Most Austinites have a definite love/hate relationship with SXSW. Wednesday to Friday, it's invigorating to have your town be this nexus of cool, where exciting people from all over the world are gathered and there's something happening every hour of every day. By Saturday, you realize that SXSW is a lot like having one of your old college friends stay over: He's really fun to talk to, and you enjoy drinking with him and catching up, but by Saturday morning your house looks like shit, you haven't had a decent night's sleep in several days, you've spent three times as much money as you normally do, and really, it's time for him to get the fuck out already so you can finally get some peace and quiet. It's no wonder so many locals have been sporting those "Welcome To Austin, Remember To Leave" shirts.
I've hit most of the high points already, so I'm taking a more laissez-faire attitude towards the day shows today. As always, it's good to be flexible, especially when things like Mess With Texas are still ridiculously crowded. I guess it's just not in the cards. In fact, all of Red River is more crammed than it's been all week, and I guess everyone is milking this last day for all it's worth. Me, I'm feeling noncommittal about almost everything. Fatigue has definitely set in.
2:30pm: Because of a misprint in my free show list, I get to Stubb's expecting to catch Ghostface Killah at 3pm, only to find him already wrapping things up. The stage resembles a Girls Gone Wild video, littered with buxom young ladies in tight green t-shirts and shamrock beads. Ghostface, master of subtlety, is rapping about "getting that pussy wet." Man, I'm no prude, but it's a little early for porn talk. He closes out with "Back Like That," but without Ne-Yo to sing the hook the song sounds pretty rough. I'm so pissed that I missed the show that I don't bother waiting around for Rakim.
3pm: This is what happens when you rely on blogs for your show schedules. I get to Room 710 hoping to catch The Walkmen only to find that they too are already on their last song. White Rabbits is about to play, and as much as I like them I feel like I need something new.
3:15pm: I've finally made it over to the Levi's/Fader Fort after putting it off all week, and of course the line is around the block. I guess I won't be seeing The Good, The Bad & The Queen this year. I console myself with a free Chipwich from the Ice Cream Man.
3:45pm: You wouldn't believe how effective an Onion business card is at getting you into places you don't really belong, in this case the Snocap tent at Brush Square park, which is ostensibly invite-only. We've missed The Trucks (thankfully, as I long ago hit my limit on Peaches-inspired electro-grrls), but the Buzzcocks are setting up and there's free BBQ (too bad I'm a vegetarian) and a mysterious blue drink, which turns out to be 90% rum. It's a bit early for liquor, and besides, I'm still drunk on my own power. I'm going to start whipping out my Onion business card everywhere from now on.
4pm: The tent fills up for the Buzzcocks as some girl plays iPod DJ, bumping Beck, The Breeders, and Le Tigre and rocking out to her own "set" like no one's ever thought to DJ "Deceptacon" before. The crowd is mostly older industry people and aging punks. I'm convinced that the girl in front of me—with neon green hair, pink-and-black striped stockings, and homemade Rancid t-shirt—must be about 18 until she turns around. Ladies (and gentlemen), if you're in your mid-to-late 40s, it might be a good idea to lay off the Manic Panic and stop shopping at Hot Topic. What Not To Wear can only rescue so many people.
4:12pm: The Buzzcocks rip through their set with no space between songs, opening with "Boredom" and closing with the one-two-three punch of "Orgasm Addict," "What Do I Get?" and "Ever Fallen In Love." The band is as energetic and whip-smart as the last time I saw them in 2003, but I find myself a little distracted by Pete Shelley's t-shirt, which is embroidered with the Evil Monkey from Family Guy. I guess it could be worse—it could have been Yosemite Sam or something—but it's still a bit of a letdown to see him dressed like my dad.
9pm: I'm really paranoid about not getting into The Stooges, so I go ahead and join the line at Stubb's, which is already filling up. Luckily I get in, but now I have to sit through all of the crappy opening acts, beginning with British "blue-eyed soul" singer Paolo Nutini, whom I seriously can't stand. His wheezy, wannabe Al Green voice mixed with the tepid James Blunt-ness of the band's music makes for a bizarre opener to The Stooges, but luckily the line for the bathroom is so long that I miss most of his set.
9:45pm: And now I have to sit through Kings Of Leon? Um, couldn't you just, like, fart in my face instead?
11pm: Spoon plays a set heavy on new material, which is a lot moodier than their previous work. Britt invites Austin's former karaoke queen Yasmin Kittles onstage for "Rhythm & Soul," which is, I believe, the first male-female duet the band has had since the days of Andy Maguire. All in all, it's great.
12:15am: Iggy Pop runs out, arms flailing, as The Stooges kick into a string of "hits": "1970," "I Wanna Be Your Dog," "T.V. Eye." Ron Asheton's guitar is as vicious as ever, but the band sounds a little creaky. Then again, as Josh texts to say, "They're washed-up old men." I disagree on the first part, but Iggy does seem to be showing his age a little, less likely to cut himself up with a broken beer bottle than maybe have a cup of tea and turn in early. Other than a few forays into new material—including "Skull Ring" off of Pop's solo album—it's mostly the old (read: good) stuff. Mike Watt's bass amp gives out halfway through, and despite the efforts of three different people he can't get anything out of it and takes to angrily whacking at it. Finally it hums back to life. Iggy asks, "How many of you motherfuckers are fried? I'm friiiiied." Me too, Iggy. Me too. He then invites "every gymnastic motherfucker" to get up on stage for closer "No Fun." The show finally turns into the sweaty punk melee I'd been hoping for, and if this is really the end, it's a good way to go out.
1:45am: It's really the end. By all accounts, the Vice after-party has been shut down before it could even begin. Actually, that's fine by me, and I'm content to go home and let the festival be over. Looking back, there are a few bands I'm sorry to have missed—The Pipettes, Peter Bjorn & John, The Walkmen, Jandek—but that's the problem with SXSW: Even if you throw yourself into it and spend all day hustling, you'll never see more than 10%. Reading over my colleagues' blogs I realize none of us had even close to the same experience. And that's a beautiful thing, actually.
Now everybody get the fuck out.