Live Review: Saudi Arabia; has SXSW jumped the shark?

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:54 pm March 21, 2011
Saudi Arabia at O'Leaver's March 19, 2011.

Saudi Arabia at O'Leaver's March 19, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

I caught a couple bands at O’Leaver’s Saturday night. Saudi Arabia, the band formerly known as The Dinks, ripped through a set of caustically acidic punk rock that was fast and furious and bordered on metal (but not really). As kinetic and abrasive as an 8-ball of crank, the SA boys aren’t afraid to bust out a melody or two from deep within the chaos. These guys need to play more often. They were followed by Toilet: The Movie (Twenty Dollar Love under an assumed name), who played party-time cock rock reminiscent of Rye Coalition but with a more-intense punk sneer. Brutal fun.

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I continue to get news in my e-mail box about this year’s South by Southwest music festival, which ended Saturday. Whether it’s stories of jaded old punk rockers punching women in the face during a show or a camera crane falling into a crowd at Stubb’s, there’s an overall sense from some media that SXSW has jumped the shark. Even NPR is getting in on the action, with a report this morning that asked if it was all worth it.

It’s as if people are just now starting to figure out that SXSW isn’t so much about discovering new bands as it is a week-long music industry party where you can see today’s hottest (and already signed) indie acts all in one place (if you can get through the lines). The ongoing decay of the music industry has made SXSW that much more important to established labels, who are desperate to generate buzz about their acts’ latest releases. Those same labels have little time to conduct A&R explorations for new bands to sign. Yeah, it’s a shame and definitely takes away from the original spirit of SXSW, but it doesn’t make it any less fun for those who are looking for a music retreat from whatever wintry hell they came from. And yes, SXSW doesn’t hold much opportunity for unsigned bands to be “discovered,” but it hasn’t since the ’90s. That said, there’s always a couple hero stories that come out of the festival each year (Saddle Creek, for example, has used SXSW in the recent past to discover new talent). Here’s hoping all this negative press will keep people away next year, when I plan to return to Austin.

Even though I didn’t attend, lots of other Omaha music writers did. Here’s where you can find their SXSW run-downs:

— Kevin Coffey of the Omaha World Herald via his Rock Candy blog.

— Andrew Norman of via The Scoop blog.

— Jeremy Buckley of via In the Loop blog.

— Chris Aponick of The Reader via The Backbeat blog.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.