(photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)
Saturday was the final full day of the Austin, Texas music marathon known as South by Southwest, and we’ll be honest: We were exhausted, and the temptation to just stay back at the hotel with some room-service BBQ and Pee-wee Herman Netflix was strong. Instead, being the intrepid music reporters that we are, we downed a couple Monsters and headed out for one more round. And we are so glad we did. Here are six reasons why.
George Clanton Let It “Bleed”
OK, we will just cut to the chase: This Brooklyn chillwave genius, formerly known as Mirror Kisses, was the best thing we saw at SXSW all week. (And that’s saying something, because we saw Iggy Pop this week.) While the vibe of his 100 percent awesome album 100% Electronica is droning and dreamy (think Ian Curtis fronting A Flock of Seagulls, remixed by Kevin Shields – sort of), his set at Valhalla was face-melting, ferocious, and 100 percent punk-rock, with Clanton often abandoning his DJ decks to crawl on the beer-smeared floor, bash his skull with a microphone, and howl unhingedly in the faces of the club’s nonstop-ecstatic-dancing revelers. Iggy Pop probably would have loved this, actually.
“This my favorite song of all time. I like it more than Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I like it more than the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. I like it more than Weezer’s second album,” declared Clanton when he introduced his epic final number, “Bleed.” By the end of the song, we pretty much felt the same way. Nothing on Pinkerton ever sounded this exhilarating.
George Clinton Brought the Feedback Funk
Just in case you thought George Clanton’s name spelling in the above paragraph was a typo, we should mention that George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic played SXSW as well – at celebrity chef’s Rachael Ray’s ninth annual Feedback afternoon BBQ bash (which also included party-starting, crowd-pleasing main-stage sets by ‘90s rappers Naughty by Nature and Nudie-suited Americana goddess Jenny Lewis). “We are not of this world, but we are here for 13 minutes to free your mind,” they announced. And our asses soon followed, as we boogied on the Stubb’s lawn to “Flash Light” and “Give Up the Funk.” All that dancing was an effective method of working off the calories from Rachael’s Jalapeño Popper Grits and Upside Down Frito Pie, that’s for sure.
(photo: Gary Miller/Getty Images)
Every Little Thing Eliot Sumner Did Was Magic
Yes, this alt-rock prodigy is the progeny of Sting – and her deft bass-playing skills, androgynously smoky voice, and perfectly sculpted cheekbones, all on display on the indoor stage at Rachael Ray’s Feedback party, proved she’s definitely her father’s daughter. But Sumner made a name for herself at SXSW, with a Krautrocking set of intense, confident, genderless Goth-pop. It was better than anything Sting’s done in probably 26 years. Actually, the best thing Sting’s done in the past 26 years in bringing this talented lady into the world.
Alex Newell Provided Glee
The Glee Project was a next-level series on the Oxygen network, one of the all-time most unique shows of talent-competition TV genre. (Even when Glee got canceled, we still hoped the much more watchable Glee Project would come back.) And the program’s most unique and next-level contestant was gender-bending/blurring divo Newell. He didn’t win, but he went on to play Unique on Glee, lend his stratospheric power vocals to banging tracks by Clean Bandit and the Knocks, and finally land a solo deal with Atlantic Records. Taking the ACL Live stage Saturday night at Perez Hilton’s annual One Night in Austin party, Newell was a true Sylvester-style disco superstar, rocking an on-fleek genie ponytail, floor-sweeping faux fur coat, and Beyoncé heels as he sang his pretty face off.
“Keep drinking, honey,” Newell told the audience. “The more you drink, the better I sound and look!” Actually, we imagine even the most straitlaced teetotalers in the crowd thought Newell sounded and looked amazing.
Big Bill Were Big Fun
SXSW attracts artists and fans from all over the globe, but it always provides a great opportunity to catch some local talent, too. Austin’s fearless freaks Big Bill – serving Sparks/Dickies realness with their nervy, punky new wave and Cheap Trick realness with their nerdy, mismatched attire – fit that bill (no pun intended) nicely. “Who here is tired? Well, f— you!” shouted Warhol-wigged, Emo Phillips-voiced frontman Eric Braden, before waking everybody up by leaping into the crowd and wriggling on Bar 96 dirt floor until his white suit was filthier than Andrew WK’s. Thanks, Big Bill, for doing more than your part to keep Austin weird.
We Enjoyed the Silence
Noise is entirely inescapable during SXSW week, with music blaring out of every 6th Street storefront and buskers occupying every inch of sidewalk. But there was one 40-square-foot space where, according to Dutch artist Simon Heijdens, sensory-overloaded SXSW registrants could “experience the overwhelming sensation of absolute and complete silence – a rare, completely unmediated state of nothingness.” Heijdens’s Silent Room art installation, which from the outside just looked like an industrial shipping container parked on Trinity Street, had fatigued festivalgoers lining up to experience 60 seconds of absolute quiet. While we were warned that the effect could be disconcerting – that some participants were banging on the door to be let out before their minute of stillness was up, and that no person has ever been able to last more than 45 minutes – we honestly wanted to stay in there all damn day. This was even more relaxing than room service and Netflix, and it was exactly what we needed by SXSW day five.
And that’s a wrap! Let’s do it all again next year, shall we? Until then, brush up on what you may have missed this year with our full guide to South by Southwest 2016.