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2008 South by Southwest Diary Day 3: Ecstatically Peaceful

Posted by March 24th, 2008 No Comments »

SXSW Day 3 Recap
Friday, March 14
By Dan Lurie

It’s Friday morning and the bloody marys are flowing like mountain spring water at the Red Eyed Fly. We show up as the club doors open and start chugging the vegetable-fortified beverages, a plastic cup in each free hand. Eight essential vitamins plus vodka, what more could you ask for?

The Magic Bullets, hailing from San Francisco, take the stage. There’s nothing new about their sound, but the gangly lead singer (whose wingspan might rival Kevin Garnett’s) does a nice job of captivating the crowd by swaying back and forth like an alder tree in a windstorm.

We decide to hop over to the She & Him show hosted by Minneapolis radio station the Current. She is Hollywood actress Zooey Deschanel, and Him is M. Ward. The sound check seems to last for an eternity, but those in the crowd drooling over Deschanel don’t seem to mind. The show begins and Zooey fulfills their fantasies by standing motionless, clutching a tambourine as she sings. The folky tunes are pleasant, and Zooey shows off the same lovely voice that stole Will Ferrell’s heart in Elf.

Over at Emos, Atlas Sound is preparing to melt faces like butter on Texas toast. Our crew rolls into the club just in time, and the set proves to be one of the more pleasant surprises of the fest. The sound is somewhat heavy and experimental, yet tastefully tuneful, and the lead singer has a great rapport with the crowd. At one point, he stops the show to take a phone call from his housemate, who, if you really must know, just paid the rent and received a promotion at work!

Giddily, we cross the street and invite ourselves to a spirited outdoor party at Club Deville. There’s free Lone Star beer for lunch, and the lineup looks promising. One of my must-sees for the week, Jens Lekman, is ready to charm the short-pants off the crowd.

Crooning his trademark slice-of-life tales, Lekman has no problem capturing the hearts of all in attendance. He even steals a page from Jonathan Richman’s book by having a conversation with himself mid-song.

The set ends with Lekman lip-syncing over the fully-revealed Chairmen of the Board sample that anchors his irresistible tune “The Opposite of Hallelujah.” Appropriately, the sample is taken from the song “Give Me Just A Little More Time,” which is exactly what the crowd asks for when the 30 minute set winds to an abrupt halt.

We close out the night at Mohawk where the Ecstatic Peace showcase is going down. Thurston Moore and friends are playing “unplugged,” shredding their acoustic axes like heads of lettuce in one of the more exuberant displays of guitar prowess I’ve ever witnessed.

Maybe it’s the small venue. Maybe it’s the weeklong party atmosphere. Or maybe it’s the fact that there are 837 other shows going on in Austin right now and we chose this one. Whatever the reason, Thurston is rewarding us with a performance we won’t soon forget. For the encore he goes electric, stomps on every pedal in the arsenal, and offers his guitar to the crowd for one last ridiculous solo. Beaming from ear to ear, the ageless rocker fittingly ends the show, and the night, with a simple “Later gator,” and skips off the stage.

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