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The prevailing rumor now seems to be that U2 will not be appearing in Austin, having presumably sufficiently saturated the music press with their slate of TV appearances.

JEFF LEVEN’S SXSW JOURNAL: DAY MINUS ONE

The Countdown Continues—Right Through St. Paddy’s Day
So I'm not yet in Austin, and while I tend to doubt the HITS-reading portion of the music industry wants to read about me packing, it seemed strange to have a day's gap in coverage, so it's time for a quick St. Patrick's Day dispatch.

In some ways it's better when St. Patrick's Day doesn't fall during SXSW, since in most years the convergence of the holiday and the festival mainly seems to have the effect of making the non-SXSW 6th St. crowd that extra bit more bustling and rowdy, and not necessarily in a fun way. While it's always cool to add the extra Irish zing to the day's music, at night the expanded crowd of drunk coeds with broken shoe heels and shamrock Mardi Gras beads and the guys who hassle them always makes the already tough navigation to and from Red River that little bit harder for lack of clear lanes for an accelerated airport style march-walk.

In any event, in lieu of green beer and tacos, my celebration came in the form of playing the Pogues' If I Should Fall From Grace With God in the office. Honestly, you'd be hard-pressed to find many more even and complete albums from that era. The immaculate "Fairytale of New York" remains my favorite Christmas song, which is a big deal, because I rarely like Christmas songs. I don't know whether it’s Jewish sour grapes or the enervating repetition inherent in the extra-long Christmas-music-in-mall-playing season, but I can basically count the Christmas music I like on one hand (Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown music, Wham's "Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart" and the Jimmy Eat World cover thereof, the Marah Christmas album and the aforementioned Pogues masterpiece—and that's basically it). But beyond this hallowed chestnut, the album also has the majestic "Thousands Are Sailing" (still a song I overly place on mixes), the rowdy "Fiesta" and the best Irish-Turkish song ever recorded in "Turkish Song of the Damned." Rough as it is, there's something warm and familiar about MacGowan's jagged voice (he does sound a little like Rolf the dog from the Muppets but in a really good way), and Steve Lillywhite's production work is amazing. While Lillywhite's press often comes from U2 and Dave Matthews, some of the real winners in his catalog are the slightly undersung ones—the first Guster album on Geffen, Big Country's The Crossing, some of his Marshall Crenshaw work, and, of course, this stunning Pogues perennial.

Speaking of Ireland and U2, though, the prevailing rumor now seems to be that they will not be appearing in Austin, having presumably sufficiently saturated the music press with their slate of TV appearances. Red herring? We'll find out.

Anyway, after this Guinness-tinged palate cleanser, I'll begin my proper SXSW coverage tomorrow. Away we go!

-J

PS: Yesterday, I forgot to mention another GREAT Georgia band: Gentlemen Jesse, whose Introducing is the best power pop record since the Exploding Hearts, which says a lot.

HITS LIST, YUP
IMAX version available (8/12a)
SURPRISE MEGAN DROP—"LET'S RUN THIS LAST ONE UP"
That's that, all of a sudden. (8/12a)
NEW & DEVELOPING
ARTISTS: Q3 EDITION
The stars of tomorrow—and one star of the moment (8/12a)
TOP 20: THE RACE
FOR #1 IS ON
It's neck and neck at the turn. (8/10a)
WE'RE SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, BUT WE JUST HAD TO TELL YOU
Oh, no, not again. (8/12a)
RISE OF THE INDIES
How they're reshuffling the biz deck.
THE LATIN-MUSIC MARKETPLACE
Thoughts on a changing landscape.
KETCHUP
It's everywhere.
THE NEXT HUGE CATALOG STORY
Another stunning return.
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