Sound Troubles, Sound Soothes : All Songs Considered It is 3 a.m., and for me, SXSW is over.
NPR logo Sound Troubles, Sound Soothes

Sound Troubles, Sound Soothes

It is 3 a.m., and for me, SXSW is over.

My day started with a taxi ride to a suburban Austin home, and a conversation and performance by She & Him (M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel). And even though I was holding the microphone, it was a gift to you from Zooey and Matt. I'll post the music online in the coming days.

On to videotape the music of Jaymay -- again, just for you. Jaymay is a singer from Long Island whom our producer, Robin Hilton, quite likes. I'd only heard two songs, so before we got together, I wanted to hear her. Unfortunately, I mixed up my E. 6th street with my W. 6th Street and missed it.

We did meet up at the French Legation Museum. Just on the other side of the highway, this magnificent historic spot has some rolling lawns and old clapboard buildings. It's where we shot the Lightspeed Champion video.

I found the perfect porch, and Jaymay played two great songs straight from the heart. I'll put that online this week, as well. I have a lot of stuff to share with you once I get home and back to work.

The evening was another winner, with an acoustic concert at St. David's Church, featuring M. Ward and Jim James of My Morning Jacket.

I sat next to someone I didn't know. He had come for M. Ward, but when Jim James joined Matt, he turned to me and asked me who the guy with the beard was. He stayed another hour for Jim's magnificent set, and I think he made a new musical friend. I teared up at one point -- I can't tell you what song or why, but I suppose beauty can just do that to you.

Then I dove back onto the absolute chaos of 6th Street, with bands blasting from every bar, parking lot, and beauty salon. I started gentle with Laura Gibson. The sound was just awful, and except for the 50 or so of us huddled at the foot of the stage, the only note the audience could hear was the bass from something across the street.

I then went and heard Two Gallants. They are a highly charged band with music that feels based in folk music -- if folk music were on fire and gasping its last breath. When the two were joined by a tin-whistle player unable to hear how out-of-tune he was, it was all too much for me, and I had to to try something else.

Tough Alliance is a duo of performance artists from Gothenburg, Sweden.
Jens Lekman turned us on to this music when he played DJ for us.

In fact, Jens was there, having what seemed to be a grand old time in a beauty shop turned performance space, with the makeshift stage in a loading dock.

The band lip-synched to their music and behaved like 12-year-old mimes on too much coffee. They posed and gestured at films of huge waves, as well as other found footage projected on a screen behind them. I liked the music, but I didn't stay long.

I headed over to hear the Tokyo Police Club -- fun for sure -- and when I left, I gazed into the eyes of thousands as I walked past them on 6th Street in the long search for a cab back to the hotel. I've had a great journey, and you've probably heard some of the fruits of the journey of my NPR colleagues already. As I do the data-dump of audio, video, and photographs in the coming week, you'll be treated to more.

The downside to this festival is the crappy sound in so many of the venues, although one notable exception was The Parish, where we did our showcase. Bands traveled thousands of miles, charged and ready, only to find they couldn't hear what they were playing because the parking lot really isn't professionally equipped. On the other hand, the sound technicians worked so hard moving a new drum kit and heavy guitar amps every 40 minutes -- almost around the clock.

This week, Carrie Brownstein, Stephen Thompson, and I will sit down and talk and play our highlights. That will be our show and our podcast this week.

And in the coming week, we'll open the spigot on our concert podcast, where a lot of the live concerts we presented will be.

Austin was awesome.