AUSTIN, Texas – There can definitely be a fiddling-while-Rome-burns feeling to being a part of the entertainment-media complex. That especially goes for this year at South By Southwest. It takes a lot to knock SXSW off the front page of the Austin American-Statesman, but it happened with Thursday’s edition. I guess you could say we’re rocking while Japan melts down.
Nevertheless, SXSW looks to be just as big a madhouse as ever. Travel logistics of getting into town took up most of Wednesday (a furlough day from the paper for me, anyway), which began with my alarm clock ringing at an inhumanly early hour so I could catch a pre-dawn flight. But I did see a few things before fatigue overtook me and I called it an early night.
PS I Love You was pretty fantastic, an unlikely-looking duo from Ontario, Canada – mountain-sized guitarist with a flair for bombs-bursting-in-air fusillades along the lines of Jimi Hendrix, skinny drummer with a flat-top who motored along at a breakneck pace – and they sure did fill up a lot of sonic space for a two-piece. First time I think I’ve ever heard garage-rock in waltz time, too. Also quite fine was John Fullbright, a young singer/songwriter from Oklahoma who shows an incredible sense of wisdom in his writing (he’s in Raleigh at the Berkeley Café on March 27; just sayin’). And Austin old-timer Jon Dee Graham had a band backing him up; that’s a nice bonus of SXSW, you get to see a lot of people who can’t afford to take bands on the road in a group setting. He was excellent, earthy and raw, although by then accumulated weariness was dragging me down from behind.
I’ll be back -- if the world doesn't end first...