Tuesday, March 28, 2006

SXSW: The music

Now that almost two weeks have passed since South by Southwest blew through town, and now that almost everyone is tired of reading about it, I present to you my SXSW report. Aside from a free Dirtbombs day show a few years ago and the Guided by Voices hoot night last year, I haven't attended the festival in all its horrible, wonderful glory since 2001 (an endurance odyssey). Much to my chagrin and/or dismay, wristbands are way more expensive now, and there sure are a lot more industry fuckos clogging the lines into the venues. Most of them have soul patches and reek of entitlement. My putdown of them is a cliche, yes, but one that is unfortunately one hundred percent accurate. Anyway, since wristbands were so expensive and, if you showed up too late, essentially worthless, I was a little conservative with my choices. Most of the bands I waited in line to see were bands I had already seen before. But I knew they could deliver the goods, baby! The rock goods!

Stubb's Matador showcase
What the hell is Matador up to in the '06? First on the bill was Jennifer O'Connor. I wanted to like her because she was nice and didn't look like a rock jerk, but her music was bland, singer/songwriter, coffeehouse rock. All the songs were about how her boyfriend broke up with her, or she broke up with him. She was followed by Brightblack Morning Light, a sort of ambient jam band. It was the musical equivalent of a bong cleaning. This is what the label that brought you Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, Silkworm, and The Fall's nineties albums is bringing you now. Baffling. Thankfully, The New Pornographers kicked it up eighty notches. They have it all: A.C. Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar (who wasn't there, unfortunately), great songs, pop hooks for days, high energy, sensible shoes, and that special Canadian je ne sais quois. They were the start of a curiously enjoyable trend for me, one that would continue with each band I was seeing for the second or third or fourth or tenth time: bettering the last performance of theirs I saw. I left the showcase after the New Pornos, because the crowd kept getting thicker, and I don't like Belle and Sebastian and Mogwai enough to suffocate in the musk of thousands of pasty white indie rockers. I had no other promising leads, so I walked down to the Exodus to try to catch The Go Team's set. I like one of their songs a lot. It's the only song of theirs I've heard. The line was ridiculous, and after waiting in it for ten minutes, I got antsy and wandered the streets for thirty minutes before going home and getting a full night's sleep. It served me well.

Back to Stubb's to see the Fiery Furnaces. The line is horrendous. Since the headliners are Gomez and Nickel Creek, I'm baffled. It seems like a show that will accumulate a crowd slowly, not explode from the get-go. I ask the guy in line behind me who the hell got so popular on the bill. He stares at me incredulously. "You don't know?" he asks me patronizingly, like I just farted in his creme brulee. "No," I say. "You mean you really don't know?" he says. I want to strangle the fucker, grab him by the tendons in his neck, and say, "Listen, rock jerk, I worked all day. I didn't have access to the rock jerk grapevine. I asked you a simple question. Give me a simple answer or I will lay waste to you. I will eat your soul. I will put your soul in a taco and eat it. Then I will shit it out. It will pass through a system of pipes before being devoured by flies. You are a puny little man." He finally deigns to humor me with a response. Apparently, the Beastie Boys are playing a (not-so) surprise show, first on the bill. I decide to stick it out in line. I may get to see the Beastie Boys, and if not, I will still have no problem seeing Fiery Furnaces. Turns out, I hear the entirety of the Beastie Boys show, and finally get in to see their last two songs. Accidentally seeing the Beastie Boys is a nice little thing, isn't it? When they finish, Stubb's looks like the last scene in Woodstock. It is decimated. The crowd clears out, leaving much litter in its wake. Deadboy & The Elephantmen follow. They have a lot of energy, but are a little too enamored of the White Stripes band model. It's almost like they was created by an accounting firm. Noisettes follow. Again, I applaud the energy, but I can't recall even eight seconds of their set. The Fiery Furnaces follow. Nice alliteration! They are probably my favorite new band of the last couple of years. They destroy Stubb's. They raze it to the ground. Whoo! I like this band! I skip out and head to Friends, where I attempt to get into the Twilight Singers. No dice! This club is sold out! Douchebag admittance only! I walk over to Exodus to catch Eagles of Death Metal instead. I have a weird disconnected experience watching a band called The Lovemakers. I find their performance fun and their energy highly contagious, but I have a powerful hunch that their records suck some shit. Eagles of Death Metal are enjoyable, and I love the two-drummer novelty, but there is something a little too paint-by-numbers about their performance, though a couple of songs really take off. I still like the album.

