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The Ross Who Knew Too Much

Saturday, March 19, 2005

So many details, it's like you were there. But you weren't (unless you were).

-- The Spin party took place Friday afternoon in a dusty outdoor venue and was pretty much the most fun event I've attended thus far at SXSW. (This is a whole different beast from the Spin house party mentioned yesterday, by the way.) Even though it was yet another invite-only affair, there appeared to be 350,000 people there. But perhaps I was just suffering from mild sunstroke.

-- Speaking of sunstroke, the relatively frigid and damp temperatures of Wednesday and the cool-ish Thursday evening gave way Friday to an absolutely ideal and gorgeous sunny day followed by a pleasantly warm evening. (On the way back to my hotel, a taxi driver complained to me that he had fewer fares Friday night because people were more willing to walk. I'm not sure what I was supposed to do about his weather-related angst, so I just closed my eyes and thought about the Queen.) And, yes, all of the Minnesotans at SXSW were fully aware of the Class III kill storm that was moving into the Cities as we were all gallivanting about in the Austin sunshine.

-- On the Spin party's bill: Twin Cities expatriates the Hold Steady, Louis XIV, the Futureheads, Bloc Party and the one band that I was excited to see more than any other at SXSW, the New York Dolls.

-- This was also the publicist-iest SXSW event thus far. Within my first 10 minutes there, I was stopped by at least a dozen publicists I've dealt with over the years. Actually, most of them were pretty cool, and it was nice to put some faces to names and all. It helped that this show was a quite social -- as opposed to business-y -- affair. Absolut drinks were free, along with nearly endless supplies of beer. As one might imagine, this led to about 350,000 people -- the majority of whom were already hungover -- getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon. Viva SXSW!

-- Among the many, many sponsors hawking their products at the party was Garnier Fructis, a brand I mention only because I actually use their shampoo and styling aids. Whenever I can't afford something better, that is. The company set up a booth offering free haircuts and City Pages' Bridgette Reinsmoen took them up on the offer. After mentioning she wanted bangs, I suggested trying this hot SXSW look favored by the lady from the Kills. Her response: "But I need to be able to see." Good point.

-- Old Spice was another sponsor, and the company hired a bunch of pretty vacant young men and women to walk around and bother partygoers with offers of free Old Spice products. The Old Spice women were wearing these bright red metallic pants that fit so snugly, one couldn't help but wonder how hygienic they were.

-- Matt Pinfield, who used to be an MTV VJ who liked to say things were "awesome" all the time, was the onstage announcer between musical acts. But he had lost his voice the night before, possibly by yelling "you're awesome" repeatedly, making his banter on the microphone sound garbled, kind of like that little guy who spoke backwards on "Twin Peaks." From most accounts, Pinfield is a swell guy, though, and in person he's exactly like you'd expect he'd be, i.e. very friendly and easily excitable. Also, well-placed spy reported that he ate "lots of sausage" from the Spin catering table.

-- During the Futureheads, I ran into one of the foxiest punk rock stars in the universe, Beth Ditto of the Gossip. I apologized for missing her band's performance at the Kill Rock Stars showcase Thursday (I left that show soon after Jeff Hanson), but as it turns out they didn't play. Guitarist Brace (a.k.a. Nathan Howdeshell) hadn't even made it to SXSW yet. But I did meet the Gossip's new-ish drummer Hannah Blilie, who I've been told is quite awesome behind the skins. (I can't believe I just used the phrase "behind the skins." Please forgive me, I am very tired right now.) Look for a new Gossip album -- finally! -- in the fall. Assuming, of course, Brace ever shows up.

-- As one might expect, the Spin party was full of NYC rock stars, many of whom look vaguely alike. My pal Rex thought he spotted Albert from the Strokes, who doesn't really look like many other people at all, unless you count the cast of "Welcome Back, Kotter," then all bets are off. Our mutual friend Chuck later confirmed it was "probably" him, without actually seeing this alleged Albert first-hand.

-- See, one way to make it clear that you are (or want to be) a rock star at SXSW is to not wear one of the omnipresent SXSW badges that all us common folk are forced to have hanging around our necks. Which made it all the more weird to see Mike Peters from long-forgotten U2 copyists the Alarm openly wearing his badge -- a badge that read: "Mike Peters, the Alarm." Which led me to imagine the sorts of conversations Mike Peters must get into at SXSW.

Sample conversation No. 1:

Some Guy: Hey, excuse me.

Mike Peters: Hello. (points to badge) I'm Mike Peters from the Alarm.

Some Guy: Oh. Do you know if they're still serving free Absolut drinks?

Sample conversation No. 2:

Some Other Guy: Hey, didn't I see you on some VH1 show?

Mike Peters: Yes. That was VH1's "Bands Reunited." (points to badge) I'm Mike Peters from the Alarm.

Some Other Guy: Are you sure you're not that guy from Haircut 100?

Mike Peters: Nope. (points to badge) I'm Mike Peters from the Alarm.

Some Other Guy: Oh. Do you know if they're still serving free Absolut drinks?

-- Enough of this nonsense for tonight. I'll be back in the morning (warning, I have an extremely loose definition of the term "morning") with some more stuff from Friday. In the meantime, there's an interesting story on the "Real World" filming its current season in Austin here.


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