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SXSW ’07: Austin, Tossed In

Maximum Performance

When I last logged in here, I'd just spent the day in our studio watching two fab artists giving two great performances and one great interview. Hot up-and-comer Brandi Carlile clicked on both levels, but the interview with super-deluxe Amy Winehouse, as I mentioned, was less than spectacular. Yeah, we were fortunate that we nailed her, and yeah, Ms. Winehouse later pulled out of several appearances, but all things considered, I think she may be best remembered by most of us as the only person to remove her shirt and stand outside our studio wearing only her bra for a full 15 minutes. At least in 2007. Oh yeah, pants too.

In the studio the next day were two equally nifty artists: red-hot Swedes Peter Bjorn & John (riding some buzz with that whistling thingie they do), who were accompanied by more biz-people than any other artist we'd encounter but, oddly, were lacking their famous John. Nonetheless, the more accurately named Peter Bjorn were both crunchy and dandy. My personal faves of the entire affair were Merge Records married couple the Rosebuds, a North Carolina duo who somehow evoke the sounds of the best Flying Nun bands in a sideways kind of way, I suppose. Their performance was completely groovy and I would heartily suggest you buy all products bearing their name. Yep, I really would.

What a great day it would later become! Highlights would include attending a dinner in which an exec from AOL would ask the Yahoo contingent what the "real" story was behind the upcoming departure of LAUNCH/Yahoo! Music co-founders Dave Goldberg and Bob Roback. To be candid, I don't think they found my explanation that Mr. Goldberg came from another planet and they wanted him back especially compelling, but it might be plausible. I don't know.

Soon after I popped over to Stubb's, where I witnessed Perry Farrell and his new combo Satellite Party winding up their set. As always something of a spacey character, lovable Perry had much to say from the stage. Pointing upward to the sky at one point, he declared, "This all belongs to us." I found his proclamation generous, and chose a quadrant in the southeast, but a few thugs standing near me also seemed to want it and we broke out in a horrible fistfight--not exactly Perry's intention, one supposes, but it was a nice thought!

Next up was a set by the once-hot Badly Drawn Boy, most memorable this night, at least, by my forgetting precisely who was playing by the set's second song. Blame that festive atmosphere! Strangely, no performance of "I Was Once Quite Good, But Now, Sadly, I Have Descended Into Pleasant-ish But Forgettable Murk" was heard! Perhaps I was in the bathroom.

Next up was one of the bigger bands of the entire fest: The Good, The Bad, And The Queen. Sounding more like the Clash circa Sandanista than one might expect--it was Paul Simonon's booming bass that did it--the band played one track after another, ironically matching the crowd's simultaneously heading to the bars for on drink after another. The winner? Anyone who chose to be somewhere else!

And then came the final day of SXSW, a glorious Saturday in Austin, where most of Y! Music's work was done and those of us remaining could simply socialize. Spending the mid-afternoon chatting with writer friends such as Billy Altman and Sylvie Simmons, I later strolled over to Antone's to see an opening set by the great Terry Reid, nowadays a California fixture but at one point in his youth the dude who told Jimmy Page "thanks for the offer but I don't want to be in your new band, why don't you hire this guy I know named Robert Plant?" Onstage with just a pianist, Reid played old stuff, new stuff, and great stuff and was one of the festival's highlights, if you ask me. And, unknowingly, you have!

Later some of us strolled over to the Hideout, where cult fave Kevin Ayers had earlier been scheduled to perform but now was mysteriously off the schedule. Pencilled in his place was something called Psychedelic Horsesh*t, the true identity of whom I guess we'll never know, but I'd like to think it was the reunited Beatles and that I missed it. That'd be a story to tell the grandkids!

Soon after we headed to Buffalo Billiards to watch the Bella Union showcase. A great UK label that these days tends to showcase American talent and make it somehow seem exotic--they're the dudes who put out the last Czars album--they gave us new signing Stephanie Dosen, dandy Irish belter Fionn Regan (whose record will be out here on Lost Highway), the texturally-ambitious Robert Gomez, and the riding-the-crest-of-a-critical-wave Midlake, all of whom were so good that the entire audience sobbed in ecstatic unison. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Finally, thought I'd cruise over to Stubb's to catch a midnight set by the reformed Stooges, but the line was so long, so filled with hopeless attendees knowing they'd have absolutely no chance of getting into the crowded venue, that I soon wandered off and enjoyed the Other Stooges. You know, the ones wearing green T-shirts bearing the inscription "KISS ME, I'M S**TFACED" and staggering drunkenly through the Austin streets on this ultrafine St. Patrick's holiday.

Later, for kicks, I flew home.

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