This year’s South by Southwest Music Festival was bigger — and colder — than ever. But once you got past the lines and out of the wind, there was plenty to see. Just be glad you weren’t the schmuck who packed three pairs of shorts. Oh well, here’s the best of what that guy saw.
Best Trooper: Sek Loso. The Thai guitar god lost his father three days before his Saturday night U.S. debut, but that didn’t stop the rock. Flanked by Oasis guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, Loso showed off his nasty licks — and bare chest — to all who packed in the Drink. He also re-dedicated his pretty tsunami-inspired ballad “In the Air” to somebody who couldn’t make the show.
Best Choreography: Goldie Lookin’ Chain. Weaving and waving across the stage of the Vibe, this sixteen-legged Welsh love machine tried to literally charm the pants off its audience — half of it anyway. Before the GLC launched into their timeless anthem “Your Mother’s Got a Penis,” the eight pasty-white, sweat-suited MCs invited the females in the house to exchange “love juice” with them (males were encouraged to bring them electronics). Safe as fuck indeed.
Best Makeup: Louis XIV. Note to glam rockers everywhere (and especially ones from warm cities like San Diego): Eyeliner may work in nightclubs, but at barbeque joints on seventy-degree days you can end up looking more like Phyllis Diller than Marc Bolan. That “Finding Out True Love Is Blind” tune is nifty though.
Best Aim: Apparently not happy with being called one of Rolling Stone‘s 10 Artists to Watch, Be Your Own Pet drummer Jamin Orrall lost his grip on a drumstick that caught a fellow RS editor in the lip. Fiesty singer Jemina Pearl and the rest of the Nashville teens were otherwise well-behaved, leading the Antone’s crowd through punk-rock ditties like “Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle.”
Best Band Name: Whitey Houston. Two-man rock band from Edmonton, about which I know nothing further. Runner-up: Columbus, Ohio’s Two Cow Garage.
Best Buzz: The Go! Team. I went to see the U.K. hip-hop/indie rock collective three different times and was met with three different insurmountable lines.
Best Bands I’d Never Heard Of: People in Planes, Saturday Looks Good to Me. Muscular guitar rock from Wales, sunny boy/girl sing-along pop from Michigan.
Best Dis: Robert Plant. The keynote speaker couldn’t quite remember a couple of his contemporaries: “Deep Sabbath? . . . Black Purple?”
Best Missed Opportunity: The Greencards. The appropriately named Australia-bred, Nashville-based bluegrass band slept through a call to open for Plant at Austin Music Hall. However, the folks assembled at the considerably more modest Opal Devine’s went home happy after the Cards’ set.
Best Party Band: The Trash Can Sinatras. Nothing goes with sipping pastel-colored drinks on a rooftop with magazine models like plaintive ballads from Glasgow. OK, so the Trash Cans weren’t exactly the stuff of Stuff magazine, but they warmed the rain-soaked crowd with their sunny melodies. I think I even saw a Stuff girl bat her eyes when Frank Reader crooned, “There’s a boy up here who wants you to love him.”
Best Conspiracy Theorist: Anton Newcombe. The Brian Jonestown Massacre leader was at Antone’s to see the Raveonettes, and he’s thinking Hunter S. Thompson was murdered.
Best Misplaced Band: What Made Milwaukee Famous. They’re from freakin’ Austin. Either way, their pop chops were as shimmering as the curtains of the Velvet Spade. Runner-up: Georgia’s Of Montreal.
Best Stage Banter: The Emeralds. Sort of the Japanese Meat Puppets, this Tokyo trio announced their tour information — and begged for a U.S. record deal — in between drum rolls and leg kicks at the Caribbean Lights. On the strength of their ode to their favorite beverage alone, the peppy “Cranberry Classic,” I’d say sign ’em.
Best Stage Show: Man Man. Put the drummer in the front and the guitarist in the back . . . brilliant! These insane Philly multi-instrumentalists give up good jams too — sort of if RP McMurphy had a funk band.
Best Broadway Moment: The Dears. When frontman Murray Lightman and keyboardist Natalia Yanchak dueted on “22: The Best of All the Romance,” it was downright Rodgers and Hart on 6th Street.
Best Work Ethic: Bloc Party. This British buzz band must have played fourteen times, and I could have sworn Delta is using them as their in-flight music.