Hey, one last report from last week’s South By Southwest festival. This one is by Ben Perreau, who edits Uncut and NME’s websites. Ben seems to have spent most of the week failing to get into parties and fantasising about Smashing Pumpkins, but he did manage to see the mighty Gallows, The Gossip and plenty more cool stuff. . .
“South By Southwest boasts afternoon free-beer parties often with bigger names than the official evening events. Wednesday afternoon began with the fear that the previous nights’ weather madness (grounded twice, our flight time had been doubled resulting in a final landing amongst fork-lightning) might return. We clung together, dismayed by the fact that the weather was better in London, and in our huddle rumours spread of the return of Smashing Pumpkins at a secret show later in the week. I was desperate to believe them.
Unrattled, we stood in the wet gravel for NME’s party at the legendary Stubbs for Brits in the mist Mumm-Ra, who inject enthusiasm into the afternoon. “This is our first gig in the USA,” they announced, ahead of them lies relentless gigging and a string of dank motel rooms. The Young Knives galvanised, but they’ve just finished their first tour here – and it showed.
Later, the evening was activated with Jamie T, the antidote. Perky and spry, he goaded the crowd into interacting with him. Ready to lavish us with more expletives, Lily Allen was evidently the big pull of the day, later having a pop at Uncut’s sister publication NME three times during her short set.
Soon to be famous for his burgeoning friendship with a Hollywood actress, Johnny Borrell (see April Long‘s earlier blog) rode the Razorlight beast onstage at around ten, and just as the sky cleared, so did the venue. Shame: Razorlight have been playing their eponymous second album for six months and their stage show is bound together far better than rumours of fractiousness suggest. New York boys of 2004 The Bravery close Wednesday night, but despite the headline slot, even their newly grown-up look couldn’tsave them.
Thursday was bright and hot but that’s where my luck ended. Amy Winehouse played a small nearby bar. I couldn’t get in, so I gazed through the window for the five most glorious minutes of the afternoon and re-examined my itinerary. Determined not to see another Brit for the rest of the week (it’s tough) I ambled over to the Mohawk Patio to be greeted by another ridiculous queue for The Besnard Lakes. Luckily all the way over at the other end of town, Cold War Kids left inches of standing room at La Zona Rosa, one of the biggest venues in town. One of the fun bands of last year, they proved somewhat dull and we snuck off to watch the usually-thrilling Bloc Party back at Stubb’s, but the outdoors didn’t suit their show and despite goodwill from the crowd, they disappointed too.
Finally, we queued to catch two songs from The Gossip. Thankfully one was “Standing In The Way Of Control” – cue Beth Ditto stripping off to her underwear, at which point I left for a much-needed beer at a late-night party. Drunk, I tried desperately to put to use my journalistic skills and ‘rat out’ the location of the fabled Smashing Pumpkins gig to no avail before wittering at one of The Horrors and passing out.
A sore head and three hours sleep later on Friday and I was in search of something entirely new. I grabbed a breakfast burrito and buckled before Gallows, who restored my soul and purged the poison from my body. Frank Carter howled through their third show of the week whilst quickly amassing a crowd that octupled in 15minutes.
All the way up at 17th Street was a party where I caught the buzz band of the week, Illinois. Sadly it was a long way to go for yet another North American indie band who wouldn’t have made the cut for Uncut’s recent “Wake Up” CD. Unremarkable.
In search of glory I was determined to investigate some more tip-offs, Brazil’s Bonde Du Role are funk-partyists who must be getting extra attention recently due to the successes of fellow countrymen CSS. Bopping to Bonde proved a sure-fire way to quickly sink two frozen margheritas in quick succesion, so punching the air in a jubilant (woozy, again) mood, I was ready for Yo! Majesty, a hip-hop trio from Florida. What followed was a seat of your pants exciting show which provided that ‘this is what I came for’ feeling.
To end the week Willy Mason played in a nearby church, a worthy excuse to bring all that high-energy spirit back to base. Whereas his first album was recorded rough and songs were college-polished, his newer material hung together tightly. A last-ditch attempt to party in front of Albert Hammond Jr proved pointless and time was up, my dreams of Billy Corgan and James Iha in a glorious onstage embrace dashed.”