Thursday, March 13, 2008

SXSW '08: Day 1

[Music Festing] Depending on whom you ask, City Weekly either came to its senses or lost its mind when the paper decided to send me to Austin, Texas for the annual South by Southwest music festival. Ace CW marketing director Annie Quan is here as well, scouting out the territory for reasons I’m not privy to disclose. Let your imagination run wild.

We arrived yesterday on Delta’s one direct flight to Austin. SLUG editor/publisher Angela Brown joined us on the cramped commuter plane as the ridiculously small vehicle floundered about through troubling turbulence. Paranoid and superstitious as always, I imagined the next day’s headlines describing the fiery plane crash that engulfed several young members of the Utah media. Fortunately, infamy escaped us and we landed just in time to grab a bite and hit downtown Austin for music, music and more music.

Wednesday was the only day I didn’t map out beforehand. With roughly 1,500 bands performing four days worth of showcases, it can be difficult to decide which one merits your attention. The sheer volume of festival-worthy acts necessitates a certain amount of humility on the part of featured musicians. Badge holders stand before the stage often with an almost confrontational look as if to say, “Show me why you matter.” This can be frustrating even to bystanders like myself who, during Hopewell’s set last night for example, have to put up with nerdy pricks leaning against the wall (arms folded of course) announcing that they are just “waiting for these guys to finish whacking off before Witch plays.” Of course, they were referring to the stoner metal band currently featuring J. Mascis on drums but judging by their posturing they probably only give a shit because some hip blogger told them that Dinosaur Jr. is God.

Hopewell ignored the crowd and got down to business. The seasoned Brooklyn professionals segued seamlessly from one Eastern-tinged rock number to the next, the guitarists thrusting their instruments in unison while the keyboardist tickled some classical shit on the ivories. Sure, the lead singer—dressed head to almost toe in bright white—looked like a tampon, but man he got killer tone out of his (what else) white guitar. And, dude knows how to work an effects pedal.

Speaking of effects, Wednesday’s absolute knockout, standout manipulated their instruments with a slew of pedals, boards and thingamabobs (hey, never claimed to be a techie). Brooklyn’s Dub Trio came to Salt Lake City on Feb. 19, but I missed them because I am lame. Someone up there must have my best interests in mind for a second live show to land in my lap—truly ear-splitting, mind-blowing greatness. Dub Trio is on Ipecac Recordings, home to the deliciously wicked musical misfit Mike Patton, and the next generation of forward-thinking label mates is doing him proud. Dub Trio is more metal, less dancehall reggae. They incorporate dub, using it to break up otherwise relentlessly driving riffs, letting it all hang out before snapping it shut, recoiling into precise rhythms. The band—robotic drummer and all—is a machine. A sex machine, that is. The whole experience honestly sort of turned me on.

The night ended with a set by San Francisco’s Von Iva, an all-female trio fusing organic and electronic elements into a—to copy a line from one of their songs—“soul-shaking, love-making, body-manipulating” blitz. Pulsing, throbbing, oozing sex, the lead singer Jillian Iva shimmied and strutted, climbed the walls and shouted to the rafters. It would have been a whole lot cooler without the pervy old dudes leering at her from the front row. One aqualung kept taking photos of the trio while they were setting up. Another almost lost his shit when Jillian stepped from the stage and straddled his shoulder, forcing him to carry her as long as his little limbs could hold up.

Tonight, I’ve got my sights set on Bon Iver, Black Mountain, El-P, Pink Nasty, Constantines, Ra Ra Riot…but who knows how the night will end? Stay tuned. (Jamie Gadette)

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