Music

SXSW 2009: Still Flyin’ Triumph Despite 4:1 Band-to-Audience Ratio

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Mere hours after joining an awestruck cast of thousands to celebrate the imminent release of Guitar Hero: Metallica, we encounter the exact same level of glorious exuberance, offstage and on, with roughly 1 percent of the people. Gleefully anarchic Bay Area ska outfit Still Flyin’ are a double-digital ensemble playing to not much more than a double-digit crowd at 1:30 a.m. at the Independent, a venue represented in our official pocket venue guide by a rather intimidating map of I-35, though it’s only like two blocks from “the action.” But crowded as close to the stage as possible, regarding a whirling dervish of dancers, horn players, amateur cowbell enthusiasts, and backup singers, the effect is just as transcendent as “Sanitarium” was, anthemic malevolence swapped out for outrageously catchy odes to — well, I’m not clear exactly, but weed and beer are prominently involved.

To this end there is the Guru, who starts the set at the foot of the stage, ensconced in a makeshift pink tent and blasting a smoke machine at his bandmates, until the tent collapses after one song and he settles for stalking the rear of the stage and distributing beers to his bandmates via a fanny-pack device that can hold five brew-dogs at a time at least. Later in the set he goes back to the smoke machine. The one about the ghost town is a highlight. Everyone leaves ridiculously happy.