Finally, I don't have to worry about getting up and going to work the next day. I do have to worry about having to piss like a madman and the clubs not being open for another thirty minutes. I start to wander around, just to keep moving and to keep my mind off my bladder. I realize after about ten minutes that I'm wandering where I probably shouldn't be wandering. This is immediately reinforced after I nearly collide with a couple shooting up between a couple of parked cars. Head down, nose to the grindstone, on the alert for more crouching junkies and hidden dragons, I trudge back downtown and find Side Bar open and not hosting live music. I take a piss, drink a pre-rock beer, and then go to Club DeVille to see Bottomless Pit, the new band from the surviving members of Silkworm. First up is The Color Scheme. What a collection of assholes. The singer is a pampered pretty boy who whines about the smallness of the crowd, and their songs are boring. What a rock jerk. Bottomless Pit, however, are fucking awesome. I'm extremely pleased. Next, I head to Antone's for Neko Case. First, I stand through Over the Rhine (I don't remember one thing about this band), Marah (total douchebags, though they do have some great riffs), and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings (awesome, awesome, awesome). Neko Case is great, as usual, though I wish she'd shuffle some of the older songs in her set list. Also, like Meryl Streep, she's a little too professional, so reliable that at times she seems almost cold. She's a Swiss watch. This is a minor complaint, however, because I love her songs to death, and when she sings harmony with Kelly Hogan and Rachel Flotard, the hair stands up on my arms.

I'm going to wrap this up quickly. I need to go to bed, damn it.
Irving: Don't remember them.
Silversun Pickups: Boring.
Head of Femur: I worked in a record store in college with a couple of the guys in this band. I like a lot of their songs. However, I was disappointed with their live show, which was more generically indie-rock than the albums, though this isn't really their fault. They weren't able to bring their horn and string section with them on the tour, so they didn't play any of the pretty, orchestral, harmonic stuff that I like.
Antone's Merge showcase
White Whale: Pleasant, occasionally dull, however their last song was so good that I have some hope for this band.
Annie Hayden: Snooze.
The Essex Green: Likable, catchy. I like the pop hooks. Doesn't quite do enough for me, though.
Superchunk: These cats were on fire. Great set, and totally redeeming the mediocre show they put on the last time I saw them, though the poor sound at that show had a lot to do with it. This time, great set, great sound.
Camera Obscura: Cute as hell. Americans are very receptive to Scottish accents. They just make us feel good. What can I say? I don't get the hype otherwise. Pleasant, but nothing special.
Robert Pollard: The greatest man in rock. He's not a rock jerk. He's written more classic songs today than any rock jerk ever will. Though he seemed a bit unhealthy and incoherent in between songs, while he performed he was a rock and roll dynamo. This incoherence might have had something to do with Day Four, Hour 5000 of SXSW. I felt unhealthy and incoherent myself. His new band is great. His stage banter was curiously subdued, though he did have one great line after laughing at his own dance moves: "I look like fucking Leo Sayer out here."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Activism? More like wack-tivism!

I saw an always enlightening (for those of you who can't read sarcasm, change "always" to "never") Fox 7 news segment this morning about a series of fundamentalist Christian teen rallies led by some neo-con, God-loving jerk. It was pretty typical stuff. Unfortunately, the most disgusting part was the jerk-off liberal activists protesting one of the events in San Francisco. They were holding signs and calling the Christian teens "racist, sexist, and homophobic." Say what you will about the roles of women and the treatment of homosexuals in fundamentalist Christianity, but there was something a little stupid about 40-odd adult white men yelling at 15 black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, and female teenagers who were excited about Jesus. It would be nice if the teenagers decided to experience a little bit of life firsthand before adopting an absolutist worldview, and it would also be nice if the activist jerks would take all the time, energy, and money they spent organizing their troupe, making signs, and driving to the protest and instead donated to WFMU or the American Cancer Society or took their grandmother or their best friend out to lunch or got drunk on Old Style tallboys. It would be nice if they politely talked to each other and exchanged viewpoints, and gave these opposing viewpoints some thought. I would like to live in a dreamworld where we all respected each other a little more.
On that note, I want to apologize to Pedro the Lion for saying a few months back that he/it was the worst artist in rock. I heard two or three Pedro the Lion songs recently and realized that the college-radio DJ announcing the horrible song as a Pedro the Lion song made a mistake. The songs I heard sound nothing like the purported "Pedro the Lion" song that so offended my delicate ears that cold December morn. In fact, Pedro the Lion is far from being the worst band/man in rock. I still wouldn't buy a Pedro the Lion album, but I would not smash his records over my knee if they somehow were found on my person. I'm going to assume the horrible song I heard was on the Saddle Creek label, or possibly Team Love. Something that bad has to be Conor Oberst-related.

