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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SXSW Music 2011: Hi Austin, Are You Sure This Isn't SXSF?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2011 at 7:00 AM

SF Weekly music editor Ian Port is in Austin this week covering the sun-glazed sound orgy that is South By Southwest. He will try to keep his reports free from from unnecessary personal details, talk of tacos, the phrase "killed it," and the eliciting of excessive jealousy. Please feel free to comment below or e-mail him at Ian.Port@SFWeekly.com with tips, recommendations, invitations, and disgust. Follow his updates on Twitter @iPORT.

click to enlarge The scene on Sixth street.
  • The scene on Sixth street.
It's on. The drunken bull-riding on Austin's Sixth street, the laptop-toting groups planted on random sidewalks, the unsurprising "surprise" shows, the stuffed sweatboxes, the lines, the hordes of drunks, and all. Starting this morning, SXSW Music 2011 officially commences, but there was plenty going on last night, too.

Being here without a badge (I got in too late last night to pick mine up) is like going to a pool party without a swimsuit. Or so I moaned before discovering a free show on the grizzled, funky east side of Sixth street put on by the nice folks at Panache Booking. Hoofing it over, under a weird freeway underpass sculpture eerily resembling a neon ribcage, I found a beflanneled assembly at the pleasantly backyard-esque Scoot Inn. Yet even this, cheap beers and two stages and all, presented its own white person "problem": Like a lot of this year's SXSW shows, the lineup was stuffed with Bay Area bands! Thee Oh Sees, Bare Wires, Carletta Sue Kay, and Grass Widow all had prime spots. (This was only a problem if you intended, with perhaps too much confidence, to take in bands you can't see all the time at home.)

But then, the Bay-heaviness seems -- to this admitted SXSW first-timer -- to be a sort-of theme of South-By this year. Hunx and His PunxThee Oh Sees, and Tune-Yards seem to be everywhere, likewise with Birds and BatteriesWeekendThe DodosThe Fresh & Onlys, and other local regulars.

click to enlarge Pujol at Scoot Inn
  • Pujol at Scoot Inn
Last night that seemed to be going well. At the Panache show, Nashville's power-poppy, four-piece Pujol put a thick coat of perspiration on the walls with a guitar-and-gravelly-vocals precision that belied the group's disheveled appearance. The room kinda cleared out for S.F.'s Carletta Sue Kay, whose setup is just guitar and vocals, but then Carletta's lounge-y show got going and the room began to fill up. There were smiles all around for a song about San Francisco -- partly because many in the audience seemed to be from there, but also because Carletta seems to hand out little pieces of herself with each vocal line she delivers, even when singing about someone else.

click to enlarge Carletta Sue Kay
  • Carletta Sue Kay
I wandered outside after her set to find a few dozen shaggy heads wriggling to Oakland's Bare Wires, and only the warm night reminded me I wasn't in the Bay Area. 

Elsewhere, the Foo Fighters played a "surprise" show at Stubb's that wasn't really a surprise; the Pitchfork spectacle at Emo's with Surfer Blood and Weekend (and others) was full to the point of absurdity, and the beery hordes trodded on. And to think, it was all a warm-up for what starts today... 

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