Don't Mess With Excess

By Melissa Maerz and Peter S. Scholtes

Call it survival of the fattest: Every year in mid-March, thousands of bands, publicists, record label execs, critics, and fans from around the world bloat their beer bellies with strong drinks during Austin, Texas's South by Southwest music festival. And some of them even listen to bands!

Now, City Pages is bringing a full account of the four-day orgy to you. In the next few pages we watch aging indie bands stick it to corporate media, we witness white-robed hippies ascend to a higher plane, and discover a dude in a headband who seems to be stalking us. A caution to younger readers: Putative adults will become stoned, naked, and exceptionally stupid in the course of these chronicles--especially the writers themselves.

Tony Nelson


Wednesday, March 12

Oxbow at Privilege, 11:00 p.m. Eugene Robinson's got balls--and he's not afraid to show them to you. Wearing nothing but a pair of grayish tighty-whities, the California boxer-cum-Oxbow frontman looms over a packed crowd of emaciated punks whose fresh black hair dye runs down their sweaty necks. With fists clenched, he looks like he's ready to shatter the jaw of anyone brave enough to throw the first punch. The punks are smart enough to keep their hands in their pockets. Robinson is smart enough to shove his hands down his pants, making the punks go wild. He pulls up his goods, hanging brain in full view of everyone. Cough-syrup-fueled guitars swirl in dizzy fury, the Birthday Party basslines rattle Tracy Pew's bones, and then Robinson opens his mouth and lets out a mournful yowl that could break your heart and your eardrums at once.

Best moment of the night: When the squall slows to silence and the crowd pours out of the bar, a stark-naked Robinson dresses himself in the middle of the stage. The heavyweight titan suddenly looks vulnerable and small. You can still see the elastic marks from his underwear circling his middle. (MAERZ)


Thursday, March 13

Electrocute at Emo's Main Room, 1:00 a.m. This Berlin electroclash band is too cute. Really. Please, no more cuteness. Any more syncopated sock-hop dance moves or lyrics like "I love my daddy!" and the audience is going to vomit Care Bears. Two young girls--a brunette in camouflage and a blonde in what looks like a nurse costume--proceed to sing over prerecorded samples in voices that smart people reserve for babies and puppies. The Peaches-wannabe beats are so bad that the performers end up apologizing in English that's probably learned from the French exchange students on Married with Children. "We fly zee 30 hours to be here, so please, you dance!" the brunette insists.

"Forget 30 hours," huffs one dissatisfied man in spectacles. "If in two minutes I don't see boobs, I'm leaving."

Sixty seconds later, the blond grants his wish. (MAERZ)


The Dicks' "No Fuckin' War" on my CD player at W. Fourth St., 3:00 p.m. I'm torn about the current war, but this '80s Austin punk band takes care to emphasize that wars are routine and that the routine itself is evil: "Where is it we're going now? It doesn't matter anyhow!"

I look in vain for this kind of passion among the SXSW bands. Later tonight, opening for Blur at La Zona Rosa, the Rapture scream because it seems like a cool idea to scream over a house beat--and it is. But the Dicks are like a guy throttling you on the bus: Listen to me! There's no driver! We're headed off a cliff! (SCHOLTES)


The Dirtbombs at Opal Divine's, 5:30 p.m. Nobody in his right mind over the age of 19 should be rocking this hard. It's just not healthy. Mick Collins is probably twice that: He looks like the sound guy at a blues club. And he's not just sweating; he's squirting. With two drummers and two bassists backing him, the singer plays like he has two guitars himself. Note to self: Detroit hype entirely justified. (SCHOLTES)


Friday, March 14

Har Mar Superstar and the Sugar Hill Gang at an undisclosed address, 2:00 a.m. The Dirtbombs played a private party held by Village Voice Media, our "parent" company--yes, a private party held within an already paid-entry festival. Later, at the Spin outdoor barbecue, my friend points out that the upper level of the restaurant is a designated "V.I.P." area--a party within the party within the party. I wonder if there's a closet for extremely super-important people.

The reason I note this "velvet rope" effect here is because somehow, miraculously, the puckish St. Paul singer Har Mar Superstar has wormed his way into this metaphorical level of desirable exclusivity--the inner circle, the velvet rope behind the velvet rope. On Thursday, "everybody" is talking about the Har Mar party with the Sugar Hill Gang taking place that night. It sounds like a hoax to me, and people, come on: It's only fucking Har Mar Superstar, an entertaining R&B parody, and the Sugar Hill Gang, a few guys who are hip-hop legends only because they were lucky enough to crib the right lyrics from Grandmaster Caz at the right moment in history.

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