Monday, March 20, 2006

Saturday Day Round-Up: Some Beautiful Place to Get Lost 1

After briefly considering going to the Arthur magazine party to see a bunch of bands I was only mildly curious about and to force people to look at my chest – OK, at my Kitchen Sink T-shirt – I decided to hoof it to the Yep Roc party at Yard Dog to see Billy Bragg, since he’d played two or three times already, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew his would be a performance worth catching, even if he didn’t do a single song I knew – sometimes that matters to me, sometimes it doesn’t. Depends on what kinda wet noodles the performers seem to be beforehand. Sometimes you just don’t want it to be your job to throw them against the wall and see if they stick, you know?

At about a quarter to 3, I headed off over the Colorado River for the third time that day. Sadly, though, the mini mental map that my friendly airport cab driver had gifted me with Wed. afternoon had begun to fade – I’d gotten turned around Friday night, and this day, too, I walked in the wrong direction (north instead of south on Congress) for many, many blocks before realizing my error. The good thing about SXSW, though, is that if you’ve gone 10 blocks in the wrong direction to get someplace, you’ve still gone 10 blocks toward good music, most likely. And since I was near the corner of Congress and 13th by the time I realized that my geography was backwards, and my next stop was at W. 17th anyway, I just needed to go four blocks north and a coupla blocks east to get there.

Only problem was, the capitol building was in my way.

Thankfully, some post-menopausal mamas coming from the afternoon’s national anti-war protest told me that I could just continue straight ahead, walk directly through the building and emerge on 15th St.

And so, things overheard around the Texas state capitol building:

Lady coming from anti-war protest: “You know, till thirty years ago, you never saw a Texas flag flying below an American one.”

Little kid: Do we get to go in there?
Bigger kid: “Yeah.”
Little Kid: “I knew that.”

Big black birds that are all over downtown Austin (grackles, I think): Chirrup, click, whirr, squeak.” (They totally sound like electronic decoy birds.)

The Hall of Governors inside the capitol building is actually a rotunda, and for all I know, it could be called the Rotunda of Governors. Or, even better, the Rotunder of Gov’ners. Regardless, it looks like the gallery from the Haunted House at Disneyworld. On the north side of the building is a “Tribute to Texas Schoolchildren,” a circle of bronze kiddies playing ringaroundtherosey. It’s creepy.

But anyway – this is not very rock n’ roll, this spontaneous elementary school field trip. Good thing, then, that I made it to the Dog & Duck shortly thereafter, for the Pop Culture Press party (oops, not Pop Matters, my mistake). This is actually only the second big daytime party I’ve made it to, as loyal readers of this blog know (his, Regan), because I am devoted to my readers, and also to my sleep.

The Pop Culture party (I’d vote for them) was huge, but the day’s steady rain had forced them to condense the acoustic and electric stages into one, so the folkies could get the benefit of the big tent as well as the rockers. The band taking the stage when I found Mr. Pockets was Nic Armstrong and the IV Thieves, a foursome of striped-shirted, leather-jacketed, black-haired power poppers that Pockets was tres excited about, but I just didn’t get. It started to nag at my craw, the fact that Pockets and Scotti kept going to totally different bands than I did, with not one in common. And then, realizing that the entire band actually looked like Mr. Pockets, I had an epiphany: Whereas I once largely preferred music made by people I’d like to make it with – and by “it,” I mean the dirtynasty, not the music itself – I now look for and groove on music made by people I relate to, i.e., want to be friends with, if not actually be them. And so, Pockets would love to hang with or be in the IV Thieves, whereas I wouldn’t touch’em with a prophylactic’d pole. Nor do I want to be like them, anymore than Pockets would want to be like or be Neko Case, Sharon Jones, or even, probably, any of the funky, sharp-suited Dap-Kings.

But then, but then … why were all these women, some my age or older, rocking out to Nic Armstrong under the Pop Culture Press tent? Well, maybe they don’t have the (questionable) benefit of my experience – as in, Are You Experienced? As in, having actually done the dirtynasty with my share of musicians, including semi-famous ones that make music I like. So they don’t know that it’s no different from any other dirtynasty, except that maybe it gives you a greater sense of conquest – a typically male expression of sexuality – than when you get it on with, as the Variety wedding announcements would put it, a “non-pro.”

OK, enough pontification … Peter Case played after IV Thieves, flanked by some other Plimsouls. They did some Plimsouls songs, probably some other stuff. I certainly didn’t care. Pockets did. Then Steve Wynn and the Miracle Three took the stage, and their second song was one of two Wynn songs I know, “That’s What You Always Say.” Luna covered it on their Slide EP, that’s why I know it. Wynn had a rad female drummer, and it turned out that she was Linda Pitmon, the drummer from Zuzu’s Petals. Here’s what I know about that band: The singer’s married to Paul Westerberg and, when they played the Brass Mug in Tampa in the mid-90s, I tried unsuccessfully to score them weed.

Did I mention that the Pop Culture party had Pyramid and Fat Tire on tap? Did I mention that I actually had a better time than it sounds like I did? Waiting in line for beer number two or three, I pulled out my notebook. I had just had two very annoying conversations with pompous music nerd know-it-alls, and I was about to write something like, “the problem with this festival is that everyone’s the same kind of asshole as I am” when this guy tried to cut in front of me and, realizing what he’d done, gave a five-spot to his friends directly ahead of me instead. I said something, he said something back, and before I knew it, I was having a great conversation with his friends, a guy and a girl from the Harrisburg PA area. We talked about music, and the festival, what we’d seen and were excited to see, little known nerdy factoids and whatnot. And I immediately felt bad for what I was about to write. And so, not having listened to that guy’s band yet (he gave me a CD), I’ll give them a shout-out right now, just for being so cool. Listen to the Parallax Project! I’m sure they’re awesome!

Beer in hand, I squeezed through the crowd to see Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet take the stage. Remember how I said the 14-year-old me wouldn’t let me miss this show? Well, unfortunately, the thirtysomething-year-old me got stuck behind a bunch of guys whose own inner teenagers wouldn’t let them miss the show, either. In other words, 14-year-old Fanny who wanted to be Susanna Hoffs, meet the guys who used to jerk their chicken to her. There were a dozen of them, at least, standing directly ahead of me and bellowing “Susanna!” for the entire show. I got one of them to take a picture of her and the now-portly Sweet … as soon as I upload all my pictures to Photobucket, you can look at ‘em. But take my word for it, she’s still an absolute vision, and though the sound that day left a lot to be desired, her voice still sounds as lovely. What the two of them are doing right now are their favorite 60s songs, and those favorites are not as obscure as you’d think. That day, they did “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (Dylan). “Different Drum” (The Monkees), and not one but TWO Neil Young songs, “Everybody knows This Is Nowhere” and “Cinnamon Girl.” I was pretty damn happy, even though I was more than a little icked out by the boys-only fan club element.

When they were done, I bid adieu to Pockets and Duck (a friend of Illjay’s who I’d run into during the Hoffs/Sweet set) and caught a ride back downtown with a friend of a friend and some of her friends.

Next up: The final night of SXSW, more adventures in getting lost, and the best celebrity sighting yet.


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