Doug and I landed in Austin around 7, after a fair amount of airplane drama. We picked up our credentials at the Convention Center, then took a walk on 6th. Went as far up as Stubb's on Red River, then back to settle in at Lovejoy's, where we saw Homer Henderson:

Mark and Dave arrived around 11:30. We played some pool, and made some plans for the next day. Britt Daniel of Spoon showed up around 1:00, but he wasn't there to see us. We rolled back to the hotel around 2:30.

By the way, most of the video clips pasted into these posts, including the one above, are just for context, and don't come from the shows we attended. There are a couple of happy exceptions, though, especially the White Denim clips from Wednesday. The crappy cell phone photos are all mine, however, and all contemporaneous.


Doug and I got up and wandered around looking for a place to eat. Met Mark and Dave at Habana Calle 6, on 6th, where we ate Cuban sandwiches and ropa vieja. Ridiculously good; we would return here a couple more times. From here, we went over to the Emo's corner and ducked into Emo's Annex, a tent on a lot at the corner of 6th and Red River for the Ioda Opening Day Bash. We saw Chris Bathgate, a precious and kind of boring Michigan songwriter leading a large band with horns and a hammered dulcimer. We kept waiting for the dulcimer player to tear off a crazy solo, but he just looked kind of stoned and just pinged out a couple of accent notes. Eh.

Then out came Modey Lemon, a mostly instrumental trio with an eight-foot-tall gorilla on drums that played a solid twenty-five minutes of fuzzed-out experimental psychedelic droning, riffing, howling protopunk noise. And I mean solid - they set up and started playing, and segued from one song to the next without pause until a stagehand reached out and tapped the guitarist on the shoulder. The guitarist nodded, steered the band into a climax, then said "Thanks" and the band left the stage. It was fucking awesome. Here's a clip of them live which gives you an idea, but what we saw seemed noisier and out of control:

We then wandered a bit, checking into Red 7, where we saw Canopy:

These guys got screwed by horrible sound, so it was hard to judge the songs. This kid appeared to be having fun, though:

Inside, on the main stage, Austin metal band The Sword was following their annual tradition of performing somewhere at SXSW as a cover band. This time, they called themselves "Zombie Eaters," and performed a note-for-note cover of Faith No More's first record. We left after three songs, not knowing the backstory and not really believeing that we had just spent ten minutes watching a FNM cover band. We stopped by the nearly abandoned Beauty Bar and saw a couple of minutes of punk duo Pity Party:

Mark got a guitar pick (there were plenty):

We then headed over to Red Eyed Fly, a deceptive venue that looks from the front like a one-story bungalow.

I was a bit confused, as we were there to see a couple of bands that were too big for the apparently tiny space. We walked in and found ourselves in a low-ceilinged bar, crowded with people clustered around a small stage in the corner. On this stage were Restaurant, a two-piece band (one of many duos we saw). At first glance nothing special, though the guitar player was pretty good:

Upon closer inspection, however, the drummer appeared to be playing a collection of crap he dragged out of his basement, using two-foot-long, inch thick wooden dowels:

We then went back past the bathrooms through some double doors, and - surprise, found the venue proper, an outdoor stage overlooking water, packed to the gills and waiting for White Denim.

These guys were amazing and one of the highlights of the week. They reminded me of a punk rock Canned Heat (of Woodstock and "I'm Going Home," not the relic that wanders the state fair circuit to this day). These clips are of the actual show we saw:

They were followed by The Octopus Project, an Austin electronic instrumental band. They were good in spots, with a theremin for goodness sake. Here's my crappy picture, and some sample video:

They had some nice high points, but they were pretty much eclipsed by the Black Diamond Heavies next door at Beerland. Another duo, consisting of an average-looking dude on drums, and a skinny, mustachioed biker playing 1 metric ton of organ. Again, my crappy picture and some sample video:

They were great, and by the time they were done, I was ready to eat. Adam Brown had arrived, and Doug, Adam and I went to eat and plan our attack on the evening shows at Chez Nous, a French place right off 6th, which was really good.

After dinner, we headed over to the Mohawk on Red River, where we spent the rest of the night. We saw Fatal Flying Guilloteens on the main stage. They were OK (again, my crap photo plus a sample from youtube):

The Guiloteens were followed by The Plastic Constellations, who were kind of radio-ready pop punk (I won't bother with the youtube, but heres the crap photo):

Mohawk is a really nice bar, by the way; and the upstairs had maybe the nicest bathroom I saw the whole time I was in Austin. After a couple of boring minutes with the Plastic Constellations, I walked into the inside stage and promptly had my mind blown by the Mae Shi. This band played tight, crazy spaz-rock with each of the members rotating instruments, sometimes on drums, sometimes on guitar, sometimes clutching cheap keyboards hooked up to various processors and pedals, the songs broken up and punctuated by animal shrieks, unison harmonizing, and the spreading of a sheet across the front of the crowd to create an ad-hoc revival tent. Oh, did I mention they were born again christians? These guys were incredible, and we ended up seeing them three times (again, my shot, then a youtube sample):

We then saw The Big Sleep, a Brooklyn shoegaze outfit. They were pretty good, but by this time it was getting really cold, and I had not worn my jacket, so I was a little distracted.

