1pm, Kyle: An anti-war parade makes its way from the capitol down Congress. It's a colorful and noisy collection of people who probably have "Keep Austin Weird" stickers on their bumpers.
1:15pm, Marc: My dream of hanging out with Rachael Ray has been abruptly dashed by a woman who asks if I've RSVPed for Feedback With Rachael Ray at the Beauty Bar—one would think that an official SXSW party would be open to all badge holders, but one would be wrong. I get updates during the day from people who have made it inside, none of whom were able to get close to the VIP section where Ms. Ray could be seen watching bands like The Raveonettes, Holy Fuck, and The Cringe (her husband's band). It's hard to imagine her listening to Holy Fuck while getting her EVOO on, but who knows what's in her iPod. Maybe I need to set up a Random Rules…
1:28pm, Marc: Saddened by the Rachael Ray experience, my spirits are immediately lifted as a big batch of antiwar protesters pass me at the corner of Red River and Sixth.
1:30pm, Josh: I begin my final day here on an easy note—a quick trip to Flatstock, the poster convention to end all poster conventions, where art meets rock bands in an explosion of screen-printing. (Or something like that.) As usual, I treat it more like a museum than a museum gift shop, not buying anything (too many posters already await hanging at home) but soaking in the radness of people like Chicago's Jay Ryan.
1:33pm, Marc: I'm back at the Paste/Stereogum party at Volume, where they're handing out free Southern Comfort—the stuff is disgusting and doesn't taste very indie rock, but SoCo is all over SXSW, so I guess they know something that I don't. Boy-girl electro duo High Places are moving the crowd with their tribal beats, but the chances of anyone caring about this group in a year or two seems unlikely.
1:45pm, Kyle: A reporter from something called HDNet interviews a guy on the street about his tattoos, which include a portrait of a musician friend who died on an upper arm, the cover of Sunny Day Real Estate's How It Feels To Be Something On on his opposite shoulder, and something more abstract on his calf. Another guy walks up and volunteers his tattoo: a middle finger and "FUCK OFF" on his ass. A passerby smacks it to the delight of everyone.
1:52pm, Kyle: I've wondered this all week: How is 418 Sixth Street—what looks like a good-sized vacant bar in the middle of everything—empty during SXSW, when every space that can possibly fit a drum kit is being used?
2:15pm, Josh: At a tented stage in a parking lot—sponsored like many things here by Toyota Yaris—a scheduled performance by young Canadian rockers Tokyo Police Club becomes a solo-acoustic performance by the band's singer. (A family emergency forced the switch.) The acoustic set is short and surprisingly good—you wouldn't think two-minute rockers about robots would make sense this way, but they do.
2:15pm, Marc: A friend says she thinks that Blitzen Trapper sounds like Aerosmith, but the Portland band recently signed to Sub Pop is throwing way too much stuff into its sound—country, classic rock, pop—to be so easily pigeonholed. And singer Eric Earley doesn't look or sound anything like Steven Tyler, though he does appear to be pretty serious about what he's doing onstage—perhaps a bit too much for a band that plays music that's so wonderfully unhinged.
2:40pm, Josh: It's off to the grounds of the French Legation Museum, which sounds fancy and is fancy. It's like a sprawling back yard, complete with color-coded Porta Pottis, a big tent with a nice sound system, and a promising lineup. Onstage when we arrive is Lightspeed Champion, who Sean O'Neal will be happy to disparage, but I think the British band/guy/former member of Test Icicles has some solid songs. He does sound a hell of a lot like the singer from The Dears, though.
It's become tradition over the past couple of years to see Dinosaur Jr. mastermind J. Mascis walking around in a haze of long gray hair, big glasses, and bewilderment, and this party is my second sighting of the year. Here's the kicker: He's wearing a "Keep Austin Weird" hat today. Still, he takes the stage with an acoustic guitar and refreshes hundreds of memories of why people loved him in the first place, tearing through "Get Me" and "Not You Again," easily my favorite Dino song. You're weird, J., but we love you still.
