Whew, that was one hell of a week-and-half — South By Southwest is so overwhelming and immersive that you’re almost glad when it’s over, though the real world feels flat and quiet by comparison. Work is a relief, a familiar groove to slip back into, and the body craves a day that doesn’t end at 3 a.m. It’s a near-complete celebration of creative culture, feeding the brain, ears and eyes to the point that they all need respite by the end. Next up: off to NYC for a Wednesday panel appearance at the Search Engine Strategies conference — time to retire the Converse and t-shirts in favor of a suit and tie (straight from Austin to its near-antithesis).
More articles inspired by SXSW Interactive are on the way, along with the last two installments of the Obama lessons series, but let’s linger for a minute on some highlights from SXSW Music while the songs still echo:
- Devo was ASTOUNDING. Musically impressive, with terrific stage presence and an awesome LED video backdrop that turned the show into a full-sensory experience. They were all good to the last orange ziggurat hat, but the drummer in particular blew me away — he knew where the beat was down to the microsecond, and he hit with an authority you could hear across town.
- The Circle Jerks, an ’80s legend and the best punk-rock show I’ve seen in years. I’m still about half-crippled from the audience-participation element — the spirit is willing, but the bones can’t always handle the thrash.
- Peekaboo Theory — billed as “afro-punk,” they turned out to be uptempo trippy awesomeness. Houston’s lucky to have ’em, and DC needs ’em. Somebody call the Black Cat, stat.
- The Quincy Jones keynote. I had no idea how many creative ventures he’d started or been involved in, from music to movies: it was fascinating to hear from someone who started touring with jazz bands 60 years ago, and who’d been at the top levels of music production long enough to work with both Ray Charles and Michael Jackson as teenagers. One memorable line: “Jazz is the classical music of american pop music — it’s the balance between soul and science, the essence of freedom and liberation.”
- Japan Night, parts one and two, particularly the all-girl pop-punk/punk-pop bands Honey Sac and Stereopony — terrific songs, great performances with adorable janglish touches (“One Two Sree Four!”). I watched the bass players in particular: these women tiny enough to fit in my pocket absolutely playing the hell out of a Fender Precision bigger than they were. Plus, whatever these guys were, it was something else — GWAR meets Shinto, but without the fluids.
- Finally, a band whose name I can’t bring myself to commit to “print,” but whose sound was undeniably mind-bending. Seeing them was the essence of SXSW random discovery: one of those shows you wouldn’t have planned to see but that you’re damn happy to run across.
Next year? You bet — but please, not just yet.