Sunday, April 29, 2007

There's more than music in the Coachella experience

By Ali Standish

It takes more than great music to produce a great festival experience. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Coachella grounds were giant rocking horses made out of bits of tire. The whole place was filled with art and sculpture. There was a spinning metal tree, what looked like a thirty-foot tall spider, and really cool steam-powered kinetic art. You can see these works and more at Check it out.

But art was only one thing that caught my attention. Also on the grounds were unique carnival rides and a lot of other interactive stuff in case you got bored watching bands all day. There was a great variety of foods, from Chinese to Greek to organic vegetarian, and basically everything in between. Also incorporated into the event were a lot of efforts to be environmentally friendly. Cardboard recycling bins were everywhere on the grounds, and this year if you collected ten empty bottles to recycle, the vendors give you a bottle of water for free.

This stuff might seem secondary to the actual music, and yeah, it is. But by presenting a complete experience, Coachella becomes more than just a series of concerts, but a community with a real atmosphere and personality.

Next time, leave the camera at home

By Ali Standish

Let’s talk for a moment about the digital camera phenomenon. I am one of the only people I know who doesn’t own a digital camera, and one of the still fewer who doesn’t really want one. Let me tell you why. I got increasingly annoyed throughout the day at Coachella when my view kept getting blocked by people holding up their digital cameras, blindly zooming in toward the general direction of the stage and snapping photo after crappy photo.

Sure, there is something to be said for taking pictures at shows. They are, after all, performances. But is it really worth it to spend half your time at a show trying to get some mediocre photos just so you can post them on Facebook to show all your friends that you got within a hundred yards of The Decembrists? I hope not. It might be nice to have some pictures to put in your scrapbook to remember the day, but it seems like people get more and more camera obsessed every show I see.

I mean, do you think that people were busy snapping away at Woodstock? No. They came for the experience. (And possibly tjey were too drugged out to take pictures anyway.) I guess I just don’t see how you can really enjoy a show if your mind is worrying about getting enough good pictures. And how can the person behind you enjoy the show when all they see is ten little silver boxes pointed at the stage? Let me tell you, it’s hard to.

Enjoying the Chili Peppers from a safe distance

By Ali Standish

My first exposure to this kind of mega festival was last year at Lollapalooza, and I've learned a little how to better handle the scene. On that day in Chicago's Grant Park, I couldn't wait to see Red Hot Chili Peppers play. But wait I did—through people crowd-surfing as Matisyahu sang about love and peace, through people moshing during Queens of the Stone Age, and through the sweltering, sweaty set breaks in between. I had probably been at the main stage for six or seven hours by the time RHCP actually came on, and by that time my friend and I had weaved our way up to about the fifth row.

Now understand, I am a pretty petite person, so getting through Queens of the Stone Age was, for me, a miracle. I watched girl after girl crowd-surf out until only a few others remained near me. I was pretty proud of myself, but as soon as RHCP came on the stage, that pride melted into fear caused by a sudden realization: I was going to die. I kept looking over at the ambulances that were parked on the right side of the stage and feeling thousands of people pushing me forward. My shoes were gone by the first chorus of their first song. Soon to follow were my contacts, everything in my pockets, and yes, temporarily, my top. By about the fourth song, my friend lifted me up, and I crowd-surfed into the big burly arms of the security guards. Safety.

This year, I was just as excited to see RHCP at Coachella. But I took a bit of a different approach. From our spot in the crowd, my group could see thimble-sized people on stage, if we stood on our tip toes. But when I recognized the first chords of “Can’t Stop,” I felt that same electricity, the same excitement as the first show I went to. People around me danced, as did I, but I wasn’t about to have a panic attack. Except for the unfortunate choice by frontman Anthony Kiedis to grow a handlebar mustache, the show was pretty much perfect.

Do I regret how I saw my first, or part of my first, RHCP concert? Absolutely not. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. I enjoyed it more taking the more relaxed stategy I employed at Coachella. Figuring out that you don’t always need to be in front and center to enjoy a show was pretty liberating. By luck, or chance, or will, or whatever, I usually find myself very close to the stage at concerts, but I think there’s something to be said for chilling out a little too.

