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.
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.
Today I got The Essential John Denver and a newly remastered reissue of Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees in the same package. Mercy! I got a chill pulling them out of the envelope. Denver and Scaggs together again! What kind of subtle coding was Sony/BMG sending by pairing this dynamic duo? The Seventies really did suck? We're out of ideas so here's two surefire golden oldies? If you thought the George Winston reissues were great then check out these two?
How anyone was surprised that Britney Spears has shaved her head is beyond me. As Stereophile's assistant editor, the intrepid Stephen Mejias reminded me, she was brainwashed as a toddler thanks to that malevolent mindfuck known as The Mickey Mouse Club. Add to that she's a piece of unreconstructed white trash from Louisiana, who's now been coddled beyond all description and suddenly head shaving looks like the least of her worries.
Today Kurt Cobain would have been 40. Seems like yesterday when we were seeing that searing image of his suicide: the photo taken in the room where he died, of his Converse All Stars, still on his feet, sticking out from behind a piece of furniture.
THE SHINS: Wincing the Night Away
Sub Pop SP 705 (CD). 2007. James Mercer, Joe Chiccarelli, prods.; Phil Ek, Sean Flora, Hiro Ninagawa, Brian Deck, Lars Fox, engs. AAD? TT: 41:52
Last week I went to an advance screening at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) of Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, a new film about the short, creative, and ultimately kinda sad life of songwriter/arranger Billy Strayhorn. "Strays" or "Sweet Pea" as his friends knew him was part, some would say most, of the brains behind Duke Ellington's success in the forties and fifties. The film will be shown on PBS around the country in February.
As history goes, the U.S.A. is weird shape these days. But not all is lost. Yeah, we got our shit: the war in Iraq, a warped, unconnected, hilariously inarticulate jackass for a president, a porous border with Mexico (oh wait, the republicans billion dollar fence will solve that). But just when it looks like it's all sliding down a rat hole it's good to remember that hey, we still got Ted Nugent. U!S!A!U!S!A!U!S!A!