South by Southwest | 03.12-03.15.08


The Dykeenies (Todd Sarvies)

Another South by Southwest Music Festival has come and gone, which means it’s time to rest those aching legs and feet, catch up on sleep, return to healthy eating and drinking habits, and reflect on what we’ve just seen and heard.







Biggest disappointment—This was supposed to be the highlight of the festival, but due to Canadian singer-songwriter Matthew Good coming down with food poisoning, his appearance at SXSW was canceled. As a result, I spent Saturday night wandering around in a funk, unable to find anything that really appealed to me.

Biggest disappointment #2The English Beat. It is beyond time for Dave Wakeling to give it up. It didn’t help that the show we saw took place in a sterile, overly lit warehouse of a room. It didn’t help that Dave’s put on a pound or 6 0 since his heyday. And it surely didn’t help that he’s the only remaining member. (Note to Dave: You really can’t expect us to respect you for playing "Ranking Full Stop" without Ranking Roger. It is just wrong on so many levels.) The fact that I jetted from a seriously great Brown Shoe performance to catch this nonsense only sharpened the pain.

Most breathtaking—I’d have to go with South‘s two-man acoustic performance at the Bluhammock brunch. Their official showcase the night before was good, if poorly placed (conference rooms at hotels are never ideal for experiencing rock shows), but the dual assault of Joel Cadbury and Brett Shaw on acoustic guitars and vocals made for an emotionally charged and highly memorable show.

sxsw_sol.jpgBest food—Again, we’re gonna have to hand it to the Bluhammock brunch on this one. The freshly baked waffles, humongo tray of melons and berries, breakfast burritos and lightly spiced potatoes-to say nothing of the cactus juice-was a welcome treat after a long week of walk-up pizza windows and taco carts.

Favorite discovery—No-brainer. Had to be The Dykeenies from Scotland, whom I was lucky enough to catch both in official (venue) and party (Scottish Invasion) capacities. Their uber-catchy Brit-pop made up for the singer’s heavy brogue and virtually indecipherable stage banter.

Happy accident—SXSW is full of day parties. The true planner can manage to catch nearly all of his or her wish list by properly planning out a schedule of night and day shows, appearances, cab rides, fast walks and the occasional run. (It is also possible to spend very little money on food or alcohol this way.) However, for people like me, finding out who’s playing is often a discovery I make when a band takes the stage. To that end, we were thrilled to see the Shout Out Louds (left), who we managed to catch at the lovely Cedar Street Courtyard at the Filter party. Still charming as ever, they are.

Shut out—For the first time in our history of SXSW, we didn’t get passes to the SPIN party at Stubb’s. Part of this was due to the strict guest list this year, part to the long line at the SPIN convention center booth, and part to the fact that there was really no one we wanted to see so we didn’t sweat it.

Music for Animals (Jim Dunn)

Best unofficial show—It being the biggest music industry event of the year, SXSW draws unofficial shows and festivals to Austin for spring break. Catching San Franciscans (and PR client) Music for Animals at the Texas Rockfest was at the top of my highlight reel, despite the outdoor stage and muddy sound. Yes, their brand of danceable indie rock is that good.

PLAY:stl showcase—Ooh yeah. We did a RedGorilla showcase featuring players from last year’s PLAY:stl Festival and it was a screaming success. Thursday afternoon found us at the Chuggin’ Monkey, where Semi Precious Weapons, The Feed and John Boy’s Courage showed us their heart and entertainment value. By the time Semi took the stage, we had the venue packed to capacity; they were turning people away at the door. Now that’s kunt.

Better in a small venueThe Cribs were charming as ever, but their music-and their stage antics-were significantly swallowed up by their placement at Stubb’s, the giant outdoor venue.

Eastern Conference Champions (Jim Dunn)

Timing is everything—Normally, I would’ve enjoyed Eastern Conference Champions; their album Ameritown is one of my favorites of last year. However, as I headed to their set after the seriously invigorating RadioRadio show, I found myself distracted and even a little let down. (Those with me absolutely loved the show, though.)

Pride factor—I kind of feel like we discovered RadioRadio. They submitted to PLAY:stl last year and we fell in love with them: their record, live show and down-to-earth niceness. So it was with great pride that I watched their official SXSW showcase, even helping the guys out by videotaping a bit of it. (Go look it up on YouTube; that’s my handiwork!)

Hometown heroes—Congratulations to the St. Louis bands who represented our city’s fine musical talent in official SXSW appearances: Ludo, Story of the Year, Gentleman Auction House, Magnolia Summer, and more.

Longwave (Todd Sarvies)

Also worth noting—I’m grateful to have caught sets by the always brilliant Ed Harcourt, the rejuvenated Longwave, White Rabbits (who, surprisingly, actually introduced themselves as being from Columbia, Mo., and not the Brooklyn they’ve been claiming of late) People in Planes, Kristoffer Ragnstam, and Ed Harcourt’s American cousin Cameron McGill.

Could’ve done without—Fastball (was it really necessary to reform? You’ll never live up to that first album—which you so evilly ignored when we saw you—so why bother?) and Son, Ambulance (I came quite close to falling asleep).

Missed ’em—I really, really would’ve liked to see Cary Brothers and The Vines, and wouldn’t have minded being able to get into R.E.M., Nada Surf, Tokyo Police Club and British Sea Power.

Best band name—Though their brand of largely wordless heavy electronic music wasn’t my thing, we had no choice but to check out Does It Offend You, Yeah? (and yes, it must be said with a British accent; they are British, after all). A close runner up would have to be the long-winded What Laura Says, Thinks and Feels.

The Wombats (Jim Dunn)

Jim’s picks—Though I didn’t catch ’em personally, Jim was highly impressed with Pigeon Detectives, The Wombats, Los Campesinos, Jesca Hoop and Eleni Mandell. He’s also happy to report that his fears of Carbon/Silicon (Mick Jones and Tony James) were relieved somewhat, despite the former punker’s urging "everybody drive home safe."

Until next year, be safe on the roads. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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