Actress Zooey Deschanel is walking around looking perfectly at home among the birds and trees, because she's a wood sprite. Her collaboration with guitarist M. Ward—out this week on Merge—as She & Him doesn't do much for me. Then again, I don't watch much, I'm sorta sunburned, and lots of people are chattering throughout. Here's a sweet lil' Urban Outfitters commercial anyway.
2:50pm, Kyle: Devonte Hynes' post-Test Icicles project, Lightspeed Champion, generally gets dismissed as sub-Bright Eyes singer-songwriter dreck, but his performance at the Press Here Publicity party—accompanied by a female singer and a violinist—at the French Legation Museum isn't bad. (No, I'm not sure what "French Legation" means either.) It's not great, but it isn't the sheer awfulness I expected. However, Hynes wears a big goofy Russian winter hat, and it's in the upper 80s.
3:05pm, Sean: Today I've pretty much given up on chasing down bands; I'm going to just try to enjoy myself. A good way to do that is to get away from downtown, which is why we head to the Garden Party at the French Legation Museum. It's set on a sprawling lawn with plenty of shade, so there's little reason for shoving, and the music itself is housed under a large tent with lots of chairs. I get there too late to snag one, but even from out on the perimeter there's no mistaking the massive goony-bird frame of J. Mascis. Josh says he was wearing a "Keep Austin Weird" hat earlier, but luckily he came to his senses before sitting down for this acoustic set. I say "acoustic," but he's also plugged into a couple of fuzz pedals to better facilitate his endless solos. I recognize a couple of Dinosaur Jr. songs I sort of like, but I keep being distracted by the nice breeze and good conversation.
3:33pm, Kyle: Scottish rock outfit Sons & Daughters plays next, looking far too stylishly dressed for the bucolic surroundings of the Legation Museum: Singer Adele Bethel wears a sparkly gold-lame tube top, short skirt, knee-high gold boots, and keeps a tambourine in hand at all times. The first song is pretty loose, and guitarist Scott Paterson confesses, "We're flying by the seat of our pants up here." Apparently they're playing with half the gear they normally do, but they seem to do fine. Paterson changes guitars for nearly every song, but each always has a capo around the seventh fret. Okay, fancy man.
4:05pm, Sean: Free ice cream! Every year festival folk hero the Ice Cream Man arrives and turns SXSWers into smiling 4-year-olds. Rock stars, industry folks, and fans alike line up to get our hands on Big Dippers and Pink Panthers—I spy Spoon's Eric Harvey, but he cockblocks my attempt to cut (as does my wife!)—and then spend a few minutes enjoying them in the shade. Tiny indie-rocker crush magnet Zooey Deschanel is walking around in her size zero dress; I wonder aloud whether giving her a drop of ice cream would cause her to bloat up like Veruca Salt. (The Roald Dahl character, not the band.)
4:12pm, Marc: Last year's two-day Mess With Texas party took place in a club that had a mile-long line out front by the time I arrived, so I was happy to find out that they decided to throw it at Waterloo Park this year. I've had to make the difficult decision to skip main-stage headliners The Breeders in order to catch a few things closer to Sixth Street, but I'm glad I've made it in time to see The Night Marchers, the new band from Rocket From The Crypt's John "Speedo" Reis. I catch a little bit of fellow San Diegans Grand Ole Party on my way over to the side stage—and wonder aloud why a woman who tries to sound like Karen O would also want to look just like her—and am disappointed at how few people have shown up to see Speedo. One of underground music's greatest entertainers looks healthy and sounds fantastic, leading his band through a fiery set that sounds a lot like Rocket without the horns. One song seems to have stolen a riff from Stone Temple Pilots, but other than that, this is the kind of music, ladies and gentlemen, that makes you want to give it up for the band.
