SXSW 2009, Day 4: plum panels, Perfect Pants

It's Saturday, the last day of SXSW. And for me, it begins with three tech-oriented panels and ends with one more musical blast. (Shown above: Perfect Pants.)

Panel No. 1: "The Archival Restoration Preservation Society." From that title, I'm thinking that the Society actually exists — especially since two of the panelists are producers George Massenburg and Sandy Pearlman, longtime champions of good sound. But no, there's no such formal organization; the guys are just having fun with a certain Kinks album title. That said, they're dead serious about archival preservation, particularly for original analog recordings — which will require new forms of analog storage. As for sound quality itself? Says Massenburg: "No resolution is high enough." Which brings us to . . .

Panel No. 2: "Neil Young Archives." Volume 1 is finally coming, on June 2. (For details, see my previous Bitstream post.) "It's not a boxed set," says manager Elliot Roberts. "It's a biography. It's actually a life." Roberts is so enthusiastic about sharing a preview with the audience that when his cellphone rings — and it's Neil himself — he doesn't take the call! But, referencing the project's incarnation on Blu-ray Disc, Roberts does share with us Neil's motto: "Quality, whether you want it or not."

Panel No. 3: "Wax Attacks!" Vinyl resurgence? Only 15 people (including yours truly, Ken Richardson) attend this panel, which is moderated by John Kunz, owner and operator of Austin's landmark shop Waterloo Records. There's lots of talk about value-added bonuses (artwork, liner notes, posters), the social element of playing LPs, and even their "sex appeal." But the "superior sound quality of vinyl," as one panelist put it, is mentioned only once. I hope to post a rebuttal to that supposed superiority at some point soon.

And I also hope to give you more details on all of those panels in a future issue of the print magazine. In the meantime, however, there's one more night of SXSW music to be heard . . .

. . . so come back, baby, rock & roll never forgets:


Tiny Masters of Today
(Brooklyn, NY;
     What we have here are siblings Ivan on guitar and Ada on bass (backed by a drummer). Oh, he's 15. And she's twelve. And tonight, she has a very bad cold; "my voice sounds stupid." It also sounds far too young when she sings in front of Ivan's decent-enough guitar. Far too tuneless. I'll cut her a break due to her illness. Still, as I watch her, all I can think of is someone having pulled Scout out of To Kill a Mockingbird and saying to her, "Here, join a rock band." Except that Scout would've been spunkier. Anyway, it'll be interesting to hear what happens when Ada's voice breaks. And when the band learns to, y'know, move a bit.


Theoretical Girl
(London, England;
     With a little time to kill before my next scheduled stop, I spy this band through an open window — 2 actual girls on guitars, 2 guys on bass and drums — and I decide to go inside. Alas, they're 2 polite for their own good. Innocuous pop. Somebody left the energy at home.


The Love Me Nots
(Phoenix, AZ;
     Who died and made the bassist king? (Make that "queen"; it's a she, after all.) The bass is cranked so much in the mix, I can barely hear the other gal on Farfisa and vocals, the guy on guitar, and even the other guy on drums. This band's garage rock comes highly touted by none other than Steven Van Zandt, but with this bludgeoning bass, it's hard to tell how good the Nots are. And I've forgotten my earplugs tonight, so I'm thinking I won't last long. I don't.


Dirty Epics
(Dublin, Ireland;
     What I mean is, when you learn to write stronger, catchier hooks. This band does decent New Wave-ish rock, and the female lead singer ain't bad. But the material needs to be more memorable. And geez, after seeing four female lead singers tonight, won't anybody truly make a mark?


Perfect Pants
(Austin, TX;
     Yeah, now this is more like it. Around 10:20 p.m., walking down Sixth Street between gigs, I see a crowd of people in front of a band that's busking in an alleyway. No females here, just four guys with great chops. Their Web site might not be up yet, but you can find 'em on myspace and facebook, where they're described, respectively, as "progressive/pop/postpunk" and "progressive art rock." They're not that arty in the three songs I hear, but they're certainly quirky and inquisitive. Solid playing, solid vocals. Hey, SXSW: Give these local guys a showcase next year!

Having stumbled across such a fine band, I treat myself to the fine-and-sassy Janeane Garofalo. That's right, I couldn't get into that club last night, but I do squeeze into a different club tonight, and her standup routine is wonderful, from flip-flops to thongs. (Don't get caught wearing flip-flops when the Rapture comes. Don't ever get caught wearing a thong.) And she's preceded by the delightfully droll Todd Barry.

And suddenly . . . it's all over. Except that there's a band called White Shoes & the Couples Company (Jakarta, Indonesia; here's their link), and I really want to catch them, what with that name and that nationality, not to mention I've heard they're a great big flashy outfit. Alas, having missed them at SXSW a few years back, I now miss them again; walking downtown after Janeane's slot, I find that the band's showcase has been canceled. Some year, we'll get it right.

Maybe that'll be next year. Which I'm already looking forward to. But first . . . can I go to sleep now?

— Ken Richardson