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SXSW 2012: Music, Part Two

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SXSW 2012: Music, Part Two

In a panel discussion on Tuesday afternoon, Anthony Bourdain described his preference for “red-blooded countries”—passionate, unstable places where anything can happen—over well-behaved, Scandinavian-style ones, where calm and order are the norm. Applying this to SXSW, the film part of the festival is one of those Scandinavian countries, taking place in a system defined by meticulous organization. You can guess what the music portion is.

Film has its messy moments, but the system is clearly proscribed: You get a “queue card,” wait in a neatly ordered line, chat with a producer from St. Louis, and then get directed to your seat. Music is chaos, in the sense that it’s usually ruled by random chance rather than any distinct system. To see Bruce Springsteen (at a secret location) you needed to enter a raffle and hope for the best. Entertaining the impossible dream of getting Jay-Z tickets required a byzantine process involving Twitter and an American Express card registration. Then again, you could walk into a no-name bar at any time of the day and possibly hear something amazing. It’s a Wild West kind of atmosphere, which is by turns both thrillingly off the cuff and colorfully overwhelming.

The definite benefits of the SXSW model were clear on Wednesday morning, when I aimlessly wandered into the Paste/Sennheiser showcase at the Stage on Sixth, drawn in by the comfortably large venue and the equally comforting sound of horns. The day had just started with MyNameIsJohnMichael, who seemingly conscripted a New Orleans jazz band into his act. The combination was a little rough, a little silly, but the necessary energy was there, and the group pulled it off, kick-starting what could have been a sleepy noon set. MyNameIsJohnMichael was followed by Typhoon, a band so large (10 members, including two drummers and a keyboardist who spent a lot of his time on percussion) that they inspire questions of how their earnings are divided. This might have become an aural mess, especially with only 10 or so minutes for setup, but they were impressively coordinated, settling into a warm, brightly orchestral flow.

A little more than 24 hours later, I was languishing in line at the same venue, which seemingly has a policy of letting no one in while the band is playing. Thankfully, a Sennheiser rep recognized my VIP status, slipping me a pass and asking me to put in a good word (I’ve never used their products, but I hear good things). This helped me catch most of The dB’s, one of the best power-pop groups from the ‘80s. Their set outside was steady but not thrilling, full of new material and slowed-down renditions of classics. In another instance of tweaked expectations, the act I had based my early afternoon around had proven slightly disappointing.

With time to kill and nothing exciting nearby, I wandered into a show by Father John Misty, who I briefly, mistakenly was able to imagine I had discovered. Later I learned that this was actually the alter ego of J. Tillman, former drummer of Fleet Foxes, and that his debut album is coming out on Sub Pop in a few weeks. Still, there was the thrill of discovery in the set, played to a handful of people in a dark room under a lazily whirling disco ball at Beauty Bar. Tillman’s songs were fresh and funny, and his persona was fascinatingly unbalanced, a mix of earnest country crooner, Nilsson-style songsmith, and standup comedian.

The fact that music so proliferates downtown Austin means you can have a lot of these kinds of strange experiences: A few minutes later I walked into a strangely maze-like venue, saw snippets of three uninteresting, nameless acts, and wandered back out onto the street, hopeful there were better things in store. It’s a funhouse kind of atmosphere that’s unequalled anywhere else. In the last salvo of Thursday’s afternoon rush, before the six to eight p.m. window where everyone breaks for dinner before the long procession of night shows, I caught El-P, a rapper whose existence I’d forgotten. He was loud, confrontational, and exciting, bringing on guest after guest, a style that reached a peak near the end of his set, when he shared the stage with the tremendous Killer Mike and a tiny, red-haired MC.

It’s the kind of festival where you can wander into a tent-covered parking lot and see Titus Andronicus, who’s a little woozily off-kilter so early in the afternoon, but still giving it an sincere effort. They stormed and screamed, but didn’t quite click, prompting one older audience member to hoarily quip, “I liked these guys better when they were called the Clash.” Before them was Beach Fossils, who seemed to have been in cold storage since 2010, admirably fresh-faced but hopelessly derivative, offering a brand of jangly California surf pop that’s already seemed to fade from popularity. Titus frontman Patrick Stickles spoke about the “planned obsolescence” of indie rock, and it seemed like he had a point, but the next day the same space would be filled to capacity by fans of the ancient Metal Blade Records, whose bands flooded the street with cacophonous guitar and double-bass strikes.

This just proved that, sometimes, SXSW isn’t about surprise or discovery, but just the simple pleasure of locating a band you like, getting in the crowd, and watching them for 30 minutes before moving on to the next thing. Maps and Atlases played a dense set of complex, immaculately delivered songs at the Paste/Sennheiser stage on Thursday. The crowd was thin but fervent and the music was great. Lead singer Dave Davison ended each song with a warmly earnest “Thanks a lot!” and seemed to be having a great time. In this chaotic festival, sometimes it’s a relief to get exactly what you expected.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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