Friday, 28 March 2008

SXSW Part III: Italian Beetroots & The Los Camp Megamix

The final day at SXSW and truth be told I'm pretty fucked - I've been giving those Belfast boys I'm with (Rigsy ATL, Johnny AU and Joe Stiff Kitten) loads of shit about being lightweight; but this morning I'm suffering.

It might be something to do with the fact that I went to bed last night at half three and was woken up at half past seven by a malfunctioning hotel alarm clock - the bastard thing wouldn't turn off! None of the buttons worked at all - what's that about - even when I unplug it from the wall it's still going?!


I have to get dressed go downstairs and throw the clock at the over-friendly concierge - 'We'll have another one brought straight up to you sir!'. No you fucking well will not. [Excuse my language in this blog by the way - disgraceful.]

Needless to say I couldn't get back to sleep.

That is until we go to see Ting Tings at The Bat Bar; I'm dead on my feet and it's only five pm; this isn't going well. After an excruciatingly ill-advised acoustic set, they play 'That's Not My Name' for about four hours. It's all really safe, poppy and dead boring. I don't give a fuck what your name is.

We go to 'Damn Good Tacos' (this is a shop not a band - just in case you were wondering) for some of the aforementioned, to try to revive the flagging feet and spirits - some life returns... part of SXSW I realise is like the Endurance Test on the Krypton Factor and this last evening is the A-Frame rope wall.

Sons & Daughters are pleasantly obtuse; I've never seen them before - they're one of the more distinctive British guitar bands on display, the best compliment that you can pay them is that they really don't sound like anyone else. They probably need another album under their belts before the whole set is engaging as the singles.

Oppenheimer ring the changes for the evening opening up at Emo's - after this show they have to drive 20 hours straight to LA for another gig on their never-ending US tour. It's a welcome relief to hear something rough around the edges. They are more confident and dissonant than I've ever seen them before - leaning heavily on new album 'Take The Whole Mid-Range And Boost It' the set is raucous and grungy. A new song 'Before And After The Earthquake' rivals 'Breakfast In NYC' for the best thing they've ever written. With this new found swagger and growing industry momentum; 2008 could be a big year for the band.

Okerville River need no description to this readership but if you haven't seen them live you simply must (this is my first time); they are wonderfully charismatic and musical without ever descending into muso territory. The fans are in rapture - the impartial observers are silent during the quiet songs. They have a classic sound not dissimilar to the E-Street Band, Afghan Whigs, Mercury Rev or American Music Club.This is a special band - I understand now why Daniel stalks them.

We're back on form now - let's keep this up; the queue for Nada Surf stretches all the way back to Houston Space Station - fuck! Luckily we run into The Whip in a sweet shop and they tell us about an Italian band they know called The Bloody Beetroots who are playing in the neighboring Vice Bar; never trust a Manc I reckon, but Johnny convinces me otherwise - and what a call. This is earth shuddering, four to the floor techno chaos.

It's the first time in a week that I've felt scared at a gig: it's the only bar that we don't get ID'd in - and you get the feeling that it could kick off at any minute - the whole place is pilled up to the teeth and I can't tell you HOW GOOD these guys are. Genuinely, thunderously mind-blowing and technically staggering. They have a hot Italian girl in a gold skin-tight dress dancing the changes and a mate who spits beer over everyone at the apex of each breakdown. We really don't mind him doing this - for some central European reason.

Trembling, we decide to go see Neon Neon Gruff SFA's new side project, how industry of us - checking out the supergroup... but supergroups being supergroups they have decided to play an hour earlier that it says in the programme.

It probably worked out for the best as if we had left getting into The Arts & Crafts Showcase any later it would never have happened. Los Campesinos are effortlessly wonderful - Gareth LC steers the pace of the set beautifully and even has time to give his label bosses some (self deprecating) grief "Look - you guys asked us to come over here and play and you're telling me we've got five minutes left - these people came for the hits, they didn't want to hear all that album shit"...

Needless to say the appropriate person gives them the nod to play everything they want to thereafter - 'You, Me Dancing' is amped to the max as a result. They even manage a version of 'Box Elder' in the closing "Megamix" - fifty seven bonus scene points. I love them.

Chromeo are the only way to round off a week like I've had - the club they play in is suitably Miami Vice - the place is bouncing; it all goes a bit blurry after that... I seem to remember a Texan woman trying to get me to buy her a drink - I think I bought her one if she promised to leave me alone, then we went to see The Gza's festival closing set - he does most of 'Liquid Swords' in between checking his text messages - he might have been good, but I can't honestly remember.

So, I'm back in London now - typing at 09:14AM and my body thinks that it's 1AM in Texas. It's probably going to take me a month to recover from this, it was a great trip - the label got loads out of it for all our bands, it really is a great way to meet people - but the best thing I can say about SXSW '08 is that it was massively inspiring artistically. Nowhere else could you have the night I've just have, you can genre hop all night - and it's all about brand new music - even from the established artists.

Track Of The Week - 'Hey Boy' by The Blow
Performance Of The Week - Los Campesinos
Punk-Rock Award - Har Mar Superstar - you can't deny the funk
Best Attack On A Member Of The Stage Crew Award - Raife Burchell on behalf of Ed Harcourt
Worst Idea Of The Week - Doing tequila slammers As N.E.R.D. walked onto the stage
Best Idea Of The Week - Listening to those Mancs - they're not wrong all the time
Best Possible New Name For A Band - Damn Good Tacos

I'm going to bed - x -

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