Arts SXSW Observations, Day 4
—Best sign posted on a bar door: I’D CARD MY OWN MOTHER
—Best graffito scrawled on the Coyote Ugly saloon window: If stupid were bricks, you’d be the Great Wall of China.
—I tried to enter my ex-employer Alternative Press’ party at Emo’s Annex, but was repelled by Poison the Well’s hope-obliterating waves of party-killing hardcore. So I stumbled over to Flamingo Cantina, where I encountered Poison the Well’s polar opposite, the Brothers and Sisters. Everyone describes B&S as a modern-day Mamas & the Papas, and that’s not inaccurate. There’s also a late-era Byrds country-rock vibe emanating from their instantly lovable/hummable nuggets, featuring synchronized tambourine hits by hippie chicks Lily Courtney and Marie Butcher. Happening upon Brothers and Sisters like this is a large part of what makes SXSW interesting: the unexpected segues in your schedule, the random forces that tug you from one extreme to the other. Plus, there are the fascinating discrepancies in the ambiences of the various venues and the perpetual parade of tantalizing T&A sashaying before your eyes… er, what I mean is, it’s all about the music, man, the music.
—Sinking realization: Hearing the MC5’s Back in the USA play over the PA before the Brothers and Sisters set actually overshadows 99 percent of what any of the bands at SXSW will ever do.
—Sign outside of Forbidden Fruit (a “tastefully naughty” gift shop): IF HUMAN SEXUALITY OFFENDS YOU, DO NOT COME IN
—At Factory People, Matthew Dear and Ryan Elliott were spinning yet another grip of world-class minimal techno obscurities. It was refreshing to hear the strangely sensual sound of Berlin clubs transferred to an American boho haute couture shop like this. (On a completely unrelated note, what’s up with the jeans selling for $242? For that price, they better come with a guarantee of getting you laid within 12 hours of wearing them.)
—Over at Caribbean Lights, Cadence Weapon (AKA Rollie Pemberton) proved he was the Bill Cosby of this rap shit with the sort of nerdy, meta lyrics and flow you’d expect from a young ex-Pitchfork writer. He was working onstage with a rodential white DJ named Weasel (a phenomenal scratcher and beat-provider) and being met with awkward silences by the blogger-laden crowd. Edmonton, Alberta, represent!
—Recent Data Breaker stars Birdy Nam Nam fared much better at Oslo. The French turntablist quartet proved themselves to be Big Dada’s most exciting artist since Roots Manuva. The highlight came when they all took solo turns on the wheels of steel and l’homme with the beard and hat cut up James Brown’s “The Payback” with alarming ferocity and cleverness.
—For something completely different, Zombi transported us back to a mid-’70s Euro-prog-rock paradise at Room 710 with a set of throbbing and swirling atmospheres that evoked Tangerine Dream, Heldon, and Dario Argento’s favorite soundtrackers, Goblin. What Zombi are doing on a grindcore/black-metal label like Relapse remains a mystery.
—The night concluded with a storming display of acid-robo-disco-funk by the Juan Maclean. The NYC four-piece had the floor precariously bending from the strain of pogoing dancers from the first cowbell hit and ELP-like Theremin flourish. This is the third time I’ve seen the Juan Maclean and every time they kill it. They are such a stronger force live than they are on disc, and the dude who plays Theremin and keytar may be the DFA label’s MVP.