SXSW – (Most of) The Music

(that I saw…except for the Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine show experience…that will get its own entry. As it should.)…

As you’ll see, I didn’t go to the much-lauded shows. I didn’t see the Jay Zs…or Jack Whites…I entered my name in the lottery to win a ticket to Bruce Springsteen, but I didn’t win. However, not winning meant I got to see Fiona in the church, which (along with the trifecta mentioned above) was one of the two main reasons I went in the first place.

So yeah, I went to see people I wanted to see. People that maybe I hadn’t seen before or wanted to support, etc. I didn’t push myself to stay out late, and I had the luxury of not paying for my pass so I didn’t feel like I was wasting money by not seeing as many shows as possible.

The first music act I saw was a kid named Robert DeLong. He was playing at a party where my friend A and I met up with his brother. Digital is not necessarily my thing, but I have a cousin involved in making that kind of music and, I have to say, I was super impressed. He sang and played the drums and keyboard and – most incredibly – had reprogrammed a Wii controller, a Playstation controller and a joystick to play different beats or sounds or parts of songs. It’s the first time I’ve seen a benefit to all the video game playing. I was in awe as soon as I realized what he was doing. And the Playstation controller has a lot of buttons. And they all each made a different noise. Impressive.

We hopped over to another bar where we really enjoyed a rapper whose name we didn’t know. Because that happens. You wander in and out of places and stop when you like something and sometimes never know who it is you just fell in love with. Or maybe he says his name and you forget to write it down. But at least you had fun with him that one time.

This was Thursday and it was the night Fiona Apple was playing in the church. She had played Stubb’s the night before, and I was kind of a Nazi about getting in line early. I had had a job interview that morning and the guy I interviewed with told me the Presbyterian Church where she was performing was his favorite South By venue. I got in line two hours early. There was already a line, but I was close to the front, and experienced one of my favorite things – interacting with strangers. It was so weird because I would wait in line with people for hours, sometimes sit with them in shows and then it was like, ok see you! Such weird little relationships. But all part of the fun.

I sat in the fourth pew. I prepared those I was sitting with that if she sang “I Know,” I would most definitely cry. The two ladies next to me had seen her the night before. The guy on my other side was my new German friend from the line who had just days before randomly stayed in my LA neighborhood and road-tripped a similar path.

Before Fiona came out, they played David Gray, and then Jeff Buckley, and I was like, “Whoa. She’s actually encouraging emotional breakdowns at this point.” I got kleenex out.

Because here’s the thing about churches. Emotions are contagious in churches. One person laughs, everyone laughs. One person cries, everybody cries.

We must have all been in a trance because aside from this video of Fast as You Can, it looks like most of the videos posted of her playing SXSW are from the Stubb’s show. Luckily it was the same setlist. (According to the ladies next to me.)

She sang Paper Bag, and Criminal, and Extraordinary Machine, and NOT I Know…and she played new stuff. Which was awesome. I super loved this one:

She was emotional and raw and exactly how you want her to be. She also told us that her hair tie was actually the waistband of a pair of baby sweatpants that she had found in the trash and washed. She made it sound adorable.

I bounced around to a couple of other showcases that night, but felt like I could call it a success as a result of the Fiona show alone.

The next night I headed to the Moody Theater where they shoot Austin City Limits for The Magnetic Fields. I had never seen them before and was excited to do so.

As you can see, I was in the front row. The crowd super sucked and I didn’t know until afterward that Stephin isn’t a fan of performing live and grumpy in general…so the talky crowd didn’t help that. They didn’t sing Papa Was a Rodeo (one of my faves) but they did sing The Book of Love, It’s Only Time, and so many other favorites and new stuff and I love the quirky lyrics (“You can’t go around saying stuff, because it’s pretty, and I no longer drink enough to think you’re witty.”) and so many of their songs, but seeing them live – at least at this show – was a bummer. Again I mostly blame the crowd.

From there I went over to Antone’s to see Glen Hansard play. I felt like I was making a statement nobody knew or cares about by supporting him. I didn’t see Marketa when she came through LA, so now I feel like I’ve picked sides in the breakup. I wasn’t disappointed. He did in 30 minutes what the Magnetic Fields couldn’t in an hour and 15…blew. my. mind.

He sang a couple of his own. He came out with Leave, which like Say It to Me Now he gets really angry with but in a completely awesome way. I love watching him do both songs. He also played Low Rising. My phone was dead or I could have totally taken video as I had a great perspective. On sax is Jake Clemens, nephew of Clarence and current member of the E Street Band.

Which led to this:

Ok so those might not have been shot the exact night I was at Antone’s but both of those same songs were performed. A lot like that. And it was magical. And then he covered Van Morrison. And then he sang some traditional Irish funeral song and saluted his dead father. And I loved every single minute.

Again I felt like my night was made, so I headed home after that.

The next day was the Railroad Revival Tour Reunion which I’ll talk about…and then I went and saw Rosi Golan (I love this song for obvious reasons.) followed by Kimbra, who completely rocked out in the middle of Settle Down which was both unexpected and delightful. She did really well with the crowd, was fun to watch, and looked adorable in a Josephine Baker-esque banana-themed costume dress. Unfortunately my pix are crappy and I can’t find video from the performance I saw.

At least the official video is cute (in a weird way, but she looks cute). Just watch that.

I know it doesn’t seem like I saw a lot, but I basically had three nights where I wasn’t working and like I said, I really prioritized in order to see who I wanted to see without overdoing it. I was a happy camper.

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