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After a South By Southwest week of industry panels about the state of the music business and Lady Gaga attempting to pass off onstage vomiting as important performance art, on SXSW's final evening it was a cheesy delight to see some pizza pranksters who didn't seem to take themselves (or really anything other than pizza) very seriously.
I'm deep-dishing here about the Pizza Underground, Macaulay Culkin's low-brow yet high-concept Velvet Underground tribute band. On Saturday at Austin's Buffalo Billiards club — just down the block from any number of famous 6th Street pizza eateries — Macaulay and friends reimagined Velvets classics as piping-hot, pizza-party jams, transforming "Stephanie Says" into "Papa John's Says," "These Days" into "Cheese Days," "Satellite of Love" into "Have a Bite of Crust," "All Tomorrow's Parties" into "All the Pizza Parties," "Walk on the Wild Side" into "Take a Bite of the Wild Slice," and so on. (Sample lyric: "I'm waiting for delivery man/26 dollars in my hand/Comes from Dominos, 1, 2 , 3/More than 30 minutes and that pizza is free.")
The band soundchecked with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's "Gimme Pizza" song. Jewish novelty rapper Kosha Dilz, whom the P.U. guys had just met Saturday afternoon, joined in for an improvised rap about kosher, pickle-topped pizza pie. Macaulay and his gal pal Jordan Lane Price (billed as "Edie Breadsticks") performed a cheesy duet of "I'm Sticking With Chew."
Band member Phoebe Kreutz delivered her stage banter in a terrible Nico-wannabe German accent the entire time. (Her best moment? When she told this joke: "Why did the hipster burn his mouth on pizza? Because he ate it before it was cool.") A Mo Tucker lookalike kept time by banging on an empty pizza box. "Anchovy Warhol" appeared onstage in a platinum blond Halloween Superstore wig. Macaulay played a kazoo solo on "Wild Slice." A "band astronomer" gave some starry-eye speech that made one spectator yell, "That made no sense!"
And special guest "Kurt Cobain'd" (portrayed by the Moldy Peaches' Toby Goodshank) did a "Nevermound" mini-set of past-tense Nirvana songs, like "Come as You Were" and "Smelled Like Teen Spirit," which had another crusty audience member shouting, "Too soon!"
"Thanks for watching our variety show," Macaulay chuckled at the end of the one-note, 40-minute revue, while those who hadn't already streamed out of the club as if it were on fire looked on in amazement and amusement.
OK, so this was totally stupid. And probably no one would have stayed for all 40 minutes if not for a former child star's odd involvement. But was it also kind of subversively genius. One overheard spectator summed it up best with: "Was that terrible? Yes. Would I go see them again? Hell yes!"
You know, SXSW Friday may have hosted an official all-star tribute to the late Lou Reed, but I think Lou, the confrontationist behind "Metal Machine Music" and "Lulu," might've appreciated this anti-folk fromage homage as well.