SXSW — Tuesday Night Recap

After two near-missed flights, a (resolved) mishap at registration, a healthy dose of beer and street vendor foods, and literally tens of tweets, I’m up surprising early with some time to recount yesterday’s happenings.

The breakfast nook of my sublet is oddly well-stocked, and with my tastes, too: organic cereals and soymilk, coffee and grapefruit juice. This festival, at first glance anyway, appears to be a holy blend of everything I’ve come to love about this country. Self-proclaimed the “Live Music Capital of the World”, Austin’s chamber of commerce nearly had me at hello. Mix in gorgeous weather, delicious food at every turn, and a healthy dash of southern charm and I already want to come back.

Early last evening at The Scoot Inn, Panache Booking’s pre-party felt like a middle school dance. Early-comers (like myself) appeared to be mostly industry folk, and a more-than-respectable distance was kept between all of us nursing our cans of Lone Star beer. I credit the bartenders for improving the mood. Beyond the obvious, the beer-pushers seemed to remember everyone’s name at the bar, mine included. (OK, it occurred to me later that I had a badge with my name on it, but I was oblivious at the time so the effect was the same: I felt like I belonged.)

Into the second (or third?) beer of the night, Cheeseburger took the stage to a lukewarm response, but I was charmed by their pseudo prima donna asshole-ishness (“We’re taking a break from our hotel’s rooftop pool to play some songs for all of you”). Imagine a punked-up version of High Voltage-era AC/DC.

The highlight of the evening, though, was Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, who exemplified contemporary Americana at its best. Perhaps it was because I had geared myself up for a night of garage rock that Slim Cessna was such a revelation, but their performance was equal parts raucous, playful and gothic melancholia. Loud, aggressive country-rock doesn’t quite describe their sound accurately, as there were moments of Bauhaus-inspired anger and, many times, tent-ministry evangelizing that made believers out of everyone in the audience.

There is much more to report on, for sure (the free ride home in the Mike’s hard punch party van, for starters) but those are last night’s music highlights.

Upcoming today: Live sets at Waterloo Records by Apex Manor (among others), Wild Flag LIVE on KEXP, and a panel discussion with Andrew W.K. (yes, THAT Andrew W.K.)

Austin, TX — 3/16/11

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