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Too Lazy To Be a Music Journalist, Part the First

2004-04-29 - 9:13 p.m.

Okay, I just found out TODAY that my beloved Newgyptian has entered the Diaryland world. Go check her lusciousness out at

Also, after yesterday's Toriphilic entry, I got to watch not one but two Tori specials back-to-back on Trio, which was quite lovely.

Anyway, I mentioned that I would explain the audblogs over on I'm getting a sense that doing so is going to be a monumental task, because it involves me talking about SXSW, and about SXSW there is a great deal to discuss.

First of all, for those who may not know, SXSW is a music, film, and interactive technology festival that takes place every year in Austin. Music came first in that list for a reason. SXSW is a festival specifically for independent and lesser-known bands. Every year there are a few well-known headliners, but the bulk of the performers are bands who are trying to get noticed. Some of them might be trying to get picked up by a label. Others might already be signed to a label, and are using SXSW as a showcase. Others are independent bands who don't give a flying fuck about labels, but who want to get more national exposure. It's good to think about SXSW as the music industry's answer to the Sundance Film Festival (although the SXSW film festival will probably be able to challenge Sundance in the next few years). The list of bands who made it big the year after they performed at SXSW is an impressive one, including Beck, The Fugees, The White Stripes, and Norah Jones to name a few.

In other words, a big attraction of the festival is a chance to be there when the next big thing gets discovered, to be able to say that you saw them back in a tiny club when they make the cover of Spin or Rolling Stone, whoever "they" may be.

And that's what I'll be talking about next time.

As for now, I am going to do the right thing and focus on the music itself. I enjoyed a number of bands, some of whom I saw for free. Here are my big recommendations to everyone who might be reading this, in approximate order of when I saw them:

NELLIE MCKAY: I refuse to believe that this girl is 19. It is a big lie fabricated by our youth obssessed culture. No one writes that well AND has that good of a sense of humor about themselves at 19. Just look at Fiona Apple!

Okay, seriously, this girl is really good. She's been described as comparable to both Doris Day and Eminem, but those who make the Eminem comparison are just doing so because he's 1) an It Boy and 2) a bottle blond, like McKay herself (and by the way, McKay is pronounced to rhyme with "eye" rather than "hey"). A lot of women have been rapping on pop songs for years; in fact, I believe the first rap ever to get radio play was sung by Debbie Harry. Anyway, McKay plays a vintage sound card similar to Norah Jones's, but her lyrics remind me more of a less political Ani DiFranco (although McKay did recently play the pro-choice rally in DC). The irony of the blend is heavily marketed, so the "Parental Advisory" sticker on her CD gets prominent display, even on her website. Sometimes the anachronisms seem a little affected, but she's good enough so that you don't have to linger on it. I highly recommend checking her out though.

Even if the teenager thing is a BIG LIE!

SCISSOR SISTERS: And so we come to the first night of audblogs. St Caroline, who came down to Earth to join me in the rocksnobbery, brought her cell phone in order to record the events for posterity, and to humiliate me later. On her recommendation (Nellie McKay, by the way, was also her recommendation) we went early to the show that would feature the B-52s and Junior Senior so that we could see Scissor Sisters. That first blog was The Saint eschewing all responsibility in case the Scissor Sisters sucked.

If you listen to the next audblog, you will hear me say, "I never wanted to fuck a man more in my life." The man in question is one of the lead singers of Scissor Sisters.

Scissor Sisters have obviously seen Hedwig many, many times. This is, in my opinion, a very good thing. There are two singers, a woman and a very fine looking man. The fine looking man in question was dressed only in low cut overalls and was very, very gay. He was sweaty and he and his female partner in crime were screaming out glam-punk-disco flavored tunes that had everyone dancing like freaks, and, well, you heard what I said on that audblog. I actually went up to the guy afterwards and told him I thought he was sexy, but in such a way to imply that I thought he was sexy in an abstract way, as opposed to a "I need to rip those overalls off and clean the sweat off you with my tongue" sort of way.

I've also heard that Scissor Sisters are getting very bad reviews from a lot of people on their new album. I have a sneaking suspicion that these reviews were made by rocksnobs who are appalled at the idea of people having a good time. Regardless, I had a blast at that show, and I can't wait for the CD to hit the states in July, and for Jake Shears and his delicious, um, voice to go back on tour in September. Next time I'll try to be more forthright in expressing my unbridled lus--I mean, admiration.

THE B-52'S: They still got it. They are as much fun as they must have been 15 years ago. Yes, they are quite old. It doesn't matter. I don't have to recommend their music, since no human being worth knowing can stay off the dance floor when "Love Shack" comes on. However, I will recommend seeing them if you haven't before. They're a blast.

