I actually sort of wanted to hit up SXSW this year, 'specially to get drunk with Neil Young and check out Marissa Nadler's Texas debut, playing along with Jack Rose and some other people, but thought better of it with another big musical adventure looming the following month and only so much patience for the whirlwind culture media explosion that is SXSW. Besides, drinking that much Red Bull in a week can't be good.
I think I did my bit by crawling out of my dusty din and driving to The Cavern Saturday night(in the rain, mind you) to catch some SXSW carry-over: Marissa Nadler (playing Dallas ?) on a bill with Asobi Seksu ("playful sex"--LOL) and Tunng (beards and beats from England--LOL). Arrived too late to see opening band Voot Cha Index, boo-fucking-hoo.
Asobi Seksu has a sexy, short Asian singer/keyboardist. They sound like Tubeway Army meets Broadcast. They are not original, but they are tight and polished and use strobelights. I also thought Stereolab crossed with early "Seamonsters" era Wedding Present, but I was probably being generous.
Marissa's set was next, and despite a few sound issues ("the soundman is an asshole"), she pulled it off glowingly. Her voice is this massive, reverb drenched siren call from the land of broken hearts--an undeniably rich, luminescent specter that gathers over the crowd and thrives on the concentrated warmth. I was pleased with the response and Marissa and Jesse's (Sparhawk, a talented multi-instrumentalist touring with her this time out) tenacity in fighting through the gaffs and delivering the goods. They looked and sounded great. She played both "Box of Cedar" (set closer) and "Annabelle Lee," two of my favorites. She was shy and it showed (didn't say a word to the audience), yet I think her demeanor suited her songs.
A crappy phone pic taken by your Womb-master.
One fellow said he'd just seen Belle and Sebastion a few days before, and that was really good but didn't even come close to what Marissa did. He bought an album, even though he already owned both of her official releases. Another guy named Mike, who loves free jazz and harsh noise, also bought both albums and promised to do some sort of smash-up remix of Marissa's voice with loops and feedback a la Diamanda Galas. She was actually into the idea.
Marissa is a very sweet, beautiful young woman. I worried all day yesterday as she and Jesse drove up the torso of the American plains through constant rain and snowfall to get to Iowa City. Hopefully, they are sleeping right now somewhere safe in preparation for their show tonight. St. Louis tomorrow (3/21).
After the show, she asked me if she was everything I expected, if I was surprised at all by the real Marissa versus the one I'd gotten to know on record and through email. I hope I didn't disappoint when I said she was exactly what I expected, and qualified that with "I tend to know people really well." And it's true; I do. Her voice though, it was something else.
We both sung harmonies, drunkenly, to Townes' "Tecumseh Valley" much later than night and sounded GREAT together! Well, I thought so anyway...