Went down to Austin Friday night, March 18 and caught some great shows — some were at a free party (even got a free beer), others at an unofficial show that only cost $5 to get into. Made some good discoveries and got to see a punk rock legend. I got excellent tips from local musician Bradford Kinney, who has very good taste and has been milking SXSW for all it’s worth.
I parked in a lot at 11th and Trinity. It was early, but everything close to 6th Street was full. Had a lot of walking ahead of me as both venues were on the east side of town (Protip: if you don’t have a SXSW wristband and you’re desperate to use the bathroom, try a hotel lobby. Usually clean and you probably won’t get hassled).
Started at Domy’s Bookstore on East Cesar Chavez. There was a free party in the back, where they were giving away free Lone Star beer. It was being put on by Los Angeles radio station KXLU. The big draw was Japanther, but the group I really liked was called Tearist. It featured a guy doing electronics and a sexy girl with a great voice, long black hair singing and thrashing around onstage in a tight black dress. Sort of an ’80s goth vibe.
I stuck around for a while and heard Kid Infinity – white rapper with a synth/programmer. Kind of a techno Beasty Boys kind of act. He was OK, but not really my style. Lots of people were there for Japanther, and I stayed to find out what the hub bub was about, but they didn’t really do it for me. Too straight up punk for me. I love the punk ethic and I love the Ramones, Sex Pistols, etc., but I can only hear so much of that at a time. I’m more of a postpunk fan. Plus they let another group do a couple of songs and that group nearly obliterated my ears with feedback. Even young people were holding their ears.
I tried to get into private party a few blocks away that had a band playing, was rebuffed. Headed north and walked my ass off till I got to Baby Blue Studios at 1522 East 12th. Paid $5 to get in. Went into the building, which was packed full of people and stiflingly hot even though it was nice and cool outside. And heard maybe my favorite act of the night: Tune-Yards, or as I’ve seen it stylized on the web, tUnE-yArDs (I’m only gonna do that once).
I couldn’t see a damn thing. Never saw so many tall people on the front row of anything. But the music was awesome. Very unique style. The singer (Merrill Garbus) played a ukulele and was backed by a drummer and some people playing the saxophone. She may have done some drumming too, but I’m not sure since I couldn’t frickin’ see. The vibe was sort of a mix of African influences, reggae, maybe a bit Ethiopian sounding. Her vocals reminded me a bit of yodeling. Hard to describe, but very good. Very funky.
Next I saw a group from Tokyo, Japan called Mi-Gu. Cute Japanese girl playing a drum kit and reciting poetry, and a very impressive guitarist who really knew how to shred. Kind of jazzy, kind of beatnik. Mike Watt sat in on bass for a couple of songs. Unfortunately his amp started cutting out on him and he was nearly done by the time a replacement amp turned up. It was still a treat to see the man, however. I of course have the classic Minutemen album Double Nickels on the Dime I read all about the band in Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life and got to feel like I knew the man.
And that was it. I’m gonna try to catch a few shows tonight even though my feet hurt.