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Adieu, Monsieur Mojo

...And other SXSW adventures

And another thing that kinda sucks is the embarrassment-of-riches effect. You can almost never be sure that you're not missing something tremendous around the corner. Where would you go if you had to pick between the Drive By Truckers, Calexico, Big Star, the Fatal Flying Guilloteens, British Sea Power and Akwid, all of which, among many, many others, played the 1 a.m. slot on Friday night? But when you start bitching about how much there is to do, it's time to just shut the hell up.


I finally got to meet all my counterparts from the other papers in the New Times chain, and among several inside baseball-type conversations likely of interest to only us, we had one burning, after-hours debate of more general interest. Specifically, what precisely is the definition of crunk? Not the music, but the vibe. None of us could quite nail it, but one of our number was able to say that it was like porn -- that it couldn't be defined, but you knew it when you saw it. And we all agreed what it wasn't -- the Polyphonic Spree is the antithesis of crunk…Even if you didn't have a badge, South By offers much more fertile opportunities for celeb-spotting than even the Super Bowl. I walked by Ani DiFranco on the Congress Street bridge, spotted a guitar-toting Michelle Shocked on Sixth Street in the early afternoon and rubbed elbows with Aerosmith's Joe Perry in the Driskill Hotel bar. Celeb count for the Super Bowl? Zero….Los Lonely Boys swept the major prizes at this year's Austin Music Awards, taking Band of the Year, Song of the Year ("Heaven") and Album of the Year. Not to toot our own horn, but shit, I'm gonna get out my spitrag and shine up my trumpet here -- yours truly was the first journalist ever to write them up. In June 2001, we likened them to baseball phenoms and promised that seeing them at their first headlining show in Houston would one day make a good story to tell your grandkids. Check out the story at www.houstonpress.com/issues/2001-06-21/playbill3.html/1/index.html. Self-love session over, trumpet packed.

Some of the wisest words of the conference came from Mark Cuban, of all people. In a panel discussion about the future of the music industry, the dot-com billionaire boy wonder owner of the Dallas Mavericks said that the music business is not in trouble, no matter what you might be hearing from the people in charge of the major labels. "I don't think there's a transition going on," he said. "I think there's four companies in trouble and everybody else is doing great."

While that's an oversimplification -- even the cooler segments of music retail are in trouble -- speaking more generally, Cuban is right. Independent labels are doing well, and a major point of the problem for the majors is this: People are buying too many different CDs and not enough of the same ones. The days of the blockbuster are on the wane. Part of it has to do with bootlegging, true, but a huge factor is the rise of diverse media. People are no longer all on the same page. People expect their favorite music to be more and more specialized now -- the one-size-fits-all superstar is no more.

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