Coachella itself seemed to me to be more laid back than some other festivals I’ve been to. There was not much crowd-surfing at all, not too much moshing, and nothing but really nice, chill people. So I’m not telling you to stand in the back and stay away from the mosh pit next time you go to a show. I support that grand tradition 100 percent. I’m not going to stand in the back of every show I go to from now on, but it’s a nice change of pace. Coachella was a nice change of pace.

Regina Spektor solos on Coachella's big stage

By Ali Standish

I always get a little nervous watching someone perform for the first time. If they don’t play well or are rude to their audience, it kind of ruins the magic of the music for you. A couple years ago, when I saw Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes get trashed on stage and throw equipment at his stagehands, I didn’t listen to the band for months afterwards.

That's why I was a little leery about seeing Regina Spektor, one of my current favorites, at Coachella. I love her voice, her quirky lyrics, and her beautiful piano sequences. But would those come through in a live set at the festival?

I shouldn't have worried. Regina came out on Coachella Stage, the huge main stage of the festival’s five, completely alone. With two enormous monitors zoomed in on her face, she took the mic and with a smile immediately began to sing a cappella. She stayed on stage alone, playing piano, drumming on her bench, and singing for the first three songs. Her vocal intensity and capacity was even more amazing on stage and in person than on her albums, and she performed beautifully.

Yet when she spoke throughout her set, her voice was small and girly, humble to the point of being apologetic when she asked the audience if we were still okay in the heat. Even when her keyboard stopped working midshow, she kept a smile on her face and picked up her guitar. She was composed but still genuine, and by the end of the set my only regret was that I didn’t know her personally.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Horn blows for upcoming Joshua Tree

By Kathryn Vercillo

With Coachella coming to a close, many music fans are turning their eyes away from the heat of the Southern California desert. Well, don’t do it! At least not yet anyway, because Joshua Tree Music Festival is just a few short weeks away and it provides a great excuse for packing up the sunscreen and staying in SoCal. Located just an hour north of Coachella, this annual music festival may not draw in quite the same big names but it’s got a lot of good music and plenty of good times to keep the desert festival scene going just a little bit longer.

Joshua Tree Music Festival brings an international music vibe to the laidback attitude of the California desert. Just a few of the countries represented at this event are Venezuela (by Los Amigos Invisibles, Australia (by Ganga Giri), and Japan (by Meltone). California artists aren’t lacking for representation either though with artists from the area including the beats of Heavyweight Dub Champion, the female funk of Hunkamama, and the Spanish-influenced sound of Omar Torrez.

Joshua Tree Music Festival runs from May 18th – May 20th and has much more happening throughout the weekend than just the two alternating stages of music. Lakeside camping, hooping and looping classes, didgeridoo lessons and more should make this all-ages festival a fun place for families from all sorts of divergent backgrounds. Sure, the California sun is getting hot and it’s almost time to start thinking about festivals in other parts of the world. But only almost; Joshua Tree is the place to wind down the spring festivals and get ready for summer!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lollapalooza Journal: Prepare early for more fun at the fest

By Rob Janicke

For the second installment of “everything Lollapalooza” for Festival Preview, I thought we’d get into the real guts of the festival-going experience. The bands, you say? Well, that’s a great guess and an obviously integral part of the experience, and I’ll be writing about the lineup in future installments. The ultimate goal of any concert experience is to enjoy yourself to the fullest and get the most you possibly can out of what the festival has to offer. So with that in mind I have a few hints, tips and suggestions from my own experiences and mistakes while attending many, many festival and shows.

Let’s start with what would seem most obvious. GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY AND DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT THEM! I apologize for the caps there but you wouldn’t believe how many people show up at these events thinking they’ll scalp tickets once they get there. Forget it, awful idea, don’t bother, and don’t question this. If you know you want to go to the show buy your tickets early and move on.

The other part of this scenario is something I’m guilty of myself regarding this very festival. In the early hours of a hot and sunny New York morning back in 1993 I started to make my way, with a few friends in tow, to Waterloo Village, NJ for my third consecutive Lollapalooza festival. Third year in a row!! You’d think I was a cagey veteran at this point right? Well, I FORGOT THE TICKETS AT HOME! This wasn’t even noticed until we were almost half way through our three-hour journey. Folks, make sure you leave the house with tickets in hand…please!

Another thing to take care of early on is your sleeping arrangements. Lollapalooza spans a full weekend, so if you are traveling to the festival, make any hotel, motel, or friends’ couch reservations as early as possible. It gets much harder to find an affordable place to crash as the date nears.