In other hilarious protest news, a small group of people picketed a recent R. Kelly show in Austin. They came up with a great chant: "We want R&B, not child pornography!" What a courageous stand. I wish I had been there to join them. What fun we would have had. What injustice we would have exposed. What outrage we would have expressed. These are the signs I would have made:
"We want to listen to soul,
not have our teenage daughter used as a toilet bowl!"
"We want to hear R&B,
not be covered in pee!"
"Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!"
"More slow jams,
less golden showers!"
"R. Kelly likes to piss on girls. That is ridiculous!"
"I like sandwiches!"
That would have been a great protest.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I can't improve on this one

This one goes out to my brother. Here is the entirety of an IMDB news item entitled "Jackson's snake film creates huge buzz":

"Samuel L. Jackson's new mile-high thriller "Snakes on a Plane" has created such a buzz among internet film fans, movie bosses have called for re-shoots - to give the film a tougher rating. The film, which stars Jackson as an FBI agent trying to keep a federal witness alive onboard a plane full of snakes, wrapped last September - but went back before the cameras earlier this month for five days of additional shooting. Film bosses at distributor New Line Cinema opted to add new scenes to the film to take the movie from PG-13 into R-rated territory, according to industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter. They claim the second round of filming became necessary after intense and growing fan interest in the film, which is scheduled to be released this summer. Among the reported additions to the film is a foul-mouthed rant from Jackson in which his agent character bellows, "I want these motherf**king snakes off the motherf**king plane!" The line is expected to take on cult status. The film-makers have reportedly added more gore, more deaths, more nudity and more snakes to the finished product."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Adventures in proofreading

My new job is strictly dullsville, daddy-o's, but sometimes I read funny things in the books I proofread. Today, for example, I stumbled upon a treasure chest of comical amusements, arcana, and madcap nuttery. Bust a move:
1) See if you can guess the subject of this book by a random sampling of items in the index. Win a kick in the crotch! Here are the random items:
Pacific Rim
glam rock
Battle of the Beers
Ben Affleck
air fresheners
laundry detergent
Amstel Light
2) A rare moment of poetic, concise insight from the same index (these two items actually followed each other):
2004 presidential election
3) In a book about a painter in Taos, New Mexico who started a society of fellow Taos artists to promote their work in the early 20th Century, these phrases come from a flyer advertising a fundraising dance for the society:
"Don't forget the evening Wednesday July 27th. Make no other engagement."
"Delicious refreshments will be served at popular prices."
4) The art book is old and is being reprinted, word for word. It's being scanned. During the scanning process, odd typos can occur. Example: A sentence that should have read, "He lived in the house," instead reads, "He lived tit the house." Doesn't that seem like a phrase that should have been used in the 1970s to describe hanging out? I wish I had access to a time machine, so I could go to a small town or suburban neighborhood ca. 1976 and become a burnout. I would listen to Little Feat and Foghat and sit on the hood of my car in the parking lot of the Conoco station. High school kids would eventually pull in, chat me up, and ask me to buy them beer. I would buy the beer, then drink it with them in an abandoned trailer in the country. When the high school kids see me on the street, they say, "Hey, man, what's happening?" I reply," Just livin' tit, my man. Just livin' tit."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Woodwind nut gas

I'm not really supposed to read the books I proofread at work for content, but sometimes I just can't help it. Today, I was proofreading a book about landmark alimony cases and one case in particular caught my eye. A woman was suing her ex-husband for massive alimony, in part to compensate for the "extreme mental cruelty" he showed her during their marriage. Examples of the cruelty were pretty basic, with the exception of this one: "incessant and inappropriate passing of gas."

