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SXSW ’09: SPIN’s Best and Worst


Best Set: Mariachi El Bronx at Red 7 Patio. L.A.’s fiercest — and finest — punks don full south-of-the-border regalia (no hats, though) and do 40 minutes of heart-tugging mariachi originals. They come back sans costumes three hours later and obliterate the venue with a raging hardcore set.
Best Discovery: Triple Cobra. Low-budget glitter rock from San Francisco, replete with androgynous frontman, Glamazonian backing vocalists/dancers, bubbles, feathers, and riding crops. Of Montreal meets Hedwig in Scissor Sisters’ orgy room.
Biggest Disappointment: King Khan & the Shrines. They are actually fantastic, playing their sweaty homage to ’60s garage soul, but the venue’s makeshift PA makes them sound as if they’re playing under the Colorado River.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears
People Were Really Talking About: PJ Harvey and John Parish

Best Set: Riverboat Gamblers at Buffalo Billiards.Nothing new, nothing buzzworthy, nothing not-exhilarating.
Best Discovery: SXSW via bike is efficient and fun. Nubby tires offer great traction over vomit-slicked Sixth Street.
Biggest Disappointment: Ponytail at Club de Ville. The cute-girl-shrieking-and-pogoing-over-mathy-thrash thing is cool for a few minutes — but they played for 40.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Iran at Red Eyed Fly, or a bottle of sunscreen before SPIN’s Stubb’s party.
People Were Really Talking About: Kevin Drew singing “The Wagon” with Dinosaur Jr. at Cedar Street Tavern. Okay, they weren’t, but I was.

Best Set: The Strange Boys at Beauty Bar Backyard
Best Discovery: These Are Powers’ frontlady Anna Barie. As Kim Gordon once droned: “So cool, so right, starpower starpower starpower over me…”
Biggest Disappointment: The closing of Austin restaurant institution Las Manitas, where I first fell in love with flour tortillas.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Monotonix’s Ami Shalev crowd-surfing in the street outside the Mohawk.
People Were Really Talking About: Muhfukkin’ Twitter — what else?

Best Set: Janelle Monae at Stubb’s. She’s the hardest-working woman in show biz, with big pipes to match. And who knew her faux pompadour could extend two-and-a-half feet upward?
Best Discovery: The kind nurses at Austin’s St. David’s Hospital, who gently X-rayed my painfully swollen right foot (don’t ask).
Biggest Disappointment: Tinted Windows’ formulaic pop, which lacked the wryness of Fountains of Wayne or the bite of Smashing Pumpkins.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: PJ Harvey and John Parish
People Were Really Talking About: All the high-profile non-indie shows (Jane’s Addiction, Metallica, Kanye West) — and how good they actually were.

Best Set: Silversun Pickups at Stubb’s. So good, I didn’t even stay to watch Metallica.
Best Discovery: The Twelves, a Brazilian DJ duo who fuse their own synth hooks and drum loops with remixed tracks, made me remember how much Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock can rock a party.
Biggest Disappointment: Human Highway. Maybe someday Nick Thorburn will care as much about the people who buy his music as he does about his haircut, wardrobe, and guitar collection.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: Ladyhawke. Especially after listening to her record again on Sunday. Hooray for her NYC appearances this week!
People Were Really Talking About: How Janelle Monae might be the coolest human being on the planet. Oh, and that Taylor Hanson is still a hottie.

Best Set: Devo at Austin Music Hall. The Akron smart alecks’ ironic punk-pop is just as good now as it was 30 years ago — and maybe even better. Here’s to the fall release of their new album.
Best Discovery: The Intelligence. When I heard this Portland, OR, quartet’s psych-surf blasts, I immediately fell into a daydream about Ray Davies dropping acid and jamming with the Ventures. And that made me really happy.
Biggest Disappointment: Peter, Bjorn and John. Despite having two albums I absolutely love, they sucked the exuberance out of their performance by replacing live instruments with backing tracks. Simply said, the new tunes didn’t translate live.
Bummed I Didn’t Catch: PJ Harvey and John Parish. Because A Woman a Man Walked By, this duo’s first album in 13 years, is absolutely wonderful — and because I hummed this song all week long in anticipation.
People Were Really Talking About: The suffering economy’s effect on SXSW. Someone had to pay for a few beers this year (read: me).