Okay, you made it to the destination. What do you need other than the tickets? Lollapalooza is in early August in the Midwest so considerations for the weather are very important. It will be pretty hot over the three days of the festival so the following items are a must: sun block, toilet paper, baby wipes (these come in very handy), small first aid kit, water, small foam cooler, blankets for night time, backpack, sunglasses, umbrella, poncho (in case of rain), and bug spray. You don’t want to have too much to carry or look after so the list above should be pretty manageable. I would’ve included food and chairs in that list but I know they are prohibited at Lollapalooza this year.

Money is another huge issue with multi-day festivals. You’re going to want to set a budget before hand and do your best to stick to it. That means you should not be buying 12 t-shirts and 50 cds during the festival’s first two hours. By all means buy what you want, but spread it out so your budget doesn’t completely blow up.

Lollapalooza is a very deep festival in terms of what it has to offer. With so many bands playing and so many different things to do and see, it’s imperative to have a schedule with you at all times. You need to know which bands are playing on which days and on what stage. You can absolutely ruin your experience by not realizing the band you wanted to see the most started its set 20 minutes ago at a stage clear across the park. This can and should be avoided by simply knowing the schedule and the lay of the land.

As for your strategy on the grounds of the festival, I recommend that you keep an open mind about the music and the bands you’re not all that familiar with. There are well over 100 bands playing this show and chances are most of them will be somewhat unknown to you. Discovering new favorites is a major part of the fun.

To prepare, I suggest checking out the lineup and researching a few bands you know little or nothing about, including listening to their music. By the time those bands are plugging in and ready to go on in August you’ll have a better idea of whether you’ll want to be in front of their stage ready to rock or walking around the grounds looking at the other attractions Lollapalooza has to offer. Basically it’s a time-saver for you. Do a little research now and you’ll be that much more prepared come August.

To get started on your research, study all the information on the Lollapalooza web site and get oriented to the site, Chicago’s lakefront Grant Park, here and here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A herd of bands at Donna the Buffalo’s Shakori fest

By Jon Butters

A nicer weekend could not have been had for the fifth annual Spring Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival in Chatham County NC--ideal temperatures, Carolina blue skies and starry nights. But as great as the weather was, the music was better. From quasi host band Donna the Buffalo (DtB) to the eclectic mix of regional bands, every act I caught on Saturday was entertaining.

Jordan Puryear, brother of DtB singer/guitarist Jeb Puryear, is one of the organizers of the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, which presents two weekends a year in May and October. It is the southern front of the original Grassroots Festival started more than 15 years ago in the Finger Lakes region of western New York, which runs this year July 19-22 in Trumansburg NY.

The festival has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for AIDS research and is currently mounting an effort to purchase the 75 acres of ancient oaks and rolling meadows where the festival is held. The intent is to set aside the land for cultural and community events and to preserve it in an environmentally friendly way.

Saturday got off to a rollicking start with North Carolina’s only sacred steel band, The Allen Boys, which delivered an outstanding set of hard-driving gospel music. The band, which rarely performs outside its African American Pentecostal-Holiness church in Mt. Airy NC, features a steel guitarist and generates unique religious music with an over-powering funk beat. Their set was one of the highlights of Saturday’s performances.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a youthful trio of African American string-band musicians, interspersed their strong set with wonderful anecdotes describing the historical significance of their songs. The threesome exhibited exquisite musicianship playing instruments that included a snare drum, fife, banjo, fiddle, bones, and jugs. It was inspiring to witness a new generation of musicians with such reverence for the quickly disappearing musical tradition of the black string band.

Big Fat Gap and Friends, hailing from nearby Chapel Hill, were a crowd favorite. Their set of energetic bluegrass originals and reworked classics such as the Band’s “The Shape I’m in” were well received.

Next up at the Grove Stage was Bluegrass Experience from down the road in Chatham County. Featuring guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, upright bass with four different lead singers sharing lead vocal responsibilities, the band showed why they are local favorites.

Keith Frank and The Soileau Zydeco Band, after ironing out some sound system problems, had the crowd on their feet throughout their fluid set of Louisiana swamp boogie. Jeb Puryear, lead guitarist extraordinaire from Donna the Buffalo, sat in on the entire set. Later in the evening DtB also performed a song written by Preston Frank, father of the band’s accordion player. Keith Frank’s band is a true family affair with brother Brad on drums and sister Jennifer on bass.