4:25pm, Kyle: It's perplexing that Kate Nash isn't all over this year's festival, for a number of reasons: Her debut, Made Of Bricks, was just released in the U.S.; the single, "Foundations," has some traction; and there's plenty of buzz around her name. Is it just post-Lily Allen/Amy Winehouse fatigue? But when have record labels ever cared about that? Turns out the Nash's only performance at SXSW this year is the invite-only Q magazine party at the fancy Driskill Hotel. We didn't RSVP in time, but I decided to stop by to see if I could either bullshit my way in or crash it. Up the main stairs, no dice: The check-in table blocks the entrance. But the party takes up the entire mezzanine level, and I remember there's another stairway in the back. Coming up that way, I open the back door just as someone coincidentally distracts the security guard with a question. I walk in like I know what I'm doing, and boom, I'm at the stage. I consider it some Fight Club-style sneakiness, but Sean O'Neal correctly notes it's more like a Mentos commercial.
4:40pm, Sean: It's nice to see that not even the legends are immune to sound issues: Thurston Moore stops a few minutes into his first song with backing group The New Wave Bandits after he realizes that his microphone isn't working. After fumbling around a bit, the soundman finds the source of the problem and, in Moore's words, "Now we're cooking with gas!" This is perhaps the most straightforward set of rock music I've ever heard Moore play. It's like hearing all of the most pop-oriented songs from Dirty crammed together, without the crazy Branca-esque interludes. I'm glad I caught this—and even better, it actually looks like Moore is having fun. (Maybe it's easier to relax without the old ball and chain around.)
4:40pm, Kyle: I'm trying to keep a low profile—and draw attention away from my bare wrists—by staying close to the stage, which means I have to watch Lightspeed Champion for the second time in two hours. This would be pure torture for Sean—who timed his arrival at the Press Here party to miss LC—but I'm too pleased with my subterfuge to care. The set differs a bit this time, as Hynes half-ironically covers The Vines' "Get Free." Somewhere, Sean shudders.
4:47pm, Kyle: Speaking of irony, it's a popular fashion choice at SXSW. A guy standing next to me wears what look like vintage '80s black acid-washed jeans, though they're so form-fitting that they seem to be tailored. That's a lot of effort for a visual joke, but he also has a bowl haircut.
4:59pm, Marc: There's also a comedy stage out here in the park, and it's packed with some of our nation's best. I arrive in time to hear Paul F. Tompkins do his hilarious bit about working at a hat shop (Hats In The Belfry) in Philadelphia. Leo Allen follows with a solid set that receives consistent laughs (except for his joke about the lazy pregnant teenager who decides to sleep in rather than go in for her abortion appointment). Then comes the highlight of my stay here in comedyland, which consists of Brian Posehn, who has lost his voice, telling his jokes to Eugene Mirman, who then delivers every line into the microphone. It's as awkward as you'd imagine, which heightens the experience of hearing Posehn describe himself as a bunch of farts wearing a man costume.
5:10pm, Kyle: Although I'm bummed I have to wait through another band before Kate Nash performs, I'm pleasantly surprised by These New Puritans. The UK band looks far too young to know much about Big Black, but Albini's old band definitely informs the group's thudding, aggressive post-punk. A lot of bands ape '80s post-punk, but I haven't heard anyone make it sound so menacing. This is meant for brooding, not dancing. All four members—three men and a woman—have serious to stern looks on their faces. Keyboardist Sophie Sleigh-Johnson never looks at the crowd and rarely looks up from the keys. In her knee-length skirt and top, she looks like she just came from an office or hostessing job.
5:29pm, Marc: Atlas Sound is on the main stage doing its version of shoegazing, and while I give the main guy props for wearing an old Breeders shirt, I can't stop feeling angry about his lame sunglasses, as well as all of the neon shades that have infiltrated Austin this week. Seriously, why has everyone decided that this is the new product worth rallying around?
5:39pm, Kyle: A tech comes out to tape a setlist written on a napkin to Nash's keyboard. He also sets an asthma inhaler on it and a cocktail glass with a clear drink and lime down below.
5:42pm, Kyle: Kate Nash is so adorable in person that I'm tempted to start a site called LOL Kats. She looks especially young in person, but with her bright eyes and big smile, she couldn't be cuter. Turns out this quick performance was an accident; Nash planned to come to SXSW for fun, but then got asked to play the party. Again, why isn't she all over the festival? Although someone immediately yells "Foundations!" when Nash walks onstage, she instead grabs an acoustic guitar and opens with a new song, "Pickpocket."