Another book I worked on today was about libel, defamation, and copyright and trademark cases involving celebrities. The book briefly mentioned a lawsuit brought by Woody Allen against some kind of business that used an Allen lookalike in a print advertisement. Here's the good part. They described Allen as a "filmmaker and clarinet entertainer." Hey, everybody! Look at me! I'm a drum entertainer! Since this afternoon, I have had an image in my head of Allen alone in a room full of clarinets, telling jokes, juggling, and doing a little softshoe razzmatazz to his captive audience of woodwinds.

Last week, I proofread a self-defense manual that included pictures of a high-heeled blonde squeezing, kicking, and kneeing the testicles of a bearded assailant. Actually, that might have been from a magazine I keep under the bed. I'll get back to you on that.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Collage #6

Collage # 6
"Sex Cymbal"
Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 20, 2006

Great moments in SXSW history

I've been shirking this bloggity-poo for several days because I attended the big clusterfuck of hipster douchebags, aka South by Southwest, last week. I flew solo, sparing Mrs. Mystery the pain of enduring four consecutive nights of rock fever, bobbing and weaving my way in and out of the crowds and clubs like a graceful teenage swan. Oddly enough, for a man as socially awkward and hermit-like (or hermetically sealed) as the doctor of mystery, I ran into people I know every single night. I enjoyed the randomness of the friendly encounters, and I also enjoyed spending all that time alone, watching people and coming and going as I liked. I also spent over 100 dollars on beer. It would be hilarious if I did that at a liquor store, but, alas, the tally was reached by local merchants inflating their prices to gouge tourists, not through any massive consumption on my part. I'll probably write about the music later, but let's talk about douchebags and ephemera first.

1) The bouncers at the Exodus club are a bunch of fucking Neanderthals. I got thumped in the chest for standing on the stairs too long, people were thrown out for reasons as random as staring at the bouncers, taking pictures of the bands, or getting a little tipsy. One of these uber-douches, violently removing an intoxicated man, screamed at us to "get out of the way" though his path to the door was clear and slammed directly into us with the full force of his steroid-friendly physique. Those guys can straight up eat some dogshit. Oddly, the bartenders were excellent.
2) I had to stand in line for thirty minutes next to the two most repulsive women I've ever encountered, at least since last month. They were loudly giving a massively cliched hipster's guide to Austin to a couple of guys from out of town, probably unsolicited. They were apparently being controlled by the same puppetmaster because they were in absolute consensus on every absolutist know-it-all opinion expressed by either of their stupid faces. They even finished each other's sentences. How cute. I want to thank them for setting me straight, though. Apparently, my favorite place to see live music, Stubb's, is "the worst place to see live music in Austin." Is the sound bad, the out-of-towners reasonably asked. "No, the sound is good. Particularly if you stand by the tree. The sound is perfect next to the tree." Huh? "It's too dusty. Also, we saw LCD Soundsystem there, and it was too cold to dance." What's Austin like when SXSW is not going on? "It's a sleepy hamlet. Everyone is laid back to a fault." Where's the best Mexican food? "If you want to eat good Mexican food in Austin, the only place to get it is the east side." Is the barbecue at Stubb's good? "Stubb's is tourist barbecue. Again, the only place to get good barbecue is on the east side." Aren't these ladies precious? Eating exclusively in minority neighborhoods gives them a badge of hipster authenticity. We are so enlightened, so free. We are so down with black and Latino culture, as long as we can eat it. To be fair, the food on the east side is pretty damn good, but there's a lot of great things over there besides food, and a lot of great Mexican food and barbecue on the west, north, and south sides as well. But hipsters exist only in absolutist worlds, where the greatness of one thing negates everything else. Stubb's may be "tourist barbecue," but I think that phrase could be better used to describe the contents of the two women's brains.
3) Overheard conversation between two drunk guys, again at Exodus, while waiting at the bar for my drink.
Drunk 1: Dude, I'm trying to get some puss tonight.
Drunk 2: Drugs?
D1: No, not drugs. Puss.
D2: Ohhhh. Puss. Not drugs.
D1: No. Puss.
D2: Puss would be good. Drugs would be good, too.
D1: Yeah. Puss would be good and drugs would be good, too.

One hour later, I went back to the bar, and the conversation was still going on!

