Monday, March 17, 2008

Deep in the Heart of (Liberal) Texas

By Evan Rytlewski
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A few scattered, final thoughts on my time in Austin and SXSW:

• I’ve learned to love the city and its conveniently centralized downtown. There’s so much to do in such a tightly packed area; and for the first time, I can see why anyone would actually want to live there.
• For a purported “liberal oasis,” though, the city sure doesn’t offer much in the way of vegetarian food. As best I can tell, the people of Austin subsist entirely on barbeque and pizza by the slice.
• Eugene Mirman is quickly becoming one of the funniest comedians on the circuit. During the Mess With Texas day party Saturday, he stole the show not only during his set, but also during Brian Posehn’s. Posehn was so hoarse he could barely speak, and it quickly became clear the painful rasp wasn’t past of his act. He wheezed out an anecdotal joke or two that was inaudibly to all but the very front rows, until Mirman presented a novel (and as best I can tell, genuinely spontaneous) solution: Posehn whispered the jokes to Mirman, who recited them line for line, unable to stifle his own laughter. Mirman’s quixotic delivery of Posehn’s ultra-crass jokesmost of which relied on detailed descriptions of Posehn’s large, unconventional bodymade for the funniest stand-up routine I’ve seen in a long time.
• Question: What looks like Seth Green but sounds like Robert Smith of The Cure? Answer: Adam Olenius of the Shout Out Louds, whose endearing set was one of the weekend’s most pleasant surprises
• NOFX stayed at my hotel. I was hoping to run into them during regular continental breakfast hours, but it just didn’t happen.
• Okkervil River’s set impressed me the mostno great surprise there, as I’m always touting the group’s live showbut their abbreviated, 40-or-so minute set Saturday night was the most wound-up I’ve seen the group in years, probably since before they recorded Black Sheep Boy. They played to a giant and far more diverse crowd than one would expect; their appeal now reaches far beyond usual indie-rock audiences. I still don’t think they’ve climbed to the top of their ladder yet. Right now the group is “Conan O’Brien” big, but at this rate they could be “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” if not “Saturday Night Live” big in time for their next album.
• By and large the people of Austin are a friendly lot, unless you’re trying to catch a cab early in the morning.
• Dead Confederate opened up for R.E.M. and they were pretty good.
• Watch out for Welsh soul singer named Duffy. Her slick retro-soul is well timed given the Amy Winehouse phenomenonit’s much more authentic than Winehouse’s, thoughand that she’s generously curvy certainly won’t hurt her commercial prospects.
• My biggest mistake of the weekend may have been missing Matt and Kim, even though I was given plenty of chances to catch them.

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