Monday, March 12, 2007

Iggy lurks, Champeen roars and Charlie Louvin is among us. Are You? A Clueless Outsider’s Guide to SXSW ’07, pt. 1

It's March in the 512, which means Austin is fully in the throes of the glorious schmoozing orgy of indie rock-film-interactive goodness that are the South By Southwest Festivals. I haven't been since 2004, when, under the pretense of being a "consultant" (I use that word loosely, but, then again, doesn't everyone?), I had a platinum pass and thus carte blanche to pretty much everything, unless Modest Mouse was playing at La Zona Rosa and the other thousand people in line also had the same carte blanche.

Regardless, I'm rolling proletariat-style for this year's SXSW, mostly trying to scam my way into a few parties, hitting a few free events and generally looking from the outside in. Which is fine, because, when you're in your 30s and employed full-time in something besides the music industry, most of what goes down at SXSW will fly right over your head.

Take the lineup for Wednesday, when things really get going: The Merge showcase at Antone's will get its share of the hipoisie and I've heard of Ladybug Transistor and Imperial Teen. I'm guessing the "Special Guests from Austin TX" playing at 1 a.m. are Spoon. It's probably worth gambling on a day pass to find out, but, then again, if I'm right, no one with a day pass is getting in there.

The Austin Music Awards is solid and old-school. I only know Bobby Whitlock from Derek and the Dominoes, but the Tex Mex Experience with the Texas Tornadoes and Sam the Sham sounds too cool to miss. That's at 10:05 p.m. at the Austin Music Hall. Also noteworthy are Ian McLagan and the Bump Band. As a big Faces fan, I'm ashamed to admit I haven't seen McLagan yet during my time in Austin.

As per usual, the Emo's will be cooler than Lou Reed stranded on Pluto. I might skip the Victory Records showcase Wednesday evening at the Annex (but that's a personal preference), but the Annex will be rocking in the afternoon thanks to IODA's opening day bash. Yes, I'm shilling for a client, IODA, but the event is also a great cross-section of IODA's considerable roster and is not limited to a single label. Do it. Also within the Emo's footprint is the Sub Pop showcase at Emo's IV Lounge, the Beggar's Banquet showcase at Emo's Jr., and the 4AD showcase at Emo's Main Room, which will feature the only band I've heard of at Emo's: The Mountain Goats. As this will be the Goats' only set at SXSW (although they might play some satellite parties that I'm not cool enough to know about), I doubt many day pass holders will bear witness to their spectral majesty. Or see their set.

Hollywood Indie Dim Mak, which broke Bloc Party, will be kickin' it at Flamingo Cantina. I've never heard of any of their acts, but label honcho Steve Aoki will be spinning between sets as DJ Steve Aoki Kid Millionare, so there's that.

The White Ghost Shivers are playing Molotov Lounge and I can recommend them pretty heartily, especially to anyone who's a fan of any combination of Depression-era jazz, honky-tonk and burlesque.

And then there's Charlie Louvin, who's playing the Parish at 8 p.m. If you haven't heard of him, you've probably heard his songs performed by Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Uncle Tupelo and all of their alt-country progeny. I don't have the space to do justice to the Louvin Brothers' legacy and their impact on country music, but I'll note what a colossal blessing it is that Charlie, who pre-dates Johnny Cash and who will turn 80 in July, will be with us in Austin this year. Definitely a must-see. Also on tap at the Parish is the Wylie Lama himself and author of the immortal "Redneck Mother," Ray Wylie Hubbard, who takes the stage at midnight.

Tearing it up at Room 710 on Red River will be the In Music We Trust showcase, which I recommend principally for Grand Champeen, former high school classmates of mine who carry the flag high for Bob Stinson-era Replacements, cheap beer, dive bars and sweaty riff-rock. Battle Cry for Help and The One That Brought You are the kinds of offhand classics you wish Paul Westerberg remembered how to make. Check out their performance from last year's SXSW at the Red Eyed Fly in my VodPod section along the left of this blog.

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