SXSW Thursday: Medora, Metz and disruptive technology, or something

Wandering through the sights and stages of Austin.



Once a regular house, now the Spotify house.
  • Once a regular house, now the Spotify house.
South by Southwest is not just about music, you guys. It is also about rich people who wear cosmetic eyeglasses and $140 plaid shirts and say words like "branding" and "crowdfunding" and "disruptive" with a totally straight face. I found this on the Internet yesterday, from the singer of indie-rock band DIIV (which is actually a pretty good band):

Here, the music comes last. 5 minute set-up, no sound check, 15 minute set. The "music" element is all a front, it's the first thing to be compromised. Corporate money everywhere but in the hands of the artists, at what is really just a glorified corporate networking party. Drunk corporate goons and other industry vampires and cocaine. Everyone is drunk, being cool. "Official" bureaucracy and all their mindless rules. Branding, branding, branding. It's bullshit... sorry.

He is not entirely wrong. Even though technically there is music happening everywhere down here, it can be weirdly difficult to find a show to see, at least in the official SXSW venues. There are lots of long lines and loud people. Yesterday, I saw a bunch of bands play for what never seemed like more than two songs. Most of them were boring.

The film portion of the fest wrapped on Tuesday, but there are still SXSW films being screened around town. I made it to the Alamo Ritz for a screening of Medora, a documentary by Andrew Cohn and Found magazine founder Davy Rothbart. (I wrote about Rothbart's pretty-excellent essay collection, My Heart Is an Idiot, late last year.) After reading a New York Times article about an Indiana high school basketball team in Medora, Indiana, that went 0-22 in 2008, and whose players sometimes practice in work boots because the economy in the town is so bad, Cohn and Rothbart traveled there and began talking to coaches and players and shooting a documentary. Medora is just as much about the unraveling of small-town America as it is about basketball, and the filmmakers (and the cinematographer - there are some stunning shots in this) really capture the dark humanity of modern rural communities. It's somewhere between Hoosiers and Hoop Dreams. There's a scene where two kids are outside at dusk, shooting around a basketball hoop with a plywood backboard, and it sorta melted my heart. I wouldn't be surprised if Medora is one of the breakout hits of the fest. The screening was packed.

I should probably be arrested for this.
  • I should probably be arrested for this.
Hey, look: Even the little kids in Austin get tattoos!

A few other stray observations: I caught only the last Metz song at the Brooklyn Vegan day party, but their ferocious hardcore punk is on the level. At one point, the guitarist hoisted his guitar over his head and up through some bars over the short stage ceiling while continuing to play it. It was like he was seeing how hard he could make it on himself to play the guitar given the surrounding environment. It would have been stupid if the music he was playing wasn't so badass. That band deserves whatever buzz it's getting.

I was a bit taken aback by how in-demand the Local Natives show at Mohawk was. Their percussive, harmony-rich songs seem to appeal especially to women, who packed the place and danced joyously throughout. I like Local Natives just OK, but obviously they are hitting on some kind of female dynamic that is outside my grasp.

More tomorrow.

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