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SXSW: Ben Jelen, Apostle of Hustle, and more

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Ben_l

Ben_lBit of a late start this morning, PopWatchers, and for that I apologize, but I stayed up way too late at the Blender after-hours party, drinking something that may have contained too much vodka and being lulled into a dancing coma by a group of Swedes. Yes, Peter Bjorn & John may be overhyped, but they’re hard to resist after a long, hot day in the sun, especially once they start whistling. So even though two fratty types in front of me declared them to be “s—” and headed for the door, I stayed until the bitter end, and poured myself into bed with way too much music ringing in my ears. (Our Flickr page has a complete record.)

So now it’s about 1 p.m., and I’m sitting in the backyard of Stubb’s, where it has once again gone cloudy and cool, and Ben Jelen (pictured) is onstage kicking off the Spin magazine party. (He’s quite good, BTW, and deserves a larger audience than the 20 or so people standing tentatively in the middle of the yard.) This will take us through the rest of the afternoon, culminating in performances from Kings of Leon and the Buzzcocks. It’s also rumored that my close friend Pete Townshend will be making a guest appearance with the Fratellis, but I’ll believe that when I see it. If I learned anything yesterday, it’s that one should be very careful not to believe everything you hear in this town.

Yes, thanks to the SXSW rumor mill, everything kind of went to hell a couple times yesterday. After I left the Emmylou Harris tribute — where Emmylou herself may or may not have played; I had to take off before I could determine the truth of that one — I headed to “In the Attic,” the acoustic jam session organized by Pete T. and his lovely love, Rachel Fuller. I’ll write up a whole post on that later today, because it more than deserves one — but the one thing it didn’t deliver was the promised appearance from Willie Nelson. No braided, pot-loving country legend could be found; instead, we got a twenty-something singer-songwriter named Willy Mason. Ah, the telephone game. I know you well.

My next stop was going to be Bob Mould, but I had no patience for the line and instead headed up to the Parish to catch slide guitarist and star of that documentary I Trust You To Kill Me (you know, the one where Kiefer Sutherland attacks a Christmas tree) Rocco Deluca, and at least one of his Burden. Like the slide guitar, find the music kind of dull, but he was all over the radio when I was in L.A., so it’s nice to see someone so ubiquitous in person.

From there I headed back here to Stubb’s to report on what may be the festival’s biggest controversy so far: Mexican rockers Rodrigo y Gabriela were detained at the border because of some weird watch-list issue, and had to cancel their show. In their place I found Apostle of Hustle, and poor Andy Whiteman doing his best to rally a crowd who were mostly just killing time until Bloc Party showed up. But I’ve been a fan for a while, and so their super-rhythmic, multicultural pop was really quite pleasant, especially “Fast Pony for Victor Jara,” which featured the best introduction I’ve heard in a while but which I cannot reprint here as it involves cutting off the testicles of someone in far too much power for me to talk about their testicles without fear of imprisonment. Anyway, that band was real good, and I’ll type up my fun Q&A with Mr. Whiteman (better known as the frontman of Broken Social Scene) here sometime early next week. Yes, he discusses my cage match proposal from earlier this year.

Next up, allegedly, was Amy Winehouse, who is just freakin’ everywhere these days. Not sure why we need to review her again, but hey, it’s my job… but on the way over to her venue, I learned two things: 1) Amy Winehouse got bumped to 1 a.m. 2) Rage Against the Machine may have just played a show at Emo’s.

!!!

This rumor, sadly, also cannot be proven. I’ve not talked to anyone else who heard about it, and while it’s not outside the realm of possibility — as Endelman blogged earlier today, Tom Morello is in town — I think there would be plenty of people lying bragging about being there at every turn, and I’ve heard nada. And anyway, can’t get hung up on what could have happened. Instead, let’s talk about what did:

I wound up at the Sire Records party for the shirtless boys of Against Me!, and had a fist-pumping, crowd-surfing good time. It’s punk, very melodic punk. It’s pub songs and sea chanteys writ loud. It made me feel like an angry pirate. And most of all, it possessed not a lick of twee, indie pretension, which was exactly the deep cleansing my soul needed at the end of SXSW, Day 2. How can you not raise your weird vodka drink to that?

All right! The wind is picking up, and I’m gonna grab a beer before the Fratellis come on. More later, PopWatchers, but in the meantime, I’m going to try and make these posts more interactive. So… what’s your personal musical antidote to the too-much-indie-rock blues?

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