HITS Daily Double

Modern Rock’s SXSW revelers crawled into work on Monday, possibly still drunk, definitely still bloated from free BBQ, wishing for a quiet day hiding beneath their desks, thrilled that the arrival of the new Muse single took the guesswork out of their week. Countless bands had been seen (a few sets, possibly, were even remembered), as plastic cups of top-shelf liquor were sloshed together in camaraderie and rain ponchos were distributed as the skies opened up on Friday. A marauding pack of (mostly) men in their 40s (some younger, a few older), enjoying their “professional” version of Spring Break, paid for by their label colleagues, whose own week of merriment hinged upon their radio brethren’s attendance. Me? I was mostly elsewhere, a sober veteran of all 29 SXSWs, still intent on capturing that life-changing musical moment. In other words, my nights were spent stalking Spoon and The Zombies.

C3’s Joe Greenwald and David Barbis hosted a dinner at Stubb’s BBQ, which was the first opportunity I had to say hello to radio friends like Lesley James, Mike Tierney, Willobee, Nik Rivers, Chris Payne, Jacent Jackson, Christy Taylor, Lazlo, Lynn Barstow, Michelle R., Charese, Paul Jarvis and Norm Winer. And you. Yes, you were also there—great to catch up. If you think it’s easy to hug while holding a plate of BBQ, guess again. And that’s why I always wear black. There was a brief (but memorable) period during my ongoing tenure at HITS, where label people and managers cared what I thought about their bands and, well, took care of me like I was radio programmer. Now, I’d much rather make money than have my ass kissed, and I’ve certainly set the bar pretty high as a valet/concierge/fixer, but it was a pleasure to have Joe Greenwald in the role of Local Hero—quick with answers and unbridled kindness. It’s treatment I would never take for granted, and neither should you. Post-dinner, Stubb’s was still the key destination of the evening for Courtney Barnett’s incredible set. “Pedestrian at Best” is one of the best-written songs you’ll ever play, and her performance was inspiring.

Shakey Graves, whose packed set was the highlight of Tuesday night, is another act busting genres, while selling out big venues. Once the dust settles on the “superstar” releases, his record has a real shot at Modern Rock—his fanbase is already in place. Lesley James and Nik Rivers have been playing “Dearly Departed” with great success. I trust these two.

Other highlights (for me) included Will Butler’s homage to late-’70s/early ’80s NYC in his first solo offering on Merge Records. Backed by three female singers/keyboard players and a standup drummer, Will was spectacular, especially on the song “Anna,” for which he said I correctly identified the Suicide influence. This is Will’s Tom Tom Club—a completely different sound from Arcade Fire. Later, I joined my Glassnote family in an Austin church for Madisen Ward and Mama Bear (pictured at right), whom Lazlo introduced to a roomful of dignitaries, including BBC Radio 1’s George Ergatoudis (pictured top left); it was truly a heavenly performance.

Although you weren’t there to see or hear it, on the panel I moderated, “I Wrote That Song,” Mac MacCaughan (Merge Records/Superchunk) played a new song from his upcoming solo record, and Marshall Crenshaw also debuted a new song, while playing “Cynical Girl” (by my request). The aforementioned Will Butler stood at the edge of the dais to play his new single, “Take My Side,” and also wrote a brand new song in front of those assembled. Matthew Caws debuted a brand new Nada Surf song, encoring with “See These Bones,” followed by Britt Daniel’s acoustic take on “Rainy Taxi,” from the latest Spoon album. In a moment of planned spontaneity, Big Star’s Jody Stephens sang stunning, heart-stopping renditions of “Thirteen” and “For You,” backed by Luther Russell and Brett Harris. Forget about the lines, hype, etc. The purest expression of talent and shared artistic camaraderie happened in that room…

SONG TO HEAR: Wolf Alice’s “Moaning Lisa Smile.”

Forget about the lines, hype, etc. The purest expression of talent and shared artistic camaraderie happened in that room.

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