our first official showcase and we were awash in a sea of thick, rich funk. mo-G quips, "they're like a white Booker T. and the MGs. I wonder if it is the coal mines that give the British so much soul."
Sean Costello (Blues - Atlanta GA) @ Capitol Place Creekside
I thought Sean Costello would be my diamond in the rough this year. I was wrong, very wrong. mo-G: he also broke the 2 cover rule. I agree, don't do more than one cover at your official showcase, unless that's your schtick (e.g. Hurra Torpedo).
Love of Diagrams (Punk - Melbourne Australia) @ Dirty Dog Bar
Couldn't hold our interest for more than a song. Punk's touchy stuff and if its not at the right time and place its not good. Or they were just plain bad.
Die Princess Die (Rock - L.A.) @ Room 710
If you're going to pull the "smash our guitars and drum kit" thing at the end of your show, make sure you actually rocked first.
Annie (Pop - Bergen Norway) @ Eternal
Here is the part where I bitch about bad sound at SXSW. For her first 3-4 songs (i.e. half her set) Annie had no sound in the monitors on stage. This led to her a) doing cover/filler stuff while they tried to fix it and b) eardrum-crushing screeching because she had no idea how loud she was being. I don't care if the "bands bring their own equipment / sound guy" or "SXSW people make us do this or that." Screw you, it is your name on the venue, it is your main board and speakers and if you are going to host official shows its your fucking responsibility to make sure there's someone on hand to make your sound system work.
Lesbians on Ecstasy (Electronic - Montreal Canada) @ Elysium
Rockin' the house at Elysium with lots of leather and short hair, Lesbians on Ecstasy were having fun and highly entertaining.
Belle & Sebastian (Rock - Glasgow UK) @ Stubbs
This (along with Morrissey) was on my list of "shows I'd like to see but probably won't get in to." While there was a line at Stubbs around the block for New Pornographers before them, we were able to walk into the B&S show with little to no wait after it had started. This is a good SXSW lesson, if there's someone you really want to see, cycle back after the show starts, because many people leave early to see other things. I'd write more about B&S themselves, if I could get the entire Dear Catastrophe Waitress album to stop playing over and over again and again in my head.
k-os (Hip Hop - Whitby Canada) @ Antone's
k-os played Antone's after Beth Orton scolded her audience for "talking too much." I'll pause while you laugh. Vibrant, rich and relevant hip-hop leaning towards R&B proves that Canadians are not always as bland as we Texans think. Double bonus for having ultra-hot ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur join the band.

[ Thursday March 16th ]

