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SXSW Friday

20 Mar

In Which Your Correspondent Gets Tired or “I didn’t say rosebud”

Raphael Saadiq

If you have ever surfed or studied the ocean, you’ll know about the rip tide, the reverse current from the shore that quickly pulls back out to sea. It is especially dangerous to surfers and swimmers, who, after feeling the exhilaration of surging momentum of the wave, find themselves dragged under and away. Friday at SXSW had that dangerous rip tide quality. The running around, late nights of music, writing, editing and getting up early to finish and post, the drinks and smokes and adrenaline rush of crowds surging crests and a crash is dangerously imminent. I could have been done after the SPIN party at Stubb’s, having seen a killer lineup. I also could have been done after the AOL/Spinner Soul Revue, having been funked and romanced to bed. But you are not here to hang out in a hotel room. You have to find some reserves and get out and see things, keep swimming against that rip tide of exhaustion and deadlines.

Miike Snow

The SPIN party was pretty a-fucking-mazing. They throw it every year, and although as Staciaann warned me, the crowd can be a little uptight (it is, after all, an invite-only, industry heavy crowd) the lineup they picked definitely had the potential for mayhem: the re-united Hole, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Free Energy, Harlem, Miike Snow, Rogue Wave, and Fucked Up. Oh, Fucked Up. I’m going to start with them, even though they were more sort of in the middle, and I am just going to let the photos do the talking for the most part. I wrote a blog post for City Pages on it, and that should be enough and up soon. I’ll link when it is. Suffice to say this- it was so good that once it was over, we watched the entire show again silently on a friends videocamera andif I hadn’t taken a shower last night, I would still have mud on my body and Pink Eyes’ belly sweat in my hair.

Sharon Jones killed it again. She has been everywhere this South By and played two big shows yesterday, the SPIN shindig and the AOL/Spinner Soul Revue that we hit up later that night. Her guitar player introduced her as “the super soul sister with the magnetic je ne sais quoi” and that doesn’t disappoint. She is so buoyant and electric, it almost seems like an undersell. For the tune “If I Give You My Love” she brought Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes up on stage and sung it to him and although he stands a good two feet above her and is covered in tattoos, by the end of the song, he was on his knees hugging her. It was so sweet and maternal I had to text my mom that I love her, but it was also sexy, so now I know I have some Oedipus issues to deal with. Jokes aside, Sharon Jones deserves all the success she can get- before breaking into demonstrations of dances like the Mashed Potato, the Funky Chicken and the Boogaloo, she talked about getting on the soul train in Augusta, Georgia in 1965, and that train is still driving strong, thanks in no small part to the Dap Family. They have a new record out in April, I Learned The Hard Way, and it is knowledge you should share in.

Sharon Jones

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Tired. This is just easier now:

Hole Setlist (with notes and Courtney quotes)

Sympathy for Devil (Rolling Stones Cover)- An awesomely canny way to come back; a total rock tune and a fuck you to people who think she killed Kurt Cobain/ruined their lives/is a walking disaster.
Skinny Little Bitch- Courtney has the best green satin pumps on, which she reveals when she puts her foot up on the monitor and spreads her legs, which would be great except she misses several times and her foot goes skidding down the wedge.
Miss World- “I said Hole. I didn’t say big hole or little hole. I didn’t say rosebud, or big flapping vagina, I just said Hole.”
Nobody’s Daughter
Violet- Jokes about Brett Michaels and a “powerful ballad.” Then she sings part of “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.” Then talks about her and BM running off together- “I’m gonna make that fucker get preg so fast.”
Letter To God- Introduction of the band members, including “Invisible Dave,” who is there to “shadow my shitty guitar playing.”
Reasons to Beautiful
Malibu- Followed with jokes about hate sex, where “you’re going ooh-ooh and then you punch them.” Next level up; kicking!
Dirty Girls- Overheard before the show, “I feel like I’m re-living my angst at 13 years old.” Despite whatever diminished expectations there may have been for this, thee women surrounding us who were in the CD buying demo circa ’96, this is pretty thrilling. Especially for the chick wearing the sundress made of fabric with Courtney all over it, who Courtney recognizes and has a moment with.
Samantha- “People like you fuck people like me,” is a pretty catchy chorus, but not with a ten-foot pole, love (idiomatically, not last-namely). They’re kicking her off because we’re at time. She cusses us out, smiling. It’s funny she’s still here, but that’s a walking example of pulling out the Disaster Principle.

Also awesome at the SPIN party: Goons of Doom. Foul-mouthed heavy Aussie rockers with choruses like “Burn alive, burn alive, every motherfucker’s gonna burn alive.” Towards the end of their set, one band members pretended to swim on the ground in front of the stage while another charged through the crowd with a shitty hand-made shark fin held above his head, then jumped on top and pretended to eat his bandmate, all to a song with the line “The shark that ate my lover, I want to buy that shark a beer.” Their recent recod on Volcom Entertainment is called I Hate My Hair and Want To Die, so if they are touring, find them and bring your harpoons.

