The SXSW Report#3: Dust Brothers Rock The House

Warming everybody up for Sukia.

Addicted to Noise staff

writer Gil Kaufman is in Austin for the SXSW music conference. Here is his

third report: With few exceptions, this place seems oblivious to the

technolution. As they say, "they got both kinds of music here, country

and western," and unless you want to hit one of the karaoke bars or

slimy neon dance clubs, it's best to keep those funny hats and baggy pants in

the trunk. Because nobody comes down to rock-and-roll spring break in

Austin to

hear jungle or trip-hop. (And, it's safe to assume, nobody comes down with a

winter jacket in the expectation the temperature will drop fifty degrees over


Which is why Friday night was a perfect chance to go out and hear

the anti-twang. With selective programming, you could bypass anything in a

cowboy hat and hear the beat, from ambient drones set to NASA footage to white

funk jams and Dusted mixing.

Our evening begins at Maggie Mae's at 9 p.m.

with Ashtar Comm, the latest project from Chris Holmes (Yum-Yum). Holmes stood

alone on the outdoor stage in a white jumpsuit, surrounded by a pile of

samplers, computers, wires, etc. As stock NASA footage was projected onto white

sheets behind, and onto him, Holmes kept increasing the tempo and intensity,

overlapping electronic burps and programmed beats pounding from the speakers

and drawing people in off the street to hear what the noise was all about.

Holmes stood calmly in the center of it all, his headphones acting as both

protection from the sound and the cold, the instantly-recognizable image of a

rocket stage separating and burning up projected onto his belly. Beats

multiplied and tripped over each other and up through the hole in the sky,

until the yard was packed with curious folk watching this bespeckled janitor

look-a-like strum his guitar and make considerably more noise than the other

one-man band playing inside, New Zealand's answer to Suicide, Peter


SXSW happenstance and free drink tickets saw to it that

New York's Princess Superstar, a multi-culti funk/hip-hop bundle of attitude

led by what one can only assume is the bedraggled Princess in question, became

the next act on the agenda. Princess was less than regal in her bleach blonde

locks, torn slip dress and ski-goggle head band, but the band was tight, and,

for the most part, funky enough to keep the crowd moving in the 30 degree night

air. She raps, this grain-fed Courtney-manqué, but it's more like fast talking,

and she gets in your face. Regardless, the tickets and weather kept us there

too late, fucking up the whole meticulously-planned schedule and destroying any

chance of seeing Helium, Art Alexakis' solo acoustic set, Supergrass or the Bad

Livers, all of which were simultaneous and at opposite ends of town. Now,

cloning is bad for real people, but couldn't they make an exception for rock

critics? (As long as they had a self-destruct mechanism or something, rendering

them/us useless, or more useless as it were, on Sunday morning.)


traffic meant we caught just the tail end of Bettie Serveert at Liberty Lunch,

which was fine, since we thought Helium was on at 11, not 10, and hadn't

expected to hear our friends from the Netherlands anyway. Serveert sounded

great, mixing songs from their new, upcoming album, Dust Bunnies, with

old favorites from their debut, although, if you closed your eyes (and you had

to because of all the cigar smoke), you could just imagine you were hearing the

albums on really great speakers, with overlaid acoustic guitar and the buzz of

a couple hundred inattentive fans way up in the mix. Yo La Tengo was tuning up,

or it could have been a song, it's hard to tell, as we walked out. No more rock

'n' roll for the rest of the night, a promise and a threat.

Spring Heel

Jack, a keyboard duo from London, filled Bob Popular with dry-ice smoke and

jungle beats at midnight. The pair eschewed the jazziness of their new album

for harsher, faster beats and a more booming space-age sound, though still not

enough to move the "hey-who's that?" crowd. Bottom line: pregnant pauses filled

with disco volante from upstairs, break beats fused with Gina G. If this is the

future of rock, get me a chair, I'm tired.

The night ended at a Nickel Bag

Records party featuring the Dust Brothers on the turntables and their pals

Sukia in the upstairs lounge of the restaurant Calle Ocho. Finally, a crowd not

afraid to move their normally-jaded asses. This was a house party, with Brother

John King changing up the tempo fast and furious, hopping from old-school jams

to noise to slow jams, tripping up the crowd in mid bob, like going from 20

miles an hour to a dead stop over and over.

The sounds and samples came so

fast and furious at times, just as you figured out what King was playing, he

was already on to three other things. The perfect attention-deficit mixing for

a short-attention span, wandering-eye industry crowd. Free beer, not free but

plenty of weed and a packed dance-floor, not a guitar or straw hat in sight.

Sukia donned some inventive uniforms and played their 400th show of the

festival, except this time the system was the most rockin' and, with a little

DJ assistance from King, the sound was a quaking mix of electro disco and

stoner geek grooves. Something about the Christmas lights strung on the ceiling

and not being able to see them made for a "thousand miles from anywhere with a

few hundred of your coolest dreadlocked and stacked-heel friends" vibe. By 2:30

it was time to call it a night.

It had a good beat, and by the end of the

night, they could bug out to it.