Everyone Else Is About To Have A Great Time at SXSW
And you're not. Well, I'm not either, so, uh, wanna go get a beer with me, and cry into it? Actually, my impressions of the Austin music festival (kicking off tonight) had been tarnished in the past few years by some unpleasant stories of desperate battles to get into the most hotly-tipped shows, even if you'd paid the $600 walk-up fee for a badge. But an industry friend's recent description of the festival as "better than Coachella" made me wish I was going again. The festival is sold (mostly by attendees to their bill-paying bosses) as a "proving ground" for new bands, who then emerge with the momentum to conquer America. That sounds nice, and while bands like Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party put on great shows in recent years, their stars had been rising long before they set foot in Austin, and it's not like a poor performance there would have stopped the hype. So, really, SXSW is just a big party, but attended almost exclusively by music geeks, and since the great unwashed has become more and more intrusive at Coachella in recent years, I see the appeal.
Rolling Stone has a good roundup of some of the bands most likely to see overcrowding and mayhem at their Austin performances, and subsequent press overload the next week. From their list, the excellent Peter Bjorn and John and The Gossip seem most likely to get the breathless post-festival "best show ever" reviews. I don't quite get the crazed adoration of retro trio The Pipettes, and I'm personally a little tired of Girl Talk getting so much attention for his haphazard laptop silliness (when my friends do it so much better). But, those will definitely be hot tickets. To that list of potential SXSW highlights, I'd add Glasgow rockers The Fratellis (from the iTunes commercial), one of the first US shows from Damon Albarn's new project The Good the Bad and the Queen, and a set from the UK electronic combo Fujiya & Miyagi. But who knows: last year I heard it was an off-the-schedule secret DJ set by the Presets in a barn in the middle of nowhere that was everybody's highlight. Sigh. Well, if you're not there but want to to join in the fun from a distance, check out Hypebot's helpful links on how to pretend you're there, including the festival's official online update toolbox and local station KUT (90.5 FM) which you can listen to online. Grab a beer and some barbecue, and it'll almost feel like the real thing.
[Update, 5:52pm] Well, shut my mouth about Peter Bjorn and John. Via Gawker, it's a blog dedicated to convincing the world that they're "not a significant band." They're organizing a "Stop Peter Bjorn and John" rally. I still like them, but this is pretty hilarious.