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The basic formula of a thousand guitars in downtown Austin still seems to work, 25 years and a few thousand foot miles in.
JEFF LEVEN'S SXSW DISPATCH:
HE'S BAAAAACK
Our HITS Correspondent Once Again Soaks Up the Sights and Sounds Of His Beloved Austin
While some things inevitably stay the same—the husky sting of Sixth Street hotdogs, the throb of 18-hour-trod-feet even in the cushiest and ugliest of gym shoes Austin subtly changes every year. For one thing, most of the venues (other than maybe the Continental and La Zona Rosa) insist on changing their names annually, leading to a fresh reorientation every year on the map. Beyond that, the festival has redesigned (and possibly improved) their badge pick-up system and streamlined the Convention Center experience. More strikingly, though, there’s proof that Bob Lefsetz may be dead-on in his musings on the relative vibrance of the technology industry. With more attendees than the music conference, SXSW Interactive has grown from an edgy add-on to a full-on blockbuster, and its presence was palpable on Tuesday night as hundreds of Interactive attendees had a last hurrah at music venues across town. Landing late, I scuffled through the crowds at Emo’s to catch Surfer Blood, who were tight and energetic, debuting new songs and crashing through highlights from their debut record. The shuttle ride home was filled with small talk about web design panels, the merits of Java and the construction of widgets, the jargon of the highly computer-articulate temporarily supplanting talk of radio formats and mixer selections. On Wednesday, though, as the iPad-wielding techies gradually gave way to the tatted-up scruffs of the music festival, the throb of the street took on a new pitch. Catching an early and excellent Willie Nile set at Cary Baker’s kick-off party (highlighted by a fantastic reading of “Cell Phones Ringing (In the Pockets of the Dead)”) and a fantastic acoustic set from Leslie Stevens, I then trudged across town to see the Limousines, ably assisted by Dredg mega-drummer Dino Campanella. The rest of the day unfolded at a dizzying clip, with an absolutely flooring hootenanny by The Silent Comedy at Lustre Pearl, an impassioned performance by Australia’s Cloud Control, a tight and pan-instrumental set by Louisiana’s Givers, and a packed, jovial jaunt at the Fat Possum party by the Smith Westerns. As I chaotically veered from my carefully constructed schedule, I caught a few great surprises, including the intricate drone-metal of True Widows, the literate post-punk of Bombay Bicycle Club, and the post-Terence Trent pop-croonerisms of Jamie Woon. I also managed to squeeze in a quick glance at the sonically elegant but visually sluggish James Blake set at Stubb’s, a crashing and energetic performance by Linda Perry’s Deep Dark Robot, a redemptive, heroic show in the inside room of Stubb’s by Maxim Ludwig and the Santa Fe Seven, and a tightly coiled set by Freddie Gibbs, who boasted a half-dozen cameras and an extra dozen posse members onstage for his short but lurid performance at the Mohawk Patio. By all reports, Atomic Tom, K Flay, Admiral Fallow, Kid Infinity and Eisley all acquitted themselves well, while Dinosaur Jr. acolytes Yuck played numerous high-profile gigs to bristling crowds. Capped by a crashing set from The Black Box Revelation and a drunk but buoyant turn from Fake Problems at the tail end of the ASCAP showcase, it was another dizzying but satisfying all-in day in Austin. With thousands of people crawling the streets, it’s clear that the throb of the festival continues to grow, even as its identity continues to evolve. After all, on some level, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the basic formula of a thousand guitars in downtown Austin still seems to work, 25 years and a few thousand foot miles in.
THE BIZ SALUTES
JOE SMITH
Celebrating the life of the Toastmaster General (12/5a)
JEFF VAUGHN NAMED PRESIDENT, CAPITOL RECORDS
Climbing the Tower (12/3a)
YOUR TOP 20 IS BOTH ICY AND POST-TOASTY
Actually, we'd prefer a bowl of oatmeal. (12/5a)
JAY-Z CELEBRATES 50 WITH A RETURN TO SPOTIFY
Has the Tidal turned? (12/4a)
GRAMMY CHEW: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE, ANYWAY?
Those who fail to learn from the past are destined to repeat it. (12/5a)
EGGNOG!
Ours is mostly bourbon.
MISTLETOE!
Delicious in salads.
CHESTNUTS!
Ours are roasting, but it could be these slim-fit jeans.
WEED!
An entire Christmas tree made of it. Is what we want for Christmas.
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