This year marked my 17th South by Southwest music festival. Despite the Mardi-Gras style crowds, traffic clusterfuck, and corporate sponsorship that swallowed Austin, it was a fabulous week. Here’s the stripper-relevant artists and music I saw.
Ted Leo (Monday, 10 p.m., Venue 222, also Saturday, 5 p.m., East Side Drive In)
Three girls at the front of the stage sang along passionately when Leo closed his Mess With Texas set Saturday by playing “Ballad of the Sin Eater” after telling the crowd that the bombing of Libya had begun. For such a principled, righteous songwriter, Leo has recorded remarkably danceable music (he takes Emma Goldman to heart, y’all). He’s also probably the most underrated songwriter in America. “Counting Down the Hours” is always a huge hit for me at work. All his SXSW sets were solo, and while the songs remain great, it’s hard not to miss the Pharmacists live. Deep cuts or crazy cover choices might be in order.
Yeasayer (Monday, midnight, Internet Explorer launch party at ACL)
Their terrific “O.N.E.” was number three in my 2010 stripper top ten. “Ambling Alp” gets some stage play, too. They made like hustlers and got a big payday from Microsoft for playing this packed private party during the SXSW Interactive festival. These guys have been not undeservingly compared to pasty world music acts Rusted Root and Johnny Clegg, but then they’re much weirder and complex, and own disco records. They give great chorus, but have a pretty serious stage presence deficit. Also, why don’t more old dudes with ponytails like these guys?
Ellie Goulding (Wednesday, midnight, Bat Bar)
Goulding is a precious tiny blonde UK singer and her crooning, electro-pop “Under the Sheets” is a total stripper fave. Unfortunately, she sounded raspy and tired at her showcase. After about six minutes it hurt to hear. The reviews of this show didn’t mention any vocal difficulties at all, making me wonder if I imagined the whole thing.
Deerhunter (Friday, 5 p.m., Rhapsody party at Club DeVille)
Like most psyche-y bands, Deerhunter is better in the dark, but accidentally stumbling on their broad daylight set with a new, equally excited and game friend was pure SXSW serendipity. Bradford Cox’s charms eluded me up until “Desire Lines” made its way into regular rotation on my “super early at work and I can play whatever I want” playlist. “Revival” is also on there. Strangely, an actual helicopter flew overhead during “Helicopter.”
Das Racist (Thursday, 3 p.m., Austin Convention Center)
Das Racist are personal favorites of mine and Kat’s. “Who’s That (Brooown)” was #9 on my stripper top ten last year. The only performace of theirs I caught was at the Austin Convention Center, the most sterile and bizarre venue possible. “Everybody say ‘I feel weird’!” Damn straight. They made everyone stand on their chairs. More photographers than fans were in attendance. This should have been the strangest thing to ever happen in the SXSW Trade Show, and yet somehow it felt completely appropriate.
Liturgy (Thursday, 3:45 p.m., Beerland)
Oh, all right, definitely not stripper music, but a Portland strip club DJ commented on my previous SMM post that he dreams of getting a lap dance to “Beyond the Magic Forest.” Darryl, if you can’t make that happen at the most punk rock strip club in the country, at which you work, as a DJ, I don’t see how I can help you. In performance their song structures and pacing were reminiscent of Thrill Jockey alums Trans Am, which must make them orchestral metal math rock.
Kylesa (Friday, 9:40 p.m., Dirty Dog)
Metalhead strippers, if you’re not already into this band, your day is about to be made. “Don’t Look Back” is the big anthemic number from last year’s Spiral Shadow and can be played about anywhere, but if you’re in a metal-friendly club, that record is a must-have. When Laura Pleasants was on vocals at this performance, she increased the blues/torch factor of the band, making them sound like a louder, rougher Come. Only on the slow songs, though.
OMD (Friday, 1 a.m., Stubb’s)
Part of the turnout for this show must have been thanks to James Murphy’s interview shoutouts to OMD while he did the press for This Is Happening. I went to see influencers—somewhere between OMD and Suicide lies most of the electronic pop I like best. Just as Andy McCluskey was striding to the front of the stage, a huge camera boom brought in by Steve Madden fell into the crowd, injuring at least five people. After the semi-chaotic evacuation of the injured on bodyboards and the ejection of the local daily’s photographer, they somewhat surprisingly returned to the stage. Under different circumstances, hearing this song live would have been amazing instead of very, very weird.