Mamadou Diadate, originally from the African country of Mali but now residing in New York City, entertained festival-goers with his mastery of the kora, a 21-stringed harp. Earlier this year, Mamadou was awarded “World Musician of the Year” by the Folk Alliance. He is a member of the Mandinka West African jeli, a musical caste family that traces its lineage back seven centuries and who use music to preserve and sustain historical tradition.

Another local favorite, Chatham County Line, just back from an extended European tour, entertained the audience with their deft picking and on-spot harmonies. Using a single microphone reminiscent of the Del McCoury Band and with a gigantic North Carolina state flag hanging in the background, the foursome showed their obvious happiness at being back home with strong set of roots-grass originals. This band is destined for great things once they receive the exposure they deserve.

Donna the Buffalo attracted the largest crowd of the day and did not disappoint their herd of followers with their set of zydeco–rock with a hint of reggae. Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins shared vocal responsibilities and the band had a crowd of youthful dancers from the audience on stage with them throughout the performance. The connection between the band and the audience was palpable.

Hobex, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Unknown Tongues, and Gandalf Murphy were still to play for those making an evening of it. I imagine the party went on well after midnight. Next year I’ll bring a tent so I can spend the night.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Marley and Weir at Green Apple SF

By Joanne Ruby

Today was one of those days when I say, “This is why I moved here.” I spent some morning hours with my dog at our precious East Bay beach in Albany where I made my contribution to Earth Day collecting trash to help protect the Bay.

I came home ready for more Earth Day activity and remembering the Green Apple Music and Arts Earth Day Festival in Golden Gate Park that I saw on Festival Preview, I told my husband and 14-year-old daughter we could go see the son of her new-found fave, Bob Marley, and hear my beloved Bobby Weir. Despite the last-minute decision to go and perennial weekend traffic, we made it in time for the main acts.

Jumping and hand-waving under sunny skies at Speedway Meadow, the crowd seemed to be more in the spirit of Rastafarians than Earth Day. But seeing teens and 20-somethings swaying to the music of Stephen Marley warmed my heart. I was taken back to my own turn-on to Bob Marley and the Wailers in the late-70’s. It sure wasn’t like seeing Bob, but this was pretty darn good. Early on, Marley treated the crowd to two of his father’s most popular songs: No Woman No Cry and Could You Be Loved. But the audience was just as excited about his song, Mind Control, off his new CD. As one very satisfied festival-goer next to me commented, “It really felt like he was channeling Bob.”

Between acts we did hear mention of Earth Day. “Be sure to check out the Sustainable Living Road Show – it’s our effort to take care of Mother Earth.” And then it was Bob Weir’s turn to remind folks why they came out. Ratdog started with a long rendition of Jack Straw and moved right into Cassidy. Belting out his lyrics with head held high, I got a hit of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. It wasn’t just the white beard and graying hair; he had a true statesman look and stance – like a revered leader looks when he is addressing his people. I loved Book of Rules, which Weir had first played with Bobby & the Midnites and later with Kingfish, and Money for Gasoline with its wonderful calypso/reggae sound.

Weir took time out by introducing his good friend and neighbor, Sammy Hagar, who fired up the crowd with Loose Lucy. Weir came back with one of my all-time favorite Dead songs, Eyes of the World and in the true style of Jerry Garcia spun off with some wonderful improvisational interludes.

On our way out, we briefly checked out some of the Earth Day booths of “green” vendors and organizations, bought my green shopping bag, sampled some great Clif Bars while hearing Ratdog do the Beatles’ Dear Prudence. Looking at the crowd one last time, it was clear that everyone was delighted that the Green Apple Festival promoters had the good idea to treat us to yet another wonderful free concert in the park.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Can Lollapalooza recreate the "moment"?

By Rob Janicke. Rob will be covering Lollapalooza for Festival Preview. This first installment gives context for the 2007 festival, which takes place August 3-5 in Chicago.

Before we get into the main section of this piece (which will be the first of a series on the 2007 Lollapalooza festival), I wanted to take a second and explain what this series of blogs and writings will be about. Think of me as a guide of sorts for everything Lollapalooza. We’ll talk about the bands, the festival and its history, how to endure the long days of attending outdoor festivals, and the like. Ultimately I’d like to have a dialog with all of you as to why this Lollapalooza should not be missed. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I will…

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the noun “MOMENT” as: “A particular period of importance, influence or significance in a series of events or developments." August 14th, 1991, was the date and Waterloo Village, N.J., was the place I was able to experience the “moment” that would define not only my personal sense of belonging and community, but an entire generation's sense of those very feelings. That moment was Lollapalooza.

