SXSW: Final Thoughts; Aponik’s last words…

Category: Blog — @ 7:48 pm March 24, 2009

Final thoughts on SXSW: An event that enormous makes Omaha’s piddly music scene seem miniscule, almost embarrassingly so. A common theme heard and read this year (and I’m sure was probably heard last year) was that Omaha’s heyday was seven years ago. Seven. That’s forever from a pop music standpoint. And yet, Omaha had a healthy number of acts performing at SXSW, including Beep Beep, Cursive, Ladyfinger, O+S, Yuppies, Box Elders, and unofficially, Little Brazil (I assume Darren Keen also was playing somewhere (other than with Beep Beep)).

But besides the fact that it was a great time, I’m still not sure what purpose SXSW serves other than as a media junket. New bands aren’t getting “discovered,” deals aren’t being made. Will The Oh Sees, who were my favorite at the festival, emerge from SXSW with heighted exposure, increased record sales and more demand for touring (and consequently, more money)? We’ll have to wait and see.

So now I’m back home. I’ve already submitted my 1,500-word version of my three days of blog entries (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) to The Reader, and the whole thing already is fading like a dream. Will I be back next year? Sure, if I can get another badge from The Reader (and if I have the vacation time available). If so, I’ll be booking a room closer to the action — walking over the Congress Ave. bridge twice a day quickly became a drag, especially at 2 a.m.

To round off the coverage, here are the last two submissions by Chris Aponik, received yesterday:

My Friday at SXSW was taken up by one of the biggest non-SXSW showcases, the In the Red Records show at Beerland. For me, it was packed with bands guaranteed to please my garage-rock heart. Texas’ Strange Boys and Seattle’s the Intelligence led the way on that showcase. The Boys smash twee, garage, ’60s psychedelic rock with nods toward Dylan in their winsome, upbeat songs. Ryan Sambol is the driving factor, as his drowsy drawl is part Bob and part Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch. Meanwhile, the Intelligence are the garage-punk Devo, turning guitars and keyboards into crisp musical machines. Lars Finberg (also of the A-Frames) sounds more natural than on the band’s records, but the syncopated delivery remains. I also caught Christmas Island and Cramps’ member Kid Congo Powers at the showcase, with the latter doing songs from his days in the Gun Club and with Lux Interior. Rick Froberg’s Obits started the day, proving that he had made a successful leap from the Hot Snakes. Obits is still tightly coiled, but there’s more bar-band groove here. Crack Pipes bloozed up the Beerland patio mid-day and the Oh Sees reappeared closing the In the Red show outside as well. Cause Co-Motion! stirred up a good time with its messy indie pop, though they sometimes went too fast and got ahead of the natural pace of a song. I also walked hurriedly through shows by Delta Spirit and the Hold Steady. Both sounded great, but I’ll be spending time with the Hold Steady here in Omaha, and I’ve had a recent enough taste of Delta Spirit to tide me over until I get to see them again.

Addictive: The Intelligence, The Strange Boys, Crack Pipes, Cause Co-Motion!

Memorable: Dappled Cities, Obits, Christmas Island, Kid Congo Powers

Listenable: Mae Shi, Antlers, Young Galaxy

* * *

It was just a brief moment, but in it, Ed Harcourt transcended me and a room full of SXSW attendees in a Convention Center exhibition hall to another place. Chalk that up to the English songwriter’s daring decision to place a sprawling, noisy song near the end of his televised set on SXSW’s sound stage. That song, “Beneath the Heart of Darkness,” is off his 2001 debut. During its seven minutes, it morphed from piano ballad to noisy, Velvet Underground meltdown and back. The version he played Saturday induced chills. I had just seen one of my favorite songwriters do something amazing. Later on, the other half of that sound stage brought a downer, thanks to the power-pop super group Tinted Windows. In the annals of rock artist distractions, joining a super group should be tossed on the list next to going to rehab, having an identity crisis, having a child and attempting to become an actor. Super group is exactly what has befallen Adam Schlesinger, who now has at least another year worth of excuses to deprive me of a new Fountains of Wayne album. Tinted Windows also has Bun E. Carlos, Taylor Hanson and James Iha, who hasn’t ever met a super group he didn’t like. The results at times are solid power pop, but other times the radio ambition does between Daughtry and mall-emo.

Human Eye bore a weird, wild streak with their oddball lo-fi post-punk. Squealing guitars, spacey keyboards and a bug-eyed singer make for a psychotic, but intensely watchable experience. Gentlemen Jesse and His Men should be promoted to the kings of modern power-pop. They play fast and loud, but with hooks aplenty. The energy is great, the songs are all candy floss and sing-along ready. Magic Kids may give Box Elders a run for best pop band on Goner Records. The Memphis band had three singers melting together over simple, fun ’60s pop. This is the Beach Boys on a shoestring budget. Golden Boys tear ass down Texas back roads with their loud, guitar-fueled country-rock blaring.

And finally, a band I out and out hated: Avoid the Death Set so you don’t need counseling to forget this cancerously bad band. They start off as Girl Talk, Jr., mash-up artists raping pop music in quick-hit snippets. But then they play mediocre noise punk on top of it. It’s colossally stupid.

Addictive: Human Eye, Ed Harcourt, Gentleman Jesse and His Men

Memorable: Sebastien Grainger, Magic Kids, Golden Boys

Listenable: Frustrations, Girls (San Fran.), Jason Lytle, Razorlight, Limes, Razorlight, Ty Segal

Soon to be Forgotten: Abe Vigoda, Tinted Windows,

Please Let it be Forgotten: Death Set

— Chris Aponik

Nice job, Chris. He and I ran into each other briefly at the Waterloo Park day show. It is funny how many Omahans you run into at SXSW.

Tomorrow: Ratatat.

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