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J. Sipes' daily log of music and mayhem

SXSW 2007, cue the hype. Every year same hype, same canned excitement. Don't get me wrong, I am totally stoked for this year's SXSW, it is just if I hear another "All right!! SXSW 2007!! It's another exciting year!! Yippee!!" I'll probably vomit.

This year we started things out right by taking it easy in Denton on our way up to Austin. It was a well needed rest before the craziness that is SXSW. The other change for this year is we currently have no place to stay. Usually there is a little open floor space in Austin, but this year everyone seems to be all full up. So we have been staying in the back of the pickup truck. So if you're reading this and you live in Austin, and you don't mind a hack writer sleeping on your floor send the editor an email and hook it up!!

Wed March 15, 2007
Picked up badges early and then stuck around the convention center to laugh at all the people who came late and had to wait in line. We took a quick break from the hilarity to catch Say Hi To Your Mom and Robyn Hitchcock play a few songs right there at the convention center. That was nice. It was barbeque time and then on to the shows.

Ola Podrida - Mohawk Patio - 845PM
My first stop was the Mohawk Patio to catch Ola Podrida who are AMAZING. Easily one of the best acts I saw this night. I imagine they are often compared to Iron and Wine, but I would say that Ola is a little more upbeat. I kept thinking it was like the Iron and Wine / Calexico show minus all the extra people and trumpets, if that makes any sense. I was a little hesidant about an Alt. Country band that comes from Brooklyn, NY, but it turns out that they are an Austin band that relocated to Brooklyn in the last year or so, so I guess that is ok. Two things I noticed was that the drummer seemed to be really focused on being accurate - upon which, from what I could tell, he was doing a great job. The other thing I noticed was the bass player had a picture of someone on his amp, kind of wish I had the time to stop and ask him what that was all about. I have to say after this show that I am looking forward to their self titled CD that I believe they said was coming out April 24th.

Mittens on Strings - Habana Calle 6 Patio - 950PM
I have heard a few tracks from Mittens on Strings and was really excited to see how they sounded live. The stage was outdoors and watching the band do a quick sound check made be believe the guy running sound wasn't the sharpest stick in the forest. Which is too bad because Mittens on Strings is one of the '"silly" bands that is intentionally a little off key, it is part of their thing. Unfortunately this didn't translate well over the venue's sound system. The vocals were too high and everything was just a little off balance. I even pulled out the earplugs a few times to make sure that they weren't the reason everything sounded so off. They were funny even if their toy airplane ended up on the roof of the tent. They had a projector that changed images as the band played and I thought that this was a little out of place, again could have been due to adjustments they had to make because of the venue. The crowd did seem to respond well to their hit song "The Most Complete Skeleton Ever Found", a song about dinosaurs.

Tunng - La Zona Rosa - 1130PM
I have been really looking forward to seeing this group for a while and my excitement made the mile walk from the previous venue to La Zona Rosa a quick trip. I had intended to see Tunng (pronounced, as far as I can tell, like tongue) last year, but something had come up so I was sure not to make the same mistake twice. I was not disappointed. The band has three acoustic guitar players (all of them sang), a guy with a bunch of sound makers (rattles and the like), a female singer (and quite the little dancer and darling to the cameras), and a guy on a computer/synthesizer. It is electro-folk and it is awesome. I do not even know how or where to describe it, but leave it to the Limeys to come up with it. The contrast between the synth's beeb beeb and the acoustic guitar strum is really distinctive but it could start to wear on some listeners after a while. It is definitely very European. I am really glad to have been able to make it this year and the show was probably one of the highlights of SXSW.

Scott H. Biram - Continental Club - 1AM
The walk from La Zona Rosa to the Continental Club is around a mile and a half but worth it when you're going to see the great Scott H. Biram, easily one of my all time favorite live acts and someone I always make an effort to go see. Scott's show was as energetic as ever and had the place rocking. Scott takes the slide blues, mixes in a little dirty country and spits it out punk rock style. To see him is to understand. The show put me in a good mood and made the two and a half mile walk back to meet up with the rest of the group seem like nothing.

