See By Be Seen

At the annual South by Southwest music festival, it's the singer, not the song

Coyne had every reason to be mad, even if it had more to do with Davies than The New Pornographers. (Go buy Mass Romantic. Now.) Singer-guitarist Carl Newman couldn't figure out what, exactly, SXSW keynote speaker Davies was doing onstage with his band. Aside from, obviously, singing "Starstruck," off The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society. "How fucked up is that?" Newman asked after the show. "Really, how fucked up is that?"

(Of course, Newman seemed to be confused about a lot of things. Like, for instance, why anyone was a fan of his erstwhile band Zumpano ("Uh, thanks?"), or just where in the hell the rest room was at Waterloo Brewing Company. "No, man, I already tried there," he said, stumbling off, exasperated.)

Davies took the stage again at Superdrag's gig at Buffalo Billiards on Saturday, apparently deciding to sing with any band that ever had the word "Kinks" mentioned in a review. (Though not, as was hoped, at The Deathray Davies' show at The Drink on Wednesday.) Of course, an appearance by Davies wasn't enough to ensure that the crowd his name brought in would stick around. That's what happens when you book a horrible band (say, Brassy) after a good one (The New Pornographers).

Brassy, if you're wondering, combines EMF with Bikini Kill with Young MC with Le Tigre with the Beastie Boys with The Fact That Jon Spencer Is Muffin (Yes, Muffin) Spencer's Brother. So, yeah, bad. The group might as well rename themselves Fire, because La Zona Rosa cleared as soon as people realized what was in the room. If nothing else, Brassy is proof that free badges at SXSW are not, in fact, free. Actually, there is something else: It is who you know. End of story.

Why else would Brassy be invited to play the annual Spin party, along with Idlewild and The BellRays? "Soaking in the exclusivity," was how one person put it, it being the festival-closing Spindig. "Drinking and smoking where I used to pay my water bill," is another, referring to one of the one-night-only Arch's former incarnations. The Spin party was so exclusive (haha) they wouldn't let people out of the party. Even newly hirsute Hollywood Actor Luke Wilson couldn't get the rent-a-cop to crack the door and let him out.

But why would you want to leave a place where you could spark up with all of those writers from Spin and Rolling Stone you see on those MTV specials? Or have Ryan Adams light your cigarette? Or drink so much that a party sponsored by Jim-freakin'-Beam runs out of free booze? Or kick it with Hanson's manager or maybe even Isaac or Taylor Hanson, who was an object of lust by pretty much everyone there, who apparently were so gone that Taylor Hanson just looked pretty one way or the other? With his red-faced tipsiness and filter-tipped cigars, Taylor Hanson looked as if he'd crashed the party on his way home from a high school kegger. All that was missing was a bottle of Boone's Farm. And at that point in the night/morning, no one would have given him any guff for drinking a little Strawberry Hill.

"I wonder who puts these things together for Spin," an Austin writer asked at one point. "It's gotta be someone national."

"Why?"

"Because this is where the day-labor camp is." Pause. "Who from Austin would think this is a good place for this?"

Driving home, sitting in traffic in the too-big-for-its-city-limits town, you'd think he was talking about SXSW itself. Maybe he was.

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