Wednesday, March 12th, 2008
SxSW XXI Prelude
Photo by Francesca Perry
Greetings from sunny Austin, Texas, and let me just say how nice it is to have some scenery besides massive snow banks to look at for a change. Mostly painless trip down here yesterday and I’m now badged, rested and ready to get on with it.
There’s no shortage of SxSW survival guides out there, but as someone going into his fourth go-around and the big Texan to-do, I feel qualified to offer some sage advice to rookies. Basically, see what you’re going to see and don’t worry about what you’re missing. Because no matter what you’re seeing, you’re missing something and probably something great. But the people who are at that something great are also missing something else great. And so on and so on. So don’t worry about those three Flaming Lips secret shows that I – er, you – missed a couple of years ago and enjoy whatever you’re at. Unless is sucks. Then just go next door and see something else. And eat whenever the opportunity presents itself, because those opportunities will be few and far between. And granola bars crammed into your pockets are your friends.
When this year’s lineup was initially announced, I was kind of let down with the number of acts I’d hoped would be in attendance and weren’t, but as I’ve put together my schedule I’ve still got way too much to choose from (though I still have way too many conflicts as well as completely empty slots). But some acts take priority over others and this year, the one I’m going to catch as much as possible (currently looking like all of two times) is Emmy The Great. I’ve mentioned her in the context of her appearance on the Lightspeed Champion record but her work under her own name has been completely beguiling as well. She’s a folksinger at the core but with a lovely voice and gift for melody coupled with a sharp eye for songwriterly detail and an acerbic wit that reminds me of Billy Bragg if he were a twenty-first century, twentysomething English girl more focused on the personal than the political. Her breakup song “Canopies And Grapes” just slays me.
There’s no album yet, just a limited edition EP that I don’t expect to find a copy of and various singles, compilation appearances and live sessions floating around the internet. Hunting down her recordings has been an elbo.ws and hype machine scavenger hunt, but that’s refreshing in a sense – like the old days when I’d roam used CD shop to used CD shop looking for that elusive import single to complete a collection. Of course, you’re at the mercy of different bit rates and dodgy meta tagging but that’s progress for you.
In addition to the samples I’ve linked below (including her contributions to the Kruger Magazine singles club), check out her Black Cab Session (whose proprieters Londonist has an interview with) and if you’re in the UK, this MTV UK session. I will have to make a point of watching that when I’m in the UK in a couple months. Yes, I’m crossing the Atlantic to watch an MTV feature. Yay me.
MP3: Emmy The Great – “Easter Parade”
MP3: Emmy The Great – “Hold On”
MP3: Emmy The Great – “Paper Trails”
MP3: Emmy The Great – “MIA” (live from Black Room Sessions)
MP3: Emmy The Great – “The Hypnotist’s Son” (live from Black Room Sessions)
Video: Emmy The Great – “Gabriel”
Video: Emmy The Great – “Easter Parade”
Video: Emmy The Great – “MIA”
MySpace: Emmy The Great
Also high on my to-see list are Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit. They’re deserving of a proper post on their own which I’ll get to post-SxSW, probably, but the elevator pitch would be The Twilight Sad as a folk band. Lovers of thick Scottish accents, line up here. Their new album The Midnight Organ Fight is out April 15.
I feel compelled to mention that because of the sheer number of things I’ve got on the docket over the week, my coverage will be a little different than in past years – namely, look for all commentary and minimal outside linkage or media whilst I’m here. The amount of time it takes me to get all that together simply isn’t available. Instead, I’m intending to whip up an omnibus-type post after I get home that will have more MP3s, videos and photos than you can shake a stick at.
If you’re in Austin and need some assorted sundry planning tips, CBC Radio 3 (for whom I’ll also be blogging the festival over the course of the week) has a survival guide, Sched.org has been an invaluable if not quite comprehensive planning tool for official and unofficial showcases and parties, IMEEM has assembled playlists for every SxSW showcase (no mean feat), NPR has audio previews of their festival picks, Free Yr Radio endeavours to be your one-stop party reference spot, Pitchfork has a guide to goings-on, Variety also has some picks of their own. And, of course, if you get the chance on Friday and Saturday come by Club DeVille and the Mohawk for Hot Freaks – say hello, sit a spell.
And if you’re not in Austin, SxSW Baby has rounded up all of your live webcast options for the next few days. Throw some brisket on the grill, crack open a bottle of PBR, kick back and pretend you’re here.