The Last Day: When The Questions Posed Six Months Ago Still Linger

Mar 17th, 2008 // 19 Comments

AP080315038283.jpgJudging by some of my RSS mainstays, SXSW backlash coverage is the new SXSW coverage, and part of me can see why; the sameness of the posts, the “OMG WISH YOU WERE HERE”-ness that permeates the live-blogging of each margarita downed, the fact that most of the really interesting stuff that’s going on is stuff that is either a surprise or much more interesting in the moment than it is hours after the fact. I thought about this a lot during my last 48 hours in Austin, because while I think going to SXSW is a pretty worthwhile endeavor, the obsessive coverage can be, frankly, boring if it isn’t done right; Ben Sisario’s four-word reviews for the NYT were a refreshing counterexample. I’m navigating between the gaping maw that is Idolator’s content hole and the fact that going to Austin every year is useful from a (shock!) reporting standpoint, if only to sorta-gauge the industry’s current mood; it’s something that I hope to figure out better for next year, because while the whole feeling of missing 99.9% of everything going on was rip-the-hair-out stressful at times, the sunshine overall did wonders for the seasonally affected blues.)

DEPARTURE FROM HOTEL ROOM: Saturday, 12:12 p.m. CT.
RETURN TO HOTEL ROOM: Sunday, 12:14 a.m. CT.
WEATHER REPORT: Not as hot as Friday, but still sunny enough that waiting in line was a really dumb option.
BANDS SEEN*: Nine: High Places, Jealous Girlfriends, Film School, Kimya Dawson, Grand Old Party, Darker My Love, Sea Wolf, Kate Nash, Robyn. Final SXSW total: 33.
ARTIST WHO WAS A LOT LESS CLOYING THAN ON RECORD/IN THE PRESS: Kate Nash.
ARTIST WHO CONTINUED TO TEST MY PATIENCE AFTER THE TWO-SONG MARK: Kimya Dawson.
BLOG-SPONSORED PARTIES ATTENDED: Two. Final SXSW total: Four.
PANELS ATTENDED: Zero. Final SXSW total: One.
NUMBER OF TACOS CONSUMED: Three (one green chile pork, one “trailer park”–which was stuffed with fried chicken–and one mahi mahi.).
SHORTEST WAIT TIME FOR THE LINE TO GET INTO THE RACHAEL RAY PARTY: 25 minutes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this wait was shorter when her husband’s band was on stage.
BEST AMENITIES, NON-OPEN BAR VARIETY: This is where I give credit where it’s due: the Stereogum/Paste shindig distributed water guns, which helped burn off the tensions that had built up throughout the week even when empty.
HOT AMENITY: Hairdos, which were available at both the Mess With Texas park bash and Perez Hilton’s party. The accompanying free product was limited to the “packet that is really only good for half a use” variety.
TOP “WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN AND WHY ARE WE HERE” MOMENT: Perez Hilton’s party–which was held in a white-walled raw space that made it seem like Perezzers was putting on an old-timey barn-raiser–was allegedly the SXSW hot ticket. (A friend told me that the RSVP list bulged with 9,000 names, and the top-shelf sponsors certainly outshone the middling-save-Robyn announced lineup.) But were people really queuing outside because they wanted to champion the artists that the gossip blogger loves, or did they want to just get some of his hair dye fairy dust on their trip? It wasn’t really clear.

Idolator’s complete SXSW coverage
[Photo: AP]

* Where “seen” = “caught two or more songs by.”

  1. Lucas Jensen

    My problem with all of these coverage is that I saw great shows with enthusiastic audiences that weren’t covered by anybody because they were missing the right type of hype or something. Anybody who saw Pattern is Movement or Megafaun or Kirsten Ketsjer the Rock Band at SXSW was as satisfied as those who stood in line to catch a 30 minute set from a band with Fuck in their name.

    There are more than 20 bands at SXSW, though you wouldn’t know it from the coverage.

  2. Nunya B

    Trailer park tacos sound damned good, though.

    Did the Perez show have anyone worth listening to other than Robyn and Dragonette?

  3. jt.ramsay

    I’m with you on the ‘I’m missing everything’ tip. Trying to actually cover this with daily wraps pretty much meant committing to one party/showcase, interviewing as many artists as you can and rushing back to the hotel to edit.

    Missing out on local cuisine was the hardest part. I had BBQ once and zero tacos, but two nights of room service and one regrettable 7/11 hot dog experience.

  4. Anonymous

    @blackmailismylife: Where was said bbq from?

  5. the rich girls are weeping

    @Lucas Jensen: You beat me to it, dude. I have yet to see a report from anyone who saw a band that they saw by accident who totally blew them away. I just keep seeing reviews of the same crap that I wasn’t interested in seeing in the first place, which is mostly why I didn’t bother going this year.

    If anyone can direct me to some coverage roughly approximating something interesting, I would appreciate it. Did anyone check out SxS&M at Chain Drive? Catch the instores at End of an Ear? (Or was that where the locals, who frankly, I think, don’t give a fuck about SXSW anymore, hid out?) I want more deets about that ad-content supported music panel that caused a dust-up. Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?

