Robert Baird reports from South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival held in Austin, Texas.
I couldn’t resist. It was a sunny Monday afternoon and after a cruise on Austin’s famous drag, (otherwise known as Guadalupe), past the old (real) Antone's club, which is now a dry cleaners, I parked the rental car and slid into a nearly deserted Hole-in-the-Wall, for a shot of Patron Silver and to soak in a little classic Austin atmosphere.
So I'm sitting in traffic on MOPAC, the north/south expressway in Austin, listening to Willie Nile sing "Streets of New York," a tune that can be thought of as his "Jungleland" from his latest album, Streets of New York, on the CD player of my rented Jeep Liberty.
SXSW Part 3
So it was definitely the year of the female singer at SXSW 2007. Lily Allen was sassy and backed by a horn section. White dudes hooting on tenors, always a good time. The person I was with turned to me about halfway through and said, "I like this but I can’t tell you why." I took that to be a good sign.
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.
In a discussion about what their music isand is notDave King, drummer for the Bad Plus, remembers opening a show for free-jazz patriarch Ornette Coleman at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. After their set, the band joined the audience to watch Coleman.
"After the first couple tunesand this was in a seated theaterI swear, half the audience had left. Fifty years into your career, and he's still making people want to check it out and then decide if they can take it. And that's every night, I bet.