Five Cool Things Witnessed At SXSW 2013: Thursday, March 14

The Austin music festival South By Southwest continued apace this Thursday, and while literally hundreds of artists played in every club, every storefront, even in the lobby of my hotel, the day belonged to the ambassador of rock and SXSW 2013 keynote address speaker, Mr. Dave Grohl. Playing his final concert (for now) with his supergroup Sound City Players--the allstar collective of illustrious musicians from his new labor-of-love documentary about Los Angeles's legendary Sound City recording studio--the Foo Fighters frontman hosted a massive three-and-a-half-hour jam on the Stubb's stage. Participants included John Fogerty, all of the Foo Fighters, Krist Novoselic from Nirvana, Chris Goss from Masters Of Reality, Corey Taylor of Slipknot/Stone Sour, and many, many more. "There aren't too many shows where you're going to see all these musicians on the same stage, on the same night," announced a beaming Grohl. He was correct.

Yes, even in a music-packed town like Austin, Texas, such a joyous celebration of rock 'n' roll could not be found anywhere else on Thursday night. And surely the lucky spectators who shoehorned themselves into Thursday's hottest gig--mostly either through a random SXSW ticket giveaway, or a via a contest sponsored by Citi--would not have wanted to be anywhere else. I know I didn't. So please forgive me if three of my five best moments of SXSW Thursday all took place on the same stage, at the same show. You will soon understand why.

1) Dave Grohl Totally Fanboyed Over Stevie Nicks
What makes Dave so likable--nay, lovable--is the fact that he's as big and dopey a rock fan as anyone you might find in the front row of his concerts. When he introduced the fabled Fleetwood Mac frontgoddess on Thursday, he was grinning the grin of all Cheshire Cat grins as he declared: "We're so lucky, people, that we can invite heroes onstage tonight!" Stevie then sailed out in all her white-magic witchery finery for a mini-set that included a "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" duet with Dave and Fleetwood's "Dreams," "Gold Dust Woman," and the gorgeous "Landslide," the latter of which had me reaching for the Stubb's quintuple-ply BBQ napkins to dab at my teary eyes. Dave positively raved about Stevie, telling the audience, "When she writes a song, it's 100 percent Stevie. She doesn't care if she going to make you freak out or cry." Honestly, I did a little bit of both at Thursday's show.

2) Rick Springfield Stopped Time
Rick Springfield, it should be noted, is SIXTY-THREE YEARS OLD. Either the dude bathes daily in the blood of virgin sheep and vats of Olay, or he is proof that an abashed love of rock 'n' roll is the best anti-ager out there. But when the ageless Australian '80s teen idol joined Dave's Sound City Players, it wasn't just his lush, still-intact head of hair and rail-thin rock-star physique that impressed--it was also the fact that his classics from his circa-1981 Working Class Dog heyday still held up so well. "I've Done Everything For You" and "Love Is Alright Tonite" still sounded fab…but seriously, is there a more perfect pop-rock song in the pop-rock songbook than "Jessie's Girl"? Like the man who recorded it at Sound City, the song has aged very, very well, and people of all ages in the Stubb's crowd went wild for it.

3) Rick Nielsen Turned Stubb's Into Budokan
For a few glorious years in the late '70s, Cheap Trick embodied everything exciting and life-affirming about rock 'n' roll: hot blonde singers in white suits, arsenals of flying-V guitars in all colors of the rainbow, panting choruses that were perfect the teen-sex soundtracks, checkerboard patterns. And at the band's peak, there was Live At Budokan, arguably one the awesome-est concert albums of all time. And when iconic Cheap Trick axeman Rick Nielsen hit Stubb's on Thursday looking, for lack of a better description, very Rick-Nielsen-esque in his suit, bowtie, shades, and cap ("Even his teeth are checkered," joked Dave), Live At Budokan sprung to life on that stage. With Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, Foos members Pat Smear and Rami Jaffe, Dave on drums, and of course Rick on shredding guitar, the Sound City Players put on a mini-Cheap Trick set that included "Hello There," "Stiff Competition," and a pop-rock song that might be even the tiniest bit better than "Jessie's Girl," "Surrender." Corey Taylor did most of the singing, but when the Foos' Taylor Hawkins insisted on taking the lead for "I Want You To Want Me" and he got his way, the lanky blonde rocker practically channeled Robin Zander. This was total heaven tonight.

4) The Flaming Lips Promoted Their New Album…By Playing Their Entire Old Album
Leave it to these venerable Oklahoma City eccentrics--whose 13th album, The Terror, comes out next month--to come to SXSW and play 2002's Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots in its entirety. A lo-fi and stripped-down set (by Flaming Lips standards, that is) at the Warner Sound's late-night showcase, the Lips' intimate club show included no gongs, puppets, dancing furries, giant video screens of Jazzercizers, fake blood pellets, or giant plastic habitrail bubbles. (Maybe the band will break out those bells and whistles, as well as some Terror tracks, at their larger show headlining the Town Lake Stage at Auditorium Shores on Friday.) But the set did include ALL of Yoshimi, other than final track "Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon (Utopia Planitia)" due to time constraints. "If you're wondering when we'll play 'Do You Realize,' well, that depends on if I stop talking long enough to stay on time," admitted famously chatty frontman Wayne Coyne. But the Lips thankfully did get to it, and they once again proved it is the happiest sad song, or saddest happy song, of all time. Let's hope there's at least one song on The Terror that's this amazing.

5) Icona Pop Got It Poppin'
There wasn’t a dance floor in America that didn’t succumb to the cheeky charm of this Swedish electro-duo’s 2012 hit “I Love It,” a chanty, girl-powered anthem for “’90s bitches” everywhere. And Icona's Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt have been turning all of Austin into their personal Scandinavian dance party this week, playing a spree of shows. When Icona Pop performed at Filter magazine's Thursday afternoon bash on Rainey Street, things really popped off. I loved it!

So Thursday will obviously be tough to top, but with gigs by Green Day, Vampire Weekend, and the almighty Depeche Mode, Friday's SXSW lineup very well may be up for the challenge. What will be my five coolest moments of SXSW Music Friday? Spolier alert: Depeche will definitely be among them. But watch this space for the other four!

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