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South by Southwest Diary Day 1: Lou Reed, Black Angels & John Grisham

Posted by March 20th, 2008 No Comments »

SXSW Day 1 Recap
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You know you are headed for South by Southwest when someone boards the plane with a mandolin case and a megaphone.

Look to the overhead compartments and you’ll find so many instruments, you’d think they decided to build a Guitar Center with wings. I’m half expecting to find an aspiring shredder coiled up in the bathroom playing Stairway to Heaven through a Peavey practice amp.

My friends, we are on our way to SXSW!

lou_reed1The plane touches down and my father, an Austin resident, greets me at the airport. Within minutes, I’m swept away to the Paramount Theater where they are screening Lou Reed’s amazing new concert film Berlin.

Apparently, Berlin was released to very little fanfare back in ’73. In 2006, Reed, his talented friends, and an orchestra, played the album in its entirety for five straight nights in New York City. Cameras were on hand, and this remarkable film is the result.

The theater’s speakers are cranked to 11 and it feels like I’m witnessing the concert live. For a brief moment I consider creating makeshift earplugs from the lint in my pockets, but then the music switches from unrestrained rock to tear-jerking beauty. That’s the way the album, and the film, goes.

Surprise, the film is over and Lou Reed is here, in the grizzled flesh. The spitting image of Kanye West on casual Friday, Reed takes the theater stage sporting a designer, splatter-paint hoodie and orange Nike Airs. He politely answers a few questions from his fans, and then goes on his merry way.

As I leave the theater arm-in-arm with my proud parents, a woman approaches us with free passes to an after-party at Pangaea. We politely accept.

grisham1Once inside the chi-chi club, a wall of fuzzy noise courtesy of the Black Angels greets us. This isn’t going to go over well. My parents can’t handle the rumpus, and as much as I’d like to say I’m cooler than them, I don’t like it either. It’s been a long day, and the real festivities begin tomorrow, so we go home to read our John Grisham novels.


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