After three days spent toiling along the Bible Belt -- from Dallas to Oklahoma and back again; don't ask -- I finally arrived in Austin around dusk last night. And let me tell you, after six hours spent cruising in a car sans air condition, I was prepared to hit the ground running.This being my first time at SXSW, I preceded to stumble out of my car and up and down 6th Street, grinning like an asshole in sheer wonderment of the whole ordeal. If you're not privy to the layout here, there's really no way to describe it to you. Bar after bar after bar, lined up and down the street. I reckon that if I went to school at the University of Texas, I'd have something resembling an alcohol problem. I visited Nashville once. That was somewhat similar, except instead of hodunk rednecks and country twang, Austin is filled with bros and music worth giving a shit about.After the initial aura wore, I managed to make it down to the Belmont, playing host to BrooklynVegan's launch party for "Space Ducks," the new graphic from one DANIEL JOHNSTON. Once again, nearly impossible to do the Belmont justice. Nicest fucking venue I've ever been to, hands down. You walk into a swanky club, not dissimilar in decor to a kitchen from an early '60s sitcom. And then towards the stage area in the back, and once again you're outside, surrounded by a Japanese garden landscape and a wraparound balcony.The party was billed as a tribute to Johnston, with all the opening acts paying homage via covers. Seeing as there was no one on the bill that I was all too concerned with catching aside from headliners BUILT TO SPILL and the man himself, I spent a lot of time in the VIP area, imbibing myself on free beer.
Johnston's backing band, Motopony, took to the stage around midnight and I made my way to the dojo-like concert area. Not entirely sure how the Seattle-based foursome came to be his backing band, but its got to be a pretty sweet gig -- except for the full-time singer, who was vanquished from the stage to make way for Johnston after only a handful of tunes.Daniel was Daniel, keeping his eyes focused on his lyric sheet and never the crowd, while clutching the microphone stand like he was hanging on for dear life. Not all too familiar with his vast back catalog, I can still say with assurance that he rocked by and by, keeping the packed audience hanging on his every motion, even if there weren't a whole lot of them.
After a rather emotive encore rendition of "True Love Will Find You in the End," it was time for Built to Spill, who didn't waste time in taking to the stage to whip through a short but breakneck set. Even though the indie-vets have outgrown SXSW in the sense that the exposure afforded by the fest no longer serves them much significance, they still remain quintessentially SXSW, from their fuck-all throw down of a set to their fuck-all beards.Day two is upon me. Bout to venture outside the convention center lobby where I'm currently cooking up this post and see what's good on the day. Follow my exploits on Twitter and keep checking back to the blog for updates throughout the day.