So, as Tracy mentioned yesterday, I am a South by Southwest virgin. Just this morning, I didn't know my Emo's from a hole in the ground. And now, well ... I'm still kind of trying to figure out just where in the hell I am. But I can tell you what I've already gleaned: These days, SXSW ostensibly seems to be more about boozin', shmoozin' and acquiring free shit than it is about music. Right now, Austin is so inundated with seemingly likeminded, buzz-savvy bloggers, shutterbugs, "it" girls and party-hoppers that your best bet is to pick a handful of bands to see each day and scratch the rest. I spent most of Day One at Mohawk's Austinist party -- a safe bet that paid off.
When catching my Southwest flight out of BNA this morning, I unexpectedly happened upon Michael Eades (of Yewknee and We Own This Town) as well as virtually the entire managerial staff of both The Basement and Mercy Lounge -- all of whom shared my flight. I don't know who's running those venues right now, but Nashville is getting repped mighty strong down here.
I hoofed it sweatily about downtown Austin for the better part of an hour -- during which I spotted Brian Posehn two times, a dude playing the bagpipes (those are Scottish, right?) a boatload of asymmetrical haircuts and yellow pants and about three dozen leather-clad Brits -- before grabbing my credentials and a so-so swag-bag at the convention center. After hotel check-in, I headed up Red River Street, where I spotted Nashville natives Pico vs. Island Trees playing The Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends" ... and I'm fairly sure, given the red trench coat, one of the Heypenny lads was hanging around those parts, too.
yvynyl was there (read his blog) along with the rosy little androgynous fellow from White Denim. Downstairs, Small Black were playing their dexterous sort of synth-pop, which -- I'm surmising, given their "chill vibes" + the general modern zeitgeist -- is lo-fi on record. Hooky, but samey.
When Washed Out took the stage, my de facto companion remarked, "Is this Ace of Base?" And you know, if a DJ had been spinning an Ace of Base single recorded via tape deck in 1993 ... yeah, it probably would have sounded about like Washed Out's set. Inside, Knoxville's Royal Bangs were playing as a three-piece -- first time I've seen that -- but their urgent, rhythmically manic indie rock didn't suffer as a result.
Sweden's First Aid Kit -- a pair of young women conspicuously lacking accents and known for their cover of a Fleet Foxes song -- played 10-minute set that was sweet and full of autoharp. Then a band that I thought was Phantogram started ... it turned out to be Dan Black, and one song of sexy British club-thump was about all I could handle.
Anyhow, White Denim still does the virtuosic, disjointed, bluesy psychedelia thing well, though it'd be nice if they gave the audience a five-second break between songs every once in a while. Also, Phantogram's electro-pop is tight and mesmerizing. They'd kill with a live drummer, but their harmonies and loops are on-point enough.
So that was today. The plan for tonight? Hopefully Morning Benders and more at a Rough Trade showcase. Oh, and read the Cream's tweets for the latest updates.