SXSW Day 4, Sat. March 21

Saturday was a much lighter day than either Thursday or Friday. I began my adventures at the Flatstock poster exhibit at the Austin Convention center where there were reams of incredibly cool concert posters on display by the artists who made them. I wasn't in a buying state of solvency, so I had to satisfy myself by taking cards and dreaming about the day Flaming Tusk or Seize Them! goes on tour and needs awesome posters for advertising and merch. Someday, someday... The work of Matt Parrillo from Monolith Press and Brian Mercer of Mercerrock were particular highlights.

Finally managed to catch up with my friend Garann at Waterloo Park for some of the day's free shows. Israel's Monotonix were crazying up the place with their garage punk chaos, which was admirably tight given the band had set up in front of the stage in the mosh pit and were frequently riding pieces of the drumkit on the upstretched arms of the crowd. I believe they claimed some kind of world record for having performed eleven shows at this one SXSW festival, but their precise meaning remained unclear due to accent thickness.

Monotonix was merely the warmup for my second Circle Jerks show of the festival, and they killed it once again. Far more stage diving at this show than the one at Emo's, and in my estimation (if this show was any indication) stage divers have suffered some serious ego inflation over the past decade or so.

I dropped in to Elysium out of curiosity about the second Japan Nite showcase. You can never be sure what you're going to get, musically, from the Japanese: wild creative experimentation and slavish imitation seem to the the two most likely options. I suppose that's true of music everywhere but somehow this polarization seems to express itself most clearly w/r/t old Nippon. Special Thanks from Aichi prefecture were taking the stage as I arrived and, sadly, they sit solidly in the latter category. Uninspired pop punk with cutesy girly vocals delivered by a lady who appeared to be about thirteen. Nothing to see here, and you've heard it all before. To their credit, the band was having a great time despite equipment problems.
Special Thanks

For what may turn out to be the final official music event of the festival which I attend, I caught the PJ Harvey and John Parish show at Stubb's. Ms. Polly Jean is as compelling as ever. She and her band were working a WWII vibe visually, PJ in a blazing white torch singer gown and hairpiece/hat, her band in suits and fedoras. This show established a theme for me of seeing big name performers I like playing material I've never heard before, in this case cuts from the recently released "A Woman A Man Walked By". The music was still essential PJ: simple, atmospheric, idiosyncratic, primal. I very much want to hear the record, but I'm not sure an outdoor amphitheater is the right venue for this stuff. At its quieter moments, backed by banjo or ukelele played gently and mournfully, the music failed to reach the back half of the crowd or touch the louts who'd rather shout drunkenly to each other about air mattresses and "dry showers". An intimate club, small enough for the bigger moments to frighten you slightly, would be ideal.
PJ Harvey & John Parish 2

The show was over too soon, the clock forcing the band to make way for The Indigo Girls and, later and most unfortunately, Third Eye Blind.

Sunday is likely to see me drinking in more of Austin, TX than can be had by wandering East Sixth Street and vicinity so this is likely my last South By Southwest post. If the stars align, the next time I'm here I'll be playing with one of my bands. Or, at least, I'll bring somebody with me to augment my mediocre networking skills (though, on that tip, I did manage to give CDs to quite a few band members... here's hoping they don't lose them). Until next time.

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