Various Artists: SXSW Live 2007 [DVD]

Lee 'Scratch' Perry -- photo by Drew Goren /Subway

South By Southwest is a must-see festival for diehard music fans. This DVD won’t replace that experience, but it’ll at least give you a good taste.

Various Artists

SXSW Live 2007

Label: Shout! Factory
US Release Date: 2007-08-21

The SXSW conference is an eclectic gathering of musicians, media representatives, and music business weasels. This new collection of performance highlights from the 2007 edition evidences this inclusive approach. It’s but a small sampling of a large meal, yet it is sure to tantalize most everyone’s taste buds -- at least once.

The single DVD is broken down into appearances caught at The Bat Bar and The Lone Star Lounge. The Bat Bar’s offerings begin with The Bravery’s “Honest Mistake”. The Bravery is one of the few modern bands that can take familiar ‘80s synth pop, and somehow make it sound brand new. Next up is Sweden’s Peter Bjorn & John, who perform “Young Folks”. Who says you can’t include whistling in a hit song? PB&J sandwich this un-rock 'n' roll element into its hit tune perfectly. Ozomatli, speaking of eclecticism, is like three or four bands combined into one. You get jazzy horns, hip-grooves and Latin vibes – in the one song “City Of Angels”.

Now, I realize Los Lobos has earned the unofficial title of being LA’s band; but Ozomatli also represents the West Coast’s melting pot particularly well. The Automatic Automatic breaks from this video disc’s mix 'n' match approach with a relatively straight rock performance of “Monster”. They’re followed by the Coldplay-lite (can Coldplay even get lighter?) of Aqualung.

Rickie Lee Jones then sings the opener to her wonderful The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard.

Bowling For Soup’s “1985” really should have been the last selection because it would have perfectly book-ended The Bravery’s synth pop opener. It’s not synth pop, mind you, but it talks about the decade The Bravery sounds like. Alas, that crazy choir/ band Polyphonic Spree caps this first half with “When The Fool Becomes A King”.

Fortunately, The Lone Star Lounge continues this DVD’s let’s-just-throw-everything-in approach. Marc Broussard opens with the great swampy blues of “Home”. Next, songstress Rachel Fuller receives special guest guitar help from The Who’s Pete Townshend. Then it’s back to the blues again with Rocco DeLuca.

In succession, Annuals add an experimental vibe, while Razorlight pumps up the energy with “In The Morning”. The best act from The Lone Star Lounge, by far, is Mando Diao, which performs “Long Before Rock & Roll”. Mando Diao is also Swedish. (It seems sometimes like those Swedes are taking over rock 'n' roll, doesn’t it?) But if the rest of the Swedish scene is even half as good as Mando Diao, I’m all in favor of that. Sweden, I surrender!

This set’s lone reggae representative is “Lee “Scratch” Perry. He may be best known as a legendary Kingston producer, but he’s also a strangely beautiful solo artist, too. He performs “Kiss The Champion”, but you should only kiss him at your own risk. Stars Of Track And Field play “Movies Of Antarctica”, which is a big, moody, Morrissey-like dirge. Kraak & Smaak is a great bit of rap-funk, helped along by wonderfully groovy keyboards. Joe Purdy ends this section of the DVD with the tortuous folk-rock “White Picket Fence”.

There is also a one extra DVD section of interviews with featured artists, where most, but not all of the performers get face time. It is great fun to watch rocker Andrew WK interview Lee “Scratch” Perry. Just observing Andrew WK trying to make sense of Perry’s statements is priceless. Perry ends their talk by asking Andrew, “You love Jesus long time?” To which Andrew answers, “I love all.” Before they’re finished talking -- but while they’re still shaking hands -- Perry adds, “And Jesus is black.” This is an example of two freaky guys somehow sharing the same wavelength. Go figure. The DVD set also comes with a booklet that contains brief biographies of the artists.

There’s no possible way one measly DVD can ever replace the experience of attending SXSW. I’ve never been there myself. But trust me, I just know. I have attended Coachella many times, as well as seen the documentary movie about it, and the film just made me want to be there in the flesh. So if this DVD whets your appetite, I think it’s done its job.


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