The plan was to write up each day of SXSW 2007 as it happened, but getting to bed at silly hours every night and then getting up (relatively) early every morning to do meetings before the day shows began, has left no time for any of that. So it's now 2.25am, I've just returned from the Kemdao Closing Night Party at Positively 4th Street, and I'm going to simply LIST EVERYTHING in one big long foul swoop.
WEDNESDAY 14th MARCH
The opening day was spent getting over jet lag, registering, having a load of meetings and trying to get my head around SXSW (it's only my second visit, and the first time was three years ago). I completely messed up and missed BEIRUT - by the time I got there the queue was two hundred yards long, and he was playing 'Postcards From Italy', which meant the show was almost over. I listened from outside a bit, realised the error of my ways, and trotted off to the ACE FU night at the Beauty Bar Patio instead. It transpired to be a splendid move. A triple bill of JACK, ILLINOIS, and ANNUALS got my SXSW off to a great start. Three great sets, with ILLINOIS a delight to watch, and ANNUALS demonstrating that the hype is justified. Even when they sing into mics that aren't actually working, they're explosive.
THURSDAY 15th MARCH
Woah. What a great day. Not only does the cloud disappear first thing, but I fly through my meetings and get to Stubbs in time to see PELICAN just as the sun comes out. I've long wanted to see them, but just never have, probably because they stray into a musical territory I don't keep on top off. They're splendid though. BORIS follow - having missed their flight the day before they almost didn't make it here. Hundreds turn out to see them, and are rewarded with a colossal wall of sound, some crazy riffage, and frighteningly weird vocals. It's all awesome. THE MELVINS round off the afternoon - and get about an hour to play with. They need only one song for everyone to get into it. Staggeringly good, and it's only 4.00pm.
4.30pm and things have impossibly gone up a dozen notches. LES SAVY FAV are playing the Speakeasy - which isn't on any map I have - and it's only through luck and guidance from a friend Jen that I find it and get in (me and the doorman do a double deceit - I lie about applying for the guestlist, he looks through the pages and pretends to cross my non existent name off the list). You can read a better write up and see better pictures than mine on pitchfork. The bar was giving out free whisky too. It would have been rude not to drink some.
I'd been tipped to see ANDREW BIRD just before I flew out, so I catch most of his 5.20pm set at Emos. I kinda like it - I can see why people would be getting excited. There's an element of BEIRUT about his style, albeit with a twinkle of twee, and something in the make up of the audience reflects that. He was a strong performer - though I won't be buying his new record - the one people are excited about - until I've seen or heard him again and really made up my mind if it's for me.
Getting to Bourbon Rocks early for Marissa's soundcheck (which then didn't happen), I run into LORDS. Or should I say LORDS UK. They've been bumped off another showcase because LORDS USA were booked instead of them. I have no idea what LORDS USA sound like. I know LORDS UK are an amazing band, so the bonus of them opening the Kemado night tonight is a treat. Are they still unsigned? No idea why.
I leg it down to see LAMBCHOP play at Habana 6 Annex, then back up to catch a little of TURZI, who are too heavy on the synths for my liking. Then it's MARISSA NADLER's show (I thought I better put her in caps so this keeps some kind of style). Or rather no show. After the third song, and repeated calls from her to get the sound at least half decent she puts down her guitar and leaves. The sound in the venue is terrible, and behind the scenes there's so many things going on (including the manager of the venue kicking us all out the sound booth), that the mood of the venue is such that maybe she should have never even got up to play. Oddly, she still gets asked for CDS by dozens of fans, and feeling that she's let them down ends up giving away priceless promo copies of her new album.
Also suffering sound problems are DEERHUNTER. During their third song I leave incase this poor show puts me off them (I only got 'on' them last week) - so I decide a quick exit might be wise.
