Idolator’s SXSW Outlaw: Art, Artifice, And Feeling The Burn

noah | March 16, 2007 9:37 am

If there’s one thing that’s true about South By Southwest, it’s that much of it is based on access–the combinations of badges, wristbands, hand-stamps, and nods that get people into and behind the scenes of shows can be downright dizzying. To figure out what, exactly, it’s like to experience the festival with not so much as a wristband, we enlisted chief assumer (and former Austinite) Andy Beta to give us the outsider’s perspective. In this installment, he impersonates a wrestling fan and misses out on some free shoe action.

An outlaw’s greatest gift is that of disguise. And so, utilizing the badge of wrestling fanatic Bob Mould, we make our way into the packed IODA party at Emo’s Annex (not to be confused with Emo’s, Emo’s Outside Stage, Emo’s Jr., Emo’s IV, or the Emo’s that opened in Las Vegas) in time for the end of a set by Montreal’s Apostle of Hustle. Frontman Andrew Whiteman tells the Tecate-and-thunderstorm-soaked crowd that their next number is about “Canadians invading Texas,” proposing that their “National Anthem of Nowhere” now serve as that for the Lone Star State. As they ply their jazzy waltz-time number, little do they know that five indignant rednecks in an El Dorado are already crossing the border, pulling doughnuts in their practice space.

Which is not to mistake said desperadoes for the members of Austin’s Black Angels, as there are six of them. It’s strange to see such wraiths out in daytime hours, though perhaps it’s due only to the thick cloud-cover still blocking out the sun. Singer Alex Maas yowls like Neil Young at his most embittered and shaky, while the band unleashes throttling amounts of toms and hollow-bodied guitar drones, all enshrouded in a haze of reverb. While easily traced back to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Spacemen 3, 13th Floor Elevators, and VU, the Angels dose out on dread, and even in the open air, with the sky beginning to clear, it proffers a sensation seemingly without end.

Come Thursday, the Texas sun is at full power, resulting in a race for each of the pasty-skinned East Coasters: Buzz or sunburn. Our first stop is the bustling boutique and Gringo-Mexican scene on South Congress. Ever since Slick Willie paid a visit to the ranchhouse-styled restaurant Güero’s (pronounced Wear-Ohs), it seems to be the locale of every midday business meeting, filled with balding executives in shades, their brows pinked by the midday sun, waiting for tables.

We duck into the folk-art gallery Yard Dog, which features some fine tomes on self-taught African-American artists like Sister Gertrude Morgan as well as the works of Mekons/Bloodshot hombre Jon Langford. Langford’s work, while slightly indebted to the works of other folk-art folks and Joe Coleman, is heavily indebted to musical culture and Grand Ole Opry icons. On display today is a faux-weathered replica of Tom Waits and a cross rendered in the holy visages of The Band circa The Band.

About as good a number of references as any to see the end of a set by Elvis Perkins in Dreamland. The son of Psycho star Anthony, we had the pleasure to catch Perkins some weeks back in New York, his band prim and nattily dressed in sweater vests. It looks as if they haven’t slept since, hitting their last number with sunglasses aslant, jaws unshaven, voices as rough and ragged as car wheels on a gravel road. As we take our leave, missing a chance for a free pair of Sauconys as well as a set from Coldplay Kids…er, Cold War Kids, we hear wafting out from the sun-dappled garden of Güero’s outdoor stage the feel-good spring sounds of The Knife.

Idolator’s SXSW Outlaw archives [Image via]