for those about to rock, we salute you

Chin Up Chin Up (Rock - Chicago IL) @ Yard Dog Gallery
Playing at the Schubas / Yard Dog event, Chin Up Chin Up produced some rock. Worth seeing if you're in the midwest or they pass through here again.
The Ponys (Rock - Chicago IL) @ Yard Dog Gallery
While I wasn't being distracted by sexy bassist/vocalist Melissa Elias, I noticed these guys put on a pretty good show, good feeling guitar-based rock. Definitely one to look up in the future. Props to the Yard Dog for always doing good SXSW day events.
The Ark (Rock - Malmo Sweeden) @ Guero's on Soco
We dubbed them the "sweaty Sweeds" for their tenacious Queen / KISS style rock performed in the Texas heat.
Astrid Swan (Singer-songwriter - Helsinki Finland) @ Drink
Slow, deliberate and alone on the piano Swan begins the first Nordic Night at the Drink.
MC Lars (Rap - Carmel Valley CA) @ Maggie Mae's
MC Lars and his laptop provide a fun and sample-rich show. Worth more attention.
Dr. Spock (Rock - Reykjavik Iceland) @ Oslo
Yes, that's right, I set foot in Oslo. I did it for the rock, to do my part in shaping a post-Bjork Icelandic musical landscape. Self-described, "Dr. Spock music is a rock & roll coctail which delves into various musical styles." From Mexican wrestling masks and rubber gloves to shiny pink pants and no pants at all, Dr. Spock did not disappoint. One of the most energetic and entertaining acts we saw the whole week.
Morrissey (Moapy - Manchester UK) @ Austin Music Hall
As I've said, Morrissey: old. I heard he did "Deep in the Heart of Texas" late in his set, I wish we'd have seen that. Here is the part where I bitch about what a crappy venue the Austin Music Hall is. It is always too crowded and hot, it is hard to see even if you're up close, it is very hard to get drinks, it's concrete and metal tarnish even the best produced sound. Why the hell do people go to shows here?
Jakob’nar’na (Rock - Hafnarfjordur Iceland) @ Oslo
The Hanson of Iceland. Terrifying. Really.
Hurra Torpedo (Rock - Oslo Norway) @ Fox & Hound
Hurra Torpedo did covers of such ungodly pop tunes as Britney Spears's Toxic, t.A.T.u.'s All the Things She Said and an absolutely stunning rendition of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart. They performed these songs on washing machines, deep freezers, toasters, microwaves and waffle irons. They performed these songs wearing cheap, blue polyester track suits. They pulled the pants of these track suits down so their ass cracks were showing. They made me ask myself the question, "How do you properly mic a dishwasher/freezer set for live performance?"
Are we are the perpetrators of kitchenware abuse? Are we are environmentally-friendly used-appliance-recyclers? No. We are Hurra Torpedo. We make rock music.
The Royal Highness (Rock - Copenhagen Denmark) @ the Drink
Decent-sounding rock from Copenhagen. I was probably still too emotionally contemplative over the Hurra Torpedo show to pay full attention here.
The Tyde (Rock - Los Angeles CA) @ Buffalo Billiards
Decent-sounding indy-rock from the west coast. I was probably too drunk to pay full attention here.
Mates of State (Pop - East Haven CT) @ Parish
Mates of State plays here 3-4 times a year, and their shows are always moments of delightful poppy energetic fun. With only an organ and a drum kit, Kori and Jason produce a uniquely light and vibrant sound. Mates of State is truly innovative music, check them out.
The Gossip (Rock - Portland OR) @ Emo's Annex
I sloshed into this show on the recommendation from mo-G and The Gossip provided that most excellent experience of finding an act who's talent level far exceeds their current popularity. Originally from Arkansas and now hailing from the Pacific northwest, The Gossip is pure party rock. Sometimes channeling Gloria Gaynor and mostly just belting raw and unfiltered rock, Beth Ditto and the trio put on an amazing live show. Buy their albums.

[ Friday March 17th - St Patrick's Day ]

it may be necessary to reconsider the decision to hold St Patrick's day during SXSW

Swearing at Motorists (Rock - Berlin Germany) @ room service / north loop
Providing ample evidence that the continent can still rock.
Lots of good stuff outside of downtown this year. Sound on Sound and Room Service had an excellent 2-stage setup across the street from each other. Its good to see music all over town during SXSW. You Cedar Park and Pflugerville fuckers better watch out, our music will one day spill over into your world.
Elf Power (Rock - Athens GA) @ sound on sound / north loop
Reckoning-era R.E.M. meets Robyn Hitchcock and with only a tinge of hobbit-rock, Elf Power put on a quite good day show. I'll be picking up a couple of albums.
Rye Coalition (Rock - Jersey City NJ) @ room service / north loop
Don't let the fact that they're from Jersey scare you, Rye Coalition is good ole fashioned rock like grandma Ozzie used to make. Pink cowboy hat notwithstanding, they were a good surprise find.
Part Chimp (Metal - London UK) @ sound on sound / north loop
Uninspired and uninteresting.
Black Lamb (Rock - ) @ Flamingo Cantina
Good standard-issue loud rock.
The Datsuns (Rock - Auckland New Zealand) @ Flamingo Cantina
Long-haired kiwi hard rockers, the Datsuns put on a good show to close out the Larimer Lounge BBQ at the Flamingo Cantina. Definitely worth seeing again at a later, drunker show.
The Klezmatics (World - New York) @ Cedar Street Courtyard
Hailing from the East Village and starting very late, The Klezmatics performed a selection of their interpretations of unrecorded Woody Guthrie songs. Would be nice to see them perform a full 2-hour show somewhere in town.
Oppenheimer (Pop - Belfast UK) @ Friends
Intriguing pop duo from England. Lots of voice filtering.
the Soft Explosions (Rock - New York) @ Bourbon Rocks
Random hard rock from New York. Extra points for having a hot girl guitarist.
Gemma Hayes (Rock - Dublin Ireland) @ Soho Lounge
Sexy Irish gal Gemma Hayes was a little more pop than I expected, but that may just be because she's been washed through the L.A. music machine. She has a powerful voice and put on a good show that was still mostly founded in rock and blues.
Turn Me On Dead Man (Rock - San Francisco CA) @ the Jackalope
If you don't get the name of this hard-psych-rock-adelic-y act, you need to punch "paul is dead" into Google, or just dig out your vinyl copy of the White Album and play Revolution 9 backwards. This marked our entry into Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles night at the Jackalope, bringing us rock from as far as Japan and Pluto. This is also where we found the hilarious "sxs wasted" issue of Misprint.
Zolar X (Rock - Plutonia Pluto) @ the Jackalope
Making Ziggy Stardust seem like a cheap knockoff, I'm convinced that Zolar X really has been on Pluto since they broke up in 1981. I'm also convinced they sent The Darkness back ahead of them to pave the way for their triumphant return. Buy their album Timeless, it rocks, and thank Jello for bringing them back to us.
eX-Girl (Rock - Tokyo Japan) @ the Jackalope
They were in silver space suits before the show selling "bassball" t-shirts at their merch table. They came on stage in big shiny foam lobster/crawfish outfits. They said, "We... are... eX-Girl!" And then they rocked.

