SXSW '08: No Age Are The Raddest Vegans Ever; Plus: Brits, Benders And Chickens At Hank's Place

Hey, folks. Friday at SXSW was the hottest day of ’08 so far in Austin —. 90 degrees easy, sweating cojones, and I’ve got a farmer’s tan. Great.

But on to the good news — I was already a huge fan of No Age’s music — they had made a believer out of me months ago, which is no easy feat for Angelenos since I have an old Woody Allen-like resistance to West Coast phenomena. But seriously, there are few more exciting bands to have made a national splash in the past year, so I am happy to report Dean and Randy are awesome guys through and through.

At least that is my assessment after talking to them for an hour in front of a self-proclaimed "old hippie’s house" in south Austin, adjacent to a performance space/ vintage clothing store called the Opera House — the perfect spot for an afternoon showcase by the Smell, the L.A. club that has become a mecca for DIY-minded musicians and artists and which No Age more than anyone have made an indie household name.

What a difference a year makes for Randy and Dean. At SXSW ’07, they said they were "talking their way" onto the bill at most shows, and in fact got tossed from one Austin club after Randy tried to plant a kiss on an aggressive bouncer who got in his face. This year, they are more than welcome on any lineup. With a flurry of EP releases last spring, a growing summertime buzz, a much read New Yorker piece, the release of their Weirdo Rippers album in the fall, and signing with the indomitable Sub Pop, who will release their album Nouns in May, No Age are the little punk duo that could — and did.

"After the New Yorker article came out," Dean told me, "I was even getting e-mails from 60-year-old ladies saying, ‘I don’t even really know what punk music is, but I think you guys and what you are doing is great.’ "

What they are doing is merging exuberant, noisy pop with an unrelenting devotion to the do-it-yourself ethic. Oh yeah, and a devotion to veganism! Never before have I had a band actually tell me they were excited to talk to me BECAUSE I care about animals and try to live my life not abusing or exploiting them. They even gave me the name of two Austin spots — Mr. Natural and Wheatsville — that they say are choice vegan spots. Please, God, give us more bands like No Age.

From animal lovers to real animals — our next stop was the home of Hank Sinatra, a local Austin fixture. He's a grizzled music lover who's opened up his suburban Austin home, complete with a tractor, hay, a pen with rescued chickens and a really cool sheep, dogs running around, a keg of 40s and live music. Lots of live music, assembled by my pals at +1 Music. Among those playing on the stage down by Hank’s watering hole were California pop-rockers the Morning Benders, a great jangly ‘60s-influenced quartet who, if there is justice, you will be hearing a lot more from with the release of their debut, Talking Through Tin Cans, in May; their Bay Area brethren Two Gallants; and funky genre-defying U.K. outfit the Heavy, who I last saw about 14 hours earlier onstage at the Playboy party. Seems like a world away from Hank’s place.

That's all for now. Friday night in Austin awaits. The one and only Bradford Cox is in town with Atlas Sound. Can’t wait to see him, plus my friend Anna is doing an acoustic set. And hopefully later tonight ... more No Age. Aloe for the sunburn and I’m all set. Later.

For more of Norris' adventures in Austin, watch some "John TV." Plus check back with the Newsroom blog throughout SXSW for more highlights, and be sure to visit our sister blog You R Here for concert reviews, photos and more.