Bill Murray and his random appearances at house shows, label showcases and, in some cases, bars he bartended at, was, not surprisingly, the most buzzed-about SXSW theme of the year, slightly edging out Philly’s own Free Energy, who were also ubiquitous.
Still, no matter a band’s approach to the four-day Austin behemoth, most bands schedules nowadays are fairly similar. “We arrived the night before the festival,” DUB’s Harvey explains. “We blew up our air mattresses. We slept. We woke up. We played. We Twittered. We checked out a few bands. Met face to face with people who we usually only communicate with via email. Twittered again. Played again. Slept. Repeated the process three more times. We deflated our air mattresses, and thanked Austin for being so kind to our band.”
Over barbecue at Lamberts in downtown Austin, Freeway doesn’t say much besides “Lemme taste that” to his hype man Jack Frost and road manager Rog, curious about the fried shrimp appetizer they’re sharing. At a party sponsored by UV Vodka and Red Bull, he eschews the big-boobed women hocking Jello shots and heads to a chair in the corner, buries his head in his phone and texts more times than a teenage girl on Adderall.
The guy is quiet. What’s more, he’s shy. He’s humble. He’s good-natured. He’s friendly. He’s positive. Unassuming as any 5-foot-nothing bald man with a huge beard can be.
This may come as a shock to the assembled crowd at Austin’s (in)famous punk club Emo’s on the last day at SXSW or anyone else that’s ever seen the man perform live. On stage, he’s different. He’s a fire-spitting beast. He’s still a pitbull with an angry growl. His signature rasp is amplified heat. He’s confidence incarnate, an unstoppable locomotive, a leader of men.
By the time the last day of SXSW rolls around, everyone is exhausted. Festivalgoers are sun burnt, they haven’t been eating right (again, meat sweats), they’ve had no sleep, they’ve had too much to drink. Often bands are playing their ninth or 10th show in three or four days. The whole day is a recipe for disaster. Something’s got to give.
So, by the time Freeway takes the stage that final night—after two other performances, countless interviews and appearances—there’s no guarantee he will make the transition from meek, gentle spirit to self-assured badass. Performances the last day at South By can fall one of two ways: train wreck or transcendent. Freeway at Emo’s was the latter, torching the capacity crowd with new tracks from Stimulus Package and hits from his Roc-A-Fella albums.
“Austin, I love y’all,” Freeway said as he signed off.
This year more than ever, Austin loved Philadelphia back.
The Philly psych-rock foursome Drink Up Buttercup become “recording artists” next week with the release of their phenomenal debut album Born and Thrown on a Hook.
Philly phenoms Man Man are hitting the studio in March and April to record the follow up to 2008’s criminally overlooked Rabbit Habits.
This latest burst of folk revival is made up of a rotating cast of 30 to 40 like-minded musician friends who snowballed into an ever-expanding collective they refer to “our little music community.”
Wild is true punk royalty in this town, and his services to Philly music were formally recognized in the 1980s when Wild was anointed “Mayor of South Street” in a formal presentation at the storied rock club J.C. Dobbs.
Wherever Roselius is, that’s where the party’s at.
New songs off Shame, Shame were just as polished as old nuggets, and Dr. Dog proved to be masters of the long lost art of the set list.
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