Friday, March 16
1:06pm: It's nice to put the SXSW badge to full use, and that's why I'm sitting inside convention center room 18. I'm also here because the panel titled "Comedy On The Music Circuit" features guys like David Cross, Zach Galifianakis, and Jon Wurster (Patton Oswalt was also supposed to be here, but his King Of Queens schedule has kept him out of Austin) talking about the phenomenon of "indie-rock comedy." Not too much new light is shed on the concept of bringing comedy to rock clubs and trying to make indie-rock kids laugh, but a few good chuckles are had as I gather the strength for another full day of music.
2:29pm: Sixth Street is already hopping, and every other person who walks by seems to either have a boom mic or a video camera. It's around San Jacinto that I get my first glimpse of Rose Pipette, who appears to be in a hurry with her bandmates. Just as Josh considers following Wayne Coyne wherever he's headed, I consider following Rose, but then we both think better of it and head to Stubb's to check out the Spin party. I don't know what time Mew is supposed to play, but I really want to see them.
2:50pm: We arrive at Stubb's just in time to hear the final notes of the final song by Mew. Nice. I get my free fake ice cream and leave.
3:11pm: Before I head down to the Levi's/Fader Fort to catch some overseas jams, Josh introduces me to Dan Didier, and I figure now is my chance to finally have that Promise Ring reunion conversation. But it turns out Dan and I have already spoken before, back in 2004 at the Kill Rock Stars showcase at SXSW. Our interaction this time goes a little something like this:
Dan: Yeah, we've already met. I don't usually have a good memory for things like this, but I remember talking at The Decemberists show at Buffalo Billiards.
Me: Wow, really? I guess that was kind of a crazy night. Did I by any chance talk a lot about The Promise Ring?
Dan: Yeah, you did, but it was totally fine…
Hmm, well, I guess I've already had that conversation with one the P-Ring dudes. Oh well.
3:55pm: At the Fader event, Badly Drawn Boy is doing an acoustic set that proves he really is one of the best singer-songwriters in the business. He's also a totally different performer than the one I saw on his first trip to the U.S. many years ago, when he couldn't make it through his songs and he ended up kicking some guy in the crowd in the head. If you figured he was washed up, check out last year's Born In The UK and prepare to be amazed.
6:05pm: After a somewhat disappointing set by Youth Group (have I changed or have they?) and a pretty unimpressive performance by Office (which was made a little better by the fact that I got to stand behind James Iha, who signed the band to his label), Amy Winehouse packs the place with an acoustic take on her buzzed-about soul music. It's a short but sweet set, but I think I'd like to see a full-band performance before I decide if she's worth the trouble.
7pm: On my way back to the hotel, I see Chris Hardwick (formerly of Singled Out fame, but now half of the smart and genuinely funny music duo Hard 'N Phirm) and find myself acting like that Chris Farley SNL character and telling Hardwick what I liked about his band's recent San Francisco performance. Ugh. Apparently they just played the "Mess With Texas" event curated by David Cross, and suddenly I wonder if I should have braved the insanely long line. I'm sure Les Savy Fav was great as well. Oh well.
9:44pm: After running out of patience waiting for Georgie James to take the Bourbon Rocks stage, I head over to Stubb's to finally see Andrew Bird, who plays a mean violin and spends a lot of time whistling like, well, a bird.
11:01pm: I decide to stick around at Stubb's to see Perry Farrell's Satellite Party, which I've heard is going to feature Slash on guitar. A friend of a friend said they sat next to Slash on their plane to Austin, so I figure the rumors must be true. Turns out it's actually Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme; you can imagine how bad this bland hard-rock set is. Someone says that the porn-star background singer is Perry's wife, and I get even sadder. An okay version of Jane's "Ain't No Right" briefly raises my spirits, but their closing song about partying (presumably their theme song) is really depressing.
12:50am: After attempting to wash my ears out with some Decemberists-esque pop from Page France at the Suicide Squeeze showcase at Maggie Mae's, I'm now inside the packed, stuffy, and overall uninviting Eternal to see The Faint, who would be a whole lot more exciting if it wasn't for the fact that the sound is really shitty from where I'm standing, which isn't too far from the speakers. Regardless, this band always makes conversations about which dance-rock group got the recent craze started seem pretty pointless; I'm fairly certain that of the current crop, The Faint has been at it the longest, and they really do it the best. The new songs don't sound amazing, but I still have faith that the next record will be exciting.
2:35am: After getting a taste of the new-and-improved Hella back at Maggie Mae's, a few of us head to the Sheraton to keep the party going, but apparently due to noise complaints we find the elevators blocked by security guards, who are escorting guests to their rooms. This is all getting a little too high school for me, so I head back to my hotel. Saturday is going to be busy, so I may as well try to get eight hours.
Friday, March 16