As I look back on that moment (as well as the 1992 and 1993 versions), I can still feel the excitement, wonderment and hope associated with these festivals almost 16 years later. I was a naïve, daydreaming 18-year-old kid from Brooklyn, N.Y., in the summer of '91 and Lollapalooza was seemingly built, designed and executed specifically for me. Now that I am a soon-to-be 34-yea- old, naïve, daydreaming man living on Long Island it seems that the 2007 version of this experience is seemingly built, designed and hopefully executed specifically for me once again.

Lollapalooza was a very different and creative idea spawned from the inner workings of Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell. His vision was one of a traveling show consisting of live music, art, virtual reality displays, information booths, voting registration tables and much, much more. The music was the obvious draw as Farrell enlisted artists from different backgrounds and genres.

It was a fresh and insightful approach to the concert industry. I had seen my fair share of concerts up to this point in my life and nothing compared to what I witnessed at those three Lollapaloozas. It was groundbreaking, educational and persuasive. It was the perfect idea for the perfect audience at the perfect time. Considering the moment and time we currently reside in, the 2007 version of Lollapalooza this August in Chicago could be that perfect idea for the perfect audience at the perfect time.

I know that last statement may seem a bit bold but I really do need to exercise a little faith and hope with this year's event. In recent years I have noticed a steady decline in the output of good music and good live acts to see. In this “American Idol” culture that we all must unfortunately endure the level of what’s accepted as good music has plummeted. It’s become a sad but very true reality and we need to make a change.

Music should make you want to punch someone in the face, jump off a building, fall in love and scream at the top of your lungs all at the same time. It should challenge everything you are about and everything you’ve been taught. It should not be a glorified talent contest or a get rich quick scheme. It should not be safe and it certainly should not be something we package and vote on like a politician. It should not be fake.

Lollapalooza can and will hopefully bring some perspective and quality back into our musical sight. Now I’m not that naïve to think this is all just one giant love fest where like-minded people are being summoned together by some higher power to set the wheels in motion to change the world. I know this is heavily sponsored by major corporations and at the end of the day that it’s a business. But you know what? It’s a business with a greater good. It has a purpose and it has meaning. I for one am searching for a revolution and maybe, just maybe this year's festival can be the engine that drives such a revolution.

Back in 1991 the musical landscape was turned upside down by what would later be described as "grunge." I hate to use that term or classify music in any way, but people know when they hear that word that it represents a shift in listening sensibilities that originated out of the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle, Wash.. Nirvana was given credit for the breakthrough but it actually started happening years before with many other bands in other parts of the country, but that’s a story for another time.

Given the time and the change in musical direction, add a bunch of disaffected youth with money to burn, throw in something called Lollapalooza and you have the perfect storm for a generation. This festival made a difference. This festival meant something very important to many people and as it stands now, I think we are primed for another takeover. At least I hope so.

I stopped attending Lollapalooza after the third installment in 1993 and I am now reenergized and excited to attend the 2007 version. If by taking my own temperature regarding this event and multiplying it by many others (I simply cannot be the only one who feels this way), perhaps I’m correct in thinking that the timing is just about right and we are ready for another musical switch. I hope there are thousands of 18-year-olds out there who feel as I did when I was 18 and this can be the turning point for them as it was for me.

I also hope there are thousands of thirty-somethings out there who are exactly like me in this moment and can return to their youth and regain the hope and passion that music and a festival like Lollapalooza once brought them. I’m ready for a change…are you?

For a the complete lineup of the 2007 Lollapalooza festival please log onto

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Photos: backstage at Ultra

Here are a selection of photos to go along with orange peel moses's wild narrative from the Ultra Music Festival. That's opm in his trademark orange glasses.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Synchronicity at the Ultra Fest

Here's a long submission on the recent Ultra Music Festival from orange peel moses, who performed at the festival as part of dance music act Friends in Stereo (FiS). Reprinted with permission from Image Magazine.

