Reporting From SXSW: Day 1

Best thing I saw: Roky Erickson with Okkervil River at the Paste party at Galaxy Room. The songs off Erickson’s coming-soon album, Love Cast Out All Evil, were good, especially the title track. But I’d be lying if I said the crowd (or me, for that matter) were there to hear him play those songs. They wanted “Two-Headed Dog,” “I Walked With a Zombie,” “Starry Eyes,” and the set-closing “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” all of which led to a much heavier set than he has been playing since his comeback.

It’s amazing to see Erickson be able to do this after two decades out in the weeds — and no one looks more amazed than Okkervil River front man Will Sheff, hopping around with a goofy smile — but that is not to say there aren’t obvious remnants of that period. For one: when Sheff sings backup, Roky gets distracted and stops singing. Like: “Can everyone else hear that?” That said, it was clear from the opening howls of “Miss Me” that he still has it when he wants it.

Other highlights: The Walkmen (mainly for “The Rat,” which still gets me) and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at Stubb’s (I left before the ostensible real draws at the NPR showcase, Broken Bells and Spoon); We Were Promised Jetpacks at The Parish; seeing Bill Murray waiting for a car outside the Four Seasons.

Worst thing I saw: the couple who decided to have a long, extremely earnest talk about their relationship about six inches away from me just prior to Fitz and the Tantrums (kind of took the shine off their hairdresser-soul set); the rooftop at Wave, where Surfer Blood was playing — there wasn’t near enough room, but at least everyone who showed tried to get closer. You could put a brick wall in front of them, and they would just duck their shoulder, confident they could squeeze through. Kind of amazing, at least after the fact.

Photo: Roky Erickson by Ron Baker (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kingsnake) via Wiki Commons

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