SXSW 2005: Night 1 Wrap-Up


Did I mention how weird the weather is here? It was thirty degrees last night! I didn’t take off my winter coat the whole time! This is Texas? What the hell is going on?

OK, enough kvetching. On to the music!

I lost my SXSW 2005 virginity to Selfish Cunt, a trio of “crazy” British blokes playing no-fi trash garage punk. It was kind of like that other time I lost my virginity: a little painful, a little awkward, and not all it was hyped up to be. The singer tried to be confrontational, running through the crowd, hanging on the rafters, climbing on equipment, etc., but he lacked the charisma to make it actually seem dangerous.

Then I headed to Maggie Mae’s on 6th street, which looks like it’s a Girls Gone Wild college bar any other time of the year, but tonight was hosting a showcase sponsored by white-bread Paste magazine. The main attraction was Smoosh, the cutest band on the planet. A ten-year-old girl and her twelve-year-old sister playing drums and keyboard, Smoosh sound like Tori Amos in middle school. They are unbelievably beautiful, right at that age when puberty hasn’t set in yet and you still have flawless skin and stick-skinny legs and no boobs, and boys don’t matter. Unfortunately, the girls seemed terrified. They were completely expressionless throughout the set, playing competently but robotically. I wanted to wrap them up in warm blankets and comfort them. Especially when the bar decided to play R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” as they were setting up. R. Kelly! Little girls! Eww!

Since nobody felt like driving me all the way across town to see Swishahouse, Devin Tha Dude and UGK, and I’m not enough of a Billy Idol fan to suffer through his latest comeback bid, I had to settle for Sleater-Kinney at Emo’s. That’s the insanity of SXSW. It’s like, “Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to go see one of my favorite bands of all time. Darn.”

S-K are such professionals, they can stand up there and tell jokes to each other mid-song. Carrie Brownstein is ripping through a wicked guitar solo, and I look up and she’s talking and laughing with drummer Janet Weiss. Which isn’t to say they aren’t engaged in the music: Carrie busts out all sorts of guitar-god poses, Corin Tucker scrunches her face up while unleashing those clarion-call wails of hers, Janet’s whole body is inhabiting the rhythm. Their set consisted almost entirely of stuff from their forthcoming Sub Pop album The Woods, with only a couple old songs (“Sympathy,” “O2”) thrown in. They encored with a looong noisy noodle-fest that felt like Sonic Youth at their jammiest. Not the best S-K show I’ve ever seen, but certainly not bad. These girls don’t play bad shows. (BTW, Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips was watching from the backstage door.)

Then I went back to the hotel and collapsed.