Text/Photos by Lizz Kannenberg
I decided to do a little experiment on SXSW’s second day of music: Not wait in any lines. The Paste day party? Look at that line! No thanks, I’ll take my chances on the mean street off of 6th.
First up: Entertainment Weekly and Press Here‘s day party at Smokin’ Music. I had several friends ask later how I got into this supposedly Ã¼ber-exclusive event, but the truth is that I was walking by the venue (which I thought was a BBQ joint) and was hauled in the door by a couple of perky spokesmodel types. I saw why once I got inside. Despite free food, open bars and M. Ward on stage, only about 50 people had bothered to stop by. I strolled up a red carpet, sipped a margarita and took in Ward’s three-song set. Not a bad start to the day.
Next up was Filter‘s Showdown at Cedar Street for North Carolina’s Annuals. As is typical of these things, the show was running behind schedule but I didn’t mind–I got to see a couple songs from NorCal’s Great Northern. Grandiose, shimmering pop and a singer who looks like Courtney Cox Arquette.
After loading in at least 10 guitars more than any band should need, Annuals got to it with a sweeping, ambitious set heavy on new material. It may be just me, but the band seems to have lost the desperation that made their orchestrated pop stand out in a sea of indie sameness. The upshot is that they’re better entertainers, but I (for one) miss their grittier past.
The promise of seeing quirky, smoky songstress Samantha Crain lured me to the Oklahoma Film & Music Commission show in a loft space off 6th Street, but sets by spastic freak-folkers Colourmusic and arty youngsters The Uglysuit kept me there for 3 hours. Oakies sure know how to have a decent time–I saw more unselfconscious dancing and genuine smiles here than I did at any of the â€œhipperâ€ events this week.
On to the night showcases and still avoiding lines … I caught an early, edgy and very brief set from noise punks No Age at the Sub Pop showcase before hustling up Red River to the Mohawk for Bishop Allen at the Secretly Canadian show. A lot of crafty pop on that label, and I enjoyed being able to take my ear plugs out and do a little gentle head bobbing.
Ear plugs went solidly back in for the Meat Puppets set across the street at Stubb’s, where the Kirkwood brothers proved that prog-punk and hair farming pretty much have to go hand in hand. I stuck around for a couple of songs from â€˜90s indie jammers Gomez before finding my way back across the street to Langhorne Slim‘s bar call set at Club DeVille.
Whether or not you heard the backwoods charm in Slim’s 2008 self-titled LP, no one can deny that American blues â€˜n’ roll can kick some serious ass when it’s sold by a high-energy stage stalker like the 29-year-old Pennsylvanian. Thanks to Slim, Thursday banged to a close with a sweaty, tipsy on-stage dance party.
And not one single line.