Music

South by Southwest on a Shoestring: A Diary

Margaret Schwartz

Schwartz writes about her odyssey at this year's South By Southwest Festival in the 'Home of Live Music' [Austin, Texas]; the place where 'Music Still Matters.'

Denoument

800 Kimball Rd Iowa City, 7:48 am, 1 April. Loose, moisture-heavy snow is falling out of the pewter sky. The ground is bare though, and has been most of the winter. I keep thinking, as I do this time of year, that I should go out and rake some of that stuff up.

The rest of SXSW I spent recovering in Chez LF. We watched really stupid movies, like the Beatles' Help and the delicious if anyone remembers that one. We agreed for like the fiftieth time that Verhoven's Starship Troopers was the best movie ever. LF even showed me a movie he'd made, starring our friend Arthur as "Art" and a lot of Hebrew and Russian characters, and so forth. It was beautiful.

I lay in bed that last night and I listened to the peculiarly quiet sound of the Texas night, at least this night on this particular spot in Texas. Tomorrow I'll take the bus to the airport and go back to Iowa to write about my experience in the "Home of Live Music"; the place where "Music Still Matters."

I realize that LF and I were discussing these slogans, in more or less indirect ways, the whole week through. How we don't think that anyone should bother talking about The Strokes because it's arbitrary that we should have an opinion. How he still likes the White Stripes even despite the hype. How Black Sabbath is stoner rhythm and blues. LF earnestly believes you can tell a real honky tonk singer. I know less about it and demur, because I'm afraid I might not be able to.

What we were talking around and through was the ideal part, the part that "matters." This is a highly personal thing: over and over we found ourselves in disagreement (how sad LF shuns both Pavement and the Pixies!) but agreeing that these were matters of taste. Bad faith, on the other hand, was the abdication of that taste, of that inexplicable, personal set of dis-and in-clinations. People who feel like they have to form an opinion about The Strokes because Spin featured them on the cover of the "Only Bands That Matter" issue have handed over their personal taste to what amounts to a PR firm.

Fin

I'll end with one last detail from the MTV2 showcase. That Here Be Monsters neon sign didn't light up in the "Monsters" part, when the roadie (but better groomed) guy came to turn it on. I thought it was quite witty, at the time, to have a sign that said "Here Be Monsters" up above a stage set for rock music: the inevitable image of a museum case displaying Monsters of Rock just like at the Museum of Natural History in New York.

And the inevitable suggestion that here was the place where meaning stopped.

Anyway the "Monsters" fails to light and the roadie (b.b.g.) guy pulls the string a couple more times, shrugs, and slithers away. And that's just about how much clout those bastards have over me, I thought to myself (probably grinning like an idiot). Maybe because I was standing next to the pianist from Starsailor and he'd just gotten me high or because it seemed so improbable that anyone would think me an audience worth impressing or that, finally, I wasn't flattered by any of it, but excited by the chance to be there, where absolutely nothing happened. Not like I thought it would, anyway.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.