No one can argue that prolonged sleep deprivation isn’t a mind-altering state. After an amazing week at the Winter Music Conference (a whole other story), we arrived at Bicentennial Park in Miami (Ultra’s venue) by three on Friday. Outside the credentials tent, we met our Ultra boss Andy, a stilt walker from Ibiza (Disneyland for dance music fans), perched on a golf cart with his buddy Ed, a rigger who’d both designed and built most of the stages. They promptly whisked us away with our costume cases and army duffles to an RV parked backstage. The RV would serve as a dressing room for stilt walkers and dancers for the next two days.

On entering the RV, I immediately recognized Jodie, another Ibiza-based stilt walker who I’d met the previous year at the airport. Completely and utterly exhausted, she had passed out waiting to board the plane but I’d roused her from slumber in the nick of time. Apparently she would’ve missed a lunar eclipse if it weren’t for my semi-anonymous Good Samaritan deed. Talk about fate. Synchronicity at its finest.

As some of the first performers to arrive, we got a jump start on hair and makeup in the calm before the approaching go-go dancer storm. Given my obvious shortage in the follicle department, I carved an orange peel sculpture for Jennifer, the head dancer, to bide my time till Ash and Cam applied my war paint. “Orange Slice” is what Jennifer called me. Several hours later, the three of us took a debut stroll around the festival grounds in full costume. The photo requests never let up from that point on. Now I know what it’s like to be a rock star perpetually stalked by paparazzi. It seemed for a spell we were more popular than that first afternoon’s main stage acts, Shiny Toy Guns and The Brazilian Girls.

Within no time, Reg and Colin showed up with our new FiS intern Cherry D in tow. Talk about a wing and a prayer. Cherry lucked out on a free standby flight through a friend’s airline employee parent, then scored a photo pass at the credentials tent. Minus cab fare, it hadn’t cost her a dime to be backstage at Ultra in Miami. We should’ve all taken turns pinching her.

Although The Cure’s Robert Smith is notoriously introverted and shy, we had the distinct pleasure of waving hello to him and his band mates as they sped by on their golf cart. Did I neglect to mention The Cure was headlining Friday night? My apologies, it must’ve slipped my mind. Speaking of golf carts, it was around this time that I began to wonder where the rigger Ed had disappeared to. He had been waiting on the dancers hand and foot all day but was suddenly nowhere to be seen. Later, I learned that he’d splashed mud on a couple of cops with his golf cart. Because he hadn’t stopped to apologize, they’d kicked him out of the event for the day. Imagine having built multiple stages for a “ridonkulous” festival and then being ejected for splashing someone with dirty water.

After being somewhat under-utilized all day due to a phenomenon known as “DJ Ego” (many DJs won’t allow dancers on stage during their sets, as it takes the focus away from their ever-so-captivating knob-twiddling and Jesus posing), we were all finally prepping for our glorious main stage debut with Fedde Le Grand from Detroit. Everyone was still running behind schedule because of an earlier rain shower, though, so we ended up being on call side stage for quite awhile. As the minutes ticked away, I got more and more nervous that I would have to choose between stilt-walking in front of the main stage and singing with Friends in Stereo all the way across the festival grounds at the Westword-affiliated New Times stage.

Overly ambitious as usual, I was bound and determined to accomplish both. Finally, our sanctioned window of opportunity presented itself. Twenty dancers and three stilt walkers flooded both the main stage and proximate barricaded pit with stockpiled energy and motion. Unfortunately, I had neglected to charge my dad’s video camera battery. Fortunately a feature film-caliber camera mounted on a crane recorded the entire spectacle for Ultra’s proposed future global broadcast. When my partners departed for the New Times stage, though, I started to panic a tad. Twenty to thirty minutes later, Fedde’s set came to a close as DJ Ego himself, Tiesto, was waiting in the wings.

I quickly snagged my wireless mic from the RV and began ambling across the festival grounds, still on stilts, towards the New Times tent. Upon arrival, I removed the stilts and attempted to catch my breath. I was pleasantly surprised to find Boris, a video mixing friend from The People’s Republic of Boulder, teaching Cherry D. how to operate his camera. Small world. Would our luck ever cease? Apparently not. Mile high club shutterbug Michael Albert was on hand to shoot stills as well. The planet got even smaller mere minutes later when, immediately following my introduction and pep talk, an audience member claimed to be an acquaintance of my first love from Houston, Alyssa Webb. By that point, the synchronicities had ceased to surprise me. All I could do was chuckle at their increasing frequency.

