South by Southwest 2009: Day 8 (PJ Harvey, Midnight Youth)

I ended up being drawn into The Parish (where I'd seen Ivison perform earlier in the week) by a heavy-sounding band with a saxophone. I stuck around for one of IrRadio's tunes. Overall, impressive, but they lost me with an extended jam, so I moved along.

The Beauvilles' 6 p.m. headlining showcase at B.D. Riley's had gotten moved, and I was well on track to at least making an appearance at the rescheduled rooftop show at The Wave. Creative Loafing was the official band sponsor, so I at least needed to show up and buy a couple drinks.

The Wave was a small little tourist trap of a bar, and you had to force your way to the back of the room, then squeeze between the sound board and the left side of the stage in order to access the stairway to the second level. This level was also standing room only, and I was greeted upstairs by none other than Shawn Beauville himself.

"You're just in time to see the band from New Zealand with a #1 single that just got signed to Warner Brothers," he said.

I actually couldn't tell at first whether he was being sarcastic, but after Midnight Youth played their first song, it was obvious to everyone that these guys were tight as hell (If you can imagine a cross between Spacehog and Night Ranger). Yeah, maybe not the greatest example, but you have to give their new single, "All on Our Own," at least one listen.

Our boys were under some palpable pressure to follow up with a really strong performance and it didn't help that the patio was so small that the sound man ordered everyone "away from the stage" to do the changeover. Once in position, Shawn wasted no time, immediately taking control of the sound check, and starting to get everyone back into the room for the impending rock show. Before they began, Shawn leaned down to hand me his camera and said, "We're going to wreck shit."

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And wreck it they did.

The sound carried off the roof and filled 6th Street. Shawn snarled lyrics into the mic about Ybor City and Tampa cab rides, and girls in cowboy boots and sundresses screamed right back at him. The guys in the crowd were banging their heads with half-closed eyes. Shawn offered CDs to the crowd for donations, but the dancefloor was so tight that we had to form an assembly line of money to the front of the stage and an assembly line of CDs back out to the crowd. Eventually, as Shawn was off tangled in cables atop the kick drum, soloing with a bottle of Lone Star, John yelled, "Fuck it," and handed the entire box of discs to the girls in the front row, who proceeded to fling them into the screaming crowd, who all dove and fought for the discs as if they were candy. I wondered where the rest of the Tampa people were at, but found out the next morning that the BAAMO crew couldn't even get in because the fire marshall stopped letting people into the building.

When the show was over, the sweat-drenched band signed autographs and took photos with the crowd until the last-call lights came on. As I left, I heard one of the band members say, "Best. Set. Ever."

I considered this a pretty good note to end, so I skipped the much-hyped Monotonix show that had by that time spilled out into the street. There's always next year. 

I got back to the house and packed my bags for the 8 a.m. cab ride.

And, yes, there's more to come.


Around 3 p.m. yesterday, I caught Rec Center and King of Spain at the New Granada showcase at Ginger Man Pub. I grabbed a bite with Flee, Laura, John McNicholas as well as Scott Harrell and Mike Delach from the REAX crew. So awesome that the conference was bookended by Tampa-centric showcases. Maybe we can add a Mohawk Bomb showcase to the roster next year?

Unfortunately, I had to jet before Hankshaw took the stage in order to catch Flatstock by 6 p.m. Flatstock is a quarterly exhibit that features artists, concert posters and prints for sale. I got to meet Jared from Mexican Chocolate. I'm a big fan of this guy's work for the Mars Volta and I picked up a couple more prints for my collection.

Now here's where my heart starts beating. I left an hour early to ensure I got a good spot for PJ Harvey and John Parrish's set at Stubbs. I got there in plenty of time - the Indigo Girls and Third Eye Blind fans had no interest whatsoever, so I was able to wriggle my way down front. The only downside - enduring an entire set by Razorlight. Wow.

PJ Harvey and John Parrish on stage at Stubb's

In a rare US appearance, Polly Jean Harvey took the stage looking like a straight-jacketed geisha, and delivered a set of mostly new material - at turns crying, laughing and screaming - one minute delivering lines like "there's no more laughter in the garden," with a tiny, childlike voice and the next, snarling "stick it up your fucking ass," with an empowered roar. The crowd responded with riotous screams and applause, and she humbly, quietly thanked them each time. When she announced that the next song would be their last, the audience loudly protested, and she tried to explain that everyone was being kept to strict time slots. To the chants of "come back soon," she had no reply.

Afterward, I ran into John Barker and Jennie from MerchGirl. They were headed down an alleyway to catch the DJ duo L.A. Riots. They asked if I'd like to tag along, but I was still a bit shellshocked from the whole PJ Harvey thing and needed to walk it off in the night air for a bit.

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