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Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

SxSW XXI Coda


Photo by Frank Yang

Now I appreciate that some/many/all of you are burnt out or wholly disinterested in coverage of SxSW and I can’t say as that I blame you – it’s certainly been all-pervasive in my RSS reader and I’ve barely been able to skim it all and I care. If you don’t, then this has probably been the worst week ever. But some things, once started, need to be finished correctly so with the exception of my A/V wrap-ups which will trickle out over the next week but not supplant regular posting, this will be the end.

And the the tale of the tape is as follows: 43 bands playing 44 shows over four days. 14.5 GB of photos, the first day of which have already gone up photos have already begun going up over here. And, despite my misgivings about the lineup before the festival began, the best time I’ve had in four years of attending. Part of this was thanks to logistical adjustments on my part – getting a hotel downtown and no longer having to drive and park every day, to say nothing of the free breakfast, freed up so much time and minimized a lot of headaches I’d almost gotten used to in the past (I don’t think you ever really get used to sitting in traffic though). Likewise, getting the badge (which facilitated the first crack at decent hotels) and feeling reasonably confident about getting into whatever shows I wanted was also a real load off.

I was thrilled that, once again, our Hot Freaks party was a huge success. Sure, I felt like our lineup was really solid and could stand up to anything else going on on the Friday and Saturday, but until people actually show up you can never be sure. But the people did come and let me say that there’s almost no better feeling than seeing a band that you invited to play not only put on a great show, but to have a full house enjoying them as well and going up to the band to buy CDs or what have you immediately after the show. Seriously, it’s great. My thanks to all the bands who played, all the labels, management and booking agencies who got them there and fellow bloggers An Aquarium Drunkard, Daytrotter, Gorilla Vs Bear, Largehearted Boy, My Old Kentucky Blog and You Ain’t No Picasso for getting it all together.

As for the rest of the fest, I did pretty well as far as seeing what I wanted to but of course there were acts that no matter how many times they played, we were just not going to get together. I would have loved to have caught The Kills (though their upcoming May 6 Toronto show did dispel a little of the urgency to see them), The Ting Tings (it’s probably impossible they’ll deliver on the hype but I was curious regardless – yet I missed all nine of their shows), Make Model, Jaymay, Fleet Foxes, The Indelicates and Cathy Davey to say nothing of the acts thats I haven’t even heard of and will only discover many months down the road that they were playing across the street while I sat on the curb on 6th St, poring over my showcase guide looking for something to watch.

I was also bummed to miss seeing Lightspeed Champion and Emmy The Great perform together which they did, as I predicted, at the Harp party which I could not attend because of my own party (and aside: RIP Harp, one of my favourite music magazines). And in a perfect world I’d have been able to hit up showcases featuring old favourites like Saturday Looks Good To Me, Headlights, Centro-Matic, DeVotchKa and Billy Bragg as well as cheer on hometown/Canadian acts looking to impress. But you can’t be everywhere at once and even if you could, you’d still have to get there. Wait, does that make any sense?

The best thing I saw, musical merit notwithstanding, was Peelander-Z. I mean, I’d probably never listen to an album but see them live, particularly in a venue with lots of climbing and jumping options? Hell yes. Though already very much known quantities to me, The Brother Kite’s set still felt like a revelation. Scots Sons & Daughters were fantastic and Frightened Rabbit were even better than I’d anticipated and I wish I could have seen them play louder and longer than the 25-minute showcase I was able to catch. Similarly, my attempts to benignly stalk Emmy The Great were foiled and I only saw her official showcase but it definitely delivered. She & Him were far, far better than I expected (though standing that close to Zooey Deschanel was about as good as I expected) and my inner fanboy prevents me from being objective about seeing R.E.M. in such close quarters. If there’s any disappointment, it’s that while I’ve now got a number of acts I definitely want to investigate further, there wasn’t any left field discovery that sent me home with a new favourite band (at least for the next ten minutes) but that’s what I get for making a schedule and mostly sticking to it, I guess.

At the end of last year I was making noises about this year being my last SxSW, citing things like rising costs, stiffening joints and lack of vacation time to do other non-music related things. All valid points, but if I followed through on that then I’d be giving up what’s probably the most fun week of the year for me – even with all the above factored in. So no more dramatic ultimatums or such silliness – just a “see you next year” if you’re heading down – note the date is a week later than this year – and a “sorry sucker, you have to suffer through another week of Sx postings” if you’re not.

If you’re not wholly burnt out yet, swing a stick for SxSW coverage. Or go to Pitchfork, PopMatters, The AV Club, AOL Music Canada, eye, The Toronto Star… ah, hell. Google News and Technorati that shit.

Back to reality as of tomorrow.

By : Frank Yang at 8:29 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Sasha says:

    Great coverage as always Frank! One of these years I’m going to go myself instead of reading all about it.

    I can’t believe Harp is dead. I always thought it would die because it seemed too smart, and too true to good music coverage to survive in this world of scandal rags and 15 minute famers. Very sad indeed…i don’t think there’s another magazine to fill the void.

  2. Martin says:

    I am now back too and trying to distill (read: recover) the blur of music, sun and chaos. If you had to fill out the obligatory Q&A for this years SXSW…

    Best discoveries? (Mine: Jens Lekman [ya, I’m slow on this one], Why, The Hard Lessons)

    Best live performances? (Mine: The Teeth, Dr Dog, Jens Lekman)

    Beautiful moments? (Mine: My Brightest Diamond and Peter and the Wolf in that church)

    Disappointments? (Mine: Vampire Weekend [probably more me than them], Black Mountain [they seemed unexcited to be there])

    Oh, and Hot Freaks was a great party (although with those lineups how could it be bad). Congrats!

  3. dB says:

    solid coverage of SXSW…with the weak lineup I passed this year so it was great to get the cliff notes version…and saddening to hear about Harp…but if there is one positive it’s one less outlet to propel the impending hyperbole that will be the He & She nightmare.