Thursday, March 13, 2008

Posted March 15, 2008 in
SXSW March 13, 2008

Dear Johnny Meth,

I started getting creeped out calling my diary Penelope. I didn't like to think of her going to play Bingo at the town hall after I wrote in her. Also, Johnny, I think you'll appreciate today's shows better than Penelope.

The day began for us at 3 p.m. ... we still don't know why it took so long to get ready, because we just showered and dressed. It might have had something to do with the fact that we got up at 1 p.m. We first went to a Dropcards party, ate free barbecue, looked for Jon Collins from Dropcards unsuccessfully, made the barbecue servers get a fresh replacement of plates, then left.

We headed down to a big party at Stubb's where Motorhead was playing! Even though we had gotten on the list at the last minute by the magical sleight-of-hand of our SXSW buddy, Chase, we still had to wait in line. Nevertheless we made it in for the last 20 minutes. Lemmy was as small as a dime in my line of sight but larger than life with his trademark black button-up shirt, sideburns and mustache, sunglasses and cowboy hat. It's good to be reminded of what it takes to be a true musical icon: attitude, confidence, talent, conviction, style, and a cool collectivity, a manner of being in this world that disregards what anyone and everyone thinks of you. I get so sick of industry expectations and industry ladder-climbers and stupid indie cookie-cutter bands touting themselves as the new Messiahs. Lemmy never touted himself as a Messiah. He touted himself as himself, which is more than enough to inspire awe in me. They ended the set with "Ace of Spades" and "Overkill," and there was lots of beer throwing and shouting and screaming and you know, stuff like that.

We went to Havana, a Cuban restaurant, afterwards and had three appetizers and a salad while our SXSW buddy Chase made disaparaging remarks about our server, who another server called "a convict." He was messing up our order right and left, but I felt sorry for him, having been an incompetent server myself at one time. We finished dinner, tried to connect with Jaime Gadette from City Weekly at a hip-hop showcase but couldn't find the address, and sort of wandered around wondering what to do.

We decided we couldn't go wrong with the Vice party, and headed over. I guess I expected superstars and famous models to be hanging from the ceiling in droves. But we went into an almost completely deserted club and hung out in a corner of the balcony. However, we left half an hour later and walked through a packed club. The band playing when we left was Fucked Up, and they were angry. Sort of like symphonic hardcore, if you can imagine such a thing. It was like EyeHateGod mixed with Dimmu Borgir. I don't know if you can possibly imagine that, Johnny Meth, because your favorite band is Winger. Raw with a big, beefy singer but with subtle, choppy keyboards underneath.

We then headed over to the Cedar Street Courtyard to watch ManMan and maybe a little of Weakerthans. It was jampacked like sardines. ManMan had one of the best sets I've seen at SXSW this year besides Motorhead; they were like a cross between Goblin and Gogol Bordello. If you saw them, you'd understand exactly what I mean. Electronica, weird timings, lots of xylophone-playing, lots of falsetto singing with harmonies, lots of white paint on faces and passion and excellent musicianship. It sounds like they could be pretentious but it wasn't. Angela and I snuck up on the balcony (which was like Cedar Street's version of backstage) and tried to just hide in the corner while members of the band milled around us. But then someone needed something near where we were and we just decided to go back into the steamy, crammed audience. Then followed half an hour of people trying to squeeze by us and photographers trying to get in front of us and us being jostled around like pinballs in a machine, but finally the Weakerthans started playing. I wish I could tell you the wait was worth it, but it wasn't. They were "underwhelming," as Angela put it, and I didn't understand how they distinguished themselves from all the smooth indie folk-rockers with wry, disillusioned lyrics that probably vied to get on the Garden State soundtrack. Really great musicians, but nothing terribly unique about them. Which is fine, but I just didn't understand how they became so famous, with so many die-hard fans ...

Next we rushed over to BD Riley's to catch Simply Saucer, a garage band from the 1960s who had a big cult following, but they were off the schedule. We then zoomed over to Emo's Annex to catch the last bit of Genghis Tron. They were hardcore meets electronic, but in a much different way than Fucked Up at the Vice party. It was scathing, belligerent, wounded hardcore-metal riffs with almost Atari-sounding electronic sounds underneath colliding in beautiful harmonies and solid songwriting. They sound like their name.

Genghis Tron

The brutality of a dictatorship mixed with 80s computer-movie sounds. It wasn't gimmicky, though; it was really sincere. I bought a pink shirt with an awesome black-and-white octopus design on it and Angela bought the same shirt in grey for a SLUG writer.

After Genghis Tron, I thought about catching another band and coming back to Emo's Annex, but knew High on Fire was going to be playing in an hour and was worried about getting back in. So I stayed for Municipal Waste, which were raw, angry classic punk-metal with tongue-in-cheek humor as in song titles as "Beer Pressure" and "The Thrashin' of Christ." They had a guy dressed as a wizard come out with "The Inebriator," a funnel with a huge tube attached that they used to pour beer into the mouths of the audience. It was funny. They also had a guy get into a garbage can and roll off the top bank of amps at the front of the stage--it was about a 12-foot drop. Then he got out and the singer threw the garbage can into the audience and they enthusiastically tossed it around for awhile. There was a circle pit, crowd-surfing, etc. etc. etc.

High on Fire hit the stage next, and blew everyone away, of course, with their mighty, gigantic, epic, monster riffs that bring to mind dwarves clanging metal together while making swords over fires under the bellows in the chest of the mountain. High on Fire are one of the heaviest stoner bands in the world, and have my total respect and devotion. By this time Salt Lake band Iota had rolled into town and Oz had texted me. I was going to meet them at a bar two blocks away, but then found out they had strolled down to listen to HoF outside the gate (Emo's Annex is an outside venue). We hung out for awhile, and Oz and I watched Black Mountain outside the Mohawk Patio for about 20 minutes while the rest of Iota went and got drunk. Why they got drunk I'll explain in a minute. Black Mountain I liked a lot; although maybe half their material was hit-and-miss. They were like Dead Meadow meets The Warlocks; stoner with tons of psychedelia, beautiful, delicate female vocals and wavery organ. It was simple, had a firm groove and was very hypnotic. Lots of marijuana in the air.

Anyway, Andy Patterson, drummer of Iota, had gotten arrested during Iota's travels to SXSW, and had bowed out of the tour. Iota told the owner of Small Stone, Scott, that they were sorry but they couldn't make it. Scott told them, "No, you are making it down here! Don't you have a friend that can fill in?" They said no. So he got the drummer for Sasquatch to fill in. That is why they got drunk ... cause they had been driving for 26 hours straight, all the way from SLC. Today Iota will hopefully be rehearsing with Sasquatch's drummer getting ready for their showcase tonight. It should be EPIC!!!

Tonight: the Small Stone showcase and Enslaved.

See you later, Johnny,