Get Your Bearings

Crabby asides from the South by Southwest Music Festival

Crooks eventually welcomed the band back into the bar and claims Bondy passed out upstairs for the rest of the night. Said Crooks the day after the brouhaha: "I'd say they were the best band of the whole conference." (J.S.)

There was that goddamn didgeridoo again -- the same that annoyed me in the first long minutes of Starfish's wonderful new album Frustrated -- greeting the audience at Starfish's live show at Emo's on Saturday during the Trance Syndicate showcase. The great Aboriginal mumble pipe was in no way prefatory to Starfish's thoroughly rocking set, however accompanied by guitar and bass feedback. (No tongue-in-cheek points were awarded for the didgeridoo's PVC construction.) More appropriate in introducing the band to the industry swine in attendance was what guitarist Jason Morales displayed while crouching down into his amplifier: a good two to three inches of vertical smile.

Cracks aside, Starfish were a rare live treat: Morales didn't seem to play his guitar so much as wrench it around in the vicinity of his picking hand, all while falling down all over himself. Normally such spastic exercise would reduce phrases to free-form slop. And, I dunno, maybe it did, but it sure did rock regardless, despite a crackly, disabled guitar amp. And when Morales and bassist Ronna Era -- who are not only married, but who apparently got married onstage after a feedback serenade -- indulged in some brief open-mouthed kissing between numbers, it didn't read as icky so much as punk. What with the butt shot and the face-chewing, you'd think the whole spectacle would be more pornographic. (Further evidenced by the single song request from the crowd: " 'Hot for Teacher'!") Nothing kills the mood like didg. (M.B.)

Mary Lou Lord broke away from her Reba McEntire-of-indie-rock act (plenty of covers, few originals) with a set of mostly self-penned numbers on Saturday afternoon. After nine years performing in the subways of Boston and the streets of Anytown, U.S.A., Lord has her act polished for charm. With hair dyed black and a soft soprano more dynamic than ever, Lord comically mimicked an electric guitar solo to "His Lamest Flame," whispered "He'd Be a Diamond," and introduced an Elliott Smith tune with a Joni Mitchell reference. Lord says Mitchell thought of songs as children, to which Lord added, "I'm an orphanage for other people's songs." (J.S.)

At SXSW's conclusion -- a barbecue and softball match that was held outdoors in gelid rainfall, despite the contingency plan for indoor eats -- where industry minor domos in cuddly-clean softball uniforms huddled around the massive barbecue grills for warmth, the surging, gray-peaked Colorado River failed to carry anybody off. (

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