5:55pm, Sean: The delays have gotten completely out of hand, and the interminable sound check for She And Him has made them almost an hour late taking the stage. Everybody crowds around to get a glimpse at Zooey Deschanel—and I admit, I'm one of those gaping at her, despite the fact that I can't really name a movie she's been in that I like—while M. Ward stands to the side pulling off the occasional surprisingly awesome guitar solo. Deschanel plays a tambourine large enough that it could easily fit around her waist, and for some songs she sits at an electric piano to bang out some rudimentary chords. The band's country-ish pop is pleasant enough, but Deschanel's voice is far too thin and nasally, and she has an annoying habit of covering up missed notes with a little forced twang. Let's put it this way: If she were just a regular girl auditioning for American Idol, she would never make it past the first round. It was a little pitchy, dawg.
6:03pm, Kyle: After five songs on the guitar, Nash sits at the keyboard and unleashes "Foundations" to the delight of everyone. The area at the front of the stage is dominated by women who sing along, though a couple hip-looking band dudes next to me belt it out, too. The whole scene puts a big grin on Nash's face. "Foundations" is an fantastically catchy song, especially compared to the more contemplative, generic stuff she played on the guitar earlier. Nash is quite young, so there's plenty of time for her to figure out what works.
6:06pm, Kyle: Nash kicks off her boots for her final song, then is whisked away from the stage and down the main stairs by a handler like she's the President. People try to pay compliments and say hello, but Nash is being yanked by her arm so forcefully that she can only smile and wave. No longer interested in keeping a low profile, I decide to get a drink before I leave, but it's a cash bar! (Well I never…) Another weird tick: Guitar Hero is a co-sponsor of the party, so there are several consoles around the floor with Guitar Hero—the original one. Are the game's sequels unavailable in the UK? Because the original Guitar Hero looks awfully clunky now.
Kate Nash goes bootless for her last song.
6:30pm, Kyle: I return to the kickass Alamo Ritz theater for a screening of Joy Division, the new documentary by Grant Gee (of Radiohead's Meeting People Is Easy fame). Instead of slides with ads before the film, the theater shows clips from short-lived British rock show Revolver. At the NOFX screening the day before, they showed Heavy Metal Parking Lot and embarrassing music videos.
7:05pm, Sean: From the South First Street Bridge, it seems like the whole East Side is headed toward Auditorium Shores, most of them people who look like they could give a fuck about SXSW. Turns out we've misread the schedule, so instead of catching Talib Kweli just as he's going on, we hear only the tail end of "Get By" as we're entering the fairgrounds. But at least we're just in time to see H.E. Buddy, Austin's saddest corporate mascot, who's wandering around letting people take their pictures with him: Those kids sure do love that cuddly, anthropomorphized bag of groceries! (Speaking of which, what are all these little kids doing at the fucking Ice Cube show?!)
8pm, Sean: We've been wondering aloud as to whether Ice Cube will pull it back a little bit, given the fact that this concert is taking place smack in the middle of the city and in front of so many families. But from his very first words ("Austin motherfucking Texas, let's do this shit!") it's clear that it's The Don-Mega who will be performing tonight, not the teddy bear star of Are We There Yet?. And holy fuck, he's kicking it off with "Natural Born Killaz" (he does Dr. Dre's verses as well)—a song I had almost completely forgotten about—and then it suddenly hits me: I'm seeing that crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube. This is the very guy who gave this white, sheltered suburban kid his first eye-opening glimpse of a much harder world, back in those grade-school days when my cousin and I would listen to N.W.A. on a boombox at a super low volume so our parents wouldn't hear, silently mouthing along to every word while we taught ourselves this exciting new language. It's been all too easy to dismiss this man's impact in recent years and turn Ice Cube into some sort of joke, and there is no doubt that Cube feels some of that doubt lingering in the air. He prowls the stage like he's got something to prove, pausing to shout, "A lot of you thought I was out of the game. People say to me, you doing all these fucking family movies and shit, so what the fuck you doing still rapping? To them I say: Shut your dumb ass up!" You know what? He's right. And from now on I absolutely will.
