Warped And Wrapped

Full SXSW Coverage for Live Concerts and Exclusive Performances

I'm back home in Portland after four days at the SXSW music festival in Austin. I was ready for the following to end: beer, bad drumming and Facebook updates. (Admittedly, I fell prey to two out of the three). On the other hand, I wasn't quite prepared for the reality check that accompanies a return home.

The strangest aspect of this year's festival was the excitement I felt leading up to it. And I wasn't alone. From emails to texts to blog posts, it seemed that there was a collective enthusiasm surrounding SXSW. I suppose it could have been on account of the long winter — for some of us, that meant snow on the first day of spring — but I have a feeling that the eagerness had to do with disparate parts coming together in a single locale. As much as I love the choose-your-own-adventure aspect of computers and the Internet (sample some MP3s, read music news and reviews, cue up a mix I made on iTunes), every once in a while, I like my music consumption to be a bit more "no assembly required." And at SXSW, all you really have to do is show up. A short walk down 6th Street or along any of its tentacles will leave your head crackling long after you've gone to bed.

So here, then, is a summation of my final day in Austin: I tried, I really did, to make a schedule. The Pains of Being Pure of Heart at some place at some time, followed by the Vivian Girls at some other place at some other time. The events were circled and highlighted, memorized, ingrained and just short of tattooed. But none of that happened. Instead, I ended up on S. Congress in search of good coffee and food. Then, I walked back downtown and over to the French Legation Museum. I had already messed up the first half of my day — at least music-wise — so my plan was to now see Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. And I did see him, three hours later, after a series of false starts, truncated sets, and a band who had sabotaged another one of my nights began to unravel this day, as well. But it was all worth itm for a few reasons. For one, it was a day spent out on the lawn with a friend watching what barely constituted a breeze give sway to a pinata. Second, there was free ice cream handed out with a smile from an Airstream trailer. Finally, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson was worth the wait. Even his backing band was worth it, with a carrot-topped bass player and a tight-jeans-clad violinist who together (and beautifully) sang "Single Ladies" by Beyonce while waiting for Benjamin to take the stage.

I have but one regret from SXSW, and that was never witnessing The Phenomenal Handclap Band, whom I previewed both on our All Songs Considered show and during our festival broadcasts. So it would really be fantastic if TPHB would come to Portland and play a show in my backyard. Please and thank you. No, really, I mean it.

Until the next SXSW, or until I feel like messing with Robin and Bob, this will be my last post on the All Songs blog, but you can always find me over at NPR's Monitor Mix.

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