Another March has passed, and with it another installment of the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, where several of us go every year to scout the newest, coolest bands. OK, we all see a few older cool bands, too, but most of the reason we go every year is to give you a brief preview of bands to watch when we get back. Plus, it keeps us from killing ourselves (and each other) the remaining months of the year. Here we go with SXSW 2004 Top 10:
1. Junior Senior at Stubb's
The Danish duo don't come across on record quite like they do live, and I have to say that, performance-wise, no band can touch Junior Senior. And Stubb's is the best live music venue in the Southwest.
2. Pong at Room 710
For whatever reason, I can't get enough of this Austin supergroup featuring all three former members of Ed Hall along with former guitarist for the Pocket Fishermen and keyboardist for Moist Fist. Pong are new wave, psychedelic and rocking all at once.
3. Steaming bratwursts at The Best Wurst
This is the only hot dog cart you ever need to visit. I'm not supposed to have them because my cholesterol is 300, but what the hell ... this is vacation, right?
4. I Am the World Trade Center at Elysium
Damn! This Athens, Ga. duo simply kick ass and take names. The only exception was the New Order cover.
5. The Red Thread at Caribbean Lights
Low-key and outright enchanting, just like their records said they'd be.
6. Ill Lit at Urban Outfitters
Way more melodic and less clangy than on record, but you've got to play to the crowd, right? And if that crowd happens to be made up mostly of Urban Outfitters management, employees and shoppers, it's best to keep the noise level in check. Still, Ill Lit put on a killer show.
7. Iron and Wine at Waterloo Records
In-store performances by buzz bands are not fun. After waiting in line for an hour and 20 minutes to get into a goddamned record store, I got jammed into the corner where all the classical music boxed sets are. So I had to stare at Bach and Debussy while listening to Sam Beam and his trio work their magic. Was it worth it? Hell yes!
8. Local H at Emo's Annex
Deciding to appear last minute as a four-piece turned out to be a good decision. And their version of the worst rock 'n' roll song of all-time, "Juke Box Hero," absolutely kicked ass. Scott Lucas is the king!
9. Fivehundred at Pyramids
The guys, formerly known as Mr. Spectacular, did Albuquerque proud despite an early slot on the opening night of the event. By the end of their set, more than a few people other than us Albuquerque folk were damn glad they began their SXSW experience with this show.
10. The Winter Pageant at The Lava Lounge Patio
This is Paul Newman's—formerly of ... you guessed it ... Austin band Paul Newman and not the salad dressing-making actor—new band. Newman, along with several other former Austinites now call New York City home, and while their music is similar to that of Newman's previous band, it's a little more melancholy and less angry.
1. Zeke at Emo's
These pale, sweaty, Seattle gearheads could not possibly play their brand of punk/metal any harder or faster. (When we could keep up), the pale, sweaty crowd head-banged, threw horns and raised our PBR tall boys high.
2. Hoek's in the Ritz
Nicknamed Death Metal Pizza, this is literally a hole in the wall of the Ritz. You have to point at the pie you want since by the time you make it to the front of the line your eardrums have been blown by a blistering assault emanating from the speakers. These guys are Austin's version of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi.
3. Joan Jett at Stubb's
She wore leather pants, sneered and scowled through an hour and a half-long set of greatest hits ("Do You Wanna Touch," "I Love Rock and Roll," "Cherry Bomb") plus a few covers including "Crimson and Clover" and the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner". P.S. Joan Jett is still the only girl who could make me give up boys.
4. The Yuppie Pricks at Pyramids
Their music may be a tired Dead Kennedys rip-off but these guys do have a killer schtick. At the front of the stage a mostly-naked girl lay supine, covered in sushi. The audience was invited to dine off of her and we did.
5. Suplecs at Headhunters
Three wrestling fans from New Orleans make up one of the few stoner rock bands who kick just as much ass live as they do recorded and whether you're stoned or not. Sounds like: Fu Manchu. Sounds best: loud as hell.
6. Gene's New Orleans Style PoBoys and Deli
Gene's gravy-smothered pork chops, sweet potatoes and collards almost made me weep. Gene's dark roux gravy is to "brown gravy" as Jimi Hendrix is to Justin Timberlake.