    Perhaps this is the year that big media outlets realize that sending reporters to SXSW has negative ROI w/r/t actual content produced. Just sayin’.

  6. the rich girls are weeping

    @Lucas Jensen: You beat me to it, dude. I have yet to see a report from anyone who saw a band that they saw by accident who totally blew them away. I just keep seeing reviews of the same crap that I wasn’t interested in seeing in the first place, which is mostly why I didn’t bother going this year.

    If anyone can direct me to some coverage roughly approximating something interesting, I would appreciate it. Did anyone check out SxS&M at Chain Drive? Catch the instores at End of an Ear? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Or was that where the locals, who frankly, I think, don’t give a fuck about SXSW anymore, hid out? Any music bloggers catch that ad-supported music panel that supposedly caused such a riot?

    Perhaps this is the year that big media outlets realize that sending reporters to SXSW has negative ROI w/r/t actual content produced. Just sayin’.

  7. the rich girls are weeping

    @the rich girls are weeping: Ugh, way to be incoherent, sinus girl.

  8. Michaelangelo Matos

    I have to say I was pretty puzzled reading this: [news.yahoo.com]

  9. mackro

    @Michaelangelo Matos: Wow, so PZ is actually Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins’ older brother?

    OK, disclaimer, I’ve never been to SXSW, but I have to give it credit. It basically has subsumed the combination of CMJ, The Gavin Report, and NXNW combined as far as consolidation of entertainment and industry trade shows.

    I guess the followup question is: WTF happened to CMJ, Gavin Report, and NXNW? (rhetorically asking.)

  10. MTS

    @the rich girls are weeping: Actually, Maura & I ran into a pretty great band happenstance called Bildmeister . I saw a lot of bands that I haven’t seen before, despite being fans of their music, too.

  11. Lucas Jensen

    @MTS: @the rich girls are weeping: I saw a lot of fights, too. That was good. I saw a guy punch a “lady” in the chin, but I think she started it. Not that I’m endorsing lady-punching.

  12. Lucas Jensen

    @mackro: Gavin’s been gone for 10 years now or so. I loved that convention. The Top 40 guys had great parties and we would sneak in and steal all of their food. Also, I got to meet the Spice Girls there and see Waylon Jennings play a show in a hotel conference room. So weird. I’m slightly nostalgic, despite myself, about the days when the music industry made money.

  13. jt.ramsay

    @arch05: Salt Lick. We went for gusto.

  14. Anonymous

    @kisskisskiss: The crowd at that party was CERTAINLY not there to see the bands — in fact I dunno what rock they all crawled out from under… Arguably the most talented act of the bunch was L.A. singer/songwriter Meiko, but she played a short set and (I can’t blame her) she bailed from the party early… Katy Perry was pretty good too.

  15. TheContrarian

    I went to meet you, Maura.

    Mission Accomplished, as the monkey in the flight suit once said.

  16. Clevertrousers

    Trailer Park tacos sound awesome – best I had were the BBQ pulled pork tacos at Salt Lick…

  17. Maura Johnston

    Not to sound defensive, but both the bands I wrote up this week were brand-new to me, as in never-heard-them-once-before new. (Kirsten Ketsjer were, in fact, recommended to me by Mr. Jensen above.)

    And I would have written about the Jealous Girlfriends if I hadn’t felt like taking Sunday off/I was kinda yawping into a void each time I recommended a band. (See semi-defensive statement above.) Also, I really wanted to like Grand Old Party, but the vocalist leaped the line between “kinda Karen O fierce” and “too much musical theater training” one too many times for me during their set. Which is too bad, because I love watching singers who drum!

  18. Maura Johnston

    @TheContrarian: aw. i am touched!! it was very nice to meet you as well, and i’m sorry i was so frazzled when we did say hello.

  19. the rich girls are weeping

    @MTS: I admit, I have not read your recap yet. My bad! I shall do so now.

    @Lucas Jensen: Dude, we need sit down and compare SXSW war stories sometime. There’s always a lady getting decked on 6th Street, it seems.

    @Maura Johnston: Oh, lady! You don’t really expect me to preface every bitchy comment I leave with “present company excluded,” right? That being said, I wasn’t complaining about your coverage so much as the gratuitous hand jobs at the NYT, Pitchfork, Stereogum, etc. Where else am I supposed to complain about that shit?

    That being said, next year, remember some of us actually do want to hear what bands you saw/liked/hated — the void has a few inhabitants. And yeah, “too much musical theater training” pretty much nails what’s wrong with Jealous Girlfriends.

    In summation, I’m STILL waiting for a recap rec (besides Maria’s). Come on ppl! I’m busy, I can’t read all the dreck out there. Someone else do it for me. Seriously. I’ve got to turn around 1,000 pages this week in Quark and hire a new writer. And go to three shows. And design some shit. And organize a photo shoot WITH MUSICIANS. But enough about my personal life…

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