The SXSW crowd is swelling — on Wednesday lines were already spilling out of smaller venues at one in the afternoon.
I found room inside Hotel Vegas, a delightful dive on the outskirts hosting "She Shreds," boasting a line-up of female fronted groups. Diet Cig played to an adoring crowd — perky power pop by the duo (drum, guitar), who proved it only takes one friend to create some good noise.
I then braved the corporate venue Hotel Hype, sponsored by Mazda, who provided coupons for free drinks upon entry. Thanks Mazda! MAZDA, THE CAR FOR A NEW GENERATION.
I came to see Mitski, whose album ‘Bury Me At Makeout Creek’ caught my eye last year, a reference from the golden decade of The Simpsons. Her deep introspective soft - loud - shrieking songs (Bjork light) were sadly lost in the giant shed, filled with people sitting down, checking cell phones and just happy to get out of the sun. These corporate gigs have to be soul-sucking — I trust the crowd was more receptive at her appearance at NPR’s gig later that night.
Any available pole in Austin is covered with posters for shows, fastened with miles and miles of clear tape. Their circumference grows each day, like the rings on the tree. A salute to those behind Hear Nebraska, whose posters always seemed to be the "bark" with clear visibility.
It worked — Hear Nebraska’s showcase was on a rooftop overlooking 6th Street, packed at a if-this-place-catches-on-fire-I’m-not-getting-out-of-here-alive level. It definitely felt like the place to be.
Universe Contest was absent due to what I was told was an injury to a bandmate (Godspeed!), and whose slot was filled by the Bolzen Beer Band, with their brand of enthusiastic turbo-polka. The Ramones covered on accordion / drum / tuba? I’m all yours.
The sun and those two free Mazda drinks set in, making me thinking a nap would be appropriate — Freakabout snapped me out of that. Great band, great voice, great sound. For those who wandered off the street and caught their set, I imagine most felt they caught one of those SXSW moments everyone is in search of.
Nebraska swag was there for the taking, inclusive of the new tourism guide. Judging from the cover, music and wide open spaces are our state’s main attraction.
I raced out on a self-indulgent quest to see Iggy Pop play at the Austin City Limit Stage. I queued up a couple hours early, in fear of being shut out — unwarranted, as the venue was about half full when the show started. SXSW patrons, what’s wrong with you?
For those of us who arrived ahead of schedule, two surprise acts opened. First up, Moonlandingz, another art-rock band with a groove reminiscent of the Talking Heads. Sean Lennon is a contributor to the band — hopefully it was not his idea for the lead singer to take the stage with his face covered in chocolate, wiping it off on his bandmates hair during the set. A distraction from good tunes, and I’m sure the crew were none to happy to have to towel off the stage post-show.
Noveller, a solo act, then lulled the crowd into semi-consciousness, which I believe was mission accomplished. Her lush, hypnotic guitaring (played at times with a bow, Jimmy Page style) played over self-generated loops, cleared the mind for what lurked ahead.
Iggy then took the stage and led a masters thesis on fronting a rock band — attendance should have been mandatory for the younger groups at their first SXSW.
The Josh Homme-led backing musicians laid the foundation for Iggy to Iggy — lurching, leaping, stage diving, with the overt message do-not-go-gently. When he asked for the houselights to come on I winced — instead of being disappointed by the empty seats, Iggy was genuinely grateful for everybody who came out for the show and seemed to be reluctant to leave the stage at concert’s end — a gentleman, and a punk.
I patted the man on the back as we wormed his way past me, and his skin felt like, with apology, rich corinthian leather.
An early morning on Thursday, with an 8 a.m. concert. SXSW!