SXSW Aftermath: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Get In The Groove

Categories: Live Shots, SXSW

South by Scorsese: The festival in a single 6th St. tracking shot.

Video by Craig Hlavaty

It didn't take long for Aftermath to remember you don't have to look very hard at all for music at SXSW; in fact, we were barely even awake when it happened. After arriving in Austin late, late Thursday night, we went down to the lobby of our hotel for coffee Friday morning and stumbled across John Hiatt, gruff of voice and keen of wit as ever, playing a few selections from his new The Open Road LP on the KUT Second Play stage. We repeated the scenario Saturday morning, this time lingering long enough to catch ex-Bad Liver Danny Barnes pick out a few roots-encrusted tunes on his banjo.

Consumed with directing traffic among the five talented (and apparently tireless) writers Rocks Off had on the ground at SXSW, Aftermath didn't have much of a chance to make out an agenda for our own abbreviated time at the festival this year. It turns out we didn't need to. Besides, we learned a long time ago that pinning all your hopes on one specific performer at one specific spot at one specific time is not the way to go about getting the most out of SXSW.

There's just too much that could go wrong - you could be frozen in line waiting to get in, sound problems could torpedo the set before it even gets off the ground, or the artist might be running late or might not even show up at all. (According to our writers, all these things happened at some point over the long weekend, as they do every year.)

Superchunk web.jpg
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Superchunk schooled the youngsters Friday afternoon at La Zona Rosa.

So instead, bearing in mind that every square inch of Austin real estate is consumed by music during SXSW, mostly we just drifted through downtown and let the music come to us. It did, whether it was a face-melting hardcore band onstage while we were grabbing a snack at the Jackalope, contemplative female singer-songwriter Michele Vreeland at the Driskill Hotel in the upstairs lounge sponsored by Justin Timberlake's new 901 Silver tequila line, or some bluesy, female-fronted hard rockers who took up more floor space than the customers at the Blu Lounge.

Friday night, after lingering outside Stubb's to catch a little more of Muse than we were able to Thursday at Toyota Center, Aftermath didn't even set foot inside another SXSW venue, happily wandering along the 6th St./Red River corridor soaking up the sights and sounds of the SXSW street scene in full swing. Picture a Moroccan bazaar teeming with bars and bands instead of merchants and you're almost there.

Our no-plan plan also made the few appointments we did make that much more enjoyable. Friday afternoon at La Zona Rosa, Superchunk was taut and gritty as the North Carolinians resurrected their slapdash indie-punk, crystallizing on early-'90s anthem "Slack Motherfucker" and having the unfortunate (if unintended) effect of casting the group that preceded them, New York's The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, as a pale imitation.

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