Nursing the SXSW hangover

Last weekend marked my seventh year at my favorite music extravaganza, Austin's SXSW, and this time the experience felt especially bananas. The entertainment at the five-day event was exhaustive in every sense. There were too many all-day-into-all-night parties, too many free malt liquor cocktails, too many must-see bands in competing time slots, too many bloggers dishing Amy Winehouse trivia (although the British bad girl's soulful diva delivery deserves every accolade it attracts), and most definitely too many L.A. douchebags being obvious with their blow in single-stall bathrooms. (The latter gave extra ammunition to one Austin T-shirt: "I love music, but I hate the music industry.")

Which is to say that, as usual, I had another unforgettable Texas experience (L.A. douchebags notwithstanding).

Unfortunately for most musicians, attention spans at SXSW shrink to shutterspeed. The boorish acts became especially frustrating. The Good, the Bad & the Queenpacked crowds on name recognition, but Damon Albarn's new "supergroup" is little more than a sedative in top hats. The Pipettes, Mew, and Peter Bjorn and Johnwere the banal international class of what one friend coined "the new sexless pop" (although PB&J played so many showcases that I was forced to come around on their whistle hit, "Young Folks").

So what loosened the grind into a bump 'n' grind? Twisted hip hop with beats harsher than a Texas hangover: Tampa's Yo Majesty(lesbian MCs melting "Kryptonite Pussy") and Crooklyn's CX Kidtronik(a crackonauts-obsessed crew ) bookended a manic beat marathon at Beauty Bar that was fierce down to the fighting words: One bare-breasted Majesty ended her set with the threat, "That motherfucker who sucked on my motherfucking nipple, I'm gonna come slap the motherfucking bitch outta your motherfucking ass!" Track-suited Norwegians Datarockclocked serious cocktail time by performing both Fader's happy hour and Nylon'sBloody Mary brunch. One of my sleeper hit picks for the week, the electro-rockers (who hit Mezzanine on March 29) came on like the Hives + Devo + "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" (they closed both sets with the Dirty Dancingsingle) in a hilarious batch of disco-trash. More dirty little Austin discoveries: Deerhunter(playing 12 Galaxies on April 13) and Foreign Islands(at Brainwash on March 24). The former freaks are Atlanta buddies with the Black Lips but trade garage punk raunch for arty reverb; picture Spacemen 3's creepy cousins getting smacked on primal, psychedelic pop. The latter, a Brooklyn act, mashes Les Savy Fav's tense indie elation against the Blood Brothers' seizure-inducing punk rhythms.

By Sunday, I'd clocked 32 bands in four days — that's not even counting watching soul warrior Sharon Jones from outside the oversold Emo's Annex. But for a closing-night blowout, I detoxed from St. Patty's fratties and constant badgeholder chatter for rock that relaxes the nervous system. Kemado Recordshosted a bash that had all the fun of a hesher kegger and none of the industry bullshit. Portland's Danavaand S.F.'s Wooden Shjips delivered art- and drone-infected metal under a canopy of skeletal trees outside a cool little warehouse space. Next door, San Diego's Earthlessslowed time down to a sludge-still with its brand of "cosmic noodling." It was eye- and ear-stunning stuff, as was the last live performance of my weekend, which came from an awesome French band called Turzi. These dudes — who debut Stateside on Kemado in May — launched a voluminous blend of prog and krautrock undertones, Morricone and Hawkwind influences, and eerie electronic elements. After that finale, there was nothing else to do but drain the leftover Lone Star cans at a nearby practice space until a crowing rooster reminded me I'd booked a plane out of this band-saturated biosphere only precious hours later. Yee-haw!

 
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