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The South by Southwest Lowdown

Despite cold, dreary weather, the twentieth SXSW festival drew record numbers to Austin, Texas. What were the trends and hot tickets, and how did New York bands weather the storm?

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6th Street.  

Unlike the mellow, pop-oriented showcases of the past, this year’s was dominated by an entirely different beast: frenetic, hard-hitting heavy metal. Passersby couldn’t walk five feet down the 6th Street drag without hearing the twisted, ear-splitting chug of metal chords and the guttural screams of singers channeling Ozzy Osbourne and James Hetfield.


The Sword  

Canadian act Priestess, who have more of a classic rock sound (think AC/DC or Thin Lizzy) played to packed, appreciative houses all over town, and gifted Austin stoner-rock favorites the Sword thrilled visitors with blistering sets.




Dungen  

Two of the trendiest labels in the business threw hard-rocking, late-night ragers as well: At the Blue Genie gallery in East Austin, Vice Records delivered a screaming performance by Zeppelin-esque Australian power trio Wolfmother, and Kemado Records threw a buzzy all-metal party in a house near Austin proper, where the rain prevented J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.'s headlining act Witch from following great sets by Oakland, California seventies throwbacks Saviour and Swedish psychedelic rockers Dungen.


Dirty on Purpose  

Among the 1,300 bands performing, plenty of New York area acts stated their musical case: The dreamy sound of on-the-rise Brooklyn indie-pop act Dirty on Purpose scored big with Austinites; punkish New Jersey rocker Ted Leo whipped the crowd into a veritable frenzy at a day party at The Parish hosted by music and pop-culture blog Stereogum.com and emceed by hysterical comedian Aziz Ansari; Stolen Transmission, a brand-new label started by Island Records' Rob Stevenson, hosted a hotly anticipated Friday party D.J.'ed by scenemakers the MisShapes; and a couple hundred hard-core fans packed Emo’s for a fantastic performance by the newly reunited New Jersey band Lifetime, complete with crowd-surfing and sing-alongs.


Lifetime  

A rare hip-hop highlight came on Saturday night at the Levi's/Fader Trading Post via a packed, intimate performance by the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah. The doorman told everyone who approached that 100 people would have to leave before even one more person would be allowed in, prompting would-be attendees to try (unsuccessfully) to scale the wet barricades in order to get a glimpse of the action.


Ted Leo  

The swampy conditions continued to plague concertgoers through the weekend, but at around 4 P.M. on Sunday, the clouds finally broke and the first sunlight of the weekend poked through—just as, predictably, legions of tired, damp New Yorkers were boarding their planes to head back home.


MOST UBIQUITOUS NEW YORK BANDS


Diamond Nights  

Diamond Nights
This glammy, high-energy act, signed to local label Kemado Records, played a whopping six times, including a packed set at a Saturday-evening party thrown by Brooklyn promoter Todd P.

We Are Scientists
From intimate penthouse performances to exclusive industry parties, the Brooklyn-based foursome, who started getting attention in indie circles just this year, nailed their first Austin run.

Favourite Sons
This mellow addition to the Vice Records roster performed at all manner of parties, from leisurely afternoon shows to the label’s packed Saturday-night free-for-all in the wilds of East Austin.

BEST SECRET SHOWS


Beastie Boys  

Beastie Boys
The hip-hop trio’s evening show at barbecue-and-bands spot Stubbs was leaked by an indiscreet Austin Chronicle reporter on the day of the performance; two hours before showtime, the line was ten people deep and about six blocks long. Those lucky enough to get in were treated to greatest hits like "Brass Monkey" and "Sure Shot."

Gang of Four
The seminal post-punk band, whose recent reunion shows have proven them to be as ferocious as they ever were in their late-seventies heyday, played an URB magazine party at Rooftop which, if not necessarily a secret show, was one of the hottest tickets in town. The party was sponsored by ever-edgy Dimmak Records.

Flaming Lips
Wayne Coyne’s quirky veteran act performed at the mellow Fox and Hound bar for an ecstatic group of in-the-know revelers who sang along to a cover of Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody" and new compositions from the forthcoming album At War With the Mystics. They also cheered on one happy fan who proposed to his girlfriend onstage during the set (she said yes).


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