I decided not to take any band photos today, which turns out to be a huge mistake later in the evening. After three solid days of little-to-no sleep and lots of free booze I just wanted to try and enjoy some music. Phase one: I get to Mother Egan's Irish Pub way down on 6th street to see Plus/Minus. They plow through several songs from Holding Patterns and I'm a very happy camper. They easily have one of the best live guitar sounds without relying on the use of heavy effects, I wish they would tour more. I catch half of their set and leave to try and go see Adam Franklin (Swervedriver) with his backing band Canada's Sianspheric, this gets weird.
Possibly one of the most crazy and uncomfortable implosions of live music I've ever witnessed. Sadly, Sianspheric's drummer is wasted! He can barely play through a song or even keep his balance on the drum stool. After the second try the guitarist/singer launches his guitar at the drummer in angst and frustration. Why would a band come all the way down to Austin from Canada to blow a great opportunity? I don't know either. This band is done.
Adam Franklin is completely forgettable and can't remember how to play some of his songs, I'm leaving. I head over to Cream Vintage by the University and can't find Ice Cream Man. That's because I missed him at yesterdays show in the exact same place! Damn. So I'm at the showcase behind the shop and there's a very cool outdoor vibe with free beer and a brilliant set by We Are Scientists. We are Scientists are one of those bands I pre-judged because of the whole new-wave/garage rock revival fad that I'm completely tired of. But this band is so amazing and good. I bought their CD yesterday.
After trying to hail a cab for 30 minutes I make it on over to the Secretly Canadian showcase at Emo's Annex to catch the mighty Richard Swift and The Sons of National Freedom and a host of other awesome bands (Swearing at Motorists, Pink Mountaintops, Okerkill River, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness...). Swearing at Motorists are a two-piece rock collage with some very cool songs, I dug it. Richard Swift and The Sons of National Freedom are so talented. They sound like old-skool Elton John mixed with the Doves "Black and White Town" fever. During his song "Atlantic Ocean" members of Earlimart, Okerkill River, and Great Northern get up onstage and join the band like it's dance party USA! Again, why didn't I bring my fucking camera!?!
I'm almost late to the Jade Tree showcase across the street at Emo's. One of my favorite bands of the year is playing, Seattle's Ester Drang. As I walk out of Emo's Annex I notice the badge line is already 100 people deep, maybe I should have stayed? Ester Drang put on one of the best performances of the festival. They play at least 5 songs from Rocinate and I'm completely stoked on how smooth their songs come across with all the massive sounds and instrumentation on their latest record. They pulled it off nicely.
It's almost 1 am, last chance to catch a band. I take the advice from my friends, which turns out to be a monumental mistake, and head over to Exodus to see The Charlatans. Boring and crowded with lots of weird middle-aged men cruising around. Tim Burgess can't sing a lick tonight to save his life. It sounded like he had a cold or lost his voice over the past couple of days. I should've checked out The Pretenders or The Juan Maclean instead.
It's pouring rain and we're trying to get to the annual VICE party at some crazy location (BTW, Sean is the coolest guy in the world and without him SXSW would never be the same without him). We get their just in time for Wolfmother and they blow our minds. There's a band after them called Tres Hombres (ZZ Top cover band) who should have headlined yawn-fest 2006 instead. Do you know the ZZ Top back catalog? Me neither.
We're tired, it's 4am, and I'm hungry. It's time to cap off the night at Katz's 24-Hour Diner then head to the hotel. I don't have a flight until 6 pm the next day so I'm feeling pretty good about tomorrow.
I wake up and the town's wet, empty, and calm. As I walk down Red River it's everyone's making a last ditch effort to eat at Stubb's BBQ so the line is ridiculous. I walk over to Casino El Camino and feast on a juicy 'KC Burger' and watch There's Something About Mary on the telly, I forgot how funny Matt Dillon was.
SXSW was awesome and more tiring than ever. I feel like there was more of an L.A. presence than ever before but it turned out pretty well.
My recommendations for next year: Buy a Badge, drink less during the day, eat at Casino El Camino and The Best Wurst (of course) on 6th street, Katz's is a great late-night diner option instead of the plastic breakfast at IHOP. The Badge was a successful tool this year while many wristbands, including band members, got stiffed. It's only gonna get more complicated for wristbands holders next year so save up and buy a badge.
Bands I missed because of schedule conflicts, but would have loved to see: Ted Leo, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, What Made Milwaukee Famous, The Flaming Lips, The Beastie Boys, Helen Stellar, Hot Chip, and The Black Heart Procession.
-all photos by Scott McDonald.