The moment of truth was upon us. Colin and Reg fired up the laptop, donned their Mac monitor helmets and cued up “Mini Skirts.” I removed the already sound-checked mic from its holster and explained to the crowd that we had something a little different in store. Still in my stilt pants, I started six-stepping like a man possessed. Fresh from the main stage across the park, Ashley and Camala materialized to join me. Those in attendance were practically speechless.

Tiny tributaries of makeup and perspiration stung my eyes. Thankfully I didn’t really need to see to sing. As the beat for “Nocturnal Creatures” crept into the mix, I gripped the mic and listened attentively for my cue: “We are nocturnal creatures, we come out at night. It doesn’t make us bad people, we’re just allergic to the light.” Three times for the chorus. Then the peak: “When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, we nocturnal creatures rise from our slumber. When the sun goes down.…”

Next thing we knew, our time was up. After passing out some myspace cards and collecting our things, we caught a ride back to our hotel on the Santa Maria. Later, while inflating our air mattress in the hallway, a very cute neighbor wondered aloud whether nitrous was involved. The girl in question practically fell over backwards when Reg suddenly bolted towards her in his underwear.

Saturday morning, we got up and did it all again. Well, not all of it exactly. We didn’t perform music again that night, but we did stilt-walk and dance most of the afternoon until a torrential downpour put a damper on our outdoor activities. Prior to that, though, I met up with jet-setting dancer/Vinyl employee Ms Easy at the Breaks stage for a slew of photo ops and a bit of conversation.

En route back to the RV, a suspension spring in one of my stilts came loose from a slot that had held it in place. I did the smart thing and downsized for the return trip. Better safe than sorry. Nearly back to the backstage entrance, I got a text message from Denver’s DJ Cinful, who it turns out was hanging out on the main stage in an adorable angel costume carefully positioning herself in the vicinity of headlining DJs for photo ops of her own.

Even under the cover of the garbage bags, Digweed’s mixer had to be replaced mid-set when it shorted out in the rain. I kicked it with Cinful for a bit, eventually finding shelter from the rain in the RV, where she got off shooting close-ups of half naked dancers’ asses. I’m not ashamed to admit I was thoroughly entertained as well.

Meanwhile, under full cover of the house tent halfway across the park, Ashley and Camala worked it center stage for nearly an hour and a half to the tune of Fatboy Slim’s supposedly killer set. News flash: a full hour and a half of aerobic exercise is a pretty intense experience for any body, no matter what their particular fitness level.

Rabbit in the Moon was easily the most widely anticipated main stage act of the day. Still utterly exhausted from our breakneck schedule, I missed many of Bunny’s stunts for the irresistible comfort of the RV’s couch. Colin claims Bunny sang a cover of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” but I wasn’t convinced it wasn’t merely a remix of the original being spun by Monk, Rabbit in the Moon’s resident DJ. Apparently one of the most memorable segments involved a group of men decked out like DEA agents or a SWAT team. At that point for me, though, all I could think about was sleep.

SXSW jams without SXSW prices

Here's an SXSW retrospective from new FP blogger Beth Swindle:

With wristbands now costing in the hundreds, many of us less-flush audiophiles can feel priced out of the best of the Austin spring music mayhem. But fear not! There are many excellent bands playing at wristband-free venues. Such was the case for Porcelain, an Australian rock quintet fronted by sultry sheila Lo Roberts (vocals and guitar). I caught up with them at Darwin's Pub (223 E 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701) on 15 March 2007.

Now relocated to L.A. and signed by Universal Records, Porcelain's uncluttered strains are enhanced by an essential violin line and the band's evocative and lucid lyrics. This band is one part Alanis Morissette (back when she rocked), one part hard drivin' Dixie Chicks.

Darwin's may be the best boring bar in Austin. Unlike so many local staples swathed in themes of hell or Texas, Darwin's name is its only striking feature. The walls are white; the bar is oak; the bathrooms are clean. But Scott, the manager, knows how to bring in talented musicians with tremendous showmanship, and the no-cover bar rakes in the customers in the bargain. His personal touch brings me in the door every time I'm downtown. The night wouldn't be complete without a kiss on the cheek and his proverbial personal touch, "You've changed your hair!" Yes, my hair and my attitude about the accessibility of SXSW!