8:37pm, Kyle: Here's the gist of the film: Ian Curtis was a tortured soul who died too young, and his band revolutionized music and revitalized its hometown. The film is visually striking, but it can't avoid the blackhole pull of the cult of personality around Curtis. It makes sense, because he was Joy Division to so many people, but Peter Hook, Bernard Albrecht, and Stephen Morris played critical roles. They all give substantial interviews, along with key players like Tony Wilson, Anton Corbijn, Annik Honore (Curtis' girlfriend)—but, surprisingly, not Curtis' widow, Debbie. I keep waiting to find something about Joy Division that avoids the whirlpool of Joy Division's Tragic End, but I guess that doesn't exist. Meh.
8:42pm, Marc: Jandek is a mysterious figure from Houston who only recently started showing his face on stages, though here at Central Presbyterian Church, he's only showing us half of his face, out of which is coming a voice only his cultish followers could love. The truly freaky folk is, um, interesting, but after more than an hour, it's also getting pretty boring. But like the time I sat through David Lynch's Inland Empire, I get the sense that what doesn't kill me is only going to make me stronger. However, I can't stop thinking about the fact that if my girlfriend were here, she'd keep telling me that this music is "horseshit."
9:03pm, Kyle: The mood's a lot more festive at Red Eyed Fly, where the Bloodshot Records showcase features Missouri band Ha Ha Tonka at the moment. The Uncle Tupelo comparisons are easy—particularly the young-Tweedy rasp of multi-instrumentalist Brett Anderson—but the group has a far deeper connection to Southern Americana and gospel. That last element is particularly obvious in the quartet's four-part harmonies, which sound like they were forged church choir practice. The band is fresh faced and all smiles, and singer-guitarist Brian Roberts effusively thanks Bloodshot and the audience. "Anybody who came here instead of going to Okkervil River, you may have made a mistake, but we appreciate you coming," he says. For what it's worth, famed Rolling Stone editor David Fricke is here, not at Stubb's for Okkervil.
9:05pm, Josh: In a fit of Mascis-induced nostalgia, I attempt to see The Lemonheads play one of the big TV-studio rooms at the convention center. They've cancelled again, and there's Liam Finn—heir to the Crowded House throne—playing instead. He's not bad, but he's not playing It's A Shame About Ray start to finish—as Lemonheads are rumored to be doing on their upcoming tour—so I split.
9:05pm, Sean: An unbelievably ill-timed bathroom trip means I'm standing in line for the Porta-John when "It Was A Good Day" comes on—I was dead certain it would be the closer—so I miss the one transcendent Ice Cube moment I've been looking forward to for months now. Instead, I'm stuck here on the far side of the park kicking myself, along with 50 other fans whose facial expressions roughly translate as "Shiiiiiiit." But being so far removed from the action does give me time to ponder whether SXSW has, indeed, been "a good day." The pros: For once, the weather really couldn't have been better. Unlike years past, it seems like I've had plenty of time to just hang out and bullshit about music with my friends and colleagues. Knowing the people who run things in this town also means I've had no trouble getting access to anything I want, at any time, for free. The cons: I do wish I'd been blown away by a new band this year—and I honestly feel like I gave it the old music festival try—but perhaps that's just a reflection of how my constant exposure to new music lessens the chances of those sorts of accidental epiphanies. But overall, yeah, I gotta say it was a good day. Even though I did occasionally have to use my A-K.
9:20pm, Sean: Ice Cube must have been working on his in-between banter for weeks now, as every interlude is a mini-masterpiece of comic timing. My pen is flying as I try to write it all down. Some highlights:
- Cube says we look real good, "but it ain't smelling good yet," so he launches into "Smoke Some Weed"; the little two-year-old boy next to me does this hilarious pelvic thrust dance for the whole song as a thousand joints are lit around him.
- Cube has us take a "pledge of allegiance to the rag" to the Worldwide Westside, as two giant hands in Westside position inflate in both corners of the stage. It's a bit Spinal Tap, but you know no one's gonna tell Ice Cube that.
