NOISE: Well, we're here and the SXSW action is just starting...

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If it's Wednesday, this must be SXSW... sorta. IMHO, the affair is off to a slow start though peeps at the last party I sloshed through were bemoaning missing the interactive part of the conference from March 10-14. Another theory floated around out there: The humongoid, pricey official SXSW dinner that all the industry titans attend is tonight and nothing must detract from the rubber chicken. Ahem.

But that's OK -- we'll start slow, too. All the better to catch the 1,300 or so artists and bands that are performing at this year's event. Efficiency geeks out there will be pleased to know that the speed of registration has greatly improved -- gone are the long langorous lines that snaked through the second floor of the Austin Convention Center in years past. You got to know your neighbors, but the joint feels a lot more together, organizationally, in 2006, and the mood is catching. Last heard in the press room from a local radio reporter: "Do you want to interact with me or just talk?" Glad there's a clear option.

At 1 pm, I was still bleary-eyed from the three-hour layover in Phoenix. It always seems like the SXSW air ferries will turn into party jets/soul planes any sec -- what with the many musicians, writers, industry-types aboard -- but the layover bit didn't improve anyone's mood. Nonetheless I dropped into the Riverboat Gamblers/Thrasher/Volcom Party but nada was going on -- just the faraway music of a distant jukebox. So I moved on down the street to IUMA's bash at Emo's Annex (it's like restaurant-going in SF; if everything's quiet or too crowded on one front, just stroll to the next joint). Tim Mitchell of the Decoration (and IUMA, where he works with Noise Pop founder Kevin Arnold) knows how to throw a party! Empenadas, drink ticks, and music by the Herms (singing brainy songs and rocking a noisome organ; they're ready for the release of their upcoming debut LP) and Phosphorescent (who were doing the zany, mile-long horn section thang as the singer sported strings of holiday lights). All lit up and it's not even 2 pm.

Note to self: Folks seem psyched about the Beastie Boys' press conference for their upcoming concert doc, Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That! And yo yo yo, the Beasties are giving a press conference shortly. An antidote to the doodness might be Pick Up the Mix, the doc on gay, lesbian, and transgendered hip-hop featuring the Deep Dickollective.

Otherwise, tonight, my untrained eye is roving over and considering Houston hip-hop showcases including sole Oaklandish type Balance; the Birdman Records showcase; Kris Kristofferson and Jessi Colter at the Austin Music Awards; Lesbians on Ecstasy with the Metrosexuals; the Castenets with Wooden Wand; Octopus Project; Field Music with Serena Maneesh and Of Montreal; Jose Gonzalez with Annie, the Presets, and Wolfmother (the hype was turned on full blast for them, with lonnnng-ass infomercials on cable last night); Absolutely Kosher showcase; Cut Chemist with Jean Grae; Austin's Weird Weeds; Matador Showcase; Immortal Technique; King of France; the excellent Envelopes with the Ponys, the Grates, and standout non-"s" band Art Brut.

What does it all mean to you? I have no idea. But it sure sounds like I'll be busy.

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Here, my deer: This comes with your chicken-fried steak
at the Broken Spoke honky-tonk in Austin.