Monday, March 22, 2010

SXSW - The badge and the badge-holder

As I've already briefly noted, my plans to blog during SXSW failed miserably. It just wasn't realistic to spend time on blogs late at night after music/friend time, and similarly, I wasn't exactly getting up with the roosters every morning. Similar to the blogging plans, my intentions of taking lots of pictures of the bands I saw were limited by 1) my crappy camera and 2) my unwillingness to push and shove to the front of crowds to get the best shots. Thus, I didn't take many pictures over the week and provide only a few of the better ones.

As you will see, I made it to a number of the shows I mentioned interest in seeing, although in true SXSW fashion, every time I chose to see one band, it was similarly a decision to miss 3 others I wanted to see. I doubt you are interested in the bands I was unimpressed with, so I'll talk about the high points and the humorous points and Derek will talk about others, and we'll try not to overlap too much, except for when we do.

Day One - Wednesday

The first day we jumped straight off of our flight from Denver and headed straight into the thick of things on Sixth Street. The first order of business was the Brooklyn Vegan party and the 1:30 set by the Morning Benders. In front of a packed crowd at Emo's, this relatively new buzz band put on a show that seemed to please the audience and their performance of "Excuses," the song that has made the rounds via its viral video, was plenty rockin' for those there to see it. The band is clearly young, as evidenced by the X's on the hands of some of the members, and while their catalog is small at this point, they have the potential to build on their buzz and become a mainstay of the indie scene.

In search of greener pastures, i.e. somewhere that wasn't charging $4 for Lone Star, we left Emo's and made our way to the Paste party down the street at the Galaxy Room, although this decision proved to be a bit of a misstep. Joe Pug was the first act at this party that we wanted to see, and I assume his set was good, although I just couldn't hear it. The set took place in a large tent and as a solo acoustic act, it couldn't have been a poorer fit, as basically everyone but those in the front row was talking to the person next to them. Which brings me to:

SXSW Axiom #1: If you have ever wondered how to spot the important people at SXSW, just look for those who go to the popular parties and talk during every band. I expect these were the people who went to this type of party throughout the festival and told everyone about how awesome {insert buzz band name} was at the Brooklyn Vegan/Paste/Burger King party, even though they didn't even listen to said band because they were talking about themselves through it all.

While not a priority, another bad sign was that we soon found that the only cold beer at the Paste party was Dos Equis and cost $5, so the grass was in fact not greener, but more expensive and more pretentious. The defining moment at the Paste party was watching the entry policies at the door. When we arrived, the line was minimal and all but one of our group got in without too much trouble. The one was held back about 5 minutes while someone from Paste (or otherwise involved with the party) went outside to throw a fit and stomp his feet at the door man because he was letting in too many non-badge holders. If you're not familiar with SXSW, official badge holders buy $500-$700 passes to gain entry into all official SXSW events, and supposedly, one is supposed to get priority at free day shows with these badges as well. Thus, as you can see, (SXSW Axiom #2) free day shows aren't exactly always free day shows. We did everyone there a favor by leaving and making room for more VIPs not too long after we arrived.

Our final try at free Sixth Street shows on Wednesday was admittedly one of novelty, as it involved getting in line at Emo's to see the GZA perform at the Brooklyn Vegan party. This line was not unreasonably long, but one of the longer ones that we saw for the week. As we reached the front of the line, a gentleman with one of the aforementioned badges bypassed the line and flippantly flashed his badge to the doorman as he proceeded to enter the venue...until the doorman stopped him and pointed to the back of the line. Following this initial exchange, said badge-holder re-emphasized the presence of the badge and said he just had to run in to tell some people inside that the GZA had canceled. This was the first we had heard of the cancellation, although as we looked up at the sign on the door, it was clearly posted in a handwritten note. Looking back to the gate crasher, the door man reiterated that the badge-holder needed to move to the back of the line just like everyone else if he wanted to get in. And at this point, the greatest line of this year's SXSW was uttered. After repeatedly being denied entry, the badge-holder pulled his final trump card and loudly exclaimed "does not mean anything to you?" That's right, not Rolling Stone magazine, but The response of course was textbook Emo's, as the doorman deflated this copy editor's ego completely and turned him away for the final time. And with that, we were largely done with the big parties for the week.

As a pleasant conclusion to Wednesday, we stopped by the ComboPlate Booking roster party at Guero's. Unfortunately we weren't able to see everyone involved, but we caught great sets by Michael Fracasso and Matt the Electrician. The atmosphere on South Congress was far preferable to that of Sixth Street, although I guess that goes without saying. While I know that the trendy big parties are a priority for many, the ComboPlate party proved to me that the low-key day shows on South Congress and elsewhere in town are far more enjoyable than the big name hip parties downtown in almost all instances. This is not really breaking news, but with the ever-expanding list of parties during SXSW week, it is increasingly not worth the hassle of Sixth Street.

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