- Cube introduces new single "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It" (we know it's new, because his DJ keeps dropping a sample that says, "New shit!" into the intro) by rattling off all the things you can blame on gangsta rap: global warming, high gas prices, the war in Iraq. "Anything wrong in the world, just blame gangsta rap."
- After saying, "I like that new shit, but I looove that old shit" (which perfectly sums up my feelings about the R.E.M. show, by the way), Cube yells, "Y'all gonna make me take this all the way back to 1989!" He then gives individual props to all the members of N.W.A. before dropping a medley of "Straight Outta Compton" and "Gangsta Gangsta"—just his verses, but it's enough to make the crowd lose its collective mind.
- The left side of the audience (where I'm standing) is at a distinct disadvantage as far as the sound is concerned, which means we're not as animated as the right side. Cube leads the right side in a chant of, "Party over here, fuck you over there!" Hey, it's not our fault that all the speakers are on your side.
- Cube leaves to take a short breather and a booming voice rings out, "Never question the size of Ice Cube's balls!" (Don't you wish you had a guy to do that every time you left the room?)
- Fuck Lou Reed: Ice Cube should have been the keynote speaker this year. He goes off on a long rant about how "our new friend is the Internet, so fuck the major record companies." Of course, he also follows up the smack talk with a long shout-out to Microsoft Silverlight, which is apparently the most gangsta cross-platform, cross-browser plug-in ever. "Those vector graphics are motherfucking tizzight," he says. (OK, not really.)
9:25pm, Marc: Down at Emo's, Hanne Hukkelberg is like a less mysterious, more accessible Scandinavian female version of Jandek. Her songs aren't exactly memorable, but the music—which sounds like what Feist would probably be doing if she were Norwegian—is pleasant enough. I really want to stick around to see if she'll play her great cover of the Pixies' "Break My Body," but I want to see my best friend's brother's band at a venue that's across the freeway, which means that I'm already late.
9:30pm, Sean: Walking back downtown after the Ice Cube concert (his benediction: "Drive home safe and smoke plenty of weed"), I'm witness to a minor accident between two sports cars. Two guys from the victim car get out and have some tense words through the other's driver-side window, then suddenly back away yelling, "Then show me them pistols! Show me them pistols, nigga!" We get the fuck out of there before we're caught in the crossfire (though the other car finally just speeds off, no pistols to be seen) only to nearly run over Bushwick Bill, who's being stopped every few feet by people wanting his picture. Then, a little further down the street, we pass some security guards hanging outside the Levi's/Fader Fort, talking about how "the Levi's people are drunk as fuck in there and doing a lot of booty shakin'. Shit, they about to start strippin' in that motherfucker." Man! What happened to my quiet little "cosmic cowboy" town? Oh, right: Blame it on gangsta rap.
9:45pm, Sean: Nothing can express the perverse shame I feel standing here, waiting in line outside of a house emblazoned with a cartoon mock-up of Perez Hilton's faux-hawk. I really shouldn't be supporting the illusion that Hilton is a celebrity, that his name commands respect, or that he deserves to be thought of as a music tastemaker. Nevertheless, against your own better judgment, you all secretly want to know what goes on at a Perez Hilton party, and thus it's my job as a journalist to bring back the scoop. So I fell on the pink sword and here's what I saw: A crowded, stuffy house packed with people looking around expectantly for famous faces. (The wildest rumor is that Britney Spears will show; I swear I spot Jenna Bush by the door, then spend the rest of the night trying to find her again.) Perez Hilton looking slightly embarrassed to be Perez Hilton, nervously insisting that tonight is "all about the music" without any of his trademark bitchy flair. (Maybe he was cowed by the fresh graffiti in the bathroom reading, "Perez is ugly in real life.") A bar stocked only with rum, turning out mojitos and Flamingoes and other fruity drinks that go down easy Saturday night and make Sunday morning a living hell. The A.V. Club Getalong Gang (Josh, Kyle, Genevieve, and I) spending most of the night out on the cramped patio, chatting it up with industry types and getting totally girl drink drunk (except for Josh, who is a lightweight). Despite a pop-tastic set from Robyn—who's fun and flashy but a little too close to the hollow early-'90s music she's supposedly "winking at"—most of the music comes from a string of unremarkable L.A.-style rock bands, interrupted by Josh announcing every 30 minutes that he's "just heard from Robyn's guitar tech that N.E.R.D. is on next." Good one, dude. Supposedly N.E.R.D. actually were supposed to go on at 3 a.m., but not long after my fourth Flamingo, I decide I've already seen enough to get the big picture, and now it's time to draw a splash of cum on it, if you get my drift.
