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SXSW Day 1 – Walk (and walk, and walk, and walk) Unafraid

March 18, 2008

We’re here. So where the hell are all the fish tacos I kept hearing about?!? That’s definitely on the agenda for later today, but first we’ll check out some music.

Anna Kramer

We headed over to Emo’s to find that they had multiple stages going on. I was most psyched to see Bowerbirds, and by the time we found them they only had two songs left, which sounded ok but not mind-blowing. From there we managed to work our way over to The Raveonettes set, but it was really crowded and there was no room under the tent, and so hot outside of it. So we decided to try to locate Anna Kramer and show some Atlanta love. Fortunately for us, she was playing upstairs in the lounge. Unfortunately for Anna, the crowd was slim but that meant more AC for us to enjoy. Anna was missing her bass player but she and her drummer rocked it out for a nice little set of Stones-inspired twang rock.

Damn Good Tacos

By the time Anna’s set concluded we were all jonesing for some food. We wandered up 6th street and suddenly the sign appeared, like a mirage in the desert (only we weren’t in the desert. and this was real! but still, it had seemed like we’d never find them!) — DAMN GOOD TACOS. We walked inside and that’s when I noticed that this was actually one of the Torchy’s Tacos locations that I had heard about. So I’d get to try their fried avocado taco! We ordered and waited outside, which was a lot of fun for people watching. The tacos were a mess, but very tasty. I tried a veggie also but it was a little spicy for me.

Daryl Hall

After the tacos we made it over to catch the end of a Joseph Arthur set. By this point it was about time to make our way to the Convention Center for the Daryl Hall show. As some of you might know, I’m a pretty ridiculous Hall & Oates fan, so much that the presence of Hall at SXSW was the deciding factor in my attending. Lame, I know. Anyway the venue was set up sort of like a barn, which made for a funny scene. Hall kept remarking on how it reminded him of his house. Then happened to mention that he owns several houses (ooookaaaay). But that aside, his set was a lot of fun, was a mix of well-known H&O tunes (Maneater, You Make My Dreams, Everything Your Heart Desires) and some newer solo stuff that I wasn’t familiar with. I only slightly missed John Oates, as the backing band did a fine job with background vocals (and his percussionist was especially fun to watch), and there were plenty of cheesy vocal inflections at the end of most every song, which is what I love most about him.

Jonathan Rice

We didn’t want to risk not being able to get into the R.E.M. show, so we cut out a little before the end of Hall’s set. Made it over to Stubb’s in plenty of time and walked right in. I was curious to see Johnathan Rice because I liked what I had heard, but wasn’t really looking forward to having to sit through two bands after him. But hey, it was R.E.M., and we were in Austin. So I couldn’t see too much to complain about.

Rice’s set was nice — poppy and catchy. Can’t say the same for Papercranes though. Oh my. I think they were able to hold my attention for all of two songs. From that point on it was lots of “I liked it better when it was called 10,000 Maniacs” jokes among myself and Mark. I think the singer (who is the sister of River and Joaquin Phoenix) threw her voice out during the first song and just wasn’t able to recover. So I’ll take the Randy Jackson road and say it was pitchy, and just didn’t really do it for me.

After Papercranes, Dead Confederate came on and at least did raise the energy a bit. To me, they were nothing very memorable, but then again having the slot right before R.E.M. is a pretty tough spot for anyone.

R.E.M.

Finally it was time for Stipe and co. to take the stage, and it could not have come soon enough. My feet were aching, and it had gotten pretty cold. I kept trying to just ignore the fact that I was ridiculously uncomfortable and enjoy the music, which actually wasn’t so tough once they started playing.

They played a rather lengthy set that, as expected, was made up primarily of songs from their upcoming release Accelerate. I would have loved to have heard some older stuff but they did play my favorite, “Walk Unafraid,” so that was a real treat. A R.E.M. show would not be an R.E.M. show without some political talk, and there was plenty of that as well, with Stipe thanking the Austin crowd for supporting Obama. He also mentioned that their new tune “Houston,” was written about Katrina victims relocating.

The new songs that stuck out the most to me were “Mr. Richards,” which was a jangly, mid-tempo straightforward tune that sounded most like their old stuff, and “Until the Day is Done,” a pretty, mellower number which was dedicated to Heath Ledger, who was apparently a fan of the song.

Here’s the set list to the best of my recollection and thanks also in part to Riverfront Times for providing names to the new songs that I didn’t know:

Living Well is the Best Revenge
Man-sized Wreath
Second Guessing
Drive
Hollow Man
Animal
Auctioneer
Mr. Richards
Fall On Me
The Great Beyond
Houston
Electrolite
Accelerate
Until the Day is Done (for Heath Ledger)
Final Straw
Bad Day
Horse to Water
Walk Unafraid

ENCORE:
Supernatural Superserious
Imitation of Life
Happy Birthday (for Dewitt, behind the curtain)
I’m Gonna DJ
Man on the Moon

View all my SXSW photos here

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