Day Three - SXSW 2008
Total Number of Bands Seen:
Only 9. Vampire Weekend, Ravens & Chimes, Builders and the Butchers, Laura Marling, The Choir Practice, Cool Kids, A-Trak, Kid Sister, The Constantines.
Total Number of Tacos Consumed:
A mighty trifecta (pictured above), moving me into a first place tie in our dumb binge eating contest.
Notable Shows That I Was Unable to See:
Two. Night Marchers day show and Fucked Up playing under a bridge, like trolls.
Three. Perry Farrell, dancing by himself with a pole, M1 from Dead Prez partaking in a vegan taco next to me at Mr. Natural, and Ice Cube, standing nearby at Kid Sister.
Yesterday was nice. I experienced the greatest SXSW show I have ever seen (The Constantines), basked in the blinding hype of Vampire Weekend, and stood next to the star of Are We There Yet?. Not bad.
Watching Vampire Weekend is a bit like walking in on a meeting of the young WASP society—which is a total cheap shot I know—but if the New York band is trying to kick their prep school roots, it's not working. Also, while seeing them onstage, it feels like they are the next generation of the Shins, except they skipped over the first two amazing records and made their very own Wincing the Night Away right off the bat. But then again, "Oxford Comma" is still one hell of a song.
After last year's botched effort to see every single Portland band, I'm taking it easy on catching bands from our town, but I made the exception for the Builders and the Butchers. They drew a surprisingly large crowd, the majority of which was made up of fancy A&R representatives, and other industry movers and shakers. The writing has been on the wall for some time now that their stomp and holler junkyard punk/folk is going to be all the rage, now I guess it's just a matter of time.
British singer-songwriter Laura Marling is supposedly the new Kate Nash (or the new new Lily Allen), but her songs seemed like they still needed some work as they plodded along, sounding sweet, but without much substance. Like a poorer, British, version of our very own Day of Lions (Day of Lyons?). We fled, heading around the corner and catching the adorable Choir Practice, a vocal-rich twee ensemble from Vancouver, B.C.. Just look at them, sashes and all...
Yesterday's goal was to break away from the heavy slab of indie rock white bread I've been digesting and try something new, something with a bit more diversity. We narrowly missed Dizzee Rascal, but didn't have trouble making it into a packed Cool Kids performance. I thought they were a tad bit redundant, but they were just killing time for Kid Sister, whose performance came along with complimentary nail painting, and a whole lot of hype for an emcee who was excellent, and a bit spastic, in the live setting. I hope she comes to Portland. Soon.
But of all the bands I've seen so far, nothing comes close to The Constantines. A few notes into their blaring set, I turned to End Hits blogger Rob and shouted "THIS IS THE GREATEST BAND ON THE PLANET!!!" But, given the deafening volume, it probably just sounded like "JTXAQU OPTTS VEWQU QGFATFRDSS!!!"
They were an absolutely unrelenting combination of every single reason why you fell in love with rock and roll in the first place. The bassist lost his shoe, the singer flinches from pain with every raspy word he yelps, and the guitar player is wearing a cast—it was bruised and battered but it worked.
My head is spinning and I’m pretty sure there is a slow trickle of blood cresting from my hissing ear (I left the handy ear plugs at the hotel, bad move, I know), but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the Constantines performance was the best SXSW show I have ever seen. A remarkably intense experience that took their “Springsteen meets Fugazi” sounds to an entirely new level.
To close, the band chose a cover, one fitting for the grand nature of the evening. ACDC’s “Thunderstruck,” but not in that traditional ballsy guitar god style, instead the Constantines ran the song through a filter of 20-plus years of Dischord punk and angular aggression, sounding like Lungish’s Dan Higgins playing the roll of Brian Johnson. Like every thing else they did this evening, it was amazing.