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SXSW Day 2: Lack of cabs sucks; abundance of paella rules.

Faraone is still out at that ungodly Red Bull Moon Tower party 10 taxi minutes away (an epic distance in SXSW terms). Whoever was on the mic in the background was hollering state fair style, and a heavy throb beat the fuck out of every other syllable he said. I’ve just returned from an unsuccessful attempt to jockey a cab to hustle over to the suddenly announced (or belatedly realized) 2:30 a.m. Monotonix show at the Ballet across Congress. (That puts CMJ on the board with one point.)

Heart-mincing stuff, guitar-lust-wise—especially considering the last thing I’ll hear before laying my pretty head to rest tonight will be the (admittedly satisfying, but still) wanktastic stylings of Ben Harper, booming from the Stubb’s amphi-tent-thing across the street from PHXxSxSWHQ. (Trans: An apartment we blog and pass out in.)

Until then, this video from an earlier show in Austin will have to do. Oh I just ha-ate myself right now.



(And that’s not even SXSW frenzy happening there. That show was in October. Have you seen this band? Anyways...)


On the more constructive (or how about less destructive) side of the spectrum, one K’Naan thrilled the tote bags off of a caught-unawares roomful of NPR listeners at the soothingly voiced network’s showcase at the Parish this afternoon. A cohort in beer finishing neatly and correctly commented that the first couple of songs were “a little too Arrested Development”—but it was an issue with not nearly the staying power as K’Naan might find. An often rapturous mix of antique Somali jazz, (undistractingly) posi hip-hop, and a successful resin hit of reggae (he recorded his album at Tuff Gong after all). He had moving words on the declining safety and welfare of his hometown of Mogadishu (which of course, all the NPR listeners already understood quite well but thanks anyway K'Naan) and led what felt like the entire room in a singalong of a couple lines about growing up stronger that bloomed into a hot set-closing funky ass climax.

I don’t know why I didn’t expect the Dirty Projectors, who followed K’Naan, to be as astonishly awesome as they were, but they were. It’s been a while since I’ve last seen them perform it seems. As Dave Longstreth’s spindly figures cracked out his amp, and as his voice neighed and hollered, leapt into quivering falsetto, and plunged into croony mutters, his trio of female backup singers laid a thick, even coating of reassuringly present but highly woozy harmonies—somewhere between a group incantation and a chorus of radio girls from the 40s singing their call letters. Check out the trippy alternation of live and recorded vocal hoots that start and end this number—drink-droppingly crazy. Oh: and check Nat Baldwin back there on bass. (We are so in heart with him.)

(Side note. The first day I was here, I wondered why so many dudes were rocking those stingy-brim fedoras and rolled up bandanas around their necks. Durr, I thought to myself. Today, after a second afternoon of practically macing myself with little rivulets of salty sunscreen born of my forehead and rolling downward, I own a stingy brim fedora and a bandana. Let me beat you to the punch: Yes. I know. Gay.)

 

Next door at Peckerheads (note to Boston entrepreneurs: radly named bars, please), a large doorman descended the entry stairs covered in white dots. "Fucking band is spraying confetti up there. Fucking hell." Said band was Athens, GA's formidable Dark Meat — a hard-to-count, easy-to-smell tentet (or so) that specializes in an unwieldy barrage of writhing, squealing, psych-jazz mayhem. Fucking amazing. Said confetti was belching from the mouth of a leaf blower operated by an auxiliary crew member stage right. White dots floated on drinks, stuck to sweaty necks and got deeply involved in girls' hair, and when the aftershocks of their final blast blew by and the room cleared, it looked like a fresh layer of filthy snow had fallen.

 

There has been an enormous swirl of curiosity surrounding the UK's, Mikachu and the Shapes —and not just because half the audience was trying to figure out if 21-year-old Mica, donning a giant T-shirt and my haircut from 5th grade, was, indeed, a girl. (Affirmative. Whatever.) Point is: This band, about as ragtag as a barely-20 trio on their first world jaunt can be, made short shrift of bending smiles into the faces of the 300 or so folks that punctually filed up to the stage at Emo's Annex for answers. Micachu's live arsenal includes a tiny, beaten acoustic wired with a gnarly pickup, an even tinier electric, a realm of gritty pedals, a pair of keyboards, liberally distributed cowbells and wood blocks and an assortment of household bric-a-brac mounted by the drum kit-- the result is a assertively spacious, often noteless brand of indie-pop that sounds like the surprise ending of its family line. Imagine a Matthew Herbert enrapt in his own restless youth, instead of...well, being Matthew Herbert (who recorded Micachu's Rough Trade debut, Jewellery). What starts as a clawing, atonal clamber eventually clarifies itself over several songs as the brilliantly sustained and jarringly inventive MO of what is sure to be one of '09s sharpest songwriting talents.

 

Oh and check out ArkAttack (I think? Was kind of drunk.) here, delighting local stoners (and drunk people) with their crackling Tesla coil stage show.  These fucking things snap harder than Chris Brown.

Favorite band of the day: L.A.'s Abe Vigoda, a ruthlessly awesome four-piece signed to No Ager Dean Spunt's Post Present Medium label —who hosted this showcase at the sticky Red 7 club. Clashing guitars and unknowable drum freakouts conspire to form some of the most mind-clearing rock I've heard in years. Songs seems caught in an identity crisis between the knuckly neatness of No Knife and a drunken Polvo (or maybe even [squee!] Bastro?) and it all stumbles to completion with inspired, breathless wit and confidence. Fucking rrrrrrrad.

OK, I sleep now.

[update: Was woken at 9 am by snare drum line check coming from Stubb's across the street, no doubt in preparation for Metallica's ballyhooed set this weekend. As if it needed to be said ever again: Lars you can fuck right the heck off as hard as you can.]

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