PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

South by Southwest 2003: A Field Journal: Final Weekend/ Music: Best of Show

Southwest 2003

A Field Journal: Final Weekend/ Music: Best of Show by Tobias Peterson and Terry Sawyer

Sondre Lerche

Today's report by Terry Sawyer

Final Weekend/ Music: Best of Show

On the last day of SXSW, I spent the afternoon relaxing and doing mild boyfriend maintenance. The weather here has been doting. It was a good time to spend just hanging out, anticipating a night of great music and trying to reconcile all my provincial reservations about this festival. In the morning, I interviewed one of SXSW's newbies, Sondre Lerche, and spent a lot of the time talking to him about what it actually means to drop one's music into this mess. For a 20-year-old he had a startlingly firm grip on reality. For the most part, he just talked about exposure, press, meeting new people and garnering new listeners. He had no delusions that this was a very good gig from an artistic perspective, but that it was a business and well, business is business. I still think that the festival could be structured differently to be a more accurate representation of undiscovered talent, but I guess that, like it or leave it, SXSW has evolved into a feeding pool for corporate scouts that may or may not leave a few crumbs for music loving locals. As an act of minor rebellion, I had wanted to make my way over to Fuck by Fuck You (a delightfully named counter-festival) to catch Adult Rodeo play, but to be honest, at this point I wanted to take in the sunshine without the crowds.

After a joint and a few beers, I was ready to head out to my first show of the night. Buck 65 put on a set that, frankly, I still can't get an adjective around. He sounded like some nutty old man that lives in a shack who came out to tell you to get the fuck off his land but decided to stick around and spin a few yarns. His voice is pure hillbilly grumble, like a burning barrel got stuck in his throat. At one point he started singing this song about how his father lost his mind after his mother's death, and I thought I was going to burst into tears. Oh hell, I did cry. In fact, I spent the better part of the song choking it in because I worried about looking uncool in front of all those people of seasoned indifference. He told stories, some set to music and some weren't, but they all struck bone. With a full a band, he sounded more like Johnny Cash fronting Black Sabbath than his usual otherworldly skew of hip-hop. He ended the set with a song that sounded like a guns blazin' cross-country car chase with the Sheriff hot on his trail. A well picked finisher for a performance so refreshingly lawless. I left completed freaked out, displaced by awe, and roaming into night with more satisfaction that I could bear. Despite all the reservations I had about SXSW, I was still able to have one the most incredible music experience of my life. As the credit card companies keep telling us, that kind of thing is priceless.

I have an incredibly soft spot that hasn't healed for hot, cocky British rockers. From the Stones to the Stone Roses, there is something about someone who has the goods and isn't afraid to tell you loudly that makes me want to put posters on my wall and send prayers through them. The second show I caught was a total guilty pleasure. The Coral have already received obscene amounts of press, particularly since they are the fixation du jour of the British Music scribes who mint trends like South American currency. But they were badasses. Playing to a packed crowd at Stubb's BBQ, they owned the stage with a performance that looked and felt like the coolest ever episode of Ed Sullivan. I did, however, skip out at the end to catch a few songs from Thee Shams. Hats off for covering "Under My Thumb" and treating it like any other bar song, which it is. From what I caught, they sound a lot like the Stones though without all the stadium ego excess. I wish I could have caught the set from the beginning, but such are the vagaries of having so many bands and only one body.

The Crackpipes

I wanted to make sure to end my night on a positive note, heading off to see another homegrown band (representin'). There's this guy Ray who works at my favorite coffee shop who has a band called the Crackpipes. I knew I loved the CD, so I figured that it would be well worth my time to check them out. Ray is Texas quiet, which means he doesn't speak unless he needs to or it could be that he's considering whether or not to eat you. In contrast to his normally unrippled façade, Ray's stage persona is like having someone snap off a power line and jam it into the base of your spine. The Crackpipes play a furious skull fuck of televangelical punk blues. Ray sings like a snake dancing preacher possessed by righteous rock and roll truths. In fact, horny on Jesus seizuring would seem to be the most appropriate response to music so jagged, driving, and testifying. I can't wait until they get him some sort of skid row choir made up of junkies, prostitutes, and well intentioned perverts. Everything about the show confirmed all that I love about the unpredictable chemistry of this city.

I was tired and couldn't stay for all of the Crackpipe's show despite the fact that I think they're madly gifted. I wandered the Austin streets just marveling at thick flows of human traffic and trying to figure out what I thought about it all. A small little kid part of me was hoping I would bump into Buck 65 in the midst of the throngs and tell him how much his show changed my life. Y'know, then he'd throw me his towel and say something inspiring. I'm glad I didn't. Given the context, it probably would have sounded I was going to ask him to promote my whiskey or sign his soul away to my multi-national defense-contracting record label.

As I wandered, I saw a woman carrying pamphlets about a message of love from our extra-terrestrial friends. I saw some cowgirl standing up on a U-Haul trying to moon the people in the venue she couldn't get into, but unfortunately the cops talked her down first. Then I watched some woman in a spaghetti strap dress lean down and leave two glasses in the middle of the street hoping, I presume, that cater waiters would be by shortly to whisk them away. When it came down to it, I think my neighbor's boyfriend had the most insightful thing to say about SXSW. He said "I look at it this way. Would you rather be going out this weekend or will you have more fun next weekend?" However you decide to answer that question, will accurately gauge how you'd feel about this festival. I won't be back. Next weekend the great music will still be here, I can go with my friends, and the general level of courtesy will have spiked dramatically. But I appreciate the opportunity to have a fresh look at myself and the things I thought I wanted from my life. Back to the drawing board with a fresh shot of cynicism and my faith in music and Austin renewed.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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