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the insider one daily report


Day Three At SXSW

Neumu Senior Writer Kevin John reports: Kicked things off this time around with a jaunt through Flatstock, a rock 'n' roll poster exhibit/sale. I really don't have the critical aptitude to dissect this sector of popular music. But I did notice that almost all of the posters fell into one of two registers — garishly colored whores, snakes, motorcycles, etc. mimicking tacky tattoo art, or minimalist, inscrutable imagery straight off the underground comics page. And you can probably guess which musics were represented the most — hard rock and indie rock. Wonder how Alacazar would have been drawn. This IS the world we live in.

My life wasn't saved by the eventual release of Smile. Even though they unquestionably made an impact on mass culture, the Beach Boys still carry the taint of cult around them. I suppose you could say the same of The Beatles or Elvis or the Dead — anyone, really. But I get exhausted trying to live up to both of these legacies. Still, I attended the Brian Wilson panel and I was mildly shocked at how intriguing it all turned out to be. This was mainly a function of Wilson's unromantic answers to the many awed, romantic questions lobbed at him. For instance, to "How did you go about re-creating Smile?" Wilson responded "I gave some chords to the musicians. If they played a wrong note, I told them so. And then we recorded it." And for all of Wilson's supposed senility, he was infinitely less brain-dead than his foamed-up congregation. The man answered all the inspiration/creation questions during his interview with Alan Light. But still, tons of fans stepped up to the mic in order to pin down the nature of genius. Given all of Wilson's workaday responses, the whole experience left me thinking that practically anyone could create a Smile. Seriously.

Attended an artists' panel that included Robyn Hitchcock, Todd Snider, Jon Langford, Nona Hendryx and Mary Lou Lord, with an eloquent Jenny Toomey as moderator and Saul Williams a no-show. Not much illumination for me here, since it was mostly advice to other artists. But watching Snider's cross-eyed forward stare convinced me that his twisted narratives no longer seem like such anomalies. The man's clearly graduated from singer/songwriter to Kool Keith-style cuckoo.

Ditched the artists midway through for an excellent panel on indie record stores in the digital age. I was downright shocked to learn that vinyl is once again a viable option for indies. Saucy moderator Don VanCleave explained that an owner has to be committed to it, with some top local DJs stocking the store and plenty of turntables around for the customers. Kara Lane from Amoeba Records admitted that vinyl is a significant source of her store's income. And participant Dave from Dave's Record Store in Chicago ("We love people like you, Dave," gushed VanCleave) told us he could have sold 50 (?!?!) vinyl copies of the latest Wilco had Warners or whoever not taken so long after the CD's street date to release the vinyl version. Take that, planned obsolescence!

The line for the Go Team! was a tad too long even for badge wearers. So I hooked up with a friend from high school and chatted with him for an hour on 6th St. In many ways, the highlight of the week. We oughta thank SXSW for bringing so many people together, no? I mean, I saw some people I hadn't seen since the 1980s.

Off to Stubb's for a DJ set with Fischerspooner. But come midnight, no Fischerspooner. Maybe that was for the best. Not sure how snotty electro trash would have gone over with the roughnecks there to see the New York Dolls. For me, the Dolls were the greatest band in rock 'n' roll's square guitar-bass-drums form, and I was there to honor that achievement. David Johansen passed right by me before the show (swoon!). Chatted up a cute older guy who said he saw David Jo solo tons of times in Manhattan in the 1970s. Musically, the show was nothing special (save for "Trash" — the Burundi beats never sounded funkier, thanks to the yummy "Irish bastard" drummer). But my vote for the greatest guitar moment in history comes at around 2:22 into "Puss 'N' Boots" with Johnny Thunders' fun run across his guitar neck, and the plodding live version tonight desperately called out for his genius. Still, the show was more moving than careening. They paid tribute to Thunders with a snippet of "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" bleeding right into a lovely "Lonely Planet Boy." Covers included "Piece of My Heart" and The Shangri-Las' "Out in the Streets." David Jo was a sassy little gargoyle dressed in pink. And there were even two new songs! Nothing special, again. Apparently, a new album and a DVD are in the can (or out on Sanctuary?) and they were at SXSW to get a deal. Wish I could claim it would be worth someone's money. But Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, the only originals Dolls left, deserve to avoid Social Security more than any other band from the era.

Stay tuned for final-day coverage and a wrap-up.

The InsiderOne Daily Report appears on occasion.



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