I can’t say I’ve ever had a day that started with Motörhead and ended with Moby (shouldn’t it be the other way around, first of all?) but that’s SXSW for you. Motörhead headlined a huge day party at Stubb’s courtesy of Vice Magazine – the mag taking over the space usually reserved for Spin’s big bash (that mag is hosting Vampire Weekend at Stubb’s today).
Lemme brought all the pasty heshers and hipsters into the hot sun, playing all the hits and ending with a call of “Do you guys like Thin Lizzy?” before launching into short medley ending with “The Cowboy Song.”
From there I hit Sons and Daughters and Clipse at the Rhapsody party -- neither one of which I was feeling. Sons and Daughters are pretty much yer standard, well-behaved indie pop act, despite their cover of the Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” And while Clipse had the hard delivery and the coke references down, the songs started to blend together after a while.
There was a fair amount of blending for the early part of the evening too. Keeping on the booger sugar theme, Ex-Cocaine opened the Stiltbreeze showcase with what my Austin pal Joe called “beard-scratching rock.” Indeed. Two dudes, both unshaven, one pounding away on the bongos, the other coaxing some grungy melodies out of an electric guitar.
I was getting tired of polite so I headed to the Vice showcase for a bit, where Fucked Up gave the crowd a break from common decency, thank god. Three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, and one shirtless sweaty bear of a singer pummeled ears with noisy Am Rep punk, the singer screaming about god knows what as he pulled his boxers up around his Santa belly (“I’m taking that shit Beth Ditto started to the next level,” he yelled to the crowd), wrestled with willing audience members, climbed up a railing, turned somersaults, and bashed his mic into his head until it drew a little blood.
We were in the midst of a loud, sweaty (heavy on the) rock ‘n’ roll festival and this was exactly what I was looking for – a little primal screaming if you will. The crowd’s male contingent was especially hungry for what Fucked Up was dishing out, as some of the dudes did that wasted hugging-and-shoving-and-pushing-each-other-down thing until they got themselves good and bruised.
The audience was properly warmed up, though, by opening act MixHell, the techo-electro-DJ- and-occasionally-live-drumming duo featuring Iggor Cavalera, the drummer from Sepultura, and his wife.
Jay Reatard was third on the bill, and as much as I love the dude - probably one of my top five acts right now - something was off last night. The sound was so muddled I felt like I was hearing the songs from outside the club, while Jay seemed exhausted even as he plowed through his songs, one on top of the next. I bailed halfway through, figuring I’ll have a good half dozen more changes to catch garage punk’s golden boy this weekend.
The biggest surprise of the night for me was the next act – Athens' Dark Meat. After stepping out for air, stepping back into their set was like walking into a birthday party for a three year old thrown by 18 hippie freaks on acid. They blanketed the dark rock club with a whole lotta charm—and colorful dollar store finery. Red and yellow paper streamers cascaded between the band and the crowd; blue confetti circles drifted through the air like snow; glow sticks ended up in people’s boots, hair, cleavage, and back pockets; bouncy balls ricocheted off every surface, and the air was filled with revelatory Southern Rock.
If you gave Black Mountain a whole lotta sunshine (and a horn section, and two—or was it three?—percussionists); or if you replaced the Polyphonic Spree’s pop savior sound with earthy rock madness, that’s a little of what Dark Meat had to offer. And a whole lotta confetti.
From there we wandered over to a private Playboy party, where publicists were decked out in smoking jackets and Bunnies were decked out in their big ears and little outfits. The main focus there was on the music, though (and second to that, on the ubiquitous free ice cream SXSW has on offer, and had on offer here). I finally got to see MGMT and the guys delivered to the fullest – impressive light show, glammy Ziggy Stardust sound, high energy for the 1am set time – I totally dug it.
I was equally entertained by a conversation with some record exec working with Playboy who was confused how I could know who MGMT was unless I was “dating the singer, or someone in the band”—because otherwise, how the hell could I have heard of MGMT before. I dunno record label dude, the internet?
Although Justice was the headliner, I cut out around 3am, just after Moby did a pretty decent (albeit ear-splitting) DJ set of disco, electro, techno, and more, the crowd raising their rock hands in salute. Also somewhere in those revelers – Carson Daly, with day-glo Playboy 3-D glasses slung around his neck.