Cursive at No. 104; Bright Eyes farewell?; Column 214: Headed South by Southwest…

Category: Blog — @ 5:47 pm March 18, 2009

I know I’m overloading you with Cursive data, but Mike Fratt at Homer’s passed along that Mama, I’m Swollen sold 5,429 physical copies nationally its first week, which is good enough to put it at No. 104 on the Billboard Top-200. Nice.

* * *

Bright Eyes is tonight at The Waiting Room. I will not be in attendance as I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to score a ticket in the 23 minutes that they were available before selling out. Will this “reunion” actually be a swan song for Bright Eyes? My guess is yes, it will be, but only for the time being. Conor goes out with the Mystic Valley Band for part of this year, and then has the M. Ward/Jim James/M. Mogis album after that. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say he’ll pull together Bright Eyes whenever the mood strikes him or the stars align for everyone involved. That said, who knows when that will be again or what he’ll say at tonight’s show.

* * *

Tomorrow I leave for SXSW, arriving in time to take in the Thursday night schedule. Look for updates on a daily basis right here. For “real-time” data, follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/tim_mcmahan) or on Facebook. That said, here’s my pre-trip perspective:

Column 214: South by South Wasted
Austin or bust.

I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s _______.

That’s why someone like me goes to the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin. Right? To discover tomorrow’s Next Big Thing, the band that we’ll all be talking about the following year, the one that will blow the lid off the Mercury Lounge next September when Bowie and Lou “just show up” with guitars and microphone and jam alongside them, the band that played here in Omaha last year to 50 people that we now know will never be back. The next Arcade Fire. The next Interpol. The next Animal Collective. The next Bright Eyes.

I’ve been watching SXSW from the sidelines for years, never dreaming of actually attending. The lead-up to mid-March always has been the same: “You goin’? You’re not? Dude, you’re really missing out, especially you. It’s a four-day fucking party, man, and you never know what’s going to happen or who’s going to show up. Dude, seriously, you need to go next year.” And so on.

There’s nothing more annoying than hearing how great someone’s vacation was, especially when they just got back from Antigua in the middle of January. No one really wants to see the pictures. No one really cares, because we’re stuck here, in this icebox called Omaha, and Antigua might as well be the surface of the moon. The same holds true for SXSW. Returning festival attendees go on and on about how so-and-so destroyed Emo’s or El Sol y La Luna or The Speakeasy. About how they drank themselves blind and greeted the sunrise with breakfast burritos at this little place off Red River St. And the whole time that they’re telling you this, you just want to punch them in the throat because you know you’ll never be able to get off work, never have enough cash, never get a “Gold Badge,” never get to go.

Well, I’m going this year for the first time. As you read this on Thursday or Friday or Saturday, I’m most likely crouched over somewhere on 6th St. in Austin suffering from a hang-over, confused, looking for a place to take a piss, wondering where I’m supposed to go next. As soon as I figured out a way to get there, I backtracked to everyone who had gone before — but who aren’t going this year — and got the same story: “You going? Really? Man, be prepared for the lines and the hassle and the heat. Austin’s weird because there’s really nowhere to sit down anywhere. You’ll be standing up for three days straight. Those laminates they give you, man, they’re worthless. Forget about getting in to see any band that you really want to see. And if you do get in, the sound system in every bar sucks. You’re better off just waiting to see those same bands when they come through town. Good luck, you’re going to need it.” And so on.

I’m told that there’s no reason to put together a schedule or list of bands prior to flying out because the odds that any of the clubs will keep to the schedule — or that I’ll actually be able to make my way through the line in time — are next to nil. On the surface — and based on my own research — I tend to believe this, but that’s not stopping me from pulling together a half-assed schedule anyway, so that I’ll at least have a few stars to navigate by as I try to make sense of it all. (You can see my half-assed schedule online, here: http://sxsw2009.sched.org/lazyi_omaha).

I did figure out one thing a long time ago — I’m not flying to Austin to see the same handful of bands that play in Omaha once a month. Every year I talk to someone who went to SXSW and spent the whole time running from venue to venue to see Omaha bands. Why see Ladyfinger when they just played at O’Leaver’s a week ago? The answer: “Because we really want to see how they go over with an impartial crowd.” It’s like rooting for the home team, but in the end, no one cares how well anyone goes over. Every band at SXSW has been signed to a label, in most cases for years. Their “big break” came long before they ever got invited to play the festival. And the only reason they came this year was because their label is hosting a showcase and told them they should.

Every band I’ve talked to who has played SXSW has bitched about it, placing it among the worst tour experiences of their lives because there’s nowhere to park their van, getting equipment into the club is an insane hassle, and once they do get their gear set up they can’t leave for fear of not getting back in — even though they’re in the band.

But that’s not my problem, is it. For me, SXSW is a spring break, a chance to burn up some carryover vacation time and check out the madness from inside the belly of the beast. My plan is to arrive Thursday afternoon, taxi over to the Hyatt and drop my bags, then stroll over to 6th Street just across the river and let fate guide me in the right direction.

The whole time I’ll be taking notes, snapping pictures, Twittering (twitter.com/tim_mcmahan), updating my blog (lazy-i.com), and putting together notes Hunter S. Thompson-style, scribbled on napkins, recorded into my iPhone, for a story in next week’s issue of The Reader. And nothing is going to stop me from having a good time.

If I discover the future of rock and roll, I’ll let you know.

If my own perspective wasn’t enough SXSW coverage, fellow Reader reporter Chris Aponik is in Austin as well and will be contributing his personal take on the festival as a Lazy-i exclusive. His “final report” will be published in The Omaha City Weekly. Chris left for Austin either today or yesterday. Here’s his pre-launch musings:

I’ve not even set foot in Texas and I already feel fatigued. There’s just no possible way I’m going to see all I want to see by week’s end. I’ve barely been able to wrap my mind around what I want to see. But I am armed and ready. I’ve logged in all the official showcases I want to check out and I’ve put in RSVP’s for just about every semi-private day show I could find. Now I just need to will myself to look through and whittle my list down to what I must absolutely see. That basically makes it a list of people that might soon be dead and people that won’t be caught dead playing in Nebraska in 2009.

So here’s my must-see list:
Heartless Bastards
Hymns
TV Ghost
No Age
Sam Roberts Band
Crystal Stilts
King Khan and the Shrines
The Wrens
Primal Scream
Ed Harcourt
Mika Miko
Red Red Meat
Human Eye
The Intelligence
Cause Co-Motion!
Tim Easton
The Drones
Black Joe Lewis
Blank Dogs
Echo and the Bunnymen
Andre Williams
Golden Boys

Chris also will be posting video updates at www.youtube.com/user/niteclubjitters.

Hold onto your hats, we’re in for a bumpy ride… to Austin.

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