SXSW Friday Night Saturday Day and The Looming Threat of Festival Burn

The newest post by superhuman festival maniac Bill:

We haven’t hit the wall, but we see it looming. We could barely see straight after the Yep Rock showcase last night, let alone compose coherent prose.

We were there for Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck, Sloan and Apples in Stereo. And so were a whole host of other people. (see yesterday’s photos – ed’ s note)

Toronto’s Rock Plaza Central was on when we arrived. Frankly we don’t see the point. They add accordion, violin, mandolin and banjo to your basic pop-rock sound and it was pleasant. They would fit well on the Gap’s instore playlist.

Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck did exactly what we expected. You either love
Hitchcock or you hate him. We like The Soft Boys and Hitchcock’s mental folk appeals to us. But we also think the only thing worthwhile about Pink Floyd was Syd Barrett.

Backed by Buck’s understated, chiming 12 string, the material, mostly from the recent *Ole! Tarantula* catchy, more accessible than some of Hitchcock’s past work and went down easy. If I didn’t already have the record, I’d buy it now.

We had a brief chat with Buck after the set. We sensed he didn’t really want to be talking with us, that he’d rather be spending time with the attractive, younger red head on his arm, but we were curious how he felt about SXSW. “For me it’s just another gig,” he said, “And I get a chance to see friends and new bands I don’t know.” Glad to see he’s just like us, really, except we could never pull off that patterned, velvet dinner jacket and we don’t trash airplanes.

Sloan was magnificent. Drawing heavily from Never Hear The End of It, the crowd serenaded them on stage with a sing-song “Slooooaaaaaannnnn” chant that made us feel like we were at an English soccer match. We understand they play stadiums at home in Canada, and they feel poised to make that jump here. Highlight: “Who Taught You To Live Like That,” which somehow manages to be more catchy live. They apparently drink Corona; knowing that makes us sad.

We were unfamiliar with You Am I, but trusted friends assured us the records are nothing to get all excited about. Live, they played a nice, standard indie rock set, but we can’t really remember a thing about it.

The Apples in Stereo frustrate the hell out of us. They’ve made us giddy (2002’s *Velocity of Sound*) and they’ve made us shrug. But there’s no denying they can play the hell out of a whole host of instruments and that, unlike a lot of rock bands, they actually listen to one another on stage. We’ve not heard the forthcoming *New Magnetic Wonder*, but they drew heavily from it during a giddy set that we, and the very packed room, enjoyed immensely. If the live sound has translated to record, it’ll be a winner.

One final note, a Yep Roc honcho who refused to be named, would only say, “I won’t deny it,” when we asked him about the label’s signing of Simple Kid.

Today we were spent and sluggish. We caught a set by Detroit’s Thunderbirds
Are Now! at the Brooklyn Vegan, Le Tigre, etc, etc. party: Electro-punk,
dance-rock, new-new wave, whatever overused descriptor you like will work. But it felt like they didn’t really believe in what they were doing, though they were clearly having a hell of time doing it. If they were actually taking the piss out of the Rapture, it’d be cool, but others, particularly label mates Les Savy Fav, do this sort of thing better.

We finally caught a set by The Fratellis. What can we say? Pete Townsend
joined them on stage yesterday, they play the Troubadour in L.A. next week, and my cousin’s 13 year old daughter is going to have a poster of lead singer John Lawler adorning her walls by the end of June. They are going to be all over your radios this summer, because if this acoustic set was any indication, they play polished pop-rock with a hint of country/blues influence that doesn’t take risks or break any remotely interesting ground. Apple has already used “Flathead” in an iTunes ad.

Our verdict: Hootie and the Blowfish with a little attitude and a Scottish accent.

We are ready for people to go the fuck home, but we’ll be out tonight, probably at Kings of Leon and Spoon. We don’t think we can bear to watch Iggy Pop do his “I needed the money” show with The Stooges, but we are considering closing things out with Midlake and/or The Figgs.