Shit shit shit all night long. Nothing excited more in the SXSW 2006 schedule than the appearance of the London’s Guillemots (do ALL UK bands this year come from London?). I top tened their not-quite-a-single “Who Left the Lights Off, Baby?” last year because like so much classic pop, it reignites commonplaces you thought had long since been exhausted. Lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield (that’s the name I use when checking into hotels) puts ” ’til the cows come home” through several clever permutations and bedecks his sunny Britpop with odd bridges and an inappropriately earthy sax solo. So who left “Who Left the Lights Off, Baby?” off the set list, baby? And why was your show last night at Eternal given over to a conceited, keyboard-leaden opulence that even Ben Folds would find a bit much? And why on earth sing a cappella (I mean, REALLY a cappella, i.e. without a microphone) in a noisy club? My guess: He’s trying to heard to incorporate the multicultural makeup of his band and comes up with clutter. Their blurb in the SXSW directory mentions the word “organic.” Organic? In Britpop? No compute.
Off to The Parish for Starlight Mints, above. Clearly, head Mint Allan Vest spent his formative years wishing his hometown of Norman, OK was Liverpool. But the pining paid off. He now gets a supremely catchy sound out of his large band that combines the homegrown with the ornate, the Fab Four on a budget, if you will. Indeed, his string quartet only has three people in it. Unfortunately, Vest spent the show wishing he were back in Norman. Or any place where there weren’t so many sound problems. He simply came off as disconnected from the entire event, rarely chatting us up between songs
Padded down to the gorgeous Habana Calle 6 for His Name Is Alive only to be informed that they’d be playing an hour later. Instead, I got San Fran’s Hudson Bell who played their vaguely Sonic Youth-y noise eight, sixteen, thirty-two bars too long. In short, they were not His Name Is Alive.
Which latter I never got to see since I had to jet to Anton’s for Austin’s own James McMurtry. Marty Stuart was finishing up a set that felt cleansing after so much indie wank. But lo—after a terrific close harmony gospel number, Stuart felt compelled to show off his picking techniques. Indie wank giving way to country wank? I was ready for a Pan Sonic tonic at that point.
McMurtry, above, came on a tad late and thus I caught only half a song so I could make it to Fox and Hound for Brazilian Girls at 12:30 a.m. Arriving around 12:45 a.m., I discovered a jam band named Particle who desecrated “Once in a Lifetime” and wore my patience down to particles. Brazilian Girls didn’t hit the stage until an appalling 1:47 a.m., two minutes after last call. They kicked off with “Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Thoughts Are Free)” and the sampled strings were much more foreboding here over a sea of enraged revelers than on record. Soothing, polyglot post-millennium tension—very much 1:47 a.m. music but just as easily a horse tranquilizer. And please—fuck you to whoever made us wait so long (and made me miss Hank III’s gorgeous pectorals or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s dribbly drone or Dengue Fever’s Cambodian collage or Devin the Dude’s weeded-down briarpatch or famed car collector The Bottle Rockets or . . .).
Really, the action was with the street musicians tonight. Performing without a permit, New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band drew an enormous crowd with their funky Satchmo meets 50 Cent polyphony. The cops calmly broke up the party with no bloodshed nor fines. Even better were two anonymous black musicians jamming out a version of 3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite.”
Also on hand were some Jesus crispies. One precious child handed me a pamphlet. “God loves you,” she breathed. “He does?” I asked. “Even me?” She paused for a moment, AS IF SHE WASN’T SURE, and then assured me “Yes, God loves you.” Faith’s in need of faith today.