Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SXSW 2010 - Day 2 (Thursday - Part 1)

For some reason I could not sleep in Thursday. I was already exhausted and I'd only been in Austin for 18 hours. Was it anticipation for another day of shows? Fear at missing the dozens of shows I was sure to miss? The beginning of the NCAA tournament? The lingering effects of last night's Bar-B-Q? The year of the P? Probably all those. So why sleep when 5 blocks away Dawes and Frightened Rabbit are playing in the Hilton Hotel lobby?

Dawes are suitably bed-headed but genial as they take the stage for their 9 am KUT-sponsored show. It's a stripped down show (no drums) but their effortless harmonies are the perfect wake-up call. It's probably the smallest audience they'll play to during their jam-packed Austin sojourn. They play about 5-6 songs and shuffle off the stage, hoping for some additional shut-eye. Next up are Frightened Rabbit, appearing as an acoustic duo. Scott Hutchison's songs are remarkably frank chronicles of the frustrations of love, none more wearying than today's closer, "My Backwards Walk", about the inability to quit love crack cold turkey. It may be the best song I'll hear all week.

Frightened Rabbit - "My Backwards Walk"

At The Four Seasons, I also catch the very last song by a sunglasses-wearing, jean jacketed, hat-topped troubadour and it's an absolute stunner. I find it later it was Jakob Dylan. Well dip me and call me stinky! Not much of a fan (although half of Bringing Down The Horse is top-notch AAA hitmaking), but I'll need to check out his new disc.

After a long respite in the sun, V and I venture out across I-35 to a bucolic locale at the back porch patio of Uncorked, an absolutely stunning setting. It's about 75 degrees, we are comfortably seated (a rarity at SXSW), the beers are free and goddammit, the Roadside Graves are a band that deserve your attention. Did I mention the beers are free? This is quivery, quavery folk rock that swings with a grace suitable for their subject matter - war, (lack of) money, demons and Liv Tyler (featuring the zen hook of "If we didn't have to worry about money, we'd be all right"). Their 2009 release, My Son's Home, was one of 2009's best. And their new EP, You Won't Be Happy With Me, might be even better. Just don't call it "dad rock". Did I mention they're from New Jersey? Check them out when they open for Roman Candle at the North Star on 4/22.

The Roadside Graves - Liv Tyler

Whenever someone tells you there's no good music anymore, punch them in the face. It's nauseating how many bands are out there slugging it out, loaded with talent and a point of view, barely scraping by. I don't know Vandaveer's story (it seems they are from Tennessee via DC), but their performance as an acoustic duo on a gorgeous sun splashed afternoon was folk-pop made for you and me. Mark Charles Heidinger, wonderfully complemented by Rose Guerin's forceful vocals, displayed a Dylan death grip on noir-ish strummed tales filled with biblical imagery laced with a self-effacing humor. Especially thrilling was the requested set closer, "Divide and Conquer", which certainly had the girls at the next table in full swoon.

Vandaveer - Divide And Conquer

After this it was into the bar for a phone conversation with my hyper-ventilating son, who was absolutely smitten with the idea that Robert Morris was on the verge of taking down those hated Villanova Wildcats, as we watched the game together 1700miles away. Although the Dread Pirate Cats won, a father-son hoops bond was further cemented.

We immediately high-tailed it over to the Austin Convention Center where there was a panel with Rolling Stone writer David Fricke and Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey, now a nattily dressed music biz executive and passionate supporter of UK music, especially in providing assistance to young hopefuls. But it's Feargal Sharkey (!), he of the yelping adenoidal pipes that yielded the 2:27 of pop nirvana we know as "Teenage Kicks", the inspiration / blame for this blog. I had to get a photo-op.

Referring to himself as "a bit of a nerd" Sharkey explained that in his current position, he's able to help young musicians try to realize their dream. Referring to UK Music and their support of the arts, he noted that they set up publicly funded studios at a cost of $50,000 each. If you're under 18, studio time is free. So he posits this to budding 15 year old wunderkinds - "Do you want to have a go with this top of the line gear? And would you like to bring your mates?"

And in 2010, Sharkey noted that you could record a bit of music and 20 minutes later you can post it on the internet and it can be heard around the world. Then added "In 1977, we had 2,000 copies of "Teenage Kicks" under my bed, saying what the fuck do we next?" Sharkey aims to help the next generation figure out what's next and pointedly made this statement, "If I can give the same opportunity to a young person [that I had at age 18], I'll do a deal with the devil. Technology is important, but it's the music that matters." What's not to love about this guy?

V and I and go into full paparazzi-stalker mode and track down Feargal as he half jogs from the conference room to escape / move on to his next meeting. I say something incredibly interesting about forming this blog and Teenage Kicks and greatest song ever and he gives me a "Brilliant!" which can mean so many things coming from a harried Irishman. I assume he's completely fascinated and has now become a regular reader. V pulls the lame I can't get my camera phone to work trick so I am now completely shorn of any dignity. But finally the picture snaps, and just as quickly Feargal is gone, but never forgotten.

"Get teenage kicks right through the night"


Ms Suki said...

You're on a real roll now. And I believe this is only about 1/2 your day. Better pick up the pace, buddy. You haven't even mentioned Simone and Ian Felice playing in your bathroom yet.

juanita said...

Gotta love that Feargal Sharkey! And I believe the woman in the picture with Jakob Dylan is Kelly Hogan - Neko Case's backup singer. Kelly & Neko are touring with Jakob.