[ Saturday March 18th ]

the rain cannot stop the rock

Forward Russia (Rock - Leeds UK) @ Fox & Hound
Despite sound and equipment problems, Forward Russia was still prepared to rock. Drummer katie and lead guitarist "whiskas" impressed.
Primm (Rock - Austin TX) @ Lucky Lounge
I've wanted to catch Primm live for a while, and got the chance as we slunk past Lucky Lounge on our way towards Red River for the rest of the night. Rock and fusion with a bit of R&B, Primm is worth some more attention.
The Winnerys (Rock - Madrid Spain) @ The Ritz / Blender Bar
High technical proficiency from this Spanish act proves that mainstream rock is alive and well on the continent.
The Jessica Fletchers (Rock - Oslo Norway) @ The Ritz / Blender Bar
Fun and mildly Beatle-esque, the Jessica Fletchers are a prime factor in our master equation for the rock-level of the Nordic peoples. I picked up two albums and will be keeping an eye on these guys. Bonus points for cowbell.
Lords of Altamont (Rock - Los Angeles) @ Beerland
Proof that there is still rock that is too powerful for the great machine of L.A. to destroy, this mashup of members from The Fuzztones, The Bomboras and The Cramps, in biker jackets and big black plastic shades, climbed up on their gear and squeezed every ounce of rock possible out of Beerland. And Beerland has a lot of rock to give. Beatle Bob was here.
The Emeralds (Punk - Yokohama) @ Elysium
Good hard punk trio from Japan. They were so proud of their new polyester print shirts. Note to punk show goers everywhere: the mosh pit is much better if it is not started by the clean-cut white guy in a tie.

Acts I wish I'd seen . . .

It is simply not possible to see everything that piqued your interest at SXSW. This is a sampling of the acts we would have liked to have seen but didn't get to for one drunken reason or another.
  • The Grates (Australia)
  • The Go! Team (UK)
  • The New Pornographers
  • Auktyon (St Petersberg)
  • dEUS (Belgium)
  • Brian Jonestown Massacre
  • She Wants Revenge
  • Princess Superstar (NY)
  • The Revs (Ireland)
  • Afriampo (Japan)
  • Animal Alpha (Norway)
  • zZz (Netherlands)
  • Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (NJ)
  • Veto (Denmark)
  • Quit Your Dayjob (Sweden)
  • Cadence Weapon (Canada)
  • LoneLady (UK)
  • The Rodeo Carburettor (Japan)
  • Gitogito Hustler (Japan)
  • Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re (Japan)
  • The Hellacopters (Sweden)
  • Die! Die! Die! (New Zealand)
  • We Are Scientists (NY)

That is it. Game over man. See you next year. Long live rock.