7. Bad Wizard at Room 710
You will loose all hipster cred if somebody sees you grinning like an idiot as you boogie down to this heavy '70s party band. It's just not cool to enjoy yourself this much. Bad Wizard plus way too many shots of Wild Turkey plus piss-poor personal behavior equals the best time ever!
8. Fivehundred at Pyramids
Only real rock stars put on the same killer show in a crappy slot at an unknown bar in an unfamiliar town as they do in front of a hometown crowd of loyal fans. They rocked my balls right off.
9. Supagroup at Room 710
Their CD in no way captures the rousing showmanship of singer Chris and guitarist Benji Lee who worked little Room 710 as if it were an arena. The Blues Brothers of rock.
10. The Salt Lick
If I ever go on a hunger strike I will gladly drive 12 hours into the Texas hills to break my fast with the Salt Lick's drool inducing sausage, brisket and ribs slathered in mustardy sauce.
1. The Von Bondies at Stubb's
If you're into retro rock with a hard edge, your cup runneth over. Besides, Jack White kicked the singer's ass and that's just not right.
2. Junior Senior at Stubb's
Is there anything more entertaining than a gay guy with a Danish accent shaking like Jell-O at a Texas barbecue joint?
3. Tammy Faye Starlite at Club de Ville
Marginal musical talent, but this New York freakshow entertained with a monologue that was equal parts bonhomie and forced satire. She did get off a few good lines, like this one: "Britney Spears is an anagram for Presbyterians—further proof of the coming Apocalypse." Once I realized she was genuinely nuts, the show meant something.
4. B-52s at Stubb's
Kate Pierson has aged some, looking like a potato with toothpicks for arms and legs, but the sound was still transcendent. "Hibbie, hibbie ... hip to hip."
5. IQU at the Red-eyed Fly
Two-piece techno outfit deserved some love. It was like Dick Dale meets DJ Soulslinger ... the drinks were free and the place was half-empty!
6. Local H at Emo's Annex
Their afternoon set cured my hangover for God's sake!
7. Blue October at La Zona Rosa
Raging pop/punk outfit from Houston sings catchy songs about the shitty personality traits in all of us.
8. The Hold Steady at Elysium
Like the Del Fuegos or Buffalo Tom with some fresh lyrics.
9. High Times showcase at the Vibe
J. Mascis' busted out an acoustic set that was pure genius; the crowd chanted "Fuck Ashcroft." The afternoon party once again served as a reminder that the war on marijuana in America is a disaster by any measure and Gary Johnson is a real hero for saying so.
10. Julie Delpy at Friends
The talented French actress' songs, I think, were about sex mostly.
1. Junior Senior at Stubb's
I'm very happy I got a chance to see them live and even happier that I saw them live at Stubb's. I should have bought a shirt.
2. New West Records Party at Club DeVille
Amazing free tacos and beer, everyone was cool and relaxed, even the legendary Beatle Bob would agree—he was there, too. Everyone was just having a great time listening to Jon Dee Graham and Randall Bramblett. I can't believe I got to be a part of it all.
3. Pong at Room 710
The 3-D glasses helped bring the show up to full effect this year!
4. Eddie Spaghetti at Opal Divine's Freehouse.
Ending the night with a slow drunk country version of "Hey Yeah" by Outkast was hilarious. I really don't know why I yelled and screamed at Eddie's manager on the way out. Oh, yeah, he was a rude jerk-off.
5. The Athens in Austin Party at the Green Mesquite
The barbecue was fantastic, the Flagpole people were really nice, I made a new friend, and just realized that every band I've seen or heard from Georgia within the last few months has caught my attention one way or the other.
6. Meow Meow at Maggie Mae's
I don't remember actually being at the show, but I have a few pictures and their latest CD to prove that I was. Their CD is great, by the way.
7. My brother giving me his change after buying me round after round after round.
8. Kris Kristofferson at the Town Lake Stage.
Hearing his music since I was four or five, then actually seeing him play his songs live by himself got me.
9. I Am the World Trade Center at Elysium
What a great show. I love Amy's voice and the dude, well, he was very confident. I laughed my ass off and had a great time.
10. Starting the evenings off at Pyramids, drinking cheap drinks, and stumbling onto a little Black Cock on Friday night. (Black Cock is an Austin band, by the way.)