Best Performance: Clipse at the Rhapsody Rocks party at the Mohawk.
Pleasant Surprise: Fleet Foxes delivering on the promise of Ragged Wood / Yeasayer being a hundred times better than Josh and Kyle said they were.
Meh: Pretty much every band at the Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar/Dead Oceans showcase—or, as Josh put it, "twelve bands nobody will give a shit about by this summer."
Band I wanted to see but didn't: DeVotchKa
9:50pm, Marc: Well, I'd be late if Ms. Bea's were running on schedule, which it isn't, but I get a nice surprise: I can barely see No Age making its noisy pop on the extremely low stage, but that's okay, because I'm experiencing my first crowd surfing of the festival. Actually, it's probably the first crowd surfing I've seen in years, which is pretty invigorating, since most of the shows I've been seeing in Austin have featured way too many folded arms. I can't even tell if I like No Age, but I'm enjoying this scene so much that I keep texting people back in civilization about how much fun it is out here in the sticks.
10pm, Kyle: Bloodshot is routinely criticized for being musical carpetbaggers, Northern poseurs who ostensibly respect traditional Southern music but instead peddle twangy minstrels. I'm a fan of the label and most of its roster, but I could sense Noel Murray's ire being raised by Justin Townes Earle, a Hank Williams soundalike who looks like he was sent by Central Casting for a "1950s hayseed." Earle has some built-in cred thanks to his dad, country gadfly Steve Earle, but his Williams-aping sounds more like shtick than revivalism. I've had my fill within a few minutes and decide to head to the Perez Hilton party.
10:04pm, Josh: There's no must-see event on Saturday night—it feels like a wind-down after all the big stuff on the other days—so it turns into a sampler platter for me. I catch four songs by Canadian singer-songwriter Christine Fellows, who's accompanied by awesome overhead projections and whose songs ring lovely and sincere, like Tori Amos for people who can't stand Tori Amos.
10:20pm, Josh: It's up to the 18th floor of the Hilton Garden Inn to catch a few songs by former Dashboard Confessional sideman (don't hold that against him) John Ralston. He strikes me as a more mainstream-sounding version of John Vanderslice, not a bad thing at all.
10:30pm, Kyle: Perez Hilton's celebrity reinforces a lot of axioms: 1) Fame doesn't require talent; 2) People love catty snipes about celebrities, especially with crudely defaced photos; 3) If you're famous, people listen to you about anything, even if you have no discernable expertise; 4) SXSW parties have careened past the point of parody. The massive line outside speaks to the reportedly 9,000 RSVPs for the event, but the small building supposedly only holds 300. Inside: free rum drinks, Izze soda, 5 gum, and hair stylists working gratis. Within an hour, it's completely packed, and I'm double-fisting throat-clinchingly sour mojitos.
10:35pm, Marc: Psychic Ills, the band I've come to see, are set up on the ground to the side of the stage, which makes me wonder how much more chaotic things are about to become, but the group's psych-rock is more fit for head-nodding than head-kicking. They've got some tribal beats just like High Places did earlier in the day, but it seems safe to assume that the Ills have a much more promising future.
10:40pm, Kyle: Swedish pop singer Robyn kicks off the night's performances with dance-pop that sounds custom-created for your neighborhood gay dance club. It's okay, but it of course entrances Genevieve, the staff fangirl of all things female and poppy. Robyn plays with two drummers and a synth player, but the drums are barely miked—it looks like there's just one on the rack—and the sound is thin. When the half-baked "Buffalo Stance" cover arrives—part of an '80s medley—I head to the outside patio.
