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Mild in the streets 

A very brief, addled report on SXSW 2007

Page 2 of 3

Perry's show was at one of several newly established Convention Center venues, taped on site for DirectTV's new venture with the festival, SXSW Live. Shockingly, perhaps because of the cameras' imperative, Ole Scratch seems to have started on time and had a good band out with him, featuring a sax-blowing gal in hot pants. Trustafarians, geezers and lone sprinklings of black folk made the scene, while the concrete monolith that is the Center almost levitated from the bottomless dub beats. And, yep, Mr. Perry, who upped the fest's British dominance as a Jamaican-bred colonial subject, was as, erm, loopy as ever.

Aside from the Brit hype, the other most commented upon subject this year was the overabundance of day parties, which seemed to have outstripped official nighttime showcases. Although I had RSVP'd for Amoeba/Sin City Marketing's Cosmic American party wherein vault Gram Parsons music was unveiled and the Vice afterhours party (whose location was switched to the Elk's Lodge after some contretemps), I was not listed for much and ultimately lacked the stamina and energy to race around like the kids. This year's SXSW marked an extremely painful personal anniversary for me, so my resolve began to waver sometime after Friday midday, when I saw the legendary Nick Drake producer Joe Boyd interviewed. And so my schedule was refocused to catch new friends (Earl Greyhound, Hobex), friends of a dear friend (Alejandro Escovedo at the Convention Center with strings and Austin's rising Future Clouds + Radar, Doyle Bramhall II at the Continental, Charlie -- and Will -- Sexton at Antone's, Davíd Garza at Cosmica Artists' fantastic day party at Mexicarte), and the more provocative panels like the Drake appreciation and Marsh's "race and music" where Cyril Neville dropped science of gargantuan proportions and L.A. icon Charles Wright made a surprise appearance.

There was a general sense of malaise shrouding the festival, as if the wad had been blown with last year's 20th anniversary throwdown and now, in the aftermath, there was a lot of filler, despite the thrills of La Winehouse, Bloc Party, The Stooges and a few others -- Friday night especially was a black hole before the late night sets, if you were too young to want to ensconce yourself at the amazing Ponderosa Stomp. The inkling of downpression was not my bias but shared by many from my underage Hilton roommates over from London to one of my best friends who's attended South-By for twenty consecutive years. And business folk with a blunt view opined that for most of the musicians amongst the 2000 or so bands, the festival would accomplish nothing unless they'd had the good fortune to have the backing of a major who could carpet bomb the proceedings as with Ms. Winehouse.

Fortunately for Earl Greyhound, someone's handling dey biniss, and the great Brooklyn trio seemed to play almost as many shows as The Fratellis, including Jane magazine's day party and another on Saturday evening for the newly-inaugurated Colorado music festival Monolith (to which they were invited for mid September). Rocking Friends bar with songs from their second disc, Soft Targets, Ricc Sheridan, Kamara Thomas and Matt Whyte could do no wrong, judging by the folks shoved up against the stacks and stretching all the way between the bar's back nether regions and across to the opposite side of the street. There was nothing so moving as to open one's eyes and see young faces lit up with wild-eyed amazement peering through the window behind the stage, while Kamara howled through the ending of "Yeah I Love You" and Matt was moving so fast that his hair, fingers and guitar blended into one.

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