Fiona Apple, Tennis and Corporate Sponsorship: SXSW 2012 Days 1 and 2

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Dana Plonka
Fiona Apple at Stubb's and SXSW 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

6:25 p.m. I've been coming to SXSW for over a decade now, and pre- and post-apocalypse days off are as much essential rituals as 2 a.m. taco runs and sleep deprivation. This year, there'd be no day-before day off, as SXSW has extended the music portion of the festival/conference by a full day, starting on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. The verdict on this move is still out -- Has anyone really been clamoring for more showcases? -- but I began my SXSW 2012 with a late start all the same. By early evening, with the last of the first-day day parties dwindled (no Jansport bonfire with White Denim for me), I snagged a rare table on the Driskill Hotel front patio, and sipped an LDM (Legendary Driskill Martini: Ketel One, grapefruit bitters) and girded myself for the coming onslaught. The breeze off the hunk of lemon on my glass was glorious.

7:50 p.m. At the Hype Hotel evening showcase, I somehow made it past security with notepad and pens (the latter were being confiscated by a zealous state trooper; "No graffiti on the walls," he said, and showed me a clutch of fifteen confiscated ink weapons). The drinks were free as were the Dorito-crammed burrito nightmares courtesy of sponsor Taco Bell.

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Dana Plonka
Oberhofer at Hype Hotel and SXSW 2012

8 p.m. The first band of my SXSW 2012 would be Oberhofer at the Hype Hotel. The good, young quartet of indie noise and hook makers from Brooklyn began with a whistle and some Mel-Bay finger-picking. Lead singer Brad Oberhofer skipped around the stage and kicked at his amp for some excellent squawk. He knew he and his band were the party starters and they did as their inner jumping jack flashes told.

9:05 p.m. On 6th Street, I gave Nashville's Apache Relay just three songs before deciding that 1) a laissez-faire sound man can kill a set; 2) a Springsteen-pandering cover of "State Trooper" can kill a set; and 3) vaguely rocking Americana can kill a set. First trifecta of the week.

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Dana Plonka
Miniature Tigers at Hype Hotel and SXSW 2012

11:07 p.m. Back at the Hotel of Hype (something about the other major sponsor, MP3 blog aggregator the Hype Machine) more free drink and more pop, this time from Miniature Tigers, which is so supremely and winningly '80s that I didn't mind the toothache from the fluffernutter of the songs. The dance-music-digging electro-bros (™ Roy Kasten, Inc.) high-fived and shook it -- and so did I.

Midnight Maybe it was the overwhelming stench of reheated Taco Bell chalupas and over-heated teenagers, but much as I tried I could not abide the much-hyped Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. I've listened to Flaming Lips records too, but I wouldn't do so ironically. I also wouldn't imagine a band could take a Leonard Cohen song like "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" and suck the soul out of it. Congratulations, hipsters and corporate sponsorship. My first night of SXSW came to a dispiriting end.

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