After watching six bands play at our own NPR Music showcase at The Parish, I took a short break from the music. Is that okay? I'm only asking because I actually feel guilty. You walk around 6th Street in Austin during SXSW, or along Red River Road, and you realize that at any given moment you are missing out on seeing hundreds of bands. In every crevice of this festival — and a little more annoyingly, in the middle of a street — is music and sound and noise and sweat. To be honest, I just wanted to sit down and eat a meal for the first time in three days. But not to worry, I ate my food with the thump of three different kickdrums from neighboring clubs and low-end bass vibrations shaking the table. So, never mind, I heard at least four bands during dinner. Trust me, they were awesome.
After getting some nourishment, I did eagerly set out into the night. But at SXSW, it's more like the night sets out into you. Is it me, or are parts of this festival starting to feel like Burning Man? Between the crusty street performers, the hula hoop girls, the dogs on ropes, the food vendors, and the stinky stink of it all, there were just as many people roaming in semi-Bacchanalian packs as there were people packed into clubs. By the way, I've never been to Burning Man.
The group of friends I was with decided on one thing: no lines. That's a tall order as we get closer to the weekend here in Austin. But, one cool thing about this festival is that you can still stumble upon greatness, and upon great bands, even if they haven't been recommended to you by the usual suspects. In fact, it's an exhilarating mission to be on.
After nearly getting into Beerland for the Jay Reatard tribute show (alas, there was a line), we went across the street to a place called Jaime's Spanish Village where the Blackout Booking showcase was taking place. We walked inside the cash-only, menus-scrawled-in-Sharpie-on-poster-board bar menu, carpeted club. The performers' instruments were stacked against the wall. Meanwhile, in what looked like someone's living room the Greg Ashley Band was playing some psyched-out, folk-infused rock. I liked it immediately, and turns out Greg Ashley had been in another awesome band from San Francisco called Gris-Gris. I bought a beer and settled in for the night, relieved to be among friends and to have a clear view of the band.
Greg Ashley "Lost Highway"
The Gris Gris "Everytime"
Up next was River City Tanlines. It's rad band from Memphis that features the songwriting, singing, and shred-fest, riff-heavy, tasteful-but-wicked-solos guitar playing of Alicja Trout. I bopped my head and felt elated. After the band finished, I didn't want to see anything else. I wanted to go home with The River City Tanlines' songs ringing in my ears. That's when you know it's been a good night.
River City Tanlines "Black Knight"