JUNIOR SENIOR: If I had more stamina at last year's SXSW, I would have seen Junior Senior in a miniscule club, which would have made me quite the hipster. Instead, I saw them on a large stage. This didn't change the fact that they were a hell of a lot of fun. You've probably heard "Move Your Feet" already, but the album is great for those looking for something to make them dance like a teenage girl on speed, which is, frankly, one of my favorite ways to dance. All in all, the trifecta of Scissor Sisters, The B-52s, and Junior Senior made for a very fun and very gay evening.

TV ON THE RADIO: The second set of audblogs take place while The Saint and I were waiting for TV on the Radio to come on. Because we hadn't bought wristbands, we made a habit of getting to shows early in order to get in. And by early I mean 2-3 hours early. So we dawdled around the club, listening to a lot of crap, until TV on the Radio came on.

The Saint had heard them live in Reykjavik, while I had heard some of their music in Philly. They kicked quite a lot of ass. Great vocals, great guitars, just plain old great rock and roll. I highly recommend checking them out.

TV on the Radio wasn't the only thing that made the wait worthwhile. More on that next time.

THE POLYPHONIC SPREE: I've already talked about how much I adore these guys. There were just as much scrumpdiddlyumptuous fun as they were at SXSW. They had me jumping up and down like I was 6 years old. If they are ever playing anywhere near you, go see them, and leave your inhibitions at the door.

THE STILLS: Like Nellie McKay, The Stills were a free show courtesy Waterloo Records. The Stills were the most hipster-y band of the ones I enjoyed, the one where I could most imagine girls throwing themselves at the skinny musicians with their hair in their faces. The music, however, was very good. There's a New Order element to their stuff that I quite enjoy, and they get bonus points for being Canadian. This makes up for the fact that the drummer, who had been very sexy, began making the constipated rocker face when he took the lead vocal in their last song. You know the look, where the emotions are running so deep that it takes some Ex-Lax to get them out. Really, there was no need.

IRON AND WINE: If I had to pick a genre to call a favorite, I'd probably pick folk music. Most of the folk I listen to is pretty modern, though, and most often sung by women. Iron and Wine, on the other hand, has a male lead singer who looks like he just came down out of the Maine woods, and whose music has a lot more to do with trees and mountains than with lesbian heartbreak, which is a favorite subject of mine, musically. I'm talking about folk of the old school. As in, Bob Dylan would be considered edgy by these standards. Don't let this make you think that I didn't love it though. If you like a soft voice on a soft guitar, check these guys out.

THE HADEN TRIPLETS: A band without an album or a website. However, what they lack in technology they make up for in harmony. They are actual triplets, although they are not identical. Their gentle folk sound was like a breath of fresh air after the terible punk band that came on before. I still can't find anything online about them, but if I do, I'll let you know.

MISS MURGATROID AND PETRA HADEN: The Haden in question was indeed one of the triplets. She played violin while Miss Murgatroid played accordian, and both sand wordlessly. Yes, I know it already sounds bizarre as all hell, but it was pretty cool as well. Miss Murgatroid is as hard to track down online as the Triplets, but I will again keep anyone who wants to be informed about these two, who are apparently recording another album.

Their performance also provided a cool moment, but I'll get to that next time.

THE DECEMBERISTS: Ah, here we go.

There were two bands I was very eager to see at SXSW. One, The Unicorns, had to cancel most of their shows when they got stopped at the Canadian border, so I had to miss them. The other band was these guys, mostly because the guy that I staid with in Berkeley had introduced me to him, and I felt that checking them out would be a sign as to whether Berkeley would be the right choice.

Recall that I am going to Berkeley this fall.

Within a few minutes of the band taking the stage, I was in love. Jake Shears may have inspired lust, but Colin Meloy stole my heart. The Decemberists' sound is right up my alley: folk-rock with a capacity for gentility and fierceness. The lyrics, on the other hand, are some of the strangest I've encountered. The Decemberists have a Victoriana fetish, singing about petticoats and stevedores and odalisques and wastrels and French legionnaires. I'm still having trouble getting my brain around it, and recall that I am a Toriphile. They are an excellent collection of musicians, with enough of a sense of humor to have their keyboardist have an accordian duel with Miss Murgatroid during their set. Songs like "July, July" had me dancing while songs like "I Was Meant for the Stage" had me crying. I have not had a band have such a huge effect on me in quite a while. Suffice to say, their albums rotate into my CD players on a regular basis, and I am forcing all my friends to listen to them.

The Saint, of course, hated them. Go figure.

Of course, the bands are never the whole story at SXSW. For stories about waiting in line, overcrowding, the Attack of the Jewfro, Wayne Coyne, and a band by the name of John Wilkes Booze (I shit you not) read the next entry.

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previous - next

The End - 2005-02-11
Let's Go on With the Show - 2005-01-30
The Curse, and This Bee's a Keeper - 2005-02-01
Sisters Lolita and Matronic Explain It All for You - 2005-01-31
Cowboys and Medievalists - 2005-01-30

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