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SXSW 2002: South by Over the Rainbow, or Notes from Down Under(ish)
Day 3
By Linus Gelber, Home Office Records
(more articles from this author)
2002-03-15
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Dateline: Friday 3/15, Austin, TX: Let this be said early and often: too much good weather is good for business (we're all cheery) and bad for business (we can't be bothered). The sun is holding out gangbusters here in Austin, and eyes stray to the windows, the sunstreams, the warm-handed breezes. Let this also be said: if the music industry could figure out a way to charge you for this stuff, they would.

We're at the cusp of this conference. Friday morning is when you wake up and think to yourself, "Wow, it's only Friday!" Tomorrow, bleary after tonight's cycle of frolic, it'll be "Thank God it's Saturday, I can't take much more of this."

But Do They Walk The Walk: The faithful crowded into a standout series of panels at the Austin Convention Center all day today. In the morning session a sedate gathering of online retailers, notably featuring the ubiquitous Derek Sivers of CDBaby.com, talked matter-of-factly of surviving in a field littered with the crashed and burned husks of dotcoms left over from the queer boom a few years ago; in fact, at least some are writing commercial history.

Two doors down a different panel acted out the phone calls that might be made in the course of a major label acquisition of a successful indie artist. As is often the case, the talk for independent work and independent success is well talked here at SXSW. Now if only the talk resembled the walk being walked in the corridors of power down the block at the Four Seasons, where traditional deals get made in traditional ways.

Meg Lee Chin rampaged through a promo set at the AMP Music Circuit party just after noontime, mixing just a dash of hip-hop hip into a soundy and furious set that had her careening through the audience, prancing like a cat on a hot tin publicity tour. We liked the set even better after we spotted the Thomas Hardy book tucked into a band rucksack at the back of the stage. Kathleen Edwards played the upstairs sitting room at a lovely uptown Victorian stand-alone house packed with gleeful Canadians at the NXNE party and barbecue summit, giving new meaning to the term "living room concert." And as fast as badgeholders stream downtown to get their bearings, they stream back out to get free food in the company of music from all over the globe.

Knights of the Order of Earplugs: Your Mr. Cyrano and MC Webmaster Pierre donned the holy implements last night, saddled up, and rode out into downtown once again. Jeff "Lightning" Lewis brought a bit of New York Antifolk back to his sometime hometown Austin, delighting his fans and confusing the hell out of everyone else. Antifolk is a dish best served hot, but it's definitely an educated taste. Users beware.

At The Drink on Sixth Street two large bearded gentlemen dressed in nighties and slippers tootled, whirred, squeaked, and sang startlingly beautiful harmonies, acompanied on a blur of instruments that included ukelele, bass, keyboards, stylophone and tapes: look for the moth wranglers if this sounds like your kind of thing, and if this sounds like it might be your kind of thing, it will be.

Amanda Thorpe and Mary Lorson and Saint Low explored different sides of wistfulness, Amanda's arched high and lush and Mary's stripped down and ridden bareback. At Ruta Maya Coffeehouse Jesse Malin (ex of D-Generation) showed Van Morrison roots in a set of straightforward hard-looking rock that suggested luxuriously that there might be lot more distance between Van and your average rootsy jam band than had hitherto been thought.

Just Before the Wall of Sleep: Music people notoriously make the worst audiences, and that was sadly sadly true at the late-night closer by Pat Dinizio at Opal Divine on the west side of town. The yammering outdid Pat's deep and warm chesty burr of a voice almost entirely on a few songs. But the gems rode high and true, with a rapt and almost tearful audience singing along in (dreadful) harmony on Smithereens hits like "Yesterday Girl," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," and the extraordinary "Blood and Roses" -- a song that is better every time I hear it, and every year down the line. The night ended with Pat leading a raucous singalong of The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes," open in the night air, making way for tomorrow.


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