Every time I leave SXSW, I feel like I need to kiss the ground at the PDX airport. Why is that? Although I took a couple of swipes at Austin in the preamble—none of my cabs got tickets this year, good job Austin!—it’s a good town, and as also stated earlier, just like the long line at Stubb’s, the sheep start writing about how the festival sucks. So I won’t fall prey, but there is joy in getting away from it.
You see the eyes of the zombies by Saturday. People are worn out, carrying their livers around in a separate case. There starts to be more carnival-style barking from the venues asking people to come check out the wares. Nobody has the fortitude to fight the lines anymore, so 300,000 people are burned out on seeing or doing anything unless it involves the line to get on the plane home.
I can’t remember a better show in the last five years—maybe 10—than the one Parquet Courts put on at the Red Eyed Fly Brooklyn Vegan day party. It all depends on the show, right? Sometimes you can be transformed by an arena show or knocked over by some random punk band in a shoebox. But this was seeing a band that is RIGHT NOW! They have 1.5 albums under their belt, they have no fat, they have no gimmicks, they just flat-out torched the landscape. This was it, this is what seeing live music is about, this show—THIS BAND—is why I love music so much. A jaw dropping show.
Caught a bit of Tinariwen at the Speakeasy. They're a band that plays traditional music of the nomadic people of Northern Mali. The lead singer and guitarist was a dead ringer for a young Shuggie Otis, while the rest of the band had their faces mostly covered with keffiyehs. It was surreal, mystical, and freaking PACKED!
Enjoyed the Beth Israel set. Three-man post punk. I’ll want to check more of them out.
I had my heart set on ending with Willie Nelson, but I ended the festival with the final of the seven Hold Steady SXSW shows. They have a new album out in a week, so I wanted to see how the new songs flesh out live—"Spinners" stood out. It was a great set by the best band of the first 10 years of this century, and when they ended the set with “How a Resurrection Really Feels” and the final strains of Craig Finn imploring at the end of that song to “walk on back,” I knew there was no resurrection in my plans, so I went to the airport to get an early standby ticket back to PDX.
Farewell, Austin. It was… different.