At that point the bars were shut, and we wanted to save our strength for the days ahead, so we didn't seek out any late-night shows and headed back to the hotel.


Started the day at the (pretty lame) Texas Picnic Company, a couple of blocks from Emo's. After lunch, we walked over to Emo's Lounge to see if we were right the first time about the Mae Shi (see Wed. night). Turns out we were! Those guys are fucking amazing!

And just for fun, another illustrative youtube clip:

After Mae Shi, we wandered over to the Emo's outside stage and caught a couple of minutes of Most Serene Republic. Not bad, but didn't quite live up to their very cool name. BUT! MSR represented the third trombone sighting thus far during SXSW.

After Most Serene Republic, I went inside to the Emo's main room and caught a couple of minutes of some rock band - i think it was Son, Ambulance:

At this point, Mark, Dave and I left to go down to the Flatstock poster show, which was great. There was a lot of excellent stuff down there, including a set of White Stripes posters based on chess pieces. The asking price for the whole set was like 900 dollars, too high to be really tempting, exactly, but man were they cool. I bought some t-shirts for Amy, and a couple of posters, including this excellent Spoon poster from Aesthetic Apparatus in Minneapolis:

I also bought this Wilco poster from Dan MacAdam at Crosshair Silkscreen Design:

I don't have permission to use these images, which definitely belong to the above-named companies and not me, but I bought the posters and I encourage everyone to go buy stuff from them.

So after this, I walked back up 6th street, taking in the mid-afternoon crowd. Just look at this selection of the nation's hippest, most in-the-know music freaks:

Woo! I want to party with those folks! I then returned to Emo's Lounge to catch Parts & Labor and those guys fucking PEELED THE PAINT OFF THE WALLS. They are a very aggressively loud noise rock band with these inexplicably catchy pop melodies careening over the din. Not everybody's cup of tea, I know, but I really, really enjoyed this show.

After Parts & Labor, I stumbled happily down 6th street, rivulets of blood coursing down from my ears and marking my trail as I wandered randomly in and out of a couple of clubs. I stuck around the Look See Proof show for a minute; they were English kids who really, really like the Futureheads first record. Hey, that's okay, I like it too:

I also saw these guys, but I have no idea who they are:

Eventually I drifted back to the Emo's outside stage for Tokyo Police Club, a young, kind of spastic Canadian band that got spiked by a bad mix for the first couple of songs, but once the mix got fixed they really finished strong:

Closing the Emo's outside day show was Minneapolis group Tapes 'n Tapes. I really liked their debut album "the Loon," which was reminiscent (to me) of the best old Violent Femmes songs; rawboned, jangly, aggressive, and funny. I expected to see a pretty straight reading of these songs, but they surprised me and mostly played new stuff, which is much more straight-ahead. The old songs were played in looser, louder versions, and I thought really came off well. Plus I liked the new stuff - I'll probably buy that record when it comes out next month. All in all, a great end to the day shows.

Mark, Doug, and Dave certainly seemed to enjoy it:

And here's a clip from the actual show:

After dinner at Habana Calle 6, I returned to the hotel to await Mike's arrival and contemplate my 6th Street henna tat (produced by half a dozen wrist stamps over the course of the day):

Once I met up with Mike, we tried to get into the Jagjaguar showcase at Mohawk, but Mike didn't have his wristband yet, and the lines just weren't moving. We then stopped in briefly at Stubb's to see a song or two of the Old 97s:

We then hauled ass down to Soho Lounge, a hole in the wall on 6th street with a long narrow upstairs bar, and arrived just in time to see Times New Viking start up @ 1:20; a three piece with organ, guitar and drums. Remarkable driving distortion, and really infectious melodies. The video clip is from the actual show we saw.

Again, it's not everyone's cup of tea, but by the end of that show, Mike and I were jumping up and down, pounding each other on the back, and basically having a fucking great time. Back to the hotel, ears ringing, and then bed.

P.S. at one point Thursday I also went into Cedar Door Courtyard by accident thinking I was at the Cedar Street venue. I was trying to see Montreal indie pop band Islands. Instead I saw two songs by shit-awful radioternative nightmares Army of Freshmen. (No, no link. No!) I promptly deleted the memory of the sound from my ears, but not this picture from my camera, so here it is:


Woke up, ate and we're off! A quick 15 block walk to digest the breakfast tacos, and we're at La Zona Rosa for the Village Voice Media party. The first band was HEALTH, a noiserock quartet from LA. I had been excited to see them, but they suffered from a serious case of venue mismatch, blowing sheets of aggressive noise into a half-empty warehouse in air conditioning in the middle of the day.

