No Badge South By - SaturdayBy Emilie Friedlander
Emilie Friedlander is one of the founders of Adhoc.fm, a daily independent music and visual arts publication brought to you by the brilliant minds behind Altered Zones (RIP). Check them out on Facebook and Twitter!
Let's just get this out in the open: it's total bullshit that anyone should ever have to pay $750 to wait in line to see bands in overcrowded, poorly run, and shamelessly sponsored concert halls, patios, and dive bars. But beyond the heavy price tag and the 56-foot vending machine/sky-raping phallus Doritos constructed on E 5th and Red River is that many of these bands don't see a cent for playing of these showcases. If you're a band at SXSW and you're going to play for free, you might as well play in your own element to people who care about who you are and what you do, rather than a bunch of Harold and Kumar bros who passed on Cancun because they couldn't find their passports under their puka shell necklaces.
But you don't really need the badge--the best places to see music during SXSW are in the outskirts of the 6th street area at the warehouses, house parties, and impromptu shows on the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge or behind the Wendy's on 6th and Brushy under the freeway. On Saturday, the penultimate day of the festival, I asked Ad Hoc co-founder Emilie Friedlander to share some of her favorite acts from the badgeless realm. --Ric Leichtung
Photo credit: Marc Masters
Things were grassy and familial at the Monophonus Records showcase in East Austin, where visitors discovered themselves inside a residential compound that included colorfully painted art studios and an outhouse fashioned in the image of the Flatiron building. Standing on a stage fitted with a carpet of actual grass, a bearded, bespectacled M. Geddes Gengras let rip a 15-minute blast of analog beats and synth tones, ranging from deep bass to high-pitched signal skree. Sun Araw bandmate Cameron Stallones was standing at the front snapping cellphone picks as the Los Angeles synthesist crouched low behind an open gear box, a cigarette in his fingers burning slowly down to the tip. Imagine the violent contortions of LA beat music layered so many times back onto themselves that you get the flickering saturation of a drone, and that’s kind of what it sounded like.
Photo credit: Marc Masters
After the sun went down, a bit closer to downtown, art rock pioneers Supreme Dicks took the stage in a slightly chintzy-looking cocktail lounge and pool hall. With its dark ambiance and dowdy chandeliers, the “Legendary White Swan” seemed an appropriately oddball location for a reunion appearance from the Western Mass collective, which formed out of Hampshire college in the early ‘80s, and once counted Dinosaur Junior’s Lou Barlow as a revolving member. Those fortunate enough to stumble upon the showcase, presented by San Fran’s Aquarius Records and a label called Sleeping Giant Glossolalia, got a small but powerful dose of the slanted pop songwriting and raggedy improvisation the band is known for, the influence of which can be heard everywhere from early Sonic Youth to New England weird-folksters like MV & EE. Song structures, marked by repetitious vocal lines and interlocking guitars, were stretched and pulled and adorned with flaming guitar squeals. Occasionally, they were dropped entirely, giving way to eruptions of squall. The sight of band member Holly Catarancuic performing a mysterious banana and orange peeling ritual at the front of the stage reinforced the feeling of being witness to a hot mess of the most awe-inspiring kind.
Photo credit: Samantha Cornwell
Closer to last call, a flock of pretty wilted-looking artists and concert goers packed into the Long Branch Inn on East 11th for the fourth and final night of Impose Magazine’s Austin Imposition. “It’s been crazy,” said Indra Dunis of Los Angeles’ Peaking Lights, sounding a bit winded as she informed the crowd that this was the group’s final appearance of the week. Shouts from the bar staff updating visitors on the bar's progressive stages of “closed-ness” made us realize that this was probably the final show we’d catch this year. Their set, which consisted primarily of new material, was the perfect answer to the feeling of wanting to rage really hard when there are no drinks left to drink, and even standing erect in the bathroom line sounds like a painful proposition. It was dubbier than anything I'd ever heard from them before, and proceeded like an actual dub performance, with Aaron Coyes manning the levels on a series of very bass-heavy backing tracks as Indra intoned nightingale-sweet mantras through various degrees of delay. The lurching, slippery grooves didn't just get the brave-at-heart moving--they even got some of them making out.