SXSW 2004
Austin, Texas
March 17-21, 2004

By LANCE LINK

If you happened to be in Austin, Texas this last week, this is a shapshot of what you could have seen over just four days at the SXSW Music Convention:

Before it even started, Southern Culture on the Skids were warming up locals and tourists alike with a six-night stand at the famous Continental Club on the hip South Congress strip. Across town, Sonic Youth played a set almost exclusively of all new material and were in possibly the best form of their career.

On the first day proper, Wednesday, at Stubb's, a 2500-capacity outdoor space, current Australian tourists The Von Bondies (pictured right) lived up to the hype, with a flawless run through of the highly-rated "Pawn Shoppe Heart" , followed by The (International) Noise Conspiracy who showcased a new line-up, with keyboardist, Sarah, replaced by another err.. male and produced even more energy than their 2002 Australian tour.

Both bands were playing support though to the hugely-received Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, who ploughed through all her hits, from the Runaways onwards. In the same night it was possible to check out Cave-In at the medium sized, Emo's and see why the issue of a Helmet Best Of, couldn't be more timely. Meantime, down at Jackaloop, '80s garage veterans, The Cynics, showed up a whole last decade's worth of trucker cap rock exactly how it's done.

If you survived that night, you could catch any one of the day parties or instores featuring, The Von Bondies, tearing it up again, The Hives showcasing a swag of new material, the truly amazing, 14-piece, four guitar line-up of Canada's, Broken Social Scene. No Blue Oyster Cult though, think, Dinosaur Jnr meets Sonic Youth, meets Wilco meets The Polyphonic Spree! Great. Break up the noise with a set by Spoon's Britt Daniels, before taking your pick between, the alt-pop of Preston School of Industry, the agit-pop of Pretty Girls Make Graves and the art-core of the legendary Mission Of Burma, ALL at a Matador Recs showcase.

Maybe though you could settle for a set by Jack White's new faves, the early Beasts of Bourbon-like, Blanche, followed by Irelands, power pop kings, The Thrills. Across the street @ Buffalo Billiards, if you could get in, you could catch the next big thing, Scotland's, Franz Ferdinand, deliver a cracking Strokes go post-punk-euro disco set.

Gettin' late? Maybe pop in to see Modey Lemon and The Apes deliver some of more high energy sets of the week and round out your evening with a performance the cult that is, the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Psychedelic mayhem.

Worn out yet? It's only Friday, two full more days to go.. Time to watch J.Mascis perform solo at a Roky Erickson tribute party, before taking in the premier of the Sundance Film Festival award winning flick, DIG! A documentary of the afore mentioned Brian Jonestown Massacre and their chaotic ride sideways, upways and ultimately downwards ride over six crazy years. Narrated by mega-fan Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols it's a must see of drugs, depression and brilliant music.

Happy now? Time to check out Irelands, Snow Patrol and maybe the wonderful, Broken Social Scene, maybe have a quick look at two bar rock of Swearing at Motorists, another quick glance, this time at the UK's, The Hells, spend half a set with New York's Fiery Furnaces, now a four-piece and rockin' harder than the records might suggest, before moving across town to the festival highlight, a special performance by the truly legendary, Big Star.

Featuring original members, Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens plus two Posies. Big Star played a classic set of material mostly drawn from the albums "#1" and "Radio City", plus covers from T-Rex, Todd Rundgren and The Kinks. The two-song encore of new material was equally inspiring, showcasing more teenage, '60s feel than the melancholy the band is known for. Best news? A new album is in the works..

O.K, last day proper. Why not start the day with a blast from soon-to-be Australian tourists The Dillinger Escape Plan. It would be doubtful there would be a show this energetic, athletic and downright punishing. Wild!

Deviate from the path and maybe check out indie veterans, The Miracle Brah blast classic '80s, US-style power pop. Change the tone again with sets from more veterans, the truly wonderful pysch pop of The Lily's, more Brian Jonestown Massacre, the authentic garage rock of two-piece girl band, Mr.Airplane Man, mix it up with sets from Los Lobos, Cracker and the reformed and original indie rock of Camper Van Beathoven and round out your night with the minimalist, math beats of John Stanier's (The Mark Of Cain/Tomahawk) other new outfit, Battles or maybe go to one of many parties including one that hosted two of the best live bands of the conference, The Dillinger Escape Plan and The (International) Noise Conspiracy.

O.K. Now, you've earned your sleep. And that was only some of the acts performing...



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