At the end of the final night at South By Southwest 2011, I walked down 6th Street, a scene you can surely picture without my assistance. But I have this press badge to earn, so: By 1 a.m. on Saturday night / Sunday morning, downtown Austin was a zombie movie scored as a Flaming Lips-ish experiment of 100 bass drums and 10,000 random club samples synched to the convulsive rhythms of vomiting. The cops stood before barricades, their horses scratching the beer-drenched asphalt, watching the current of the undead churn and rush in all directions as if tsunami driven.
This is not poetic license.
Zombies clutched their zombie friends for staggering support, zombies hurled cups full of ice and soda and flung promo CDs at other zombies (zombies are assholes), zombies made out in the street, zombies walked on stilts, zombies stood in line for the PureVolume party, zombies in animal-totem spirit hoods still had some bar or club or warehouse to see and be seen at, zombies consumed the unholy feast of red-pepper-flaked pizza slices. And I was a zombie too.
But even though Yoko Ono would soon be singing with her son Sean at Elysium, Deer Tick would be smashing guitars at its Nirvana tribute gig and Starfucker would surely be punctuating a 4-day-long party at the Parish, this zombie was as content as a still-vertical corpse could be. I'd just seen a charming, young, decidedly not undead quartet from New Orleans called Hurray For the Riff Raff. In the posh Victorian Room at the Driskill I took in one last weak cocktail (if you're in St. Louis and reading this, tip your bartenders for our drink prices and pours), sat on the carpet and heard a supremely casual yet somehow just-right and original take on old time blues and fiddle swing. Singer Alynda Lee Segarra, covered head to toe in glitter, plucked an old Kay guitar, beat fiddle sticks on Yosi Perlstein's fiddle and sang like she understood where this music comes from -- and where it needs to go if it is not to become zombified.The same could be said for the rest of my highlights from the last two days of SXSW 2011.
Dum Dum Girls, Joy Formidable and La Sera at Waterloo Records. These three bands, all led by hip but not hipster females, played under the Friday afternoon sun on a free stage, and all three moved me, somewhat unpredictably. Dum Dum Girls transcend fishnet fashion with precisely played and distorted girl-group pop, with all the hooks of the genre, and enough sex to give the front row the kind of hard-ons known only to 22-year-old indie kids. Joy Formidable, in contrast - though a prolonged lunch break meant I'd only hear its finale - super-collided the shit out of thrashing pure punk, all the way down to their knees and asses. Ferocious and never to be missed again. In further contrast, La Sera (AKA Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls), simply sang two-minute pop songs and smiled sweetly beneath a bonnet and before her stripped-down rock combo. "I almost couldn't finish that song," she laughed and gestured to a guy in a ripped shirt in the crowd. "I was distracted by your nipples."
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