SWSX 2007. It was the year of the female singer. And of course of Iggy.
Let's do Mr. Osterberg first.
South By Southwest usually saves the best for last, which always seems to mean the final act at Stubb's on Saturday night. For those unfamiliar with Austin, Stubb's is a BBQ joint, once owned by CB Stubblefield or "Stubb," a Navasota, Texas native who opened his first pit out in Lubbock after returning from the KO-rean (as they say it in Texas). While C.B. and his Lubbock restaurant are gone now, his name lives on in a line of nationally marketed sauces and in the Austin location, which has what can only charitably called a "venue" out back. Big, slanty, mudhole is more like it. Instead of an amphitheatre, Stubbs is a hillside sloping down into a gulley which collects rain, trash and chicks showing their tits to whatever heartthrob (Iggy Pop?) is onstage at the time. If it rains, forgetaboutit. Last year I stood in the rain and watched the Pretenders and promised myself nevermore. This year I watched an earlier act on the same bill, the Kings of Leon, who were absolutely wonderful except for the fact that they've now adopted a weird, pretty boy kind of look. They played a set heavy with the material from their new record, Because of the Times which was Stereophile's Recording of the Month for March, and it rocked.
Another South by Southwest is in the books. My 21st out of a possible 23 festivals. Let me start with three acts that were among the most prominent participants there in terms of appearances. It seemed like every time I turned aroundday, night, those sunny, warm Austin spring afternoons when the free drinks flow freely and the good times rollthere would be Raul Malo, the Heartless Bastards and/or M. Ward playing yet another gig.
Talk about your bad ideas. I can’t decide whether Whole Lotta Rosie subtitled “An All Star Salute to Fat Chicks,” exists just to be obnoxious or whether Paul LaPlaca and A.J.Confessore really are the kind of hard rock dudes that actually love large women.
So the big day, September 9, Beatles Day, has come and gone and after being away on a brief trip, I returned this morning to a number of voicemails that began, “Are the Beatles reissues worth the money?”
Starting this blog has made me feel almost the same way I did when Frank Sinatra died and I wrote in the pages of Stereophile that when I became a music writer, lo those many dark-haired days ago, I knew that someday I'd have to write a Francis Albert obit. When the blog craze first began to gallop, I knew intuitively that someday, I too would be sucked into the immediacy maw and be lured into venting my opinions, valuable or not, in the blogosphere.
It’s a sure thing that Michael Jackson’s life was not going to end pretty. In fact, it can be argued that this mode of death is not the worst thing that could have happened. Seeing him waste away from cancer or die in prison, or collapse and die onstage would have all been worse. You could feel that how ever it was going to occur, Michael stood a good chance of going out in spectacularly tragic fashion. If the rumors are true, it was a shot of Demerol and he stopped breathing. At least it was mercifully fast. Can you imagine the mad scramble that’s now going to occur for his assets being carried out while he was still breathing? And who gave him this alleged shot? I have a feeling that a number of Dr. Nicks are about to be uncovered. At least his poor tortured soul departed quickly for what I hope is a better life somewhere else.
If you measure success as confusing people, provoking discussions, evoking strong feelings, keeping listeners off balance, creating opposing camps, having the same record hated and loved by equal minorities, then Circuital by My Morning Jacket is already a big hit.
The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia? Now in its second revised and updated printing? Does any one person, even a momentous artist who now seems determined to die on the stage (to steal a quote from the great Midnight Cowboy) really need or deserve their own encyclopedia?
The Grammy Awards are that one Sunday night every January, when for a few brief hours, I try to imagine what people on other continents (in not other planets) think of America when they watch this silly, frivolous, super glam display of Las Vegasness come to the Staples Center. How incredibly ridiculous we must look to the rest of the world. During the telecast, I’m liable to claim I’m from Canada. By the end, I want to take a shower and scrub off the sleaze. The whole thing is so bad, so not about music, that I have to change channels throughout the telecast if only to cleanse my palette. Last night at one point, I flipped over to the hi def Palladia network and there was a Britney video of her tune, “Womanizer,” which was nominated for a Grammy but lost to Lady Gaga. Owing to the fact that much of the video takes place in a sauna, with Brit writhing around nude (creatively covering her nasty bits), the contrast between Spears skin and the absolute nonsense that was goin’ on in L.A. made Little Miss Crazy look like the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.