SXSW Report: Singers On The Roof, 300 Pound Front Men, And The Return Of Hole

courtney-love-by-hedi-slimane

Spin Magazine party at Stubb’s, Friday March 19, 2010

Although the day began cloudy with a chilly breeze, by the time the Spin Magazine day party at Stubb’s got underway, the Austin sun was back out and shining, ready for a day of barbecue and music. Though the folks at Spin got a pretty solid lineup together for the entire day, it was obvious that most people hanging out behind the famous barbecue joint were really waiting for one thing—the first U.S. performance by Courtney Love’s band, Hole, in over a decade.

Cincinnati band Foxy Shazam, who you might know best for their song “Unstoppable,” which aired during the Super Bowl, kicked off the day with their soulful, groove-laden punk. A far cry from being awake even at 1 p.m., I sat down with a barbecue sandwich and enjoyed Eric Nally and his band’s last few songs, trying to take in their energy like it was some kind of transcendental Adderall. The highlight of the set was at the end, when Nally climbed on the roof of a neighboring building and told the crowd “you’re never gonna see me again.” As a security guard passed me as I was finishing up the last of my lunch, he radioed another, warning, “I repeat, we have an artist on the roof. We need someone back there ASAP.” You know you played a good set when security is more concerned about you than the crowd.

Up next was Rogue Wave, whose lo-fi sound took it down a few notches from Foxy Shazam, but fit the outdoor vibe. It was probably good that Rogue Wave gave the crowd a mellow break, as F*cked Up got ready to take the stage, almost literally. Seeing F*cked Up two days in a row actually gave me another level of perspective on the band, as, after first seeing them at the Levi’s/FADER Fort, I wondered if lead singer Damian Abraham’s onstage antics were planned and rehearsed, or if he really was just that kind of guy. It was the latter. Not long into their set, Abraham jumped into the crowd, pouring water in the dirt and rolling in his homemade mud, offering hugs to anyone brave enough to go near him.

I’d hate to have to follow a set that ended with a man dancing with muddy strangers in his underwear, but if anyone could get the job done it was Miike Snow. The Swedish indie/electro band started a little slowly, but by the time they got into hits like “Animal” the crowd, who had been indulging in free Mike’s Hard Punch and UV Vodka for about three hours at this point, was dancing for the first time all day.

If Miike Snow didn’t get everybody moving, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings sure did. The modern band with the classic-soul vibe hit the stage James Brown style, complete with a call and response from the bandleader. Age ain’t nothing but a number for Jones, who spent her forty minute set showing off moves I couldn’t even dream of attempting. Jones’ energy and Motown era voice, coupled with an incredibly tight band, made for one of the best sets I’ve seen in Austin thus far.

And then there was Hole. Having stood up against the stage for a few hours to hold onto my front row spot, I found myself surrounded by hardcore Courtney Love fans, and, despite whatever stereotypes that might bring to mind for you, had the best damn time letting loose with some people who didn’t care if their fedora matched their skinny jeans. Love came onstage looking surprisingly (and almost disappointingly) composed, not staggering or stumbling but telling the crowd how excited she was to be back on stage, ready to perform. The banded opened with latest single “Skinny Little Bitch,” and the rest of the set was a blur from there. Moving through hits old and new, the set seemed to end as quickly as it started, with Love ending the day by… telling us she was on Facebook? Hey, now you can add her to your news feed.

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