by Josh Gross
I thought I'd be going to see Green Day at a taping of Austin City Limits. Laugh if you like, but Green Day's whimsical take on frustration, their general "fuck it-ness," far more suited my temperament as a teenager than Nirvana's blitzkrieg of nihilism.
But I missed the bus; and, with it, the ticket that was waiting for me.
Instead I decided to catch someone I tried in vain to see nearly every night of last year's SXSW: Andrew W.K. I made it this time, and holy schnikes was it worth it.
With his Hesher hair and umpteen songs about various aspects of partying—he even went on a speaking tour about his philosophy of partying—W.K. is an easy punchline. But he brings a crazy energy to the stage unlike nearly any other performer: the swagger of a rocker, but the sincere positivity of a tween. Every fist pump is a nod to life being wonderful. And what a nod it is.
It's a toss up which was the best moment of his show: the bit where he picked up the guitar and fumbled through a few miserable-sounding chords as a fake out before ripping into a precision solo to start his feminist anthem: “She is Beautiful,” a song he sent out “to the ladies” as a token of his undying respect for them, or, that to prove it, he had a female doppleganger on stage performing synchronized headbangs and fist pumps like his own Mini-Me.
From there, I schlepped across the bridge to catch some of the Flaming Lips' show on the waterfront. It was all the band is cracked up to be: giant disco balls, light shows, the whole nine yards. I'd wanted to catch White Lung's show at an adjacent venue but was too late.
Instead I walked back to the main drag and was lured into a bar by the dulcet tones of Chicago's The Noise FM. Short response: all dance beats and rock riffs, they sounded like a funner, rowdier version of Franz Ferdinand.
“Is there anyone here from Electra Records tonight?” the frontman asked. “No? Good. We're supposed to play a set to impress them, but we'll play what we want instead. Here's another dance-y one.”
The stage at the venue was so small that only the drummer and the bass player fit on it. The guitar player moved amongst the crowd, generally riling them up and having a great time. He took off his sailor's hat and plopped it on a member of the audience, appointing him “party captain.” The captain promptly returned with several cans of Red Bull.
“Are these sugar-free?” the singer asked. “They are? Party Captain knows what he's doing then.”
From there I wandered east, up Red River to Club de Ville to catch Youth Lagoon one more time, hoping to see if they'd get to finish their set. They did, though sound and equipment delays cut down its length. What's more, Club de Ville had been half empty for the band before Youth Lagoon, but it hit capacity while the band was working through soundcheck. Not too shabby.
The lads played two tracks off the new album, but got the biggest cheer for "17," from the previous disc.
Then I jetted across the street to Stubb's to catch The Specials, another high school favorite. Now there's a band that knows how to "play the hits." Dressed in their trademark snappy mod suits, they skanked and strutted through Gangsters, New Era and more. There wasn't a single song written after 1983, but they were all amazing.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And no matter what anyone says, ska isn't scratched or dented.