I hate music. What is it worth?
Those are the first lines of Superchunk’s “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo,” which Mac McCaughan performed in an excellent solo set at Cheer Up Charlie’s last week, and that’s I question I ask myself a lot at South by Southwest: what is it worth?
Is it worth the crowds, the lines, the traffic, the douchebags, the mud, the aching feet, the hangovers, the waiting around, the sound problems, more douchebags, the fatigue, the shitty bands playing between the good ones, and the complete withdrawal of any semblance of a normal life for a week? Still? Even approaching 40?
Let’s find out together, because here we are again. My fourth trip to SXSW, and my first one holding a music badge (possibly making me one of those aforementioned douchebags),has come and gone. Take a seat while I pull out my slide projector and show you motherfuckers some vacation photos. Breathe it in. Enjoy it. Just as “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” is ultimately a love song to music, so is my annual sojourn to Austin my chance to re-establish how much I love music.
This year’s crew: me, some family, some lawyers, some social workers. And some dude with a giant glowstick that wanted to hang out with us for an entire Run the Jewels show. And some girl who handed me a full vodka and ginger ale at a show, then spent about ten minutes convincing me it wasn’t roofied (I wasn’t worried). And some dude who actually tried to network with me at a show by asking legitimate questions about my work. Oh, very young — though your dreams may toss and turn you now/They will vanish away like your daddy’s best jeans.
As the overrated Bob Dylan once sang, “things have changed.” It’s been three years since we’ve been able to have a man on the ground at South by Southwest, those Elysian Fields for music fans, that Bermuda Triangle for up-and-coming bands, that irresistible siren song for hipsters and corporate douchebags the world over. And for me.
In the 36 months since I last avoided 6th Street, I’ve had a kid and I’ve gotten 36 months older. That’s 36 months further away from my prime. 36 months further removed from my body being able to adequately process a hangover. 36 more months from the time I actually knew what the fuck the kids were listening to.
So it was not without some trepidation that I de-planed on Sunday, ready and not ready for a full week of music, alcohol, sleep deprivation and the worst piercings known to man. How badly would I feel my age? Am I getting too old for this shit?
Well, after 47 sets of live music, 40 different artists and 16 different venues (not including bands playing on front lawns of random houses or rappers standing on parked cars or rapping out the windows of moving vans), I can report that I am definitely not too old for this. Because it’s still fucking awesome, no matter the toll it takes on my organs, bones and brain.
This year, I’m joined once again by a Musky Canadian, two blood relatives, and a shit-ton of fucking lawyers, of all things. Full 2014 SXSW rundown, coming right up.
“…and in the center there is a hot, soft light”
In preparation for South by Southwest, I spent a month doing very little but listening to new music (yes, this cut deeply into fantasy baseball prep season). I checked out as many bands who would be playing South by as time allowed — because I didn’t want to miss anything great, and because I have some sort of obsessive personality disorder.
Through this preparation and research (let’s see how boring I can make listening to music sound), I learned about tons of interesting new bands. Spoiler alert, you guys: there are A LOT of bands out there! It’s true. And because South by only lasts four days, I could only check out a small number of the bands I’d discovered in the prior weeks. I already wrote about some of the bands I did get a chance to see, so today I’d like to focus on the bands I missed.
* Originally, this post was titled “2011 Bands to Check Out in 2011.” Things didn’t work out as planned.
“Texas forever” — Tim Riggins
Typically, when you land at Austin-Bergstrom International airport, you become instantly relaxed. The airport itself is slower-paced and less busy than most big-city aiports, and when you step outside, the air is inevitably warmer than wherever you’re coming from. The Austin air evokes front-porch rocking chairs and sipping bourbon. You feel your worries slipping quietly away into the Texas breeze.
Landing in Austin for South by Southwest is different. You feel like you’ve been shot out of a cannon the second you get off the plane, released into the night to do and see and drink and hear as much as you possibly can in the time you’ve been given; launched into the world at 300 miles per hour to create mayhem and receive its most hedonistic graces. You want to consume everything, the entire festival, and you want to do it now. You’re free. You’re engaged. Like Jerry Maguire when he’s writing his manifesto, you’re the best possible version of yourself. You’re on speed. You’re God’s own music soldier, and for a few days, that’s all that matters. Here you go, like a sales force into the night.
We spare no expense here at Pop Culture Has AIDS to bring you, our readers, the most intense, visceral, pop culture experiences imaginable.
So you’ve always wanted to know what South by Southwest is like? We too have felt the allure of that infamous hipster convention, where a sea of signed and unsigned bands descend upon Austin like a plague of bearded locusts and plug their guitars into any outlets they can find.
Thus, for you, we sent one intrepid reporter to Texas, to brave not only SXSW, but also St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend. On our own dime! Join us after the jump, and we promise you’ll almost be able to smell the one-hitters and Port-a-Pottys.
March 17-21. South by Southwest Music Festival. And You Are There!