The music festival at SXSW (there are interactive and film parts too, check www.sxsw.com) only lasts 4 days officially, but your brain does begin to frazzle somewhat as you reach the end of the epic, musical ride. As I woke up on Saturday, I realised that lack of sleep and vegetables in my diet; combined with the Austin heat and our continual running-about town was starting to take its toll a little... so aided by strong coffee, I took to the streets one more time, ahead of our second Radio 1 recording later in the day.
First stop was Wave on 6th street for an NME afternoon show to see Cage the Elephant, a Kentucky band that are getting a lot of hype in the UK and stateside. With classic rock riffs, punk attitude and a fearless frontman who climbed onto the roof of the venue, they motored through a tough and satisfying set. Great live band! From here, I ran across town with my friend Fransisco to see another band who are also 'hot' right now - Devotchka! I've only become aware of them recently, but they're actually on their 4th LP. It was the Filter magazine showcase at the Cedar Street Courtyard, and the place was packed but the band played brilliantly in the afternoon heat, throwing indie and world music shapes into the mix - kinda Calexico meets Beirut if you like, to be incredibly simplified about the whole thing. They have a beautiful sound and deserve your attention for sure.
It was then I realised it was time for breakfast/lunch, so greasy street pizza was consumed rapidly (we couldn't sit down for food anywhere for some reason) on the way towards the convention centre, where the utterly overwhelming 'Flatstock' poster art exhibition was being held. I'd met Nick from the website and we quickly stopped by the Atlantic Records showcase to catch The Republic Tigers, who were quite good in an Echo & the Bunnymen way, with 3 way vocal harmonies and 3 guitar players! We stood in the shade and sank a couple of bottles of water whilst watching.
Every year I make the pilgrimage to flatstock, which is incredible! Imagine an SECC-sized sports-hall divided into lanes with artists showing original and unique, screen-printed, rock'n'roll poster art!! It's a huge thing in the USA, and a good thing too. It's also the sort of place you can spend 100's of dollars on works for the walls of your house! I held back and only bought one poster, celebrating flatstock 2008 to add to the collection that adorn my Edinburgh flat.
Time to get some more work done, so Nick and I jumped into a cab and whizzed to the east side of the city to meet Muslim and Mark from Radio 1, in order to do our 2nd show for the network. They'd hired a lovely, little analogue studio on Pedernales street called 'Hot Tracks', run by a friendly guy called Matt, who was incredibly dedicated, hard-working and helpful. After we synched up laptops, sound-checked microphones and gather all the content and session tracks together, we ran through as a live programme giving you guys a real taste of Texas from the Scottish angle. We had session tracks (exclusively done for the show) by Our Lunar Activities, Jyrojets, The Law, Popup, The Dykeenies, Make Model and Frightened Rabbit - all of whom rose to the challenge and gave us something extraordinary, in an acoustic stylee! Check the show out live on 20th March 2008 or via the BBC i-player for a week afterwards.
We breathed a sigh of relief, patted ourselves on the back and did the group-hug thing, as we knew our work here was done (apart from this blog and a few photos), so we all headed back into town. Muslim and Mark went for well-deserved food, while Nick and I swiped a hotdog from 6th street and legged it to see The Slits. As mentioned, it's nice to see some classic stuff in amongst the new bands... and The Slits delivered 100%! They looked and sounded amazing, had a ton of energy and the Texan crowd went nuts for them. With so little time on our hands before the end of the festival, we ran from venue to venue seeing little snippets of bands and grabbing the occasional refreshment along the way.
Between midnight and 2am, we saw The Slits, White Denim (although not much of them as we couldn't properly get in the place), Chromeo (very funny indeed!), Best Fwends (raucous!!) and X (who'd have thunk it??!) before Nick hit the road to get some sleep ahead of an early flight! It sounds like crazy fun, and it was!
My grand finale was then to meet up with some Texan friends, with whom I went to the 'Spin' magazine after- hours party seeing The Soundtrack of Our Lives play live, and meeting lots of BBC Introducing collegues and Scottish music-industry friends. A lovely and fitting end to the night and the entire festival. Now, I've said it once and I'll say it again... SXSW is the biggest and the best music event in the world, bar none! I've had an utter blast as ever, and hopefully relayed some of the vibes and flavours to you reading, listening and watching! Roll on SXSW 2009 - I for one, cannae wait...
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