Sunday, March 22, 2009

SXSW Music 2009: Day Four

Friday I went to the Flatstock poster show (yay for me, I kept to my pledge to buy only one poster) and had to navigate through a massive line waiting to see Third Eye Blind. My right brain cried a little at the sight. On to Saturday!

Echo & the Bunnymen
Not as exciting as seeing them a few years ago when they were mounting their comeback, and a rather perfunctory performance. The sound was good though and they played "Villiers Terrace" so I was happy.

Fond of the song "Coast of Carolina", on Merge Records, and the frontman is a drummer/singer (always impressive to me), so I went. Disappointingly generic at this point, though there is hope for more interesting work in the future.

A bit worn out musically, I decided to sit down in Esther's Follies for some comedy.

Natasha Leggero
MC for part of the night and so her jokes were scattered between the other sets. I admire her moxie. Would like to see a full set sometime.

Martha Kelly
Yay. Kelly started in Austin and I love her guileless delivery.

Eugene Mirman
"There are three kinds of bands playing this week. Bands I like, bands that are just not for me, and bands who are angry at quiet." Hee. The tossed-off SXSW jokes were clever and the slightly older material (much of which I saw at All Tomorrow's Parties) still worked well. The set-ending "duet" with John Wesley Harding fell flat, but still a good set.

Hannibal Buress
Never heard of this guy, but he destroyed. Love seeing someone without expectations (well, always low expectations with unknown comics) that just kills. Must to look into further.

Todd Barry
Barry's stage persona isn't capable of delivering a rousing set, but still did well. I laughed so there you go.

Janeane Garofalo
Admittedly "wackadoodle" on Lyrica and "Vicadoodles", she was sloppy and hilarious. I hope she taped this set because the tangents were brilliant. I doubt it can be recreated, but if she can approach the free-ranging, giddy charm she exhibited here she's due for fantastic HBO special.

Other, terrible comics will go unmentioned.

Handsome Family
15 years ago at SXSW I was the stage manager for the venue they played at before their first album came out. Fell in love then and never stopped. So good. Pretty big, enthusiastic audience too.

Six Finger Satellite
They're back, one of my favorite bands of the mid-90s, though really it's only J. Ryan (singer/keyboards) and Rick Pelletier (guitar). I wasn't hoping for much as their last album and tour were quite bad. Not much has changed and it's clear that John MacLean (now peforming as The Juan MacLean) was the standout talent in the band.

So SXSW music ended with a fizzle. That's OK. It was an above average year.

Oh yeah, and I got to see a another movie.

I've wanted to see this since hearing the buzz out of Sundance and it didn't disappoint. Free-spirited Andrew comes to town to visit his old friend Ben and shake things up a little. Ben's chafing under his now-staid life while Andrew needs to find justification for calling himself an artist. The gist is familiar (Old Joy), but the execution is fresh. Out late and quite drunk/stoned, the friends concoct a plan to prove to themselves that they're not boring, namely make an amateur porno featuring them having sex with each other. It sounds preposterous, but the naturalistic performances sell it from start to finish. The really wonderful thing is that Humpday is funny, engaging, sweet comedy who's laughs arise from spot-on characterization rather than gags. Magnolia Pictures has picked it up so it will be see a probably limited, art house release. Highly recommended.

The Q&A afterwards with cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke and co-star Joshua Leonard was illuminating. The film was shot in sequence and improvised. Director Lynn Shelton wrote scene outlines, but left the particulars to the actors. This great method is largely responsible for the naturalism and believeable motivation on display here. Kasulke and Leonard were especially excited that the audience "got" the tone, humor, and tension of the film. Apparently at Sundance it was received as a much broader comedy. Loved it.

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