Girls Can Tell
After lunch, I ducked into the Flamingo Cantina for Yarr! PR's Pirate Elvis party, which featured grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Got my eye patch and enjoyed a few minutes of Chase Frank, a duo out of Long Beach specializing in angry, confessional lo-fi rock.
From there, I hoofed it under the highway over to Ms. Bea's, only stopping to smell the barbecue smoker at the Ron Jeremy Birthday Bash at the Music Gym & Lounge. To my mind, Jeremy and 'cue just don't jibe. Ms. Bea's had the Sleep When Dead party, and I arrived just in time to see Hawnay Troof, an energetic little elf in an upholstered gold polyester suit who performs rap-songs, guided by his laptop while throwing himself all over the place.
Next up was Die! Die! Die!, a threepiece punk outfit from Aotearoa, New Zealand. Singer Andrew Wilson kicked it old-school punk, shoving past audience members to pet a terrified Boston terrier, then sticking his head in the kick drum.
Okkervil River floats
Today, he's fresh off a triumphant performance with Austin icon Roky Erickson at last night's Austin Music Awards, but just a few weeks ago, Will Sheff didn't know which end was up.
"I just go where they tell me," he sighed. "I just get in the van or on the plane and go play the show. Most of the time, I forget what city I'm in. With my schedule, there's really no work week. Saturday is the same as Monday; you stop defining life by the week.
"After awhile it's like Groundhog Day: no consequences, no reward."
Well, there's the tiny little reward of having one of the most critically acclaimed indie-rock albums of 2007, The Stage Names. Compare this year's cushy position to nearly a decade ago, when Okkervil River first broke onto the Austin scene.
"We were struggling to get shows when we got a SXSW acceptance [in 1999]," says Sheff. "It was my first-ever taste of appreciation for what we were doing when the audiences at our shows were the friends we'd guilt-tripped into coming."
No more guilt trips, but plenty more shows, featuring the Wrens' Charles Bissell on guitar. Look for Okkervil River today at the Schuba's party at Yard Dog, Saturday evening at the Harp party at the French Legation Museum, and preceding Erickson at Stubb's later that night.
Cassettes Won't Cut Their Hair
Started out my quest for below-the-radar acts with Cassettes Won't Listen's Convention Center day stage performance at 1pm. One-man-band and New York resident Jason Drake has a lot of Internet buzz with the release of his first physical EP, Small-Time Machine. Drake assembles songs piecemeal, starting with electric piano, then mixer, then electric guitar, and finally, vocals. A guitar solo provides a glimpse of the gigantic sonic puzzle he's just put together and taken apart right in front of you. Topping off his set with an awesome cover of Pavement's "Cut Your Hair," Drake had his audience transfixed (those not staring into their Blackberries). Catch Cassettes at 3pm today at Spider House coffee shop or at his SXSW showcase at Lamberts on Saturday night.
Willpower in the Face of Ice Cream?
As dehydration set in, I headed over to Emo's to check out Portland's the Blow (Khaela Maricich) and San Francisco's Hey Willpower, the side project of Imperial Teen's Will Schwartz. Both quirky, electronic-based acts plumb the realm of performance art, with Maricich weaving a narrative of cultural anthropology and convulsive dance moves into her witty tunes. Schwartz, meanwhile, squeezed himself into incredibly tight, black Levi's and writhed around aerobically while partner Tomo Yasuda commandeered the bleeps and bloops at the rear of the stage. The highlight? The presence of Ice Cream Man Matt Allen, whose friendly minion was handing out ice-cold fruit paletas to overheated patrons. Was it really only 73 degrees?