Tuesday, March 20, 2007

sxsw highlights

still recovering from my crazy red-eye travels. the most amazing thing to me about sxsw was how little sleep i needed. being in that environment seemed to give me extra energy. for someone who usually needs 8 hours, i was going strong with 3-5 hours per night, and am doing well today after my red-eye home from california, and the 1 hour of sleep i got on saturday night before i flew from austin to california.

for those of you who don't know, sxsw is a mad house of music. something like 70 venues host showcases where 2-10 bands play each day/night. each band plays 1 hour sets (including setting up and breaking down), and gets $150 from sxsw for showing up and playing. all costs are borne by the band. so these acts are hustling. probably playing a couple unofficial gigs, and trying to get in wherever they can. so it is madness.

since this was my first sxsw, and since indy rock (which dominates the scene) isn't really my cup of tea, my list of bands that i saw is rather modest, but i like to think i really picked my spots. got some good songs in my head.

wednesday i really just saw forro in the dark. saw some other groups, but couldn't tell you much about them. big shout out to davi, the percussionist for forro in the dark, and of course dave of bole2harlem for setting up that meeting. davi is a monster on the drums, and a mensch otherwise. more about him later.

thursday i started off at marco werman's showcase and caught ana laan, who was great. nice mix of acoustic guitar, loops, killer voice. then moved quick to a private party where david byrne played with forro in the dark (thanks davi!!!). wow. FITD had some sound-man issues on wednesday night, but thursday, they sounded great, and when david byrne jumped onto the stage, the place went wild. they closed the show by each grabbing some percussion and line dancing their way through the crowd and ending up crouched in a circle surrounded by dancing fans. nice one. i also had a nice memory photo moment when during the first song of FITD, i looked over and saw byrne leaning against the fence with the same stupid grin stuck on his face that was stuck on mine. regrettably, i missed the after party, cause i caught a cab to go see toubab krewe downtown, which was also great. spent some time with those guys during the day, and it was awesome to see their take on mali tradition. finished up the night catching MIS (Mexican Institute of Sound) at Marco's showcase again.

friday was a bit different musically. started off checking out buffalo tom, who were good to see, especially as they were so different from the rest of the stuff i'd seen thus far. then headed off to see a Scandinavian showcase, catching a few minutes of marit larsen, and then seeing the group vincent van go go, a great reggae act. bunch of danes rocking it. we took a break at this point, headed to a hotel on 6th to hang with some friends, and then later on, moved out to check out damon albarn's latest thang - the good, the bad and the queen. had to wait a while for them to come on, but it was good to finally see mr. albarn live on stage. funny shtick they have going on, but it is nice to see someone really keep on doing new projects, and not sitting on his first success. i had to bust out towards the end of the set to make it home by 2.30 or so.

saturday started earlier, with ian and i checking out antibalas who played around 5.30 pm. late start, but they got the crowd going with the ever-popular "sing along" thing. and they kept it rocking for the whole set. afro-beat will never die. ;) moved on to some food, and then headed back to pack up and rest a bit. made my way back out for a 10 pm set by tom morello. got to re-connect with my union roots in a show he performed in the central presbyterian church, the most unlikely venue of sxsw. ran around a bit to some unfulfilling little shows, and then ended up at the pinker tones show. wow. what a blast. it was hard to tell if the band was having more fun than the audience, and the audience didn't stop moving and cheering all set. these are an act not to be missed live. we tried to catch lee scratch perry (long line) and balkan beat box (stuck in nyc due to snow) to close out the night, but settled for a taco from one of the little places on 6th. then back to the hotel for the quick hour of sleep before the flight.

dang. what a week!

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