It wasn't hard to remember you don't have to look very hard at all for music at SXSW; in fact, we were barely even awake when it happened. After arriving in Austin late, late Thursday night, we went down to the lobby of our hotel for coffee Friday morning and stumbled across John Hiatt, gruff of voice and keen of wit as ever, playing a few selections from his new The Open Road LP on the KUT Second Play stage. We repeated the scenario Saturday morning, this time lingering long enough to catch ex-Bad Liver Danny Barnes picking out a few roots-encrusted tunes on his banjo.
Consumed with directing traffic among the five talented (and apparently tireless) writers the Houston Press had on the ground at SXSW, we didn't have much of a chance to make out an agenda for our own abbreviated time at the festival this year. It turns out we didn't need to.
There's just too much that could go wrong — you could be frozen in line waiting to get in, sound problems could torpedo the set before it even gets off the ground, or the artist might be running late or might not even show up at all.
According to our writers, all these things happened at some point over the long weekend, as they do every year. But as you can see in the following excerpts from our Rocks Off blog, they didn't let that stop them for a second. See much, much, much more at blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/sxsw. Chris Gray
Andrew W.K.: "Andrew W.K. riled up the already drunken, burrito-fueled crowd with his staunchly pro-party anthems until way past 4 a.m. We had to be industrious to get into this shindig. Let's just say that it involved telling a guy at the back door that we were scouting the place out for this year's unofficial SXSW mascot, Bill Murray." Craig Hlavaty
Big Star/Alex Chilton tribute: "It was a rousing if tear-filled occasion; drummer Jody Stephens seemed at times to be in a trance. One real treat was watching Chilton's collaborators Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, longtime Posies and members of Big Star since 1994, mix it up with original guitarist Andy Hummel, who left Big Star in 1974." Dan Oko
Ray Davies: "An hour into his set, Davies brought out opener The 88 to back him through hits like 'You Really Got Me' and 'Celluloid Heroes,' with the venue virtually quaking with all the dancing going down. Backed by the young L.A. power-pop quartet, Davies was buoyant." C.H.
Frightened Rabbit: "Frightened Rabbit seems to be one of the most popular and beloved bands in the indie consciousness's broken-hearted ennui. The reason why, we assume, is their achingly passionate vocal performances layered on top of some of the loudest drums we've ever heard, which sound kind of like a mute button." Brandon K. Hernsberger
Hole: "From opening songs 'Codeine' and a gritty take on the Rolling Stones' 'Sympathy for the Devil,' Courtney Love took no shit off anyone, declaring this show was for her and her alone. Instead of alt-rock or power-pop, she's coming back with the blues as her weapon of choice. "C.H.
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears: "Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears headlined the Austin Music Awards with a raucous, high-energy trip through the annals of Texas R&B past, present and future (as in next Friday at Walter's...be there)." C.G.
Local Natives: "Local Natives jumped seamlessly through songs like 'Airplanes,' 'Shape Shifter,' Talking Heads cover 'Warning Sign' and by far the star of the night, 'Sun Hands' — seven minutes of tribal-like chants set to banging drums, encompassed in a vacuum of smiles inside a venue with a blocks-long line waiting to get inside, for the small chance to see a band well on its way to becoming the only indie band that really matters anymore." B.K.H.
M for Montreal Showcase: "In a rare case of the venue actually describing the music we were to hear, the denizens of Paradise were treated to the following (and highly exciting) bands: The bright pop tones of La Patere Rose, crisp Spoon-meets-Wolf-Parade feel of Lovely Feathers, dramatic indie-punk of Parlovr, insanely theatric art-rock of Duchess Says, the relevant dance-rock of Think About Life and '80s-flavored synth-rock of We Are Wolves." Adam P. Newton
Peelander-Z: "It must have been pretty awesome to be one of the seven-year-olds who were pulled onstage, handed a stainless steel bowl and drumstick, and invited to dance around and play. During 'Handsome,' Peelander Yellow explained that the group were aliens from the Planet Peelander, where he was considered extremely handsome and where all humans were ugly." Brittanie Shey
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Superchunk: "Superchunk was taut and gritty as the North Carolinians resurrected their slapdash indie-punk, crystallizing on early-'90s anthem 'Slack Motherfucker' and having the unfortunate (if unintended) effect of casting the group that preceded them, New York's The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, as a pale imitation." C.G.
Texas Garage Rock Showcase: "We walked in the door as McAllen's The Souls started Otis Redding's 'Shake' — always a good sign. After a few songs, the band was joined by original lead singer Allen Kirsh, who needed a cheat sheet to remember the lyrics to the group's biggest hit, 'Diamonds, Rats and Gum.'" B.S.
The xx: "The xx's understated, minimalist electro-pop sounds are best reserved for indoors, where the sound can reverberate off the walls and the vocalist's breathy coos can be heard. Yes, the trio's demure, spaced-out aesthetic isn't for everyone, but we dig it." A.P.N.
Wild Moccasins: "The Houston band is ramping up to the release of May's Skin Collision Past LP, and their set at Friends Bar showcased a handful of new tracks, sturdy songs built for maximum hook and heft. There was a sizable crowd assembled, and the band definitely made an impact." C.H.