I'm developing a real fondness for Austin--the hospitality of the local folks, the evident pride they have in the music culture that's grown up here, the efficiency with which the town's handled the massive inflow of people for the Festival. Wandering 6th street and hearing all this music--some of it fabulous, some of it, meh--I keep thinking whether it'd be possible, one day, to do something like this in a city in China. Maybe when my kids are grown up and playing in bands.
The panel on the Chinese music industry I just appeared on seems to have gone over well: we had one curmudgeon in the crowd to said we sounded like a bunch of condescending ugly Americans, but I think he was just put off by the fact that everyone on the panel was a North American. He seemed to paritcularly dislike me. i believe the concensus among others listening was that the guy was a dick.
The other panelists were Michael LoJudice, who runs North American operations for Beijing-based Modern Sky (he was heavily sedated, having had his wrist broken by a bounder for one too many stage dives the night before), Adam Lewis, from Planetary, which bring indie acts to China; my friend Jon Campbell, who works with the Midi Festival, also brings bands over, and is an all-around great person to know on the Beijing music scene despite our sometimes widely divergent musical tasts; and Matthew Kagler, owner of Tag Team Records, which has at least one verh good Chinese band--Lonely China Day (寂寞夏日, EP cover pictured left), a band now moving in a sort of electronic-heavy Mogwai direction but which used to play pretty straight-ahead, Chinese-inflected guitar rock and frequently opened for Chunqiu back in 2002 to 2003. Matthew says they're going lap-top, which to me, an unreconstructed rock guy, is disconcerting. He's brought them and another Beijing band I haven't heard, "Rebuilding the Rights of Statues," to SXSW and says they were well received at their show last night.
For the most part, judging from questions from the audience, they didn't approach with preconcieved notions (excpet the correct ones, about piracy and other IPR issues), were genuinely curious, and asked some very intelligent questions. I'd say a good third of them raised their hands when moderator Vickie Nauman asked whether they'd been to China.
Alas, the timing of the panel caused me to miss the Metal party--a genre conspicously absent from this festival. It's really dominated by post-punk Indie rock bands, though a few of those I've found to be quite entertaining. Tonight I'm hoping to meetup with my old colleague from Linktone, Mark Begert, who has settled in Austin. He's always fun. I'm hoping he'lll join me in seeking out some of the more brutal musical offerings available.
The musical highlight for me so far, by a long shot, was seeing Hayseed Dixie at a club called MoMo's. I had to pull Jon Campbell and Martin Hansen, project manaer of the Danish Rock Council who spends a lot of time in China, away from the horrid Brit-pop band they insisted on seeing so that we could hoof it down to Momo's in time to catch Hayseed's 1am set, and even though we arrived late, I was in utter ecstasy.
Hayseed Dixie's a Nashville-based quartet composed of: a smoking banjo player, an acoustic bassist, a guitarist who doubles on fiddle, and one of the meanest mandolin players I've ever seen. They''re most famous for their country/bluegrass covers of AC/DC songs--thus the name-- but there were some other fabulous surprises in last night's set--including Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls", replete with vocal harmonies and sped up about triple speed, and a rollcking version of Duelling Banjos. I snagged their set list, which you can see to the right. You can see they did the Sabbath tune "War Pigs," which must have been a gas--had to content myself to watch it on YouTube here, it's awsome--as well as Aerosmith's "Walk This way" and Motorhead's "The Ace of Spades." I'd love to see these guys come to China. Jon, make it happen man!
I'm flying out tomorrow, and going to miss lots of great music. But I'll be spending the weekend with my two best friends--meeting Drew's new girlfriend, and possibly Dave's. They've both settled in the Midwest--Dave (left) in Chicao, where this picture was taken six or seven years ago, and Drew (right) in Madison. I'm glad they've lost the goatees. So late Ninetees.
A bunch of us bought Drew a banjo for his 40th birthday in October, and he made a funny little YouTube short you can see here. Knowing him he's probably highly proficient on the thing by now.
Austin, adieu. I really hope to come back next year.