After a long, long week of music at SXSW 2013, Reverb Managing Editor Matt Miller and Digital First Media Entertainment Editor John Hendrickson took a moment to chat about some of the festival’s biggest news. The two brainstorm where Justin Timberlake might be playing and try to figure out why the Flaming Lips sounded so bad on Friday.
JH: Day 4. Here we go. What are your impressions of the festival so far? This is your first time in Austin.
MM: I’m surprised at how laid back all of it is. I mean I can wander around with some strangers and catch a set by Ghostface Killah, or just casually stand next to the Walkmen at a Foxygen set. That and I really enjoy seeing all of these bands in such small venues with quick sets packed with well-rehearsed songs. How about for your triumphant return to SXSW, is there anything different about this place?
JH: As I wrote about yesterday, the sheer number of brands competing for our attention is kind of astounding. I always noticed the sponsor banners, sure, but never before has it seemed like corporations are aggressively throwing products in my face. Musically, this has been one of the stronger years. Breaking bands like Solange, Mac DeMarco and Marnie Stern have delivered tight sets while older bands like the Walkmen, Thee Oh Sees and Jim James of My Morning Jacket have proved their veteran status.
JH: Speaking of older bands, what was up with that Flaming Lips show last night?
MM: You know when Wayne Coyne apologized in advance about the new stage production and music? It’s almost like he knew none of it was ready yet. The new tunes were boring and it seemed like FL didn’t know how to perform them with any panache. I’m surprised about the show production, too. I know Coyne can’t get in the hamster ball at EVERY show, but we as fans seeing Flaming Lips expect something crazy — not just some bland songs and lights. You’ve seen them at Red Rocks a few times, what went wrong and how’d it compare?
JH: The Lips have always been about the production, and I agree, last night’s performance did not feel like a “show.” Where was the confetti? The glowing gong? The animal costumes? The stage dancers? More important: where was Coyne’s engagement with the audience? It was a curious move to play such new, unpolished material before a crowd of thousands that walked, in some cases, a few miles to be there. Why not test the waters in a smaller room? Many are speculating that’s what Prince will do tonight at La Zona Rosa. What do you expect Justin Timberlake to deliver at the MySpace party?
MM: Well I could only hope that Jay-Z will show up, but seeing him perform with Questlove on the drums would be enough for me. His new material works perfect with a big band, so I’m picturing the whole roaring ‘20s feel in a small room with a brass section and some big couches and mobsters or something. Having a good idea of the venues around here, where will he play since it’s yet unannounced?
JH: I have no idea, but there might be riots if only 500 people can get in. Hundreds waited hours to see Jack White at the Stage on Sixth last year, and a friend of a friend slipped a bouncer $100 to walk in the back door. Speaking of bouncers, what was up with the guy at Mohawk on Thursday night?
MM: The guy who quit in a fit of rage?
JH: Yes, that one. He left his post shortly after midnight and wandered up the street without looking back.
MM: I definitely feel for that dude. It’s hard to imagine dealing with so many huge lines of people trying to get into medium sized bars and restaurants. He was getting told by his bosses not to let anyone in, then just a couple “V.V.I.P”s in. It kind of reminded me of that door man conversation from “Knocked Up.” Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t seen more bouncers just give up.
JH: Same here. Everyone is running on fumes at this point. The Reverb party is really getting going and we’ll be camped out here most of the day, but who do you hope to see later tonight? My remaining must-sees are the Allah-Las, Skaters, Houndmouth, Waxahatchee and Earl Sweatshirt, who has a high profile gig at Fader Fort this evening.
MM: I’m still hoping to see JT like a ‘90s teenage girl, but if that doesn’t work out I’ve got a backup plan. I’ve heard good things about Alt-J, and I’ve been wanting to see Sky Ferreira all week, so those are two options. The Stubb’s lineup ends with Vampire Weekend tonight, so it might be cool to catch some of their new material, or maybe I’ll just wander around and see what happens. Time to get back to the Reverb party?
MM: By the way, this conversation was brought to you by Huggies…
JH: Try our new Huggies Ultra-Swag.
Reverb Managing Editor Matt Miller has a Twitter account that he uses fairly often, but not often enough to be annoying.
John Hendrickson is the Entertainment Editor at Digital First Media and the former Managing Editor of Reverb.