SXSW 2010 – Day 4 – Cerebral Ballzy, Bear In Heaven, Goodbye Drumming

For some reason it went from sweltering shorts’n’shirts weather to like minus 3,000 on the last day. It was quite bizarre being able to see your breath in front of your face in Texas. The irony of global warming’s effects on such a motoring-obsessed patch of land wasn’t totally lost.

Free Energy were pretty much the only band straight vibin’ enough to win me over at 11am. Look at these dudes. They were all up to 6am necking tequila shots and slamming the empty glasses on their bonces whilst howling at the moon and smacking waitesses bums, they’re first on at a shitty shack of a venue at 11am, it’s so cold the moisture in their eyes has frozen over, and still they couldn’t look happier to be onstage kicking out some highway-blazing classic R&R. God, they make me feel like such a loser for not being able to drive.

We drove out of town to visit Triple Crown Tattoo Parlour because The Only New NYC Hardcore Band Worth Caring About were playing, Cerebral Ballzy.

When we got there, there was about five people shuffling around outside erecting the soundsystem with a few idling inkers. Then the band showed up and we got talking.

Their bass player Pug wanted a new tattoo of a Pug dog to match his nickname/appearance. Fortuitously Triple Crown specialised in pug dog tatts (I know, right). When he announced his desire to get one it caused quite a stir in the shop.

Everyone tried to put off going outside for ages cos it was so cold. Until eventually some guy came in and announced he’d unlocked a free keg outside. The band who’d been drinking since 8am decided to brave it and ventured outside to commence a set before their manager, me and about five reasonably enthused onlookers.

As it turns out, this was nothing in the band’s league table of gruelling sets. The previous month they’d driven a 23-hour round trip to a one-date Canadian tour, conssisting of a basement 18-minute set. I heard they killed it though.

As they did that day.

Their singer Honor is sick after every gig, without fail, as I found out.

All the taxi numbers are impossible to reach for the duration of SXSW, so Pug offered to give us a lift back to town. On route we talked about how he accidentally hospitalised his drummer in Austin last year, and he let slip something about he shouldn’t have about Honor’s dad.

Next I popped into the Fader Fort, a big compound that Fader and Levis rent out every year and fill with lots of well-dressed bands and DJs. I stumbled upon this completely natural spontaneous scene. Whilst the rest of Austin was wallowing in grumbles at the sudden perplexing Antarctic temperature, the Fader Fort revelers were freestyle body poppin. It was like Uniqlo had commissioned a re-make of that Run DMC versus Jason Nevins video for a its latest TV campaign.

I was there to see Washed Out’s new live show. Last time I saw him it was just him and his Macbook, which left him looking/sounding a bit lonely. For the Austin stint he’d made some friends. Like minded NYC glow-fi troupe Small Black joined him as his backing band. It was quite sweet really.

They played ‘Feel It All Around’ last. I felt like I’d been hoisted onto my boyfriend’s shoulders during ‘Champagne Supernova at Knebworth ’96.

A bunch of people had told me to check out Bear In Heaven, so I popped up the road from Fader to catch their slot. I don’t think it was what I needed there and then. Expansive puzzle-prog with feral incantations is all very well and good, but it doesn’t do much to warm your goolies. Bring on the choruses.

Luckily The Drums were closing proceedings. Stubbs is a BBQ house with a big gravelly compound outside. Every year it hosts some of SXSW most hush-hush headline names, last year I saw Metallica there in front of 400 people.

This year Scissor Sisters were headlining, with The Drums as main support. This run of Austin shows was the first time I’ve seen them playing like a proper big band. There was something in their poise, they’d traded in their rookie urgency for something new.