the fest generally underwhelmed this year," and 2006's description of "the ground-level, vaguely dissatisfied vibe at this year's fest one studded with sentiments ranging from "there's too many people here" to "everyone I've talked to is complaining about working too hard and not having any fun.")
Sure, there were plenty of free shows and oodles of guest-list jockeying, but when the most talked-about soirees were Perez Hilton's hush-hush hoedown, Rachael Ray's bid for day-party indie cred ("There better be good food!" one warily groaned), and natch, the Playboy after-hours warehouse rave complete with more empties and Porta-Johns than you can shake a Hefty bag at you can just toss the teacup and throw up your multi-wristbanded hands. The truth: do these brands, celebs, or marketing pipe dreams have anything to do with music? The sonic sustenance of SXSW has become secondary to product placement, relegated to background noise amid a recession-jittered hard sell. No surprise that my extremely random sampling of music lovers were uniformly disgruntled. They weren't hearing the sounds that made it worth braving the yeehawing and puking hordes, risking podiatric agony for five whole nights.
Sure, there were revelatory moments: the grinning electro-diva Santogold, the crowd-entrancing the Whip, and teased blonde soulstress Duffy (dimpled Kate Bosworth-like everygirl to Amy Winehouse's trouble-lady) were fab, as were Sightings and Evangelista. Lou Reed cracked mordantly wise even while hawking his new concert doc recreating Berlin (RCA, 1973), shades of Neil Young and Heart of Gold two years ago. SXSW organizers oughta take a cue from the packed "Vinyl Revival" panel, the teeming unofficial shows off the beaten Sixth Street path, where Monotonix raised the roof and drum kit at the Typewriter Museum, and where experi-punks screeched under sunny skies at Ms. Bea's at shindigs hosted by Brooklyn party-starter Todd P, who was given his own official showcases this year. You can already make out signs of the next-gen underground filtering into Moby's Girl Talklike Playboy finale and folkie Liam Finn's noise climax on DirectTV. Is the life-support-via-corporate-sponsorship worth the tourist buck, South By?