The yearly campfire ruckus that is the South by Southwest Music Conference turns the capitol of Texas into the Mecca of the alt.music.biz. The trade show and panel discussions are certainly useful, but the real crux of the whole circus is the music. And there’s plenty of music. The main complaint of attendees is that they can’t clone themselves. I haven’t seen the applicable textbook, but I believe there’s a law stating that the desire to see the show you’re missing increases proportionally in relation to the coolness of the show you’re actually seeing… or something like that. In other words, there are so many good shows happening concurrently that choosing which show to attend is really tough.
Wednesday, March 18th
Fortunately, the choice for the first show to see on Wednesday night was a no-brainer: Jesus Christ Superfly! The Austin-based punk rock trio put on an incredible live show — power packed and solid as granite. They were playing in the hot, cramped, infamous Bates Motel… where the doorman stamps the underside of your wrist with block letters reading “CHEAP ASS PUNK.” Judging by the crowd for the JCS show, it was the place to be. Jesus Christ Superfly are between labels right now, but you can order their most recent CD, Texas Toast, on the web at http://www.cyberramp.net/~swamptex/ or by writing No Lie Music at 2118 Guadelupe #216, Austin TX 78705.
After JCS was done, I ducked outside to breathe actual air before ducking back into the Bates Motel for the frantic freakshow that is REO Speedealer. I was surprised the band was able to fit on the tiny stage, but they seemed to have no problem rocking the house. REO Speedealer are from Dallas, and are weird in a very good way. You’ll be hearing from them.
After another dash outside, I was back in the oven for Hot Wheels Jr. Thankfully, the crowd had thinned a bit and I was able to enjoy music and oxygen. Hot Wheels Jr. are from Austin. Their performance featured sharp guitarisms and oblique popisms, with just a dash of minimalism(s). Tasty.
The last band to play the Bates that night was the Austin-based garage blues juggernaut known as Big Foot Chester. The lineup of the band had changed since I saw them last. Vocalist/harmonica player Walter Daniels (also of Jack O’ Fire fame) explained that former drummer Stephanie now plays in only two bands (Sugar Shack and Lord High Fixers) and that former bassist Angele has gone into the restaurant biz. No matter, the new lineup put on quite a good show… straight from the gut and heavier than a locomotive. Look for their new CD out soon on Sympathy for the Record Industry.
Thursday, March 19th
Euro Boys are Oslo, Norway’s answer to the question: “Can a bunch of Norwegians play incredible surf-influenced instrumental rock?” After seeing Euro Boys at the industrially-decorated Iron Cactus, I know they can. With guitars, bass, keyboards, a drummer, and a percussionist, Euro Boys weaved a swirling soundscape. Their music was hypnotic and undulating, and the crowd was really enjoying it. Yeah, Nordic Surf. . . Scandanavianista! Check out their album (also on Sympathy for the Record Industry).
Thursday night ended with Stretford from Austin. Stretford are a band with a horn section, informed by ska, but going way beyond tired ska-isms. The horns may sound like Roxy Music while the guitar sounds like the Stooges, but it all fits together. Stretford put on an energetic show, ending the night in high style.
Friday, March 20th
The main event this night was the Peek-A-Boo Records showcase at the Bates Motel. First up were Austin’s Vidi Vitties, whose angular and jumpy post-punk started the evening off nicely. Then, Houston’s Junior Varsity took the stage, accompanied by Bippy the dancing bear! JV lit up the place with their maltshop pogo. Their new 45, Pep Rally Rock! is out on Twist Like This (P.O. Box 540995, Houston TX 77254).
I had to deviate from the Peek-A-Boo plan to walk down to Emo’s Jr. and see Sluts for Hire (from Los Angeles, of course). Though the name may lead you to think otherwise, Sluts for Hire are three pissed-off men. They rock like hell, and certainly have no illusions about the nature of the music business. Their songs are full of angry observations of life, easy to relate to, and strangely uplifting.
Next, I was back to the Bates Motel for the highlight of the Peek-A-Boo Records showcase: Austin’s own 1-4-5’s. These four garage rockers in their shiny crash helmets have loads of fun playing live, and the crowd has a blast as well. Their SXSW show was a real riot, culminating in the band being covered in silly string by some adoring fans. Wow. Have a listen to their new EP (on Estrus) Rock n’ Roll Spook Party!
Later, at an after-hours venue, I saw the best two piece band since Flat Duo Jets: Rhudebaga! Consisting of a male drummer and a female bass player, Rhudebaga jam like crazy. Both players sing, the drummer plays harmonica and the bassist spices things up with effects and a short-wave radio. Just like the aforementioned Jets, Rhudebaga don’t need anyone else. Keep your ears open for them.
Saturday, March 21st
What do you do when you’re in a club called Liberty Lunch that serves no food? You watch Buffalo Daughter, that’s what. Yes, Tokyo’s freak-out supreme dazzled the crowd with their sonic escapades. From Sugar’s spiky guitar to Yumiko’s gurgling bass, Moog’s strange samples and Atsushi’s determined drums… From beginning to end, Buffalo Daughter put on an eclectic, hypnotizing show. Snazzy. Their latest album (on Grand Royal) is called New Rock.
Finally, a chilly Saturday night was brought to a close by The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Under the big tent at the Electric Lounge Pavilion, the BJTM were at their semi-inebriated, tuneful best. There isn’t another band that can play so many notes, have so many guitar sounds simultaneously, and still remain coherent (in their own twisted way). Trippy. In addition to their extensive back catalog, their newest album (on TVT Records) will be released soon.