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SXSW: Fourteen Bands in Eight Hours

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As I set out Saturday night for the last of this year’s SXSW, little was set in stone. My assigned bands were at venues unlikely to be merciful to rock journo trash with only a wristband adorning his arm. Meaning that this night would be one of grazing the land, seeing what sustenance the wild and wooly capital city had to offer.

I declared to no one in particular that I would see as many bands as I could, in the least amount of time. Some shows would garner full stays, some would only warrant maybe one beer. The sighting of the Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison in my hotel’s Starbucks gave me hope.

Starting off at Bourbon Rocks, I caught a very drunk and somewhat disorderly Magic Bullets churn out their own line of fashionable Scot-Pop, bringing to mind a California-bred sound not too far from Orange Juice and the later works of Edwyn Collins.

In the back patio, I finally was able to be baptized by the strange and hirsute Monotonix. Our music editor John Nova Lomax spoke of them in a scarily reverent tone early in the week. 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.

Back Ted N Ted? You know what? Never mind. I walked six blocks to hear something that sounds like that Outback commercial jingle. Damn you MySpace and your false hope.

Dax Riggs at the Cedar Door ran through a quick dirge-like set, touching on the finer points of death, decay and self-immolation.

Back on Sixth at the Vice venue, LA Riots mashed up all the current club tracks, while even throwing in some Genesis as an appetizer.

My feet tired and bruised, I trudged to Stubb’s to grab a beer or four and watched Roky Erickson’s continually triumphant return to the land of the living.

I caught up with Pat from San Francisco’s Trainwreck Riders and reminisced about that infamous Walter’s On Washington show with Two Gallants where they learned that tasers freakin’ hurt. It didn’t help that soon after the fracas the band was involved in a near-fatal van accident.

Walking down Red River, we rolled into Beauty Bar to see Apache Beat. As the first song started I heard Krautrock swells, followed soon by frontwoman Ilirjana Alushaj channeling Patti Smith in a leotard.

A Bull Blaster later (hey, we needed energy, dammit) it was next door to Red 7 for some culture shock. In the back patio, Roger Miret and the Disasters preached to hefty crowd of surly punks, jolly skinheads and about 40 Kat Von D clones. I hadn’t seen Miret live since his last tour with Agnostic Front, and I hadn’t been to a street punk show in forever. The crowd was a welcome respite from all the skinny jeans and neon Nike high-tops that were this year’s fashion hallmark.

Blocks down at Emo’s, Shining was doing a very Jesus Lizard and saxophone thing. Is there anything Norway can’t do?

If Monotonix were someone else’s find this year, then Crystal Castles are one of mine. 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.

At the Vice venue, we sat in the corner double-fisting Long Island Iced Teas in direct defiance of God himself. Z-Trip was pounding the very diverse crowd (as in fabulous BBW’s and kickers from Bastrop). I almost spilled my drink(s) on myself when Z cut “Immigrant Song” into a Sugar Hill track.

By the time MSTRKRFT came up at 1 a.m., we were just hugging the speakers and not feeling too fresh. The mustachioed Jesse F. Keeler, formerly of dance-punk duo Death From Above 1979, started this project soon after that group’s dissolution almost three years ago.

Somehow I made it to GZA at Stubb’s, I think.

I heard I was at the Spin party watching Soundtrack of Our Lives two hours later too. I’m sure I was there, since it was also sponsored by American Spirit cigarettes, explaining that carton in my man purse this morning. – Craig Hlavaty

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