Even though events carry on through to Sunday evening here in Austin, for most people Saturday represented the conclusion of SXSW '99.
Things got going early in the afternoon with a Sugar Free Records showcase highlighted by the much talked about band Beulah. Later, the SXSW Film Festival crossed paths with the music conference with the premiere of film/video director Grant Gee's Radiohead feature, "Meeting People Is Easy," a visually stunning work that takes the viewer into the world of Radiohead on tour.
Early in the evening, Ireland's Nina Hynes performed a lush arrangement of songs that showcased her tender vocals, evoking comparisons to Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays. A show co-headlined by the highly anticipated Asian Dub Foundation and Ben Lee kicked the night up a notch. Asian Dub Foundation threw down a uniquely political mix of hip hop, dub, and drum 'n bass. Ben Lee followed, flanked on stage by two bouncy girls on keyboards. New material from his recent Grand
Royal release was impassioned yet still clutching tightly to a lo-fi aesthetic.
Across town, Cibo Matto debuted material from an album due out in early June. A highlight of their show was "Sci-Fi Wasabi," where the crowd did a little swaying two-step on command as the hook of the chorus reeled them in.
Despite a raft of technical problems at the outset which drove these otherwise sweet Icelandic girls into a profanity-riddled tete-a-tete with the sound engineer, Bellatrix pulled off what was probably the diamond in the rough performance of the conference. The voice of lead singer Eliza begged the listener to wonder if all Icelandic girls are blessed with the beautifully warbling quality that has endeared Bjork to the world. A blend of live and looped drums, jangly guitars, synthesizers, driving bass lines, and raw bursts of violin were wrapped neatly in a stunning package.
A number of unsanctioned after-hours parties drove people crazy trying to secure invites, the biggest
of which was "Spin" magazine's party featuring Built To Spill, the Flaming Lips, and Juan Atkins. Built To Spill's Doug Martsch put his fine lyrics on display as the band pulled out a number of gems mainly from "Perfect From Now On" and "Keep it Like a Secret."
For many, this year's SXSW was a throwback to the conference's original intent of showcasing a good number of unsigned and independent artists while mixing in a handful of established acts.
Now we will have to wait and see what is in store for the year 2000. Oh, and by the way, most people never did get their hands on a Tom Waits ticket.