Friday, March 17, 2006

Town Lake Is Really a Lake, Kind Of: Thursday Evening

(I’m in a coffee shop, typing on my computer! MY computer! Sitting! With a soy latte! Heaven, you are so all up in this entry).

So, it took us a while to actually get to Town Lake after I typed that last entry. I had left Mr. Pockets up in the room for what he’d said was going to be a quick shave, but the minutes crawled all over themselves for an interminable stretch, till I had to call and ask him just what, exactly, he was shaving. Funny though that may have been, Pockets is still Pockets, and he deplores spontaneity so much that, when we were dating, I always lied to him about movie start times, giving him earlier showtimes so that he could fuss with his hair and I’d still get to see some previews. So, that hasn’t changed, and by the time we’d covered the short distance between our hotel and the lake – which is actually a dammed-off portion of the Colorado River – we’d just missed Blackalicious. I know I can see them back home in Oakland, but I just saw Chappelle’s Block Party last week, and the idea of seeing some hip-hop at a massive, outdoor venue really appealed to me.

No matter, though, We found my old pal DJ Illjay reclining in a camping chair in the crowd, and I plopped down upon the grass and starting digging on the muggy weather. The sky was starting to dim slightly, and the 80s showed no sign of going away – both in terms of the weather, and the fact that the headliner was Echo & the Bunnymen. DJ Ill asked Pockets and me if we thought that we were psyched for that because we’d all done time in Tampa, where one of the stupid/funnest things to do every week is dance to 80s music at The Castle on Monday night (a phenomenon that has been occurring in that down, at various venues, since I moved there in 1989).

Before long, Spoon took the stage. The last time I saw them was at the State Theatre in St. Pete, FL, opening for Superchunk and promoting Girls Can Tell. They’d been sloppy, and I talked to Britt Daniel after the show that night and said he’d looked like he was having fun up there. “Yeah,” he’d replied, “sometimes it’s just better to fake it.” But they were NOT faking it at Town Lake. They’re so gloriously on point now, and the hometown heroes gave their Austin their tightly wound pop all, opening with “The Beast and Dragon at Dawn,” and drawing largely from Girls and Gimme Fiction which made me very, very happy. (And RogueR will tell you that, by the time they made their way into “Sister Jack,” I was just far gone enough to call our home answering machine and hold my cell phone up. It was like that, y’all.)

Oh, and DJ Illjay and I agreed that Britt Daniel is a Monet, which, as fans of Clueless know, is someone who looks hella fine from far away, but not so much upon close inspection.

Spoon finished up, and we began the wait for Echo. It must not have been very long, because there was this big board to house right, stage left (can you tell I’ve been hanging out with a sound guy?) displaying messages from the crowd, and by the time I’d realized that all you had to do was text message the number in the board’s bottom right to get your words up there, and I’d thought of something clever to type (“I lost my cherry listening to Echo,” which is not true, it was actually to the sounds of the horror flick The Howling, but anyway) the board went to a large “SXSW” logo and emcee Bullethead, from event sponsors eMusic took the stage.

By then, we’d gotten ourselves pretty close, thanks to Spoon fans leaving and Eco fans being old coots like us who don’t particularly like to cut through a large, half-drunk crowd on a hot night. Bullethead thanked corporate sponsors, including Mickey D’s (big boos from the crowd) and encouraged people to visit the Kinky Friedman for Governor booth (big cheers). It was nearly dark by then, and still in the 70s somewhere, and DJ Ill pointed out that the Chase building – part of the illuminated downtown skyline that serves as a dramatic backdrop to the Town Lake stage – looks just like My Neighbor Totoro. (Check it:

(Here I must apologize: The batteries in my camera went dead at Twangfest, and it turned out that the spares I had were also dead, so I couldn’t take any pictures with my own machine. DJ Ill had a camera, though, and she’ll email me the ones I took with that, and I’ll post them, hopefully soon. I also gave my card to a guy taking personal pictures at the Flaming Lips show, so I will maybe have some of those, too. In the meantime, I’ll try my best to buy some batteries today.)

Echo started with new stuff, but quickly gave the crowd a lot of what they wanted – “Bring on the Dancing Horses,” “Never Stop,”"The Cutter," “The Killing Moon,” et cetera. They also covered “Love Me Two Times,” exhibiting one of the things I like best about this band – Ian knows he’s got a Morrison Complex, and he doesn’t try to hide it. This is the guy, after all, who, according to Julian Cope’s excellent book Head On, used to go by the name of Duke McCool.

And of course, me and lots of others were goth-dancing our waydown memory lane. At some point I had this thought that my demographic's band reunion tours are cooler/better/more valid than thse who came before us, because these bands were underground to begin with, so they get new fans and sound fresh when they trot out the old songs ... but then I realized that "Dancing Horses" sounds better to me than "Born to Be Wild" because I wasn't 16 when I first heard the latter, and therefore don't get the same electricity from it. In other words, every generation thinks their bands are better -- if it's too good, you're too old.

The new Echo songs sound good, though, and one that I guess must be something of a hit (unless it’s just an old one I’ve never heard), judging by a certain faction of the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction (i.e., a blonde in a tortoiseshell hair clip and too much perfume shoving past me when it started) is “Sleeping Pills,” which they made into a medley with “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Don’t Let Me Down.” Ian McCulloch tried to get the crowd to sing along to the “do-do-dos” in “Wild Side,” but he was messing with the cadence and no one seemed to be able to get it, so he settled for getting us to clap along.

This whole time, by the way, I’m totally tripping out on how much Ian M. looks like my friend Chris Millstein. I’ve said this for years. Chris almost always works at record stores wherever he lives, and he’s cute enough that girls generally say he looks like whatever guy’s the indie heartthrob of the moment (Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus, Beck, etc.). But I’ve always insisted he looks like McCulloch. Look:


And Chris:

(Sorry, Chris.)

Despite smoking like an open flue, McCulloch’s voice still sounds fantastic, if grown a bit reedy with age. Both he and guitarist Will Sargent were wearing layers, hoodies under blazers and the like, which didn’t really distract from the fiftysomethings’ portly spreads. Not that I think either is particularly self-conscious – Ian was wearing shades the entire time, and squatted out of sight for breathers in between vocal bits, and Sargent didn’t bother to face away from the crowd when it came time for him to shred, as a younger man in his kind of band might have done.

They finished up with “Lips Like Sugar,” and we made our way out of the crowd, DJ Illjay pointed out that the logo for HEB -- a local drugstore or supermarket whose name all over informed us of their sponsorship of this event – looks like Jesus’ face when turned on its side. This did not surprise me, as my first thought upon spying one of their outlets from the window of my cab from the airport was, “Hm, Heeb. Oh, right, I’m in Texas, where they think my people have horns.”

Sadly, as we walked away from the venue, through the free samples and shwag (I got a Spam magnet, but refused a SXSW lighter), we heard Echo kick into an encore of “Ocean Rain.” Ah, well. Such is life when you’ve got places to go, and I was anxious to lose Pockets and have a night with a female wingperson. So we went our separate ways with him, and DJ Illjay and I retired to her nearby apartment --which looks like a treehouse, and is home to two turtles who have to live in separate tanks because the little one keeps love-biting the big’un – to eat turkey dogs and chill before setting out into the still-warm night.



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