SXSW 2011: Lunch with the Germans and other Grim Fairy Tales

Sabina Tang skipped the Kanye secret show and Perez Hilton’s party in order to file this. Thus, she will be forever ignorant of the wonders of Cyhi the Prince and liquid cocaine boogers drawn on...
By    March 21, 2011

Sabina Tang skipped the Kanye secret show and Perez Hilton’s party in order to file this. Thus, she will be forever ignorant of the wonders of Cyhi the Prince and liquid cocaine boogers drawn on Kid Cudi.


So you may have heard: the overhead camera, boom and all, fell into the crowd at Stubb’s just as Orchestral Maneuvres in the Dark were taking the stage for their Friday night official showcase. Andy McCluskey walked up to the mike, said, “This is too late a start for a band of our age… whoa!” The band then stood about on stage, frowning worriedly as emergency medical services were called and several bloodied martyrs removed. This via real-time Twitter feed, as I was up against the barrier on the other side. Just as well: removes the temptation to gawk. There were a few vultures whose first instinct was to clamber up on the edge of the stage and shoot a roll, instead of helping or getting out of the way.

It was another thirty minutes before OMD were able to take the stage for an abbreviated set of non-stop hits and frenzied shape-throwing from Andy (who now looks like he plays one of Lord Nelson’s handsomer admirals in a BBC historical, lending an extra frisson of hilarity to the New Wave dancing master class). The crowd didn’t move as much as the singer did, because it was 1:30AM and our feet were falling off, we were squashed into half the space we originally occupied, and – let’s be honest – having a camera boom fall on one puts a damper on a party, even if no one was seriously hurt. But we tried. I tried. From pain comes transcendence. How many acts can serve up a trifecta like “If You Leave,” “Enola Gay,” and “Electricity”? The best of 80s Madonna or Prince remains omnipresent, atemporal – no chance of ambush by the keen gunblade of nostalgia. Not my high school prom (not that old, thank you), but every black-clad alt-goth Saturday night in undergrad, every house party I CD-Red at my best friend’s old apartment between 2002 and 2005. She’s married, pregnant, living in a different city. I’ll never see that grotty apartment again. Tempus fugit. Who’re the kids in those photos? Tears on the packed-earth dancefloor. They had thirty minutes and didn’t even play “Joan of Arc” or “Souvenir”.

Stream OMD’s earlier SXSW set (w/ bonus Moby), courtesy of KEXP 90.3FM Seattle:


The first thing to do upon arrival at 11AM (count yourself lucky with the traffic) was to grab a free lunch from whichever member of the United Nations happened to be amenable. Barbados served ribs, pulled pork, and rum and Coke, France provided tacos (!?!). For their day party, Germany set up headquarters in an airy restaurant with a rooftop terrace – LUNCH WITH THE GERMANS, thundered the flyer, clearly auteured by the anonymous genius who writes the Kompakt promo blurbs (look it up, trust me). Brandt Brauer Frick played a great set there on Thursday, getting progressively more sunburnt as their metronomic Korg-and-drum-machine jams sprawled out and out, not a hair nor slate-coloured button-down out of place. They didn’t even loosen their ties until they came down for the buffet.

Brandt Brauer Frick – Caffeine:

(Incidentally, the most complex animal on the Germans’ menu was crayfish – the organizers having anticipated that the sort of person who’d attend a German techno showcase in the middle of a SXSW afternoon would be ecstatic to see a geranium salad after a week of Texan BBQ. The terrace, ironically, overlooked the Best Wurst sausage-onna-bun stall, which did brisk business throughout. A couple of days later I asked the dude if he’d gotten any Germans from upstairs. “My toughest customers,” quoth he.)


Who speaks for our generation, if not Julian Casablancas and Harry Potter? I’ll let you chew on that one for a minute.

Fifty-thousand-strong crowd, easy, not counting the people picnicking on the lawn of the arts center across the road. I saw Coldplay at Osheaga Festival in Montreal, a couple of years ago, and this had the same vibe of effortless perfection – gorgeous weather, shimmering city skyline, sunset and foot-tall daiquiri ices. So many photo uploads that the crowd appeared as a mass of unblinking blue LED fireflies in a sea of darkness and AT&T went down like a tuppenny slag (remember lighters? yeah…). The type of outdoors show that’s better if the band is a bit corny and stadium-y and one is not so keenly invested as to exhaust oneself queuing at the gate from 9AM on. The Strokes may not be as cheesy as Chris Martin and friends, but they have only one trick: a characteristic (and great) song structure building to a characteristic (and great) emotional effect, regardless of the actual tune. The same could be said of Sex Pistols and My Bloody Valentine, except neither of those bands really got past album one. That puts the Strokes ahead of the Pistols and MBV – or behind, depending on how one views Is This It in relation to what followed.

I could tell a shaggy dog story here of how I infiltrated the VIP section during The Strokes’ encore and danced on a folding chair twenty feet away from Nikolai Fraiture as they played “Last Nite” and fireworks went off in the sky, but I’ll spare you the embarrassment. Sometime down the pub, maybe.

MORE TO COME: Janelle Monae, Owen Pallett, Wiz Khalifa (no really), the especially winning Taiwan indie showcase… MAYBE YOKO ONO?

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