Two weekends ago, I was lucky enough to travel to Austin, Texas for the tail end of the greatest music event in the world, South by Southwest. Every store, restaurant and bar in Austin turns into a venue. Even parking lots play hosts to some of the best bands in the country. And with a friend conveniently attending the University of Texas, I flew to the home of McConastrong (the UT super-couple comprised of Lance Armstrong and Matthew McConaughey) for some sweet SXSW action.
Austin is the only city in the world where you can’t tell who is a hobo and who’s just a hipster. The only way you could distinguish the dirty faces was by whether they were asking for change, or giving you a handbill. Walking down 6th Street, the heart of the event, flyers and coupons filled up my pockets as quickly as the quarters cleared out. But, as this all happened, I looked at the thousands of people and heard the songs of distant bands melding together in the busy street, and I knew this was my kind of town.
The best and the worst acts of the weekend took place at the same place. La Zona Rosa played host to an interesting mix of artists the last night of SXSW, including Mew and The Polyphonic Spree. Mew started things off at La Zona and made me want to throw myself off a bridge. Not nearly as magical as the elusive 151st Pokemon of the same name or nearly as brilliant as Sigur Ros, Mew was a nauseating combination of the two.
Supposedly, Mew is really popular with the crowd swaying in a cult-like fashion to the dissonant melodies of the band. But, two things separate of Mew’s actual musical merit contributed to hating the concert:
1. There was a projection screen synched up to the entire set. It showed these freak-out cat women playing violins and a little boy doll singing with the live band. I think the whole thing was actually a scary fetish film.
2. The drummer was wearing a puffy white pirate shirt. Not only this but he had this long blonde hair and kept tossing it around. He was straight out of the worst metal ballad band that never existed.
The Polyphonic Spree made the European torture worthwhile by putting on one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. 19 people in matching military uniforms dancing and playing the happiest harp-filled pop music ever made. The lead singer stood on a platform, arms raised as the crowd sang along. A six-girl choir manically danced while flutes and strings rang and a cymbal was thrown into the audience.
SXSW is a strange event in our world. It’s a place were everyone from young and old, scalawags and scenesters and even good and crap bands can create a community for a few days … except Mew and their stop-motion soft-core projection porn.