More is More

Too much of a good thing is just right at SXSW

You heard me right. As if this fire needed anymore fuel, the SXSW alcoholiday coincided with St. Paddy's. Green beer was nowhere to be found, but green tee shirts and green Vans were everywhere. Impromptu street performances -- especially one from a New Orleans brass band that drew a thick swarm of hand-clapping onlookers -- gave it the spirit of Mardi Gras, minus the beads. It was spring break, too. College kids from UT were off to more exotic locales while a much more diverse population moved in: baby-faced Keith Richards and Debbie Harry wannabes, ragtag camera crews, party girls in platform heels, bespectacled geeks, and quirky hipsters from Sweden and Japan and Australia.

The people-watching was awesome -- I saw lots of unisex leather and denim, longer hair and beards than last year, a few terrycloth sweatbands, and a mod-looking guy in an alien mask. Celebs big and small turned up at unexpected places, like Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore in the convention center (he looks 7 feet tall), Lady Sovereign at Beauty Bar in the middle of the afternoon (so tiny she calls herself the "white midget"), Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal in the middle of Sixth Street with a gaggle of punk rock Hooters girls, and Nicolai Dunger (who has the clean-cut looks of a newscaster but the hearty pipes of Van Morrison) at the Hellacopters show. Even better was meeting up with people I only know through e-mail, randomly reconnecting with a couple friends I hadn't seen in years, and hanging out with pals from other cities, thanks to the brilliance of text messaging.

There were so many bands that I hardly know how to make sense of it all -- my ears are still ringing and I'm still sleep-deprived and slightly hungover as I write this -- but here's a brief rundown: one outstanding musical legend (Roky Erickson from the 13th Floor Elevators, who played some of the best songs from every point in his career, including "You're Gonna Miss Me," "Starry Eyes," and "Two-Headed Dog"); some established favorites I'd seen before (including The Go! Team at the Spin party, The Eagles of Death Metal in a small club instead of an amphitheater, Dungen, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah); and all kinds of next-big-thing contenders who'll surely be getting more ink in days to come (Sabbath-channeling Wolfmother, hooky indie-popsters Tapes 'n Tapes, swaggering garage-folk duo Two Gallants, electronic dance floor overlord The Presets, and dreamy guitar rockers Ours).

Wild in the streets: Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal hits up SXSW with an entourage.
Wild in the streets: Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal hits up SXSW with an entourage.

And on and on. When music's in question, you just can't have too much of a good thing.

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