It’s my sixth consecutive SXSW, and each time it feels twice as big as the year before. As a publicist friend and I walked down the main drag in Austin last night, he took one look around and said, “Oh my God, it’s like Mardi Gras now.” And indeed, though I will not be showing my boobs for beads, there’s enough beer, BBQ and music here to keep a city five times the size of New Orleans (and a whole lot bigger than Austin) busy and boozy for days.
Wednesday used to be a sort of sleepy, ease-you-in deal to preview the long weekend, but last night nearly every venue on 6th Street was already spilling crowds onto the sidewalk. And there is music everywhere: Lone guys with guitars strumming for no one on the curb, acoustic duets in front of the Starbucks inside the Radisson hotel, piano Radiohead covers in the lobby of the Four Seasons (where, by the way, a grizzled Lou Reed was holding court, and Moby wandered helplessly by with shopping bags, looking, no doubt, for a lone vegan snack in the Land of Beef and Brisket). At a small club called Volume, one of my favorite baby bands (though not for long, they’re signed to Pharrell’s Star Trak label on Interscope), Chester French, played to a sadly sparse crowd, but worked it well. The two recent Harvard grads ditched their usual yacht clothes for a fun sort of Dean-Martin-after-dark look (undone tuxes, messy-perfect hair) and threw long-stemmed tulips out the ladies (and a few smiling men as well), ripping through hectic versions of perfect pop nuggets “She Loves Everybody” and “Jimmy Choos” — if you haven’t heard them yet, go here now, and thank us later.
Feeling smudgy and plane-tired, I turned it in relatively early(12:30!), and was blessed the next morning by a truly spectacularsight: the entire Hansonclan, with babies, gorgeous wives (one pregnant), and moms (or werethey nannies?) in tow, eating brunch at Las Manitas and lookingridiculously adorable and fresh-scrubbed in the midst of a mass ofgrumpy, disheveled and most likely hungover indie rockers. I swear,those boys have skin like peaches! Seriously, they must grow them wellin Oklahoma. Anyway, onward: To the NPR party, where Jens Lekman(pictured) the Swedish troubadour who’s like Jonathan Richman, theMagnetic Fields, and a wonderfully twee little Nordic teddybear,pleased the early crowd with a short set. If you don’t love the song”Maple Leaves” (it’s from a few years back, but streaming on the link),you are a bad person, with a cold, dead soul. Also charming? AA Bondy,whose mournful, poignant songssongs have a sweet sort of back-porch beauty. Wisconson’s Bon Iverfollowed, and it’s also lovely, quiet stuff; check out the Jagjaguwardebut, For Emma Forever Ago, or just listen here.Not so quiet but super fun, Brooklyn’s Yeasayer busted out the goodstuff; think Band of Horses, made more tricky and intricate and swirly.And also, awesome. Listen to the track “2080” hereand try to resist it. Oops! You can’t. Alas, readers, this blogger wasstruck down by a truly lame case of a fever, chills, and (so gross)vomiting shortly after, so I missed Vampire Weekend’s penultimate appearance. Having played a little show called Saturday Night Livejust last weekend and debuted in the Billboard Top 20 scant months ago,they really didn’t need to drop by the festival, though according to myproxy eyewitness (thanks Kathryn!), they thoroughly enjoyed their SXSWvictory lap, repeatedly thanking the crowd for “the best first time atSouth By ever.” Though, apparently, it was marred when the singer’s tanfannypack (or as he called it, “tannypack”) went AWOL.; he pleaded withthe crowd for its return. Pardon us for judging, but isn’t the wholepoint of a fannypack that you keep it hitched to your fanny? Dude.
Tonight, sad me, I’m still suck in my hotel room feeling like a sicklittle troll. But I’m sure my co-workers Whitney Pastorek, ShirleyHalperin and Simon Vozick-Levinson will have tons of goodies to report.Hopefully, I’ll be back on the scene tomorrow for awesomeness and whatthey’re saying will be a 92-degree(!) day. Meanwhile, check out ourfull SXSW coverage here. Bye til then, PopWatchers!