SXSW 2014: Thursday, Friday and Saturday Recap with Blondie, Cody ChesnuTT, the Strypes and More

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Dana Plonka
Cody ChesnuTT on Saturday night at SXSW

It's Sunday in Austin, I'm on South Congress at Jo's Coffee Shop, trying to write as the 5000th (at least) performance of the week takes place on yet another parking lot made into a venue. There's much to say about my final three days at SXSW 2014 (read about the first two days here), and only so many brain cells left to say it before my night flight back to St. Louis. So here we go. See you back in Texas in 360 days.

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Tragedy Hangs Over SXSW After Two Days of Music

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The Hold Steady
Roy Kasten
Some facts as I know them at deadline: Two are dead and dozens are injured after a high speed chase along Red River Street. in downtown Austin, Texas last night. After being pulled over by police for a suspected DWI, the vehicle sped off against traffic, crashed through a barricade and plowed through dozens along Red River near and in front of the Mohawk night club during Wednesday night's SXSW Music showcase. The suspect is in custody.

[Update: Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says the crash was "intentional," and that the car was reportedly stolen. The suspect's name is Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21. Two were killed, 23 were injured, eight were transported to the hospital and three people are still in serious condition in the ICU. "This is an individual who showed no regard for the human beings he plowed through," Acevedo said." The results of a BAC test have not yet been released. More info here.]

I was inside Mohawk last night, standing 30 feet away from the street. I did not hear or see the crime. 20 minutes earlier, I was standing in the line that was hit by the car. I had come to Mohawk to see LA punk band X, and the band played a full set. Tyler the Creator, who was to follow, did not.

See also: Two Dead, 23 Injured in Grisly SXSW Tragedy [Updated With Video]

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SXSW 2013: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Phosphorescent, Natalie Maines, Richard Thompson, China Rats and More: Review and Photos

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Dana Plonka
Britt Daniel of Divine Fits at SXSW
This happened: Laura Cantrell, a New York-based country singer and songwriter, shared a stage with two friends, Rosie Flores and Kristi Rose, backed by Fats Kaplin and Mark Spencer, two of the finer musicians in a town that, on this or any week, affords some stiff competition. The trio of voices filled one of the most enduring and endearing dance halls in Texas on a Saturday afternoon at SXSW 2013. And it all happened for free.

But nothing is free in this world. That's why we have the cliché. Even with all the time and resources and will power it took to make that one small moment of singing happen, it felt free -- and all the slavish, trend-mongering absurdities before, after and around it made the moment feel freer still.

And that, all ye SXSW haters, skeptics, opportunists and cynics, that is why it's worth it all.

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SXSW 2013: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Spain, Ivan & Alyosha and More: Review and Photos

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Dana Plonka
Nick Cave at SXSW 2013.

Kneeling down at the edge of the stage at the big outdoor venue of Stubb's in Austin, Nick Cave cradled a young man's head in his hands and sang his death-filled take on the deathless "Stagger Lee" myth. The jammed-in crowd laughed a little nervously. Cave stared down at the kid, who just kept nodding his head as if nothing were happening. The band, the Bad Seeds, played like the armies of the night.

Five-thousand miles away a new pope was about to take the throne. Oh hipster, my hipster, I'm not saying these things have never happened before, but you try telling Austin (or the world) that, not to mention the kid whose head will never be the same.

Nor will mine, after the first two days of SXSW Music 2013.

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The End of SXSW 2012: Too Much Portland to Count and a Little St. Louis

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Dana Plonka
Nikka Costa at Twangfest Day Party at SXSW 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

2:15 p.m. By mid-afternoon the South Congress strip had become a not-quite-debauched Mardi Gras parade of young and old, hip and unhip, crunchy and coiffed, and dogs, lots of dogs, all taking in the food trucks, boutiques, vintage apparel encampments and day parties, lots of day parties. They never end. The Friday slate for the back lot at Home Slice Pizza was packed with folk and pop acts, including fine Aussie band Husky, mashing up mope and fun with good blasts from the keybs for the crowd, who, like much of Austin this time of year, resembled a Portlandia casting call, buzzed on pale ale and basil-dusted slices.

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Norah Jones, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Do it Right: SXSW 2012 Day 3

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Bruce Springsteen at the Moody Theater at SXSW 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

1 p.m. SXSW is a time machine, not always dialed towards the future. Though the clubs change names every season, the gimmicks get more and more outrageous -- witness the skyscraper-sized vending machine stocked with minivan-sized bags of chemically-enhanced corn chips whose name shall no more be spoken -- the ante annually increased on the mega-star appearances -- this year, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Jack White and the Boss -- at some moments the clock spins backwards, and you remember how it all once was.


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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.

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