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SXSW: MuteMath, Amy Winehouse, and more

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Mutemath_lWhat’s up with the lines, people?! Everywhere I went on this second day of my tenth South by Southwest, I saw frustrated badge holders doing their best to demonstrate that patience is, indeed, a virtue. Is the number of registrants just so astronomically large this year? Is there a shortage of venues? There certainly seems to be in the parking department.

This is, of course, nothing new to SXSW. The one consistent complaint about the festival in the last few years is that there are too many bands overlapping and competing for too few time slots. Add to that the dozens of unofficial parties going on at any given moment, and you’d need to clone yourself three times to catch a fraction of the bands you’d like to see. What ends up happening, as many local Austinites know, is that the folks who can’t get in simply watch from the street. And those crowds are sometimes as large as the ones inside. So here’s a view from the outside in of who had the longest queue on day two…

  • Amy Winehouse (BBC Stage at Bush Park, Eternal)
    Duh. She may be playing six times at SXSW, but each one of Amy Winehouse’s performances is generating the kind of zany buzz you rarely see these days. And it’s justified. Taking the stage at Brush Park this afternoon for the first of two shows, she seemed nervous as she bit her nails in between songs. But by night time, when she headlined the Universal showcase at club Eternal, Winehouse was in fine form. Though she pushed her set back by an hour and 15 minutes (to 1:15 a.m.), much to the annoyance of the ultra-curious who got there at 9:00, the hour or so that she belted and genuinely emoted was well worth the wait. Backed by the eight-piece Brooklyn band that played on much of her album, Winehouse, sipping on what looked like a Jack and Coke, said little to the crowd, but her glaring stare and awkward posturing told the entire story of a young girl struggling with self-confidence while being hailed a genius and adored by thousands, maybe even millions. Winehouse had about eight songs in her tonight, closing with the crowd-pleaser, “Rehab.” She then bolted out the back door as the last note still lingered, knowing full well that at least half of that sweaty, packed-to-the-gills room will likely be coming back for more.
  • MuteMath (Dirty Dog)
    Who? That’s what several passers-by said about a swelling crowd in front of the Dirty Dog bar, with another 100 or so people stuck on the never-ending line. They must not have been American Idol fans. Yes, Idol put this band of New Orleans indie-rockers on the map. No, they didn’t audition per se. Rather, season six finalist Chris Sligh chose their song “Typical” as one of his performance tunes on the Top 24. Needless to say, Simon, Randy, and Paula didn’t recognize it, but they liked it and that’s all that matters. So MuteMath (pictured) should enjoy their 15 minutes, even if they’re partly riding on Sligh’s. (To their credit, the song is actually really good.) As for that rowdy sidewalk crowd, it’s nice to know South By Southwest attendees aren’t too snooty for Idol.
  • Jack’s Mannequin (Exodus)
    Ever since he fronted emo pioneers Something Corporate, Andrew McMahon has made a point of entertaining to the absolute fullest of his abilities onstage. With his post-SC vehicle, Jack’s Mannequin, that’s been a bit of a challenge in the last few years, as McMahon underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in a fight against leukemia. Fortunately for him, his family, fans and the music-loving populace, he is now in remission and back in a big way. Playing to a jam-packed crowd of invited, non-SXSW-affiliated fans, McMahon was literally jumping from his piano bench during the hour-long set, proudly proclaiming his third South By Southwest the best yet. And once again, the collecting crowd outside was a testament to undeniable pop hooks that you can hear even through a window. Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!