It's now 12.30am and VASHTI BUNYAN performs at the Central Presbyterian Church. It's a stunning venue to watch live music, and she's perfect for it. What a way to end the night... or it would be, if I didn't choose to walk back to my hotel down 6th Street, calling in on the final few songs of THE HOT PUPPIES and then, in the way you do at SXSW, see THE YOUNG KNIVES hammer out their singles to a crowd of.. oohhh.. 50 people, at around 2.00am in the morning.
FRIDAY 16th MARCH
More meetings, this time carefully planned to include food at each stop so I actually eat something, before I realise I don't have any shows to see, so I call in at the Island Records Showcase at Bourbon Rocks. I watch THE FRATELLIS, hope I don't get seen, get seen, and have to confess that I really enjoyed it.
At 8.30pm Marissa appears in the backyard of Ms Beas and plays a stunning low-key set, particularly in view of yesterday's events. Pitchfork have given her a Cat Power Award for exiting early - but there's no quick disappearance here - in fact she revels in performing to the smaller, more intimate crowd. I walk her up to her next show, then run around to see VICTORIAN ENGLISH GENTLEMAN'S CLUB who should be playing somewhere far more appropriate than BD Rileys. They easily outstrip the venue, unveil some great new songs, and have everyone hooked. There's a queue through their whole set, and a crowd watching through the windows, who at least get treated to Emma's set-closing rock n roll exit into the street.
Back to SPIROS AMPITHEATER for Marissa's second show of the night at the doom-heavy Eclipse Booking / Supersonic Showcase. It could quite easily be a disaster - I mean NOXAGT were performing here earlier and BORIS are to follow - but events unfold which show why Marissa's dark charms fit in so well here. I mean some 7ft rocker dude, covered in tattoos, is shouting 'You ROCK' after her first song. By her second, he's on his knees taking pictures. It's great .
At midnight, WOODEN SHJIPS do whatever it is they aren't quite sure they're doing. It's awesome. I could listen to them for hours. In fact I still was - standing closer to a PA than I've done in ten years to get as close as I could to something this good.
Which leaves Huw's tip of ZZZ (pronounced ZZZ, not ZZZ, in case you were wondering), down at LATITUDE 30, to do whatever they do reasonably well too, albeit something like an hour behind schedule. It's almost 3.00am when I make it back to the hotel.
SATURDAY 17th MARCH
Final day, I'm really quite exhausted, and after a filling breakfast and even more filling bout of record shopping (the pound is so strong against the dollar, it just had to be done), I get to see GRUFF RHYS at La Zona Rosa. The main change from the previous solo sets I've seen is that LISA JEN accompanies him through most of the songs. He's forced to reduce the banter and some of the great percussion build ups because he's having to play such a short set, but Lisa's backing really compensates. Have you ever seen a Gruff show that isn't brilliant? I don't think it's possible.
Onto the PIPETTES at Cedar Courtyard, where I steal some Fratelli's promo plastic cups for everyone back in my office, and then on again to GALLOWS at Emos IV. I knew nothing about Gallows. Wowser. What a live show. It's incendary. Go and see them. What a band, or rather what a performance. I'll be buying their album. And going to see them again. Probably lots.
From one musical extreme to the other, at 8.30pm BILL CALLAHAN plays a 30 minute set at the Presbyterian Church. Not that he needs the support, but JOANNA NEWSOM accompanies on piano, and with an additional violin they have the whole place on their feet by the closer Rock Bottom River. Stunning.
Marissa plays the Kemado Closing Party. 'Farewell Heartbreak' sounds huge - the rumbling drone of the bass notes could have played for days and I'd still be into it. DENAVA follow, but a few songs in we nip next door to see ENTRANCE deliver some virtuoso psychedelic blues. Incredible. Wow. wow. wow. More records to buy.
Finally, back to the Kemado party for WOODEN SHJIPS again. They sound even better on this belter of a PA, but after having no monitors for the first song, and then the guitar amp blowing during the second (it just whines - which I think sounds ace!) they grind to a halt after their third tune. 'Worst show ever' says Erik as they put their instruments down. Actually, I thought it was brilliant.