On a whole it was a great first night and possibly the best first night of South by Southwest ever. My tired and sore feet got me back to the truck and I slept well despite everything. I am looking forward to another great night of music.

Thursday, March 16, 2007
I'll start off right here and admit that Thursday was for the most part a wash. The day started out late as I had been graciously given some space on a couch to sleep on, so I took full advantage of it. I think I only ate once all day, too. And despite really having nothing to do I never managed to really find a computer to sit down and come up with a good list of bands to see.

The night started off by tagging a long with the Dave for a while, but I was not able to see Bob Mould, the line was long and I wasn't willing to wait. So I found a corner to sit on and in between being distracted by cute indie rock girls I tried to form up a game plan.

The Pines - 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn - 10pm
I must have been really distracted by those hot little indie girls because it was 10 pm before I was at my first show of the night. It was a little odd to find because it was actually the 18th floor of the Hilton Garden Inn. I think the room is a conference room/ restaurant that had been cleared and had a stage erected in the corner. It was odd to get to because you actually had to walk through the lobby of the hotel and ride the main hotel elevator to the top. To go from the noise and mayhem of West 6th to the calm, quiet, air conditioned cool of the hotel was somewhat of a shock and definitely made me feel like I was someplace I wasn't supposed to be. I spent a little time taking in the view and then settled into a nice comfortable chair (something else that seemed a little out of place with the usual standing and sore feet of SXSW). While I was a little early I had already missed the first act of the Red House Records showcase. The next band, the one that I had randomly picked earlier while sitting on the street corner, was The Pines. The Pines are two guys from Minneapolis, one on electric guitar and the other on acoustic guitar. Despite starting off with some sound issues they played a great show, easily the best of my night. The Pines are simply a really good guitar playing bluesy folk duo. The Pines are a recent addition to Red House Records (a label I seriously need to look into), and I am really looking forward to their upcoming album. I think it was promised that the album would be out in April or May sometime, so if you see it I would recommend grabbing it and giving it a listen. Hopefully they are as good in the studio as they are live.

Random Noise on West 6th - 11pm
I spent the next hour wandering around from line to line. While walking around I sent a few txt messages, made a couple calls, and all in all was pretty bored. Not really a lot more to report on West 6th; still noisy, still a number of cute girls, and still a lot of lines to get into shows.

Limbeck - Latitude 30 - 12pm
I think the biggest reason I got into this venue was because they made everyone stand in one line regardless of badge, wristband, or cash, and let people in based on where they were in line. They had completely done away with SXSW rules. Of course this was fine by me as it allowed me to get into the show, but there were a few upset badge holders. I saw the last bit of Cruiserweight, and they were so unimpressive that I didn't bother to write anything down and I don't seem to remember a thing about them. I am not sure why I decided to see Limbeck, I think I had heard the name before but I have to say that I am glad I didn't have to wait in line for very long to see them because they were just not my cup of tea. The younger girls in the crowd seemed to be having fun, but Limbeck was just too poppy for me. The best part of the band was the pedal steel player, but I was told that he was just there for SXSW and was not a normal thing for the band, too bad.

Honorary Title - Latitude 30 - 1am
I really wasn't looking forward to more lines or to continue wondering around aimlessly so it didn't take a lot of convincing by Jeff Klein (a great musician who lives at the same place my gracious couch happens to be) to stay for Honorary Title. This was the first band that was really a stray from my Alternative Country SXSW theme, and admittedly, while I was watching them set up I was thinking to myself 'great, another typical indie rock band'. Mr. Klein did not lead me astray though, Honorary Title was actually really very good (it is possible that I am giving them more credit than they deserve because I was not expecting much, but they were definitely not bad). I think what impressed me most was how well the lead singer actually sings. I am usually not much of a fan of bands that actually sing (I like the more talking singing or gravely monotone type singing), but that is because most don't sing very well. This guy can really croon, it was good. I overheard after the show that the band wasn't as "tight or together" as they usually are, which surprised me because compared to many SXSW bands they seemed pretty on, maybe I was standing too close to the speakers to really notice. I am definitely going to look into this band a little more. And while it is possible I will not fall in love with what I find, isn't that what SXSW is all about, finding bands you want to explore further?

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