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Like any great congregation of people, SXSW is stocked with surreal moments.
SXSW DISPATCH #2:
STRIKE UP THE BANDS
On the First Official Day of the Music Fest, Jeff Leven Tries to Get Himself in Gamer Shape
“I’m getting old,” I told my wife on the phone. “I’ve never been this tired on Thursday before.” My wife, who is exactly the same age as I am, resisted that premise intuitively and said something like, “Well, it’s the kids.” “But the kids aren’t HERE,” I told her. The reality is, the attrition of Austin is something that requires tight conditioning, and sometimes even the best intentions can’t overcome basic fatigue. This and only this kept me from seeing this morning’s keynote address by Bob Geldof, who I otherwise would have pushed at all costs to see. See, as a seven-year-old, Live Aid was a huge formative experience in my cultural life. To this day, I can vividly remember sitting on the floor of my parents’ house watching Nik Kershaw scratch out the chords to “Wouldn’t It Be Good” to a humongous midday crowd at Wembley, or INXS’ crucial Australian simulcast. For me, Live Aid was a major milestone—a moment where my fascination with music suggested greater things—including, just maybe, the power to heal the world. While in retrospect it has been alleged that the funds from Live Aid did little to help Ethiopia’s situation, the basic nobility of purpose was enough to make me a fan of the idea of Bob Geldof even before I knew him as the face of Pink Floyd or the writer for the Boomtown Rats. Still, physiology got the better of me and I missed it, drifting downtown instead in later hours to see the Black Box Revelation and make a stop at the Paste party before watching the Joy Formidable rip up an NPR set with exuberant aplomb. Meanwhile, I was distracted for a moment by the NCAA Tournament, which the timing of SXSW generally makes me ignore, as my alma mater nearly pulled off a huge upset against Kentucky, who ended up prevailing by two points. On top of that, St. Paddy’s Day was in full swing, and while Austin was short a Dropkick Murphys, there was no shortage of people in green downing oat soda on Sixth Street. While the wildly attended Davis Shapiro party kept me from Geldof’s set at the “Dancing in the Moonlight” Phil Lynott tribute party, the evening unfurled with a fantastic set from K’s Choice, dazzling work by hometown hero Ian Moore, a tight performance by Phantogram at the alluring new Lustre Pearl venue and a triumphant set from Nashville’s Kopecky Family Band at Maggie Mae’s. Squeezed in and amongst these shows, I saw a bracing Cold War Kids show and a lustily oversubscribed after-party evening at Purevolume, with The Bravery and Innerpartysystem rocking until curfew. The day also saw several other breakout performances from Denton, TX-based act Seryn, crooner Allen Stone (recommended by crucial young producer Matt Radosevich), Sleeper Agent and Bodega Girls. My night was also punctuated by the absurd. Walking back across the bridge on Congress between shows early in the evening, I saw Mad Men’s John Hamm in a convertible with a homemade muppet in the passenger seat and a puppet-and-camera crew in the backseat. Naturally. Like any great congregation of people, SXSW is stocked with surreal moments, whether it’s Hamm’s puppet show, the frenzied dancing of a ginger-headed eight(ish)-year-old at the Black Box Revelation show, the sheer fractious drama of closing time at the Sixth Street venues or any number of chance meetings as the huddled masses look for shows and Shiner. With warm sunlight and swelling crowds, SXSW is absolutely in full swing, and miles and miles to go before we sleep. With at least two more packed days of shows to go, this remains a physical challenge worth taking on.
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