Black Joe Lewis

After all that mayhem, bed seems good, or walking around, or eating, or anything seated. But there are legends to see and soul to have, so we hop a pedicab over to the Austin Music Hall and on the ride, roll past Andrew WK doing an interview in the back of another pedicab, which doesn’t seem all that surprising. We got to the Soul Revue in time to catch Austin’s own Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears tearing into some punk rocker Delta blues, some seriously heavy wailing with a tight brass section. Lewis not only covered Iggy Pop in his set, but busted out the harmonica and put on a serious show with tunes like “Sugarfoot” and “Bobby Boucher” and had his band working so hard that the drummer lost his glasses.

Raphael Saadiq from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

After Black Joe Lewis cleared off, Raphael Saadiq had his band in black suits with skinny black ties warming up the crowd. Saadiq, formerly of early 90’s R&B-styled group Toni! Tony! Toné! has styled this soul singer persona as a mix of the Temptations mixed with James Brown and when he bounded on stage in a fire-engine red suit, Saadiq’s ineffable energy was contagious. Vamping with performative sexiness and dancing in unison with his sideman, Saadiq wailed through tunes like “Sure Hope You Mean It” and “Let’s Take a Walk”. He definitely fed off the crowd and there were definitely some moments of stroking Saadiq’s own ego, continually asking “Do you love me?” but the answer was yes, so get some self-esteem and perform already. Still, the band made the show bounce so hard that bits of confetti that were stuck up in the rafters were shaken loose and Saadiq has a clothes-melting tenor. School of Cool was definitely in session, and one of the big lessons was “Always leave them wanting more” as Saadiq performed for barely half an hour in order to keep on schedule for Smokey Robinson.

Smokey Robinson

OK, so Robinson’s songs are part of the American canon of romantic songs, and I am sure there are many people walking around today who owe their existence to his tunes. I am also happy that I got to see him sing “Second That Emotion” but Smokey doesn’t move so well these days and his voice isn’t as powerfully smooth as it once was. He’s also had some work done so he doesn’t blink all that often, meaning that his live performance seemed, well, a little animatronic. It doesn’t help that he had some seriously cheesy, slightly peaked dancers gyrating around him, emphasizing his own diminished movement and by the time there spotlight fell on one musician for an extended flute solo, that was about as much 70s-style loving I could take.

That really should have been it, the plan was to wander lazily and and then head off to get to work, but the more we were on 6th street, the more random Minnesotans we ran into, Lucy Michelle and her crew, the Anthem Heart gang, Tony Zaccardi, Bella Koshka peeps- everyone is better friends with their countrymen in a foreign land. Snapping some pictures, eating some street pizza, laughing at the people coming out of the drum line dancing, it was a great night. Aimless and lovely and possibly a perfect note to go out on.

Drumline on 6th Street from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

But still, tiredness shall not win out and The Very Best, one of the bands that I had already missed twice was playing the late slot Emo’s. There seem to be two tacks for closing out the night at SXSW, something calming and relaxing (Sondre Lerche on Thursday) or crazy dancing (dubstep and Surfer Blood on Wednesday). The Very Best is some of the greatest dancing around, beautifully voiced Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya chanting and singing atop western pop hits re-cut and mixed by the London-based Radioclit DJ/production crew. Their free mixtape and record have been in heavy uplifting rotation for almost two years now, and when I saw them last at Pitchfork, it was one of the best dance parties ever, starting with 150 people or so and ending up with 2000. Crazy and not to be missed, damn the tired. Live on Emo’s small stage, Esau did not disappoint, but the things that were off-putting at Pitchfork were magnified, namely stupid hypeman doing all the blah blah blah bullshit hype stuff and the fact that the Radioclit guys are kind of douche-y and not great DJs. They are basically playing a CD, and it can still get glitchy. Still, dance on, including their new hijack of Yeasayer’s “Ambling Alp”, “Tengazako” from M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” and when they got told by the venue that they were going to get shut down, those of us up front hopped on stage to dance to “Warm Heart of Africa” before wrapping it up in the dark to the overdub of Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There”. Too short, for sure and although the Very Best crew was running shuttles out to the ranch where they were staying to keep partying, it seemed the better choice to wander around towards home at that point. Tiredness will have out, but not before one last back-alley impromptu show by Austin’s Not In The Face, a rip-roaring country-punk duo stealing power for their mic and amps who sent me home with a cover of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”, which is a fine thing to sing to music, your lover and your muse.

Not In The Face from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

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