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SXSW: Riverboat Gamblers, Turbonegro, and more

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Turbonegro_lOne last, fond howdy, PopWatchers: I’m sitting in the Houston airport getting ready to board my flight home from a music festival that, like the month in which it lives, came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. A lamb that stood in line for a really long time and didn’t get to see any bands. A really sad, frustrated lamb. Angry, really. Angry lamb. Baaaaaah.

I wish I could wrap this up in a profound fashion, but you’re just going to have to go with what I’ve got: Some final pics on the Flickr page, some blisters on my feet, and a slight ringing in the ears. Oh, and a brief rundown of the very few, very random things I managed to see on Saturday night…

I guess I could have seen this coming: My final day of SXSW started with a fun-filled trip to traveling rock poster show Flatstock, and then went downhill from there. The lines for the day parties were crackers, and the bands I saw after landing at Beerland were — with the exception of CPC Gangbang’s hardcore harmonica punk — pretty mediocre. Yes, that includes the Black Lips, who disappointed the crowd by a) not peeing on each other and b) not sounding good.

Slightly better sounding but even more random was Attractive and Popular, a space-rock band out of Hot Springs, Arkansas, who I went to see because I liked their name and used to live about 35 miles down the highway from Hot Springs. They had gold sequined dollar signs on their shirt and an admirably upbeat attitude considering they were playing for about 15 people at Emo’s Jr. (while the Buzzcocks played to capacity in the other room), and I liked their weird vibe, as well as their drummer, who reminded me of Janet Weiss.

I also liked the very tall, hairy vibe of the Meat Puppets, who took the big Emo’s stage after the last notes of “Ever Fallen in Love” faded away. After a couple head-bangingly good tunes, Curt Kirkwood admitted, “When we started our band a really f—ing long time ago, we were big huge Buzzcocks fans. So that means they’re older than us.” True, but Curt still ain’t no spring chicken. Not sure what it says about this year’s SXSW that so many of the acts were old enough to be my parents. Anyway, Meat Puppets: on tour now!

Made a quick jaunt to the Central Presbyterian Church to see Tom Morello’s Nightwatchman act, and while Slash and Nuno Bettencourt were nowhere to be found this time, I still really enjoyed myself. Tom’s got this Woody Guthrie thing going on, if Woody Guthrie was a guitar prodigy — and if you thought it was Zach de la Rocha fueling the social consciousness of Rage Against the Machine, think again. Bonus props to the ladies of the Presbyterian faith for the excellent cookies. You get my vote for best venue, and not just because I could sit down.

And then it all went to hell. I got to the Spoon/Stooges show an hour early and stood in line for half an hour without moving, gave up, and left. Went to the Detroit Cobras show, got there 45 minutes early, stood in line until I heard them go on, and left. Walked to the Pipettes/Cursive show, realized there were about 200 people milling around outside the packed tent, heard the Pipettes say, “Helloooo, people on the street,” gave up, and left. Walked back to Emo’s. Walked right in the door.

I guess God wanted me to see the Riverboat Gamblers, and that’s all right with me: The Austin-based punk band had me bouncing, and when lead singer Mike Wiebe climbed up and hung from the rafters, it made everything okay. Of course, at that point in the evening I’d had enough of standing, enough of rubbing up against strangers, and way too much of drunk people — despite the constant references to beer in these columns, Rascal Flatts fans, I’m not much of a drunk myself — and so I moved off to the side to clear the way for Turbonegro‘s rabid fans and their denim fan club jackets. I would like to try and explain Turbonegro (pictured) to you, but it’s hard. Someone described them to me earlier that day as “Alice Cooper fronting the Village People, but from Norway,” and I guess I’ll run with that. There was some talk of booty-shaking, some talk of selling our bodies to the night, and after I was asked if I dug destruction I realized… no. Right now, I do not dig destruction. Right now I dig sleeping. And so I left.

And that was it. Four days of great music ended in front of a very large Norwegian man with a very large Norwegian gut who was sweating through his American flag shirt. Fitting. Or not.

They’ve called my flight so I gotta go. Will try and draw some conclusions by the time I land. Meanwhile: who are you pissed at me for missing?