Southern Culture on the Skids

Good taste and sobriety go down fighting at the music party of the year


The Hives at the Spin party at Stubb's, 4:00 p.m. "The Hives have been playing the same songs for about two and a half centuries!" jokes Swedish rocker Howlin' Pelle Almqvist before launching into a set of brand new garage yawners. Maybe they should have played the old tracks for another hundred years. "I don't think you were supposed to stop clapping that quickly," Almqvist laments.


"I don't think you were supposed to stop clapping that quickly": Pelle Almqvist of the Hives
Tony Nelson
"I don't think you were supposed to stop clapping that quickly": Pelle Almqvist of the Hives

David Cross at Emo's Mainroom, 10:15 p.m. Best line of the night, overheard: The snarky comedian takes on the pedophiliac-infested Catholic Church for opposing gay weddings. "It's like they're saying, 'I have a little boy to rape, and he's got the sweetest, tightest ass, but I'm not going to marry him because that would be wrong.'"


Saturday, March 20

Viva L'American Death Ray Music at Emo's Mainroom, 8:00 p.m. This Memphis group just might become the best uninfluential rock band at SXSW to ever sound like Velvet Underground. Unlike the lore attached to Viva's heroes, no one who sees them here tonight will go out and start a band. Of course, that's just because the handful of people assembled here tonight are already in their own bands. Tight-pants singer/guitarist Nicholas Ray delivers shout-outs to any and all musicians he spots in the audience while bassist Harlon T. Bobo (try to say his last name without giggling) and drummer Shane Callaway stand at the eye of Ray's feedback hurricane, holding on to their sunglasses so that they don't blow off their faces. The crowd sways along to the tour-de-force fuzz-rock, and by the end of the set, even the SXSW headliners in the crowd look like they want to join the band. Viva l'American rock music.


The Fever, late night/early morning at the Vice party in an unfurnished house off the main drag I enter this party to find an attractive couple sipping their way through a bathtub of beer in the backyard, Johnny Knoxville chatting with Earlimart's Aaron Espinoza on the front steps, my favorite new band (the Fever) covering my old favorite Sheila E. song ("Glamorous Life") on stage, and every rock writer I've ever read getting down to Daft Punk on the dance floor inside. This feels like heaven: I'd be happy to die here and now. Trouble is, my laminated entry badge is too dull to slit my wrists.

So instead, I watch the Fever fill the Voidoids void with growling guitars, quirky new-wave keyboards, and bratty vocals that hiccup their way past the pogoing throngs of admirers. I dance for hours as the DJ spins the Cure, Cyndi Lauper, Kylie Minogue, and the Pet Shop Boys to a room full of flailing limbs. I'm having such a good time that when the cops show up, I'm not even very offended that they claim they didn't come here just to join me in a sing-along to "West End Girls." Because even when they shut off the music and I head out to the next party, I know I'm having the best night of all time. After this, I will do everything in my power to replicate the SXSW experience back in Minneapolis. And if I have to install a beer bathtub in my office to do that, then by God, I'm willing to pay that price.

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