South By Southwest 2008 Austin TX March 12 to 16

South By Southwest 2008 Austin TX March 12 to 16
Keynote speaker Lou Reed gestured to the enormous roster of vibrant talent at SXSW 2008 and intonated that it isn’t musicians who are floundering in the music business, it’s the commerce-obsessed major labels. This year was stocked with inspirational rock titans like Reed, J. Mascis, Thurston Moore, X and Yo La Tengo. After Roky Erickson joined Okkervil River for a thrilling set, he was found proctoring the Rhino Musical Aptitude Test featuring 305 questions set to stump obsessed rock historians. The Raveonettes and the Kills, dressed in black and debuting sexy new material, were powerful highlights. The Raveonettes repeatedly mesmerised crowds with beguiling sets of fuzzy, noir hip-shakers set to the loudest and most sultry bass of the week. The Kills pealed through an intensely fierce gig with Jamie "Hotel” Hince kicking his amp for extra noise and wildcat Alison "VV” Mosshart striking all the right rock moves during "U.R.A. Fever.” Both groups reflected a SXSW trend of strong gal/guy duos echoed in the Noisettes and Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s She & Him. Another emerging trend included bands making an unholy racket set to a sturdy tribal beat as displayed by Health, Clipd Beaks and laptop wizards, Fuck Buttons. Shoegazers who allowed their freak flag to fly included the incendiary A Place To Bury Strangers along with the swaggering neo-psychedelics the Black Angels and more mellow Film School. Canada’s upcoming version of Lucinda Williams, Oh Susanna, charmed audiences while her label-mates, the Sadies, made audiences mess their pants. As soon as the Good brothers cleverly swapped fret boards, they made insta-fans out of gobsmacked onlookers. Other Canadian talent making memorable splashes included the hypnotic Black Mountain, the punk rock heat of Fucked Up and CPC Gangbangs, who fought with stodgy bar staff for their rock’n’roll right to leap off monitors. Animated rockers like Jay Reatard were met with fist-pumping approval, as were the Donnas, who wound down their tour and SXSW with one of the most energetic performances of the week. Spectacles were everywhere: Akron/Family led their Emo’s audience into the streets Pied Piper-style to sing in a circle before dispersing into the night. Tel Aviv’s Monotonix wreaked havoc sonically and literally during their live performances, tossing garbage over their drummer and pouring beer down their pants. Appearing on the same bill as the Raveonettes, Scissors for Lefty, Holy Fuck and the Stills, members of ZZ Top made a surprise appearance supporting Rachael Ray’s lawyer husband’s band, the Cringe, during Ray’s BBQ day party. While ears and feet were burnt out by the end of the week, it was clear that most of the attendees would be enthusiastically marching back to Austin for more in the spring of 2009.