Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Still More SXSW Coverage, Part Two

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2007 at 7:18 PM

Jaime Lees
Ooh, pretty colors. Hi, Thurston.
RFT freelancer Jaime Lees didn't just dance onstage with the Stooges at SXSW; she also saw other acts. Here's her take on other highlights of the weekend — with bonus video footage of Thurston Moore and Local H's Scott Lucas!

Local H singer Scott Lucas played a brief (and rare) acoustic set at Momo's, the most relaxed and groovy venue I entered all during SXSW. (Cheap drinks? Free pizza? Breezy rooftop patio? I'll take it.) Lucas started off with a new tune, "Them's Fighting Words," (introduced as "Flight of Icarus," an Iron Maiden song), and followed up with Local H stand-outs "All The Kids Are Right," "Fine and Good" and "Hey, Rita." Though he ended with an achingly gorgeous cover of Concrete Blonde's "Joey," for the most part, Lucas seemed a little stiff. This might be owing to his early time slot or his strange habit of seeming more sincere and soul-bearing when playing a cover song. Still, witnessing these songs stripped of his band's trademark big riffs and thumping beats makes it easier to hear how beautifully simple a pop song can be. (Here's a clip from the set after the jump.)

After Momo's, I headed to the Austin Convention Center (SXSW headquarters) to sit in on a David Fricke interview with the Stooges. My take in another post. But by the end of the Stooges interview, Austin was starting to heat up. After a gloriously refreshing intermission in my hotel bed, I got up and trudged to the Beauty Bar, determined to catch the young Chicago DJ duo who go by the name of Flosstradamus. It's not that Josh Young (J2K) and Curt Cameruci (DJ Autobot) are technically flawless DJs (two guys, two laptops, four turntables), or even that their sound is inventive and fresh; what makes Flosstradamus an impressive force is their game.

Sporting a fly B-boy fashion sense, wicked smiles and a playful "Can You Rock It Like This?" attitude, they bring the noise. The pair plays a combination of disco rock, old-school hip-hop, booty house and sample-heavy mash-ups that dare the audience to deny the urge to dance. The joint was jumpin' -- no lie. Historic rave essentials from artists such as Daft Punk and Deee-Lite are mixed with samples from the Beatles and LCD Soundsystem. Basically, if you were hosting a house party and you knew Flosstradamus, you'd beg them to rock your basement.

Friday night's showcase at Mohawk was one of my favorite functions. Hosted by indie record label Ecstatic Peace, it featured a headline performance by label founder Thurston Moore, long-time Sonic Youth guitarist and living mop-topped rock encyclopedia. Forgoing his feedback-heavy, noise-based roots, Moore's acoustic (!) set was pretty -- even delicate. Joined on stage by Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley (billed as a "special guest") Moore debuted new, unreleased songs called "Friend," "Frozen Guitar," "The Shape" and "Silver." By the last song, however, Moore couldn't resist the urge to jam out, incorporating snippets of favorites such as the Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog" into a loud swirling, trippy climax.

Moore's label-mates, Pagoda, are best known for having actor Michael Pitt as its lead singer. Pitt recently played the lead in Gus Van Sant's Last Days, a film based on speculation surrounding the last few days in the life of Kurt Cobain, Nirvana's singer and a God-like cultural icon. I thought the movie was mostly tedious and boring as hell, but Pitt is riveting on-screen and on-stage. Actually, it's so easy to be distracted by Pitt's Cobainesque guttural caterwaul that audiences might miss some of the best ingredients in the band's sound. First of all, they have an amazing cellist who seems to think he's playing an electric guitar. His hands alternately caress and attack the cello viciously, creating an explosive noise that's very different than what you would expect from the usually snooze-inducing instrument. Overall, Pagoda sounded a little like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, a bit like Sonic Youth and fully like the second coming of grunge. But in the good way, I swear.

In short, I rocked. I rolled. I raved. Mission accomplished.

-Annie Zaleski

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