This year marks the fourth year Craig's Hlist has covered SXSW in Austin for the Houston Press, from the days when we had to shoot all of our own shows, had neither Facebook nor Twitter, and slogged through the day mostly drunk. It's a far cry from now, when we are glued to our phones, yearn for water more than the demon drink, and have some of the best photogs in town shooting shows for us year-round.
Of all four SXSWs that we have helped cover for the folks back in Houston, our favorite may be 2008, the year we met tons of people that are still in our lives, and began this crazy, non-sleeping life of ringing ears and wrists forever graced with paper wristbands for show after show. That was also the year that we had almost a militaristic view of covering bands, with one night seeing us cover 14 bands in six hours, like some sort of crazed beach-storming campaign.
So here we are in the thick of SXSW 2011, old hands at it now, but nonetheless lucky and grateful to be able to do something like this for a living. CHL always makes it a point to re-watch Almost Famous the night before a big festival gig, like ACL, SXSW, or even Fun Fun Fun Fest, to rekindle what made us start writing about music in the first place: that gooey feeling you get when you see something that you know will stick with you for decades.
On the way to see Houston's own Balaclavas at the Independent to debut new stuff off the soon-to-be released Roman Holiday, I abruptly hit a curb with bicycle. Luckily my elbow took one for the team. Well, it it ended up getting fractured and I have all kinds of internal business going on with it. But nonetheless I got back up and tied up my bike to a light pole and walked across IH-35 to catch the show. Which was alternately stupid or dedicated.
This wasn't our first time seeing the Bala Boys, and this probably wasn't the best show of their career, but it made for one of the best SXSW stories to tell ever.
CRYSTAL CASTLES (2008):
I sat inside a very packed and motionless crowd on the Wave upstairs patio for what seemed like half and hour. Long enough to teach some Australian dance guys about the finer things in life. Like cold Shiner Bock and Taco Cabana breakfast tacos.
Crystal Castles are a two piece Canadian electro duo fronted by the yelping and pint-size Alice Glass. She seemingly screams each song like she's being stabbed in a dark alley. Imagine if Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were ten years younger and brought up listening to the Faint.
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We have been fans ever since that evening. Their live shows only get better.
KURT VILE (2009):
Kurt Vile went on a good 15 minutes late, reducing his set to a two-song jam complete with saxophone, Deep Purple riffin', pre-programmed drum fills.Vile sings behind a bushy mane of Ritchie Blackmore fuzz and his bassist looks like Thurston Moore circa 1980.
This may have been one of the only times we succumbed to Pitchfork's urgings to see a band at SXSW.
BLACK DIAMOND HEAVIES (2008)
The organ and drums duo sat in the backyard of the Irish pub and preceded to damn near Americanize the whole block. Port Arthur native John Wesley Myers, on keys and vocals, comes off as the bastard child of Iggy Pop and fittingly enough Janis Joplin, raised by Tom Waits, who then gargles with gravel each morning for breakfast.
This stuff really smoked us that year. We miss this band greatly.
If you think that electrical cord looks important, don't touch it. (Sorry, Justice.)
We danced way too hard at the Playboy after-hours party and somehow shut off the power to Justice'S set. Good times.
Glasvegas somehow bridge the gap between the epic Phil Spector-produced singles of the '60s and the sludgy Jesus and Mary Chain. This isn't surprising seeing that their biggest fan is Scottish music wag Alan McGee, who managed JAMC early in their career.
We got a really haunting picture of the lead singer of Glasvegas, James Allen, looking hella like Joe Strummer. Very creepy. He would end up suffering a non-fatal overdose a few months after this picture was taken.
JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD (2010):
Meet my new favorite band this year: Jeff the Brotherhood.
We saw the Buxton boys at Waterloo Records on the Sunday afternoon, as SXSW was leaving Austin, where we bought the JTB album and jammed it all the way home to Houston in time to cover Justin Bieber at RodeoHouston. What a day.
MARIACHI EL BRONX (2010)
The Bronx just taught me the phrase 'prison wallet.'
Prison wallet is your butthole, BTW.
CHL did a quick video at a bar on Austin's Eastside for the main Village Voice Web site. Very fun, and we got to hang with the band for an hour. Swell dudes.
TRASH TALK (2010)
Headed in to see Trash Talk at Death Metal Pizza.
his was followed by us trying weed brownies with a bunch of kids barely old enough to drink.)
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As the beer and garbage flew in the air, we watched all conventionality of what a live rock performance should be go up like a dried up Christmas tree. Stages and platforms are for the pompous and the vain. Monotonix slowly set upon the pit area below as their show went on until finally we were all at their tender mercies. It was brutal, happy and altogether shocking.
This was the band for 2008, it seemed. Their legend grew over that week and for the next three years. Their last Houston show, this shindig at Super Happy Fun Land, was insanity pure and simple. They are also the only band that we can truly say we get giddy thinking about photographing.