Sunday, March 21, 2004

SXSW Fried-day breakdown:

First things first, my gal pal, a friend and myself hit up the lovely Church of the Friendly Ghost on the south East side of DT Austin for one of the many day parties that invariably sprout up around these mega-fests, and this is a good one. We arrange it so we will be able to catch Comets on Fire, Primordial Undermind and Kinski all in one cool row. The breakdown goes like so:

Comets - The definition of the word incendiary. If any one band's gonna save flailing 4-on-the-floor punk psych stomp/ free jazz from the gallows, it's this young quintet of Stooges/High Rise obsessives. This stuff sounds as fresh as it is hot, and I mean it's fuckin' hot! It's rare that a young band comes off as so tight and even well-rehearsed (there I said it!), but totally destroyed and untouchable at the same time. Young, tuff as shit dirt bombers of the highest order. I want/need more.

Primordial - As far as I'm concerned, they just keep getting better. Yet a different lineup than the last time I caught them, with guitar/vocs, bass, sax, electronics and drums. Chunky, sprawling jazz-psych splatter that somehow congeals into a 4 headed dragon of tidal doom and breaks apart into a thousand shards of glistening starlight and reforms, back and forth all over again and so on and on...and back and forth, and up then down, and sideways...and where was I?

Kinski - Think they played a cpl new ones, plus a cpl off the excellent last album, and what can I say? I am a fan of what these cats and kitty do. Amped up power guitar storms of high head-banging velocity and diligent complexity. Sonic Youth circa 89 is probably the strongest reference part, but just like their namesake, Kinski merges an unyielding sense of insane anything-can-and-will-happen power chaos with a very deliberate and pointed attack.

Some down time, food, beverages, blister-doctoring, the whole thing's a mess during SXSW, but this is why we rock - to engorge ourselves, drink as much free beer as is humanly possible and slowly corrode our precious joints. We find ourselves at the Secretly Canadian showcase and catch Swearing at Motorists, a sort of old fashioned power trio ('cept they're just a duo) similar to Philly's Photon Band, with some vague ties to Guided By Voices and a similar inclination towards classic minded melodicism. I totally dig their mastery of dynamics, but no real surprises here. I imagine that's part of the charm with this stuff, and both the actual Swearers had that rabid been-rockin-too-long look in the eye that I found rather pleasing. They closed with "Borrowed Red Bike," which is about as close as I come to a favorite SAM song...nice.

We catch about two songs of Br Danielson's Daniel Johnston/Velvet Undergroundy bent pop songs when I begin to suffer near convulsions of incompatibility with Br's "I'm playing in a big tree costume and singing like Alvin the Chipmunk high on crack and you think it's wacky but somehow also moving" stage presence and insisted we spill out into the street like so much mishandled change. This would mean missing Sufjan Stevens (sniff), but it would also mean catching the last part of the Bodeans and the entirety of Big Star over at the Austin Music Hall.

Sidenote: Did anyone know that that hot French indie actress Julie Delpy was a singer? Me neither!! She was in town a day or two before...missed the set, but what's really amusing is the critical description I read - "lumbering, aimless psych rock...," cept the reviewer said the last song was just her solo on guitar, and really smooth if you feel me ticklin' ya with that feather down below.

So we catch a few songs of the Bodeans, excellent classically minded power pop/guitar rock drawn from the Byrds, Band, Talking Heads and many other bands as far as I could tell. I didn't expect much, but these guys had obvious hooks, a few genuine hits and played like REM drunk on Jager.

Big Star (Alex, Jody, Ken and Jon) close things out with just what I expected - a solid, if not slightly undwhelming set of power pop/psych classics including a big chunk of "#1 Record," "I Am the cosmos," both of Jody's songs ("Way Out West" and "For You"), and plenty of covers (Kinks, Todd Rundgren, etc). As with the Volebeats, I was caught in a kind of unflinching state of awe from start to finish, though I think the same lineup played a stronger show when I saw them a few years ago on New Year's Eve in New Orleans. They still nailed the smoldering guitar noise break in "Don't Lie to Me" perfectly though. When Big Star's in town, it's like close family or a closer simply gotta drop in for a cup of tea and a few words of catching up.

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