The Worst Moments from SXSW 2012
The last few days, Village Voice Media's indefatigable music staff has been regaling you with stories of the best from SXSW 2012. In the midst of these discoveries, we've been culling another list: the worst shit. The acts that ranged from huge bore-fests to downright lame. Below, you'll find our critics' submissions. Let us know if you have similar experiences.
You were a little flat at the end of your performance of "Happy Birthday" there, Wolf Violinist
Yawn at Bar 96
Standing up for indie rock in 2012 is like pledging allegiance to Joseph Kony, and we have bands like infantile Chicago quartet Yawn to thank. The pleasure of Bandcamp is that we get to peruse hashtags like "animal collective, avant-pop, beach boys, brian eno, electronic, of montreal, vampire weekend, yeasayer, avant-pop, dreampop, electronic, indie pop, Chicago" and theoretically end up with something that resembles those terms. (Don't forget "andrew bird" and "beirut," guys.) The downside is that a slickly produced EP like Yawn's self-titled collection and last year's Open Season get out to the masses too fast. Tongue-wagging tastemakery takes over, and suddenly folks trying to fill out lineup cards at festivals end up latching onto goobers like these guys without seeing them perform.
Yawn's live act confirms they are a fraud. Thursday's appearance at Bar 96 was the art of trying as hard as possible to seem like they weren't trying. Imagine four unremarkable white dudes with unkempt hair having a rehearsal consisting of directions like "can you make your voice crack a little more when you add some unnecessary harmony to the second verse," or "make sure to introduce that song that obviously isn't slow as a 'slow jam.'" Further banter clunkers: "This is Terry Gross and you're listening to NPR" and "We're in Austin right now, but let's imagine we're in Africa." Even the guy convulsing and spazzing in place to these dilute ripoffs must have been a paid extra. Such earnest attempts to make flippant music -- well, it's enough to make you... yawn. -- Reed Fischer / City Pages
Spontaneous tattoo at the S.O. Terik / Filter showcase
On Friday, Samantha Urbani from Brooklyn indie band Friends did something to a fan he might forever regret. At the S.O.Terik-Filter showcase, beneath a blazing sun, she tattooed him using a safety pin and a lighter. The ink -- a crude-looking planet with a ring around it
on his right bicep -- was modeled after one Urbani has herself on her left middle finger. When pressed, Urbani declined to identify it as a specific planet, despite its similarities to Saturn. "It's just a planet," she said. "My own private planet!" She seems annoyed, perhaps because she'd been asked this question many times before. As for her smitten devotee, he can look forward to a lifetime of explaining that he got a shitty tattoo from a member of a early-teens buzz band that he briefly liked with a song called "Friend Crush." - Ben Westhoff / LA Weekly
The Doritos Jacked Stage
The Doritos Jacked venue was ugly and dumb. It reminded me that the movie Idiocracy isn't just a comic farce, but it's also a prophetic nightmare. It caused a bottleneck after bottleneck of people taking pictures of it at least every five minutes -- fashioned to look like a giant Doritos vending machine. Don't get me wrong, I love Doritos (Cooler Ranch if you please...) but this was a severely stoopid advertising gimmick even for me, something who is fueled by over the top idiocy, and adores the crassness of corporate America.
I don't mind a Red Bull party or the Extreme Miller Lite Super Sud stage, but a monstrous faux-machine was like a hotel-sized "fuck you" to human spirit for five days in Austin. It was bad enough that we had to contend with the lame-dick amateur drinkers in "Blow Me I'm Irish" shirts they got at Spencer's on the way to Sixth Street. The acts that played in the vending venue machine weren't bad, I mean I saw White Denim and Gemma Ray in there even, but what was worse was that they tried to treat the inside of the lot it was on like a posh, exclusive venue. If I am going to see a band inside a vending machine, don't charge the kids for water, and you better give away one of those comically-large bags of chips away at least, or implode at as the finale. I guess what I am saying is, I wish that the kids working the gate offered me free Doritos on my way out. -- Craig Hlavaty / Houston Press
The Endless Parade of Technical Difficulties / Every venue
Look: Here's indie-folk singer Sharon Van Etten playing at Mohawk with her vocals so submerged as to be inaudible! Here's Bay Area electronic soundscape-artist Tycho performing to a full crowd at Clive Bar through a P.A. with no sub-bass! Here's electro-noise duo Peaking Lights standing on the Red 7 stage in despair because they spent their entire set struggling to make, you know, sounds happen! Granted, there are always going to be problems at any event as huge and tightly scheduled at South By Southwest, but this year, it felt like every other set was marred by some kind of technical issue. It was routine to see artists spending their shows throwing up hand signals to their sound crew, only to get it right just as their timeslot was ending, or to play sets with crucial parts of the music inadudible through the house mix. The blame for this doesn't lie in any one place, of course: Londoners New Build made a point of saying that their soundman ran shows for LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip and thus knew a thing or two. Even after a barrage of gear-related frustrations, Dan Deacon graciously complimented his sound techs on their work, and implored his audience to thank them as well. (Deacon also gets the prize for making the funniest asides while sorting through the problems.) Still, with as large and expensive and corporate as SXSW has become, tech problems should be the exception, not -- as they seemed this year - the rule. -- Ian S. Port / SF Weekly
Lil Wayne, Austin Music Hall
I saw a lot of great hip-hop at SXSW: Nas, Big K.R.I.T., Danny Brown, Moe Green, Flatbush Zombies, Austin's Kydd and Dallas' A.Dd+ and Sore Losers. SXSW should get credit, especially in the last few years hip-hop booker Matt Sonzala's been there, for giving the genre its own pocket where breakout stars can flourish and older acts can get a few reverent nods. I was excited for Lil Wayne's Thursday Young Money showcase, but his set left me feeling a little sticky in the gut, like when you drink Mountain Dew really fast. Oh yeah: Weezy just formed a partnership with the soda giant, and he's now their spokesman. Got it, saw the #DEWeezy fliers. But he turned his hour-long set, during which he often held a skateboard, into an opportunity to hawk Mountain Dew from every angle, even giving an uplifting monologue about how being a rock star and a skateboarder are the same thing: Sometimes you fall but you always get back up. Then he took a swig of Mountain Dew. Was Extreme Weezy filming a commercial and we were the extras? Yes, that actually was true. Between that and the Music Hall's head-in-a-trash-can sound, I felt a little #DEWped. - Audra Schroeder / Dallas Observer
Youth Lagoon - Hotel Vegas
Because there are thousands of performers at SXSW, there is something to literally everyone's taste. And lots that isn't. Most of the time you can avoid something you don't like, but sometimes you can't. While working on another assignment, I happened upon Youth Lagoon Friday at the Brooklyn Vegan party on the Eastside's Hotel Vegas and quickly ran out of synonyms for "boring." It seems cruel to say it was the worst thing I saw last week, because singer-songwriter Trevor Powers is so young (22) and has struggled with anxiety. But from what I saw Friday, "navel-gazing" would have been putting it
politely. I hope he changes my mind someday. -- Chris Gray / Houston Press