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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bon Iver, Yeasayer, Lou Reed no show: Day 1 at SXSW

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2008 at 11:54 AM

Got into Austin yesterday with a plane full industry heads and my head full of cold medicine. I’m just gonna pretend that damn SF flu virus isn’t in my system because it is impossible to nap here knowing that every second of shuteye means a good half dozen bands missed. Already I was too sluggish yesterday to hit everything I wanted (Tyvek, Earthless) and I can’t let that happen again.

That said, though, I’ve already had my first SXSW “moment”—that point in the night when all the overly loud drunks and terribly hype bands fade to the background and you see something truly special.

Bon Iver played at the very end of the evening in an upstairs tent at a club that may have well been freeway thoroughfare. It was loud with lousy beer-doused conversation, the racket from competing bands from ten other clubs, and a sound system that turned nearly every guitar trick into terrible feedback. And yet there was something about the show was that kinda transcendent. Bon Iver is the fancy French moniker for one Justin Vernon, who makes beautiful folksy guitar jams. His songs work on what’s missing and /or damaged sometimes—the silences between refrains, the firecrackers exploding in the distance, the cracking of his vocals. Last night he used the insane volume of the festival around him to his advantage, asking the audience to help him sing along “loud as shit” to drown out the “ten bands I can hear playing at the same time,” by singing along to the chorus of “What might’ve been lost” on “The Wolves (Act I and II).” The crowd, far from the jaded industry shits you hear about in Austin, went at the singalong full force, one dude thrusting his head up over the people in front of him like a Red Stater bellowing out the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Republican Convention. It made this crazed festival feel so intimate all of a sudden, a cool trick for an act that’s all about listening between the lines at a time when this city is all about excess.

I did a little hopping around earlier in the night, albeit with less success. Waiting for a couple hours at the party for Lou Reed to do a special one-off appearance, to no avail. I guess the dude showed up and “wasn’t feeling it,” according the rumors going around. Instead the various Velvet Underground-indebted acts blanketing the festival strummed along – the Black Angles actually sounding a little more interesting since their last monotonous record, and the Raveonettes –a band I cannot for the life of me understand the hype about, especially when every song is the same damn lifeless track on repeat--boring me outta the club. Also checked out Yeasayer (Geddy Lee + Genesis = not so much) and Times New Viking (cute lo-fi fun but nothing much to write home about).

On today’s schedule: More cold medicine, Motorhead (another sweet Vice party lineup), and lots more…. -- Jennifer Maerz

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Ian S. Port


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