Monday, March 17, 2008

The Circus Leaves Town

Another SXSW is in the bag. I think I managed to wring about as much fun out of this year’s fest as possible without tempting illness. Having a laptop made covering the conference panels during the day much more efficient, though carting it around from club to club at night got a bit tedious.

My best laptop-related time savings came Friday night. I watched L.A. psych-pop quintet the Little Ones play at the Cedar Door, filed a review of their show at the convention center and managed to catch the last half of X’s DirectTV taping. I’d seen X with Billy Zoom back in the saddle at Emo’s several years back, but Friday’s performance was much more ferocious. I’m afraid X’s taping put Daryl Hall’s taping – at least the part Kate and I saw – to shame. Somewhere, John Oates must be laughing his moustache off.

Over the last four years, Saturday afternoon has emerged as my favorite part of SXSW week. The Chron doesn’t publish a daily edition on Sunday, so there are no more rapid-fire deadlines to worry about after Friday night. My go-to Saturday spot is the Pop Culture Press party at Dog & Duck. I got there just in time to see the Cowsills (Susan, Bob and Paul, pictured left) perform “The Rain, The Park and Other Things" and "Hair." Those family harmonies were still blissfully intact, too.

Then I ran down to the Convention Center to cover Margaret Moser’s excellent panel on the history of 16 Magazine and its unheralded role in the development of rock journalism. Susan Cowsill and Taylor Hanson recalled their decades-apart experiences as teen idols, while former 16 editor-turned-Ramones editor Danny Fields and Creem mainstay Jaan Uhelszki talked about 16 from the journalistic perspective. The whole thing made me feel a lot better about being one of those boys who read a girly mag to learn about Kiss and the Bay City Rollers.

After the panel, I headed back to Dog & Duck to catch the tail end of Magic Christian, the power-pop supergroup featuring guitarist Cyril Jordan of the Flamin’ Groovies, Blondie drummer Clem Burke and Plimsouls guitarist-turned-bassist Eddie Munoz (the latter two pictured left) along with vocalist Paul Kopf. I got there just in time to see them do “Shake Some Action,” which was some kind of providence. The Service Industry followed with a strong set of their finest worksongs like “Wake Up and Die.”

At this point, Kate insisted we take advantage of the unseasonably hot day by taking a dip in Barton Springs. True to form, I bitched and moaned the whole way down there before jumping in the water and immediately being glad we were there. We swam around for about 30 minutes before drying off and driving up to Spider House to see some of my New York Night Train pal Jonathan Toubin’s unofficial day party for Brooklyn bands. The husband-and-wife duo Shellshag were a whole lot of fun.

I didn’t even know Jonathan would be in town for SXSW until I randomly ran into him on Red River at 2:30 Wednesday morning. That’s how it is with the festival. You don't make plans - you just run into people.

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