4) After Superchunk's set on Saturday night, David Cross sneaks onstage and says a few words. A completely baffled looking guy walks up to me and says: Was that David Cross?
Me: Yeah.
Baffled guy, almost angry, intently staring into my eyes like I'm some conduit between David Cross and him: What's he doing here?
Me: Probably seeing some music.
Guy, shaking his head, still perturbed, but visibly relaxing a bit: Whoaaah!

5) My favorite moment, in the bathroom at Stubbs, when a world-weary LA hipster got schooled by a drunken moron. At the paper towel dispenser:
LA Hipster (after getting a paper towel from the motion senser dispenser): Man, I'm from L.A. and I've never seen anything like this.
Drunken Moron, visibly perturbed: What? You're from L.A. and you've never seen a paper towel dispenser like this one? You've never seen one of these before? You never have?
LAH (unaware he's being fucked with): Yeah, I'm from L.A. and I thought I'd seen everything, but I've never seen these before.
DM: All you do is move your hand in front of it and the paper towel comes out!
LAH: Yeah, but I've never seen one of these in L.A.
DM: Dude, it's not that interesting.
(everybody laughs)

Celebrity sightings: J Mascis, the aforementioned David Cross, Beatle Bob, David Fricke (I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel with the last two)
Personal behavior that made me laugh but also disturbed me: While on my way from one club to another, I stopped for pizza, and then I stopped for tacos.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More quality journalism

I love this headline on Yahoo News:
"Report: Stone to Bare All in 'Basic Instinct 2'"
I'll bet that's quite a report.

An innocuous little celebrity headline is given some kind of magical journalistic heft simply by the placement of the word "report." Maybe our intrepid reporter had to be blindfolded and driven to a remote shadow organization with possible terrorist ties deep in the Iraqi desert to get the goods on Sharon Stone's boobies.

Report: I ate at Jack in the Box.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Two absurdities

1. I was driving home from work last Friday with the windows rolled down because my air conditioning doesn't work. Roy Orbison was playing on a mix tape in my car. At one point in the drive, I turned a corner, passing a car occupied by two frat-looking guys stopped in the other direction at a red light. The Roy Orbison was kind of loud, so they looked over at my car. Then the driver of the car looked at me and yelled "Queer!" Roy Orbison can be a little operatic, I guess, but it's sort of like being called a "nigger" for listening to The Kinks.
2. When I was in college, I worked in a record store. A small but loyal goth contingent dropped massive amounts of money two or three times a month on a stack of terrible, terrible music. Most of them were high school kids, so they must have been indulged by lousy parents of considerable means. I jump to this conclusion with no proof besides the $3,000 a month they spent on spooky retard rock, their youthfulness, and the fact that no one would possibly hire anyone who looked like this equation: (Mick Mars c. 1985 + Count Chocula) powdered sugar = douchebag city. One Friday night, a coworker got sick and went home. The other coworker was in the back office doing some paperwork. That left me manning the store alone. A goth girl who was a regular came in with a guy I'd never seen before. This guy was the ultimate goth twat. Both eyebrows were completely shaven, and he wore heavy white pancake makeup, long black coat in the middle of summer, black eyeliner, black lipstick, black fingernails, dyed black hair, all the accoutrements, etc. He and the girl both dropped about 300 dollars on shitty CDs, and then they left. Ten minutes later, Count Twatula came back in by himself. He ordered another CD under a name that certainly wasn't his, though I wouldn't find that out until about five minutes later. He went back to the goth section and started flipping through the discs. I thought it was odd that he had come back in the store alone, but since he'd already dropped a huge wad of cash, I wasn't expecting him to steal anything. I walked out from behind the counter and flipped through a magazine in the corner. That was the chance he had been waiting for. He grabbed a stack of about ten CDs and hauled ass out the door. He was running so fast, he dropped a few of them and almost ran into the door. Someone, probably the girl, was sitting in an idling car in the parking lot next door, and the car was gone before I could regain my composure and chase after them. This anecdote doesn't really have much of a point, but have you ever seen a goth run? That shit is absurd.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Quality journalism

"Axl Rose is making his old Guns N' Roses band mates feel unwelcome to the jungle."
-- first line of an AP article about Axl Rose's lawsuit against Slash and Duff McKagan