10:58pm, Josh: The Perez Hilton party is in full swing, and my colleagues are all here to tell you about it. I hide in the corner for a long time, because it's crowded. I still manage to stay through a couple of hours, and catch a glimpse of the man himself a couple of times. As far as I know, though, rumored guest Britney Spears never shows up, though apparently N*E*R*D does.
12:12am, Marc: I also know the guys and gal in Bound Stems, which certainly presents a conflict of interest when talking about them, but man, what a great bunch of songs from people whose excitement about the music they're making is infectious. Here at B.D. Riley's, the arty outfit from Chicago is showing off songs from its forthcoming The Family Afloat, which seems like it's going to be just as solid as their 2006 debut album, Appreciation Night. I used to tell people that Bound Stems sounded like a catchier version of Les Savy Fav with male and female vocals, but now it feels more appropriate to just say they sound like Bound Stems.
12:30am, Kyle: We have all switched to the fruity flamingo drinks, ensuring we won't want anything with pineapple in it for a least a week.
12:43am, Kyle: We chat with Pitchfork news editor Amy Phillips. Somewhere, a commenter feels the inexplicable urge to say "hipster douchebags."
1:06am, Josh: I've been meaning to catch Black Moth Super Rainbow, and their set is already well underway at an insanely packed bar when I arrive. Like a few other intrepid listeners, I watch from outside for a couple of songs—psychedelic jamming probably doesn't sound best that way, so I march off into the ridiculously crowded street.
1:15am, Josh: I catch the end of X, just in time to hear awesome old-school nuggets "White Girl" and "The World's A Mess It's In My Kiss." Original line-up=more nostalgia, but in a good way.
1:35am, Marc: I'd heard that Tim Kinsella was leaving Make Believe, but right now he's quirking out with the band, which makes me realize that I should probably go back and give their albums a second chance. There's a girl who looks like Britney Spears who's really into the music, which makes the fun set that much more exciting.
2:00am, Josh: I'm pretty beat, but peer pressure pulls me toward the big Vice blowout, held at the same old warehouse the Playboy party was the other night. We're hoping to see Jay Reatard and Fucked Up, but strangely there's no music booming at all. Word quickly spreads—and who knows how much of this is true—that Jay Reatard has already played and that the famously fucked up Fucked Up have fucked up indeed, with singer Damian supposedly smashing a fluorescent lightbulb (against his head?) and injuring one of his bandmates. To the point where EMTs were needed. Things get rolling again by about 3 a.m., when a huge gaggle of people take the stage with horns and guitars and generally loud glee. I think it's Dark Meat, but it's loud and unintelligible enough that I'm not sure, and I run toward bed pretty soon after.
The Fucked Up story shouldn't be surprising, considering they apparently caused a near riot the night before: http://www.nme.com/news/sxsw/35211
Best performance: R.E.M., admittedly with some rose-colored nostalgia involved.
Pleasant surprise: Frightened Rabbit
Meh: She & Him, but admittedly viewed from not very close to the stage—and I didn't stay too long.
Band I intended to see but didn't: Le Loup
Sometime after 2am, Kyle: Special guests N.E.R.D. still haven't showed, and I kinda hate them anyway. Vomiting may follow any more flamingos, so it's time to stumble back to the hotel. In a few hours, nothing will remain of SXSW except a few fruity burps.
Best performance: The Night Marchers
Pleasant surprise: These New Puritans
Meh: Pissed Jeans/Grand Archives/Handsome Furs/No Age
Band I wanted to see but didn't: Vampire Weekend. I'll turn in my Hipster Card at the end of the day.
3am, Marc: It seems like a really bad idea to be headed to a Perez Hilton party at this hour, seeing as how I hate Perez Hilton, none of the bands listed on this laminate mean anything to me, and I'm only setting myself up to get 10 minutes of sleep before heading to the airport. We stand in line with a bunch of people who look pretty lame, and when we see lots of folks leaving but nobody being let in, we decide that it's game over. Goodnight, SXSW, I'll see you next year.
Previous SXSW Diary Installments: