Thursday, March 16, 2006

OK, so, I haven't been able to get to a free wireless connection since Phoenix, even though Austin's supposedly crawling with them. And I wrote a very embarrassing blog entry that the KS editorial board -- or at least the versions of them that live in my head-- put the kibosh on publishing here. Let's just say that the whinnying bitches of fate punished my neurotic packing clusterfuck by ruining the one pair of long pants I's chosen, finally, to bring, and leave it at that.

But I'm just getting my own crawl on, having spent the ten or so hours since arriving getting my bearings in the city. My $22 cab ride from the airport was provided by a chatty dude who's from Morocco by way of Orlando, and he explained to me that Congress St., where my hotel is, divides the city's east and west sides, while the Colorado River, which my hotel'd adjacent to, divides it in a northerly and southerly way. This was a helpful start, and made up for the pain I felt when I found out that Austin's buses cost $1.00 for 24 hours' unlimited transfers.

Anyway ... cutting to the chase, as it's nearly three a.m. and I have to kneel on a dining room chair to reach the keyboard at this kiosk without standing. Through the masses of Nice Beards Professors (boys in blazers and beards which give them the appearance of being both older and cuter than they are) and the "woolpaper" (so named by my companions, as in, "this town is papered with fine wool") that have descended upon the town, Mr. Pockets, Scotti and I cut our way to a Vietnamese joint with an excrutiatingly long wait and a celebrity customer in the form of J. Mascis or, as Pockets called him, "The Silver Fox." He commented that Mascis hadn't aged well, but I disagreed -- he never was a particularly attractive man in the first place, and at least tonight he was rocking a purple track jacket with white stripes. That immediately removes all the criteria of Normal People Attractiveness.

We went our separate ways -- Pockets to an event put on by his band's label, Tone Vendor, Scotti to try and gain entry to the New Pornographers/Belle and Sebastian/Mogwai show at Stubb's, and me to Antone's for the Astralwerks showcase, with the ultimate goal of seeing Beth Orton at 11 p.m. I was already over the general stiffness of the event before the first act hit the stage, and I started chatting with some folks at the bar, who told me there was a "secret" Flaming Lips show happening at 11 at the Fox & Hound. The first act at Antone's was a decent enough soul singer from the Bronx named Stephanie McKay, who exhorted the crowd to participate in a too-challenging singalong, and then laughed when they didn't get it, whether that be due to lack of ability or interest. It was barely 9 p.m. on Wednesday, after all. So I took off with my new friends to the Fox & Hound, one of many outdoor, tented venues at SXSW, and the same one I saw the Apples in Stereo at in 2000, and where John Doe from X nearly ran me over as I hid from the rain near the backstage area. Tonight I was greeted by The Czars, who I give a 7 for composition, an 8.5 for execution, and a 5 for lyricism. Oh, and a 9.5 for onstage patter -- when the singer finished his first song, during which his mic buzzed the entire time, he grumbled to the crowd, "Hey, have some respect. I sucked a lot of cock to get up here." Unfortunately, his voice was more interesting when the mic was feeding back.

Three queues (for warm Tecate, the port-o-potty, and a shot of Jameson, respectively) later, I ambled easily into the crowd to get a good view of the Lips, who I hadn't seen in many years. Just as I was starting to kick myself for not seeing any exciting new acts yet, the band started up with "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- the whole thing. The trademark giant Flaming Lips baloons -- green and orange -- were bouncing around, and everyone seemed to know the words. Wayne Coyne bestoyed upon us wishes of community and whimsy like the beloved salt-and-pepper priest he is. The rest of the set went roughly like this: One new song, which Coyne encouraged the crowd to sing along to, also, prompting his bandmate to add, "if you know it illegally"; a marathon version of "Yoshimi"; another new song; an old song I didn't recognize; and, finally, "War Pigs," with special guest vocalist Peaches, which was exactly as good, or as bad, as you'd think. Coyne blew green and yellow smoke at us from a Rube Goldberg device that appeared to have been made out of a megaphone, and then it was over and we streamed out of there grinning, hundreds upom hundreds of us, as at peace with each other as an army of music snobs could be. Think I'm being cynical? You should have seen the crowd reaction two thirds into the show when a young man stepped onstage with his girlfriend and asked her to marry him, right then and there; Wayne Coyne had to cue us to applaud.

From there, I headed through the mid-60s mist back to Antone's, and caught, miraculously, Beth Orton's last two and a half songs. "Trailer Park" is one of my favorite albums of all time, and though I don't know her newest material, and that's all I heard tonight, her unique, raw silk voice still moves me all around inside.

From there, I made the 20-minute walk to meet the boys at Stubb's, through the mad pedestrian traffic. Once there, I watched about 15 minutes of Mogwai, determined I was too sleepy and not nearly stoned enough to truly appreciate it, and began the hike back to the hotel, bidding the fellas adieu, as they were going to try and catch Echo & the Bunnymen at a warehouse party at 4 a.m. (I thought this was extremely foolish, as that band's playing a free show in the park tomorrow afternoon; and indeed I was right, since as I started neatening this entry up, Scotti called me to tell me the party had been invite-only.)

En route, though, I got my first New Band Wish granted, when I stopped to clap and hoot and throw money at The Daughters of the Confederacy, a four-piece Austin-area band playing on a corner of 6th St. Stand-up bass, fiddle, and an impossibly young pair of brothers on banjo and acoustic guitar, playing freight-train bluegrass that even inspired a pair of cologne-dipped frat boys to square dance for the crowd. Turns out they're recording for Pie Records soon -- on Long Island. And so it would appear they were meant for me, as that's where I'm from, and I was able impart upon them more than a dollar and a KS business card -- I was able to advise them to spend as much time as they could in NYC, and as little time as possible on LI, as I wished I had done.


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