Monday, March 21, 2011

SXSW - Day 3; Losing Sleep


When a day starts with Edwyn Collins and ends witnessing raw New Orleans bounce at "Austin's only gay nightclub", even the inbetween disappointments (and there were many) can't seem that bad. To see Collins perform feels like the greatest privilege - he suffered a near-fatal cerebral hemorrhage in 2005 - and his booming baritone manages to warm the cold atmosphere of the convention room he's playing today. The band performs seated, and drummerless. Collins' is still unable to use the right side of his body and when talking inbetween songs has to carefully annunciate his words in a sing-song style. It has hard for this not to inform the emotion of the proceedings. But it does. And it is hard not to be wiping away tears as he sings the words of his classic Orange Juice hit, "Rip it up and start again" ('Rip It Up'). Collins has done just that and the new songs that he is 'starting again' with are the best of his solo career. 'Losing Sleep' and 'What Is My Role?' are as potent here in acoustic form as they are on the Losing Sleep album. This set has the affect of making you wonder 'WHY THE FUCK IS THE WORLD NOT GETTING THIS?'. But perhaps that's not what Collins is about. He ends the set with his 1994 hit 'A Girl Like You'. Collins leaves the stage to a standing ovation.

Today is the Australian showcase at Maggie Mae's, beginning with the notorious Aussie BBQ (which tours the US this time every year). Brisbane's Sampology finds that he has explain his VJing set to the newbies here but they are soon getting it. However there's little dancing here as most are transfixed by his visuals which run the gamut - from Kermit The Frog to Kenny "Fucken" Powers and even some Little Shop Of Horrors. Impressive both in style and the lack of copyright lawsuits so far. The band getting a lot of the Aus buzz is DZDeathrays, the powerthrash pop duo make a huge, exhilarating noise, it's hard not to take notice. The highlight of the locals though is Wolf & Cub. Although rumours ran rampant not long ago of an imminent split, what we saw here was a band on a career high. The band have fleshed out their sound and are now exploring an almost Primal Screamesque element to their post-angular rock'n'roll. It sits well with their twin-drummer pummeling. A definite SxSW highlight. Across at ND, Sydney's The Holidays are another playing a career best. Their glistening guitar pop is now sounding immaculate onstage and their touring percussionist is adding a groove that hopefully finds him a permanent Holidayer.

It's about now that the day's series of disappointments unfold. Comedian Donald Glover cancels, with the audience only informed after sitting through an hour of warm-up folk (not entirely disastrous though, as that number includes the vicious Amy Shewmer); schedule delays/clashes mean missing Kurt Vile, Death From Above 1978, Mount Kimbie and Big Freedia; and Canada's Grimes does not live up to all the hype (just another baby doll voice over some lo-fi electronica).

Back on track, at the Red Eyed Fly there's Exene Cervenka. The former member of US band X (who reformed and toured the States last year) has honed her storytelling and guitar playing ways into a rootsy country style that is as arresting as her work with her influential punk buddies. A less succesful icon outing is Yoko Ono at Elysium. Desite her rare performance including son Sean with members of Deerhoof and Wilco, it's a case of the event overwhelming the music. The gig is rammed with douchebags, aging LA/NY scenesters who look like their faces fell off twenty years ago but who still rudely, and loudly, demand attention (they all claim to be friends of 'John'). An 'official' photographer fires a laser at anyone daring to take photos of the gig, an act so douche-like itself that people who were obeying the 'No photos' notice originally begin taking photos in defiance. So Ono's wails to an contemporary soundtrack were mainly going unnoticed. This gig was just for folks who no doubt will be boasting for years that they were there. [If someone ever makes that boast to you, ask them what songs she played. Bet they can't tell you.]

But the night doesn't end on that sour note. Across town at Kiss & Fly there is raw-as-fuck bounce to be heard. The audience hangs off every one of Vockah Redu sexual commands and party calls as his dancers shake more than their money makers and their non-money-makers. It's frenetic shit and light years more innovative than anything Ono and her Plastic supergroup were messing with.

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