There was no one for the spastic frontman to play off of, and no force from the audience for the noise to push against; I felt like an utterly passive recipient of this piercing feedback assault, like I was watching it on television. I went outside and skipped the rest. Doug said he liked it, though. It's OK, I would see them again later in more favorable circumstances.

After them came the Cribs, who were kind of like the Archers of Loaf, if the Archers had no sense of dynamics at all, and simply played all of their songs at a maximum yell and a metronomic tempo. Since the fluid rhythms and tasteful dynamics are what I really like about the Archers, I thought this band sucked.

Well, two bad ones in a row, so I was really getting fired up for The Black Keys, when . . . I had to walk 15 blocks back to the hotel room and spend an hour on the phone for work. But, when SXSW closes a door, she opens up a window. Because I left the Voice party early, I was close enough to the Mohawk to catch White Denim's full afternoon set once I finished my call. This time around I was much closer to the stage, and they blew me away again.

I really like these guys; the songwriting is unique and strong, with immediately memorable melodies (see "All You Really Have To Do," from Wednesday), and the drummer is as inventive a rock timekeeper as I have seen anywhere recently. They are one of the bands I will be following in the wake of this trip, and I have already bought their EP. (Available on iTunes! Go git it!). No video from this show, but heres a fun live clip anyway:

As White Denim wrapped up, Mike, Doug, Adam, Mark and Dave all arrived from the Voice party in time for Blitzen Trapper. We got great seats above the band on the deck:

I know it doesn't look like it in the picture, but I promise, everyone was happy. From these seats we were looking straight down on the band, maybe fifteen feet away, resulting in probably my best band picture of the trip:

The set was great. These guys definitely come from a Grateful Dead, jam-band place, but with a strong dose of heavy guitar in there to keep it interesting, and a very strong drummer. No clips from this show, but here's a couple of short clips from SXSW 2007 that are pretty close (except for the sleeping girl in the second one).

The show was a nice mix of their loose-limbed jam stuff and their more bashing, straight ahead songs, and they were a perfect match with a hot, crystal-clear day.
Doug and I then went inside to catch a couple of minutes of Jason Collett, the Broken Social Scene guitarist performing a set as a solo frontman in the inside bar:

It was low-key and enjoyable. No clip of the actual show, but this clip gives a pretty good idea:

I had to cut out early, because I got word at that point that Aaron was arriving soon, so I left to meet him.

I met Aaron and we went to the Mongolian barbecue place across the street and ate too much Mongolian barbecue. We wandered up to 6th and met the others at Flamingo Cantina for the start of a long, noisy bill. We watched the end of the Clip'd Beaks show, which was okay:

I swear, that's a photo of Clip'd Beaks. Here's a roughly analogous clip:

Doug and company wanted to go see Pissed Jeans at Bourbon Rocks, and Aaron did not have the required credentials, so he and I went wandering. We went into Emo's Annex and saw Black Earth, a ROCK BAND with a frontman who looked like Penn Gillette, and who played ROCK with lots of FUCKING RIFFS, MAN and KICKASS SOLOS and ROCK. They were just awful:

There were some diehard fans there, including a squat, tattooed, shirtless, fifty-year-old, bald biker who kept shouting "FUCK YOU" at the stage, before nodding his head furiously to the ROCK. After the show, some young Black Earth street-teamer tried to give me the hard sell for their CD: "C'mon, you liked it, right? Pick up the CD! C'mon!"

We walked on up Red River and poked our head into Jaime's Spanish Restaurant long enough to catch a couple of songs by Perfect Pants (kind of the anti-Pissed Jeans, I guess), an amiable jazz-rap-folk hybrid with a sax player. Not bad, not great, we left after three songs:

We got back to the Flamingo in time to see APES, the DC band fronted by the riveting, spindly singer, and driven by the riveting, spindly, but preposterously authoritative drummer (clip not from show):

APES were followed by Old Time Relijun from Portland, from whom I didn't know what to expect; the band consisted of a female drummer in a polka dot dress, a nattily dressed sax player in a pinstripe suit, a stand-up bass player in Portland hipster flannel, and the guitarist, in a long-sleeve black t-shirt, porn 'stache, extremely tight biker shorts and a pair of red noise dampening headphones not plugged into anything:

These guys set up a series of crazily propulsive five minute drone songs that were really incredible. This live clip kind of gets at it, but live it was much, much better (not from the actual show):

After Old Time Relijun came HEALTH again; this time the place was packed, the crowd was eager, and the show was amazing.

I have never been so completely turned around on a band in one day as I was for that show. Aaron liked it, too:

This clip's from their SXSW 08 Saturday show, but the vibe is similar:

And closing out the Flamingo, and my last show of SXSW was, you guessed it, THE MAE MOTHERFUCKING SHI!