Say You, Say Me

Step into the nasty shoes of a SXSW correspondent

Mar 24, 2004 at 4:00 am
South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas, is a madhouse multiplied, a huge seething mass of music and mayhem. Rather than try to describe the whole ordeal or just brag about the great acts I caught, we're going to focus on Saturday, the final day and the one in which most of the St. Louis acts played. I'm going to put you in my (by then, very smelly) shoes to try to convey the sheer lunacy of the day.

11:00 a.m.: Wake up, moan, inspect blisters. Owing to some poor planning, you ended up walking 25 blocks in one stretch last night. That explains the amount of pain your lower body is in. What do you call it when you limp with both feet?

11:20 a.m.: In Texas they put chorizo in biscuits and gravy. Miss St. Louis.

11:59 a.m.: You run into Jeff Jarrett, manager for Nadine. You've heard the rumors, so you cut to the chase: Is Nadine, one of St. Louis's favorite bands, breaking up? His pause before answering tells you everything you need to know. He'll send you an official statement from the band later, but it seems to boil down to Adam Reichmann and Steve Rauner heading out on their own. Rauner has joined Reichmann here in Austin at the last minute, and they'll be performing under the name Nadine while being backed by Trampoline Records labelmates. But it seems likely that the name will probably get dropped in the near future, too.

12:30 p.m.: A cab takes you to a Harp magazine showcase, where Magnolia Summer is playing. These Undertow Records folks are making some of the prettiest music in the Lou, and the light mist of rain that falls during the set just adds to the sense of calm their ever-so-slightly twangy music inspires. Cherish this.

1:35 to 4:00 p.m.: Chat with the fellows from Magnolia Summer, catch a cab back to the main strip on Sixth Street, watch several bad metal bands performing on the street as you try to plan your schedule, eat some Vietnamese food.

4:00 to 4:19 p.m.: Your name is on a list for the Blender magazine party where (kinda sorta) Nadine is playing. The big man at the door can't find your name. But you are on the list. He can't find your name. But you're on it. Oh, your name's on the list. Go on in.

4:45 p.m.: Right on schedule, kinda-sorta Nadine hits the stage with "Dead of the Morning" -- just Reichmann and Rauner playing gentle and smooth with some gorgeous steel guitar. Soon they're joined by some members of Minibar and other folks and each song is a little faster and a little louder and then fifteen minutes later they're out of there. That's a short set right there.

5:25 p.m.: Minnie Driver is onstage, and very pretty.

5:48 p.m.: Pete Yorn pops onstage and is even prettier.

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.: You give some time to NCAA basketball. Sitting down is fun!

8:06 p.m.: Time for some crunk. Some really awful Austin crunk. But hey, these are the opening acts, right? You're here for "St. Louis legend" Sylk Smoov.

9:35 p.m.: Sylk hits the stage, the first MC you've ever seen who smokes a cigarette while rapping.

9:40 p.m.: You check your watch to see how much longer Sylk is will be performing.

9:43 p.m.: Another watch check. Sylk has a strong voice, but his nasty, simplistic lyrics aren't that great. Neither is the music.

10:00 to 10:20 p.m.: Catch a ride to check out the much better hip-hop of Handsome Boy Modeling School for ten minutes before going to see the local boys in Grand Ulena. By now thousands of people are out on the street.

10:22 p.m.: It's not that Grand Ulena sucks. Really, it isn't. It's that you have to have very specialized tastes to enjoy its jerky, rumbling bursts of noise. Folks in the know tell you they're great. You're just not in the know.

11:00 p.m.: St. Louis native Scott Windsor moved to California and became the Lyndsay Diaries. Our loss is Cali's gain. Windsor's voice is beseeching, almost falsetto. Grand Ulena fans would probably want to throttle the wuss life out of his wuss body, but for you it's another moment to savor.

11:45 p.m. to 12:20 a.m.: Go see Philadelphia's the Lilys. Cram into overpacked bar, wait for an overlong sound check, hear one song, realize you don't like the Lilys, flee.

12:25 a.m.: Remember food. Grab a hot dog and sit on the curb as a maelstrom of drunk music fans swirls around you.

12:40 a.m.: Run into Beatle Bob. You see that guy everywhere.

12:45 a.m.: Realize you can either catch a cab and go see the Bottle Rockets play again (but in a different city!) or stay right on the curb and listen to the Scottish pop gods in the Delgados play. Make the selfish choice.

2:03 a.m.: You've been doing this for four days straight now. So it's hard to be sad it's over. Your feet want to dance with joy, but that won't be happening for a while.