Thursday, March 19, 2009

SXSW - Day 1; Something Grows In Texas


It felt very Texan to cut my arm on a cactus upon arrival at the Austin hotel that will be home for the duration of SxSW. But it’s okay, the arm survived. By morning (Wednesday, day one of the SxSW festival’s music component) there was barely a scratch to show from the cactus attack but let’s just say that it must have been the reason for the disorientation that caused the inability to find venue one of the day and miss The Homosexuals… ah well, the old punkers are playing again during the fest. However, it meant there was time to find food and the closest place not boasting cheese melted on everything was The Pita Pit (what is this American obsession to put that nuke-orange cheddar on EVERYTHING?). What was found there was what everyone had promised about SxSW… an unexpected musical treat. Coz not only were there good wraps in the Pit but here also was my first band of the day; a band that I hadn’t circled on the schedule but blew me away nonetheless. Here were sweet country harmonies from three sisters of Goodlettsville, Tennessee (though they introduced themselves as being from Nashville – maybe it’s close by…), The Lewis Sisters. Today they were accompanied by drummer Tom Strother, drum kit-less but keeping time on a cajon. A quaint start to proceedings and one CD purchased.

Having had time to scour local street rag The Austin Chronicle as well as consult maps and timetables, the next gig on the circled schedule was easily located at The Dog And Duck. Taking place here was a performance by cult ‘80s Irish pre-grungers That Petrol Emotion. Featuring two ex-members of legendary punk outfit The Undertones, the band reunited last year having split in ’94. None of their spit’n’fire has been lost and their politically-revved lyrics seemed perversely apt to these shaky economic climes. And “hit” 'Big Decision' is still as ridiculously catchy as it ever was. Best of all, you could buy TPE buttons from the band themselves after the show…

Spotting fellow Melbots T-Rek and Infusion on the streets of Austin was inspiration enough to see what fellow Melburnians My Disco could do to this Texfest. Intense as ever, the unassuming-looking but unforgivingly-intense musicians wound up the Soho Lounge with a barrage of rib-crushing tones. It must have been good as one of uber-hip heavies Atreyu sidled up to ask who was playing and gave them the thumbs-up. However, I was too slow to get a pic of me posing with the certified rock star before he slipped away to get closer to the front. Bah.

One of the Top 100 buzzzzzzz bandzzzzzzz of the night was Parenthetical Girls. They were playing the YouTube party, of course. At the appropriately-named Beauty Bar (wall-to-wall cool cats and hip hombres), a bit of confusion led to waiting for the Girls in the front bar rather than in the backyard… Thankfully, this brought about unexpected musical treat #2 for the day: Rafter. This San Diego band are freakin’ wonderful. Funkily-structured wonky disco – with the best use of vocoder since Fox’s 'S-s-single Bed'. It’s love – four Rafter CD’s purchased.

After Rafter, it was time for gettin’ Girls out the back. Was it just tonight or do Parenthetical Girls’ live hipster troubadour wailings seem rather more twee than their cute recorded equivalents? Ah well, the room was packed so my presence wouldn’t be missed slipping out to the front again where Indiana’s DM Stith was holding a smaller audience entranced with his nubluze meanderings. Ah, thank you, Mr Stith (or however you prefer to be addressed) as now my day ends as quaintly as it began.

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