Uncut's John Mulvey reports from the music world's biggest annual conference in Texas

Trending Now

Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye: “We decided we were going to start a new scene”

The new issue of Uncut revisits the birth of post-hardcore in Washington DC

Mogwai: Album By Album

Founded in 1995 and initially a trio, Glasgow’s Mogwai made their debut with “Tuner/Lower”, a self-pressed seven-inch in thrall...

Pete Townshend looks back at The Who in 1967: “I don’t think I was angry”

Smashing guitars, hanging out with Small Faces and keeping Keith Moon onside

Introducing the Deluxe Ultimate Music Guide to Bob Marley

In-depths reviews and archive encounters with the reggae legend

Hey, good morning from Austin, Texas.

Uncut is here not for the rodeo – Leann Rimes plays tonight – but for the South By Southwest music conference, a four-day festival that involves about 1,500 bands, most of the British music business and quite a few Americans, too. Plenty are here to see, Kris Kristofferson and the assembled multitudes of Americana: SXSW was one of the key nurturing grounds for alt-country in the ’90s. Plenty more are here to try and discover the next indie phenomenon, checking out dozens of geeky grad students in pursuit of what is technically known in A&R circles as The Next Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! (Exhibit A: Page France, from Baltimore. Nasal vocals, handclaps, xylophones, possible Christianity. Six out of 10). Tapes’n’Tapes are meant to be the ones this year; we’ll try and catch them later in the week.

Most of us, though, are here to binge on rock. And the opening night brought a surprise treat – the Flaming Lips playing a pub backyard on the wrong side of downtown Austin.
As their At War With The Mystics campaign begins, little has superficially changed with the Lips:there are still tatty Halloween costumes for the band; Wayne Coyne is still armed with confetti, balloons and that ancient nun glove puppet; couples still climb onstage and propose to each other.

The setlist, though, has been refreshed, and not just with new songs like “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” (fuzzy, overdriven, ecstatic) and “Free Radicals” (squalling sludge-funk, with Wayne on doubleneck!). There are also new covers: an opening “Bohemian Rhapsody” that’s absurdly note-perfect, right down to the harmonies; and an inspirational version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, done as a duet with Peaches.

After that, the new bands we caught looked a bit sickly in comparison, and the jetlag kicked in. Nevertheless, New York’s The Occasion sounded promising, even though two of their members had gone AWOL: faintly psychedelic piano ballads, pot plants on the keyboards, a singing drummer, and an aesthetic somewhere between Nilsson and very early Pink Floyd. Pretty nice. More tomorrow.


Latest Issue

The Who, New York Dolls, Fugazi, Peggy Seeger, Scritti Politti, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Serge Gainsbourg, Israel Nash and Valerie June