Day 4 and slight delirium sets in. The SXSW schedule that you adhered to on Day 1 has gone out the window and openness to suggestion has taken its place. Feet ache from walking from one venue to the next and egos are both bruised and massaged by the ballot system.
The day begins by collecting a Prince wristband won in the ballot. Seeing Prince was highly coveted by the majority of music badge holders, along with Depeche Mode, Green Day and Justin Timberlake.
SXSW has grown since its inception in 1987 from 700 registrants to over 16,000, which makes it more difficult to gain entry to shows, and arguably the ballot system is the fairest way at this stage, to decide who is fortunate enough to see a show. For media the ballot system is frustrating and disheartening, particularly because they are responsible for publicising the acts that they are seeing from the unknown, unsigned acts to the major ones.
Waterloo Records is a music haven, with a vast selection of vinyl, CDs, Box sets, DVDs and paraphenalia. It’s also the venue for a free outdoor show. Billy Bragg is playing an acoustic set armed with a guitar, social commentary and some humorous banter. “What they don’t have enough of is shade in Texas” states Bragg. “This song is dedicated to those who seek equal marriage in Texas” offers Bragg and gives us a rendition of “Sexuality” where every word can be heard clearly. “You know where you can stick it Governor Perry.”
Bragg makes a few observations about daily life and states that the goatee is officially out, along with no one knows anything anymore. His single off his latest album Tooth and Nail, “No one knows nothing anymore” is about Bragg’s observation. Bragg uses nothing rather than anything in the song lyric despite being an example of bad grammar, but “Alliteration trumps grammar” according to Bragg. The new album is available only in one place in the world; Waterloo Records.The official album release date is the19th March in the USA.
“Handyman Blues” off his latest album features some tongue-in-cheek lyrics about Bragg being a writer not a decorator. Oldie “Shirley” is a crowd favourite and Bragg continues to speak his mind about social issues. “Living in multicultural society means that you don’t have to believe in things you adhere to like soccer.” At the set’s conclusion Bragg signs albums inside Waterloo Records for the next 30 minutes as do all the artist performing on today’s line up.
Vampire Weekend haven’t been to SXSW for 5 years, but their absence hasn’t hampered their fan base, judging by the near capacity Radio Day Stage within the Austin Convention Centre. The show is being broadcast over national radio, and they are show casing their new album Modern Vampires of the City. As soon as the familiar riff oscillates, signalling uplifting number “Cousins” the crowd claps and screams. “We appreciated you coming inside the convention centre when it’s nice and sunny outside” states lead singer Ezra Koenig.
For a bit of outdoor relief, it’s off to Auditorium Shores. The Flaming Lips have a new stage show. Wayne Coyne, is clad in a shiny, metallic outfit and he is wrapped in coils of glowing lights which represent an umbilical cord. A huge disco ball is centre stage, with some shiny silver balls interspersed with the chord. The backdrop is shimmering with various futuristic projections and the whole stage looks like a Barbarella film set on acid. It is brilliant.There’s also a topless woman inside a plastic bubble, which has become a trademark of past shows. “I don’t know what’s going to happen” admits Coyne, because this is the first time they are using these types of props. The first part of the set draws from their latest release and is heavily synthesiser driven. Towards the middle of the set, Coyne holds a “baby” attached to the cord, and asks “Did we find the parents of the baby yet?” It is a bizarre spectacle, but one that entertains. Coyne makes reference to the coveted secret show from Justin Timberlake, hinting that Justin may come and join him on stage as he calls out “Justin, Justin, Justin” revealing a man with a hood. As he removes the hood he exclaims, “Jim James, even better” and gives him a hug.
“Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and closer “Do you Realise” draws the greatest crowd response.
Day 4 ends with feet that feel like they are broken, but the spirit of rock n roll is well and truly alive in Austin.