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Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 3: South By Southwest 2011

Corporate America welcomes The Strokes

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 3:21 PM

At this moment, I have to lay down a confession.

The other night, fueled by the thought I might not get to see all the bands I wanted to see, I broke down and bought a wristband. Am I glad I did it? A little bit. I have been able to get into some great shows without paying cover.

Downtown 6th Street in Austin on St. Paddy's Day

What I'm not glad about is going to a massive, free outdoor show sponsored by a jeans company. I’m not opposed to free shows, especially since all the day shows are free. But when the free show ruins the rest of my schedule for the night, then I have a problem with it.

Oh yeah, that and all the teenagers in a 50-square-mile radius are here.

Sure, the show features The Strokes, who are pretty much the biggest band on the planet in the anticipation of the release of their new album, Angles, coming out next week. But the majority of the people here could really give a crap about The Strokes. They are here just to be somewhere so they can tell their friends they went to South By Southwest and it was sofreakingamazing!

It's a gross spectacle of humanity and a tough lesson in corporate America culture. If you offer it for free, they will come, and they will be OK with the oversaturation of marketing going on in their faces. There are so many logos here, Naomi Klein would have heart attack.

In the end, this is a rock show and there are easily 50,000 people here. So Strokes comeback complete.

The best part came in the form of Brooklyn-based act Twin Shadow, whose new album Forget was one of the best in 2010. Lead singer George Lewis Jr. was born in the Dominican Republic, raised in Florida, and then moved to NYC. Judging by his musical palette, he stopped by mid-80s UK to brush up on his Morrissey musings and Duran Duran synth beats.

He and his backing band rip through the best sonic nuggets from Forget, including a sped-up "Slow," an otherworldly "Castles in the Snow" and the positively gorgeous title-track against the backdrop of the Austin skyline and setting sun. Like the Pains of Being Pure of Heart, I actually bought a ticket to see Twin Shadow in April and I am looking forward to getting a chance to check them out in a more intimate setting.

Check out the mediocre video I took of "Forget," complete with beach ball to the face at the 14-second mark and two dudes waving their yard-long margaritas in the air. It was one of those shows, OK?

As for the Strokes, well, let's just say they aren’t ever going to top Is This It?, a stone-cold classic that changed the shape of alternative rock for the past decade. They play half that album interspersed with hits from their other two albums such as "Reptilia" and "What Ever Happened?"

New tracks from Angles sound great as well and I have to admit that Julian Casablancas has the rock star thing down. He exudes 60s Lou Reed personality in a black leather jacket and dark black sunglasses. As for the rest of the band, who the hell knows? I couldn’t see shit in this gross spectacle of humanity.

Here's a bad video of JC doing his thing:

By the time the fireworks — yes, fireworks — went off during set-closer "Last Nite," I’ve had enough. I’m sure Rolling Stone will mention something about this being the best show of the week. I’ve seen better.

Since the concert went well over its schedule running time, I miss several bands I wanted to see, including Jenn Grant (sorry, Jenn, it was beyond my control…) and Montreal band Suuns. That and a friend didn’t have a wristband, so our options are limited.

We head to Nuvola on 5th Street to check out legendary Scottish musician Edwyn Collins. Tokyo Sex Destruction is on first and they aren’t bad, but would look way better in a 60s psychedelic beach movie. They are positively retro in a garage-rock sort of way, but fun too.

Edwyn Collins recently suffered a massive stroke and it shows in that he doesn’t play guitar anymore and sits throughout his show. His voice is still wonderful however, and the performances from his new record, Losing Sleep, are spot on.

Afterwards, we head to Club Deville to try and check out buzz act DOM, but apparently there's been a cancellation Which for us, is fine because we're hungry and ready to call it a night. We stop at one of the many food trucks and have an amazing panini. You got to hand it to Austin, they do their food trucks right.

Hopefully, Friday will have a better outcome as we head out to see Rural Alberta Advantage, Suuns, Datarock, and hell yes, Men Without Hats. "Pop Goes The World" is as apt a title for SXSW 2011 as you’ll ever get.

Day 3 Weather: Sunny
Temperature: 30 degrees Celsius
Steps walked in Day Two: 9875 nearly 5 miles or 8.05 kilometres
Grand total steps walked: 30,725 or 15.5 miles or 24.95 kilometres

-Johnston Farrow

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