SXSW 2007. It's getting tight in here.

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Sixth St. in Austin was already a clash of sonics and crazy people for South by Southwest’s four nights of live music. It was the event’s main drag all week — the cops shut it down to automobile traffic, so that the only ones driving through were the fuzz themselves or various band members in rented white panel vans looking for their load-in spot. Sixth holds Emo’s and its three or four satellite rooms (I still haven’t figured out exactly how many stages the complex encompasses) and numerous other bars and/or live venues, all competing with front doors open and barkers in the street (“Free drinks! Free food! Free music! Free oil changes! Come on in! etc.”) for the attention and walk-up traffic of this funny throng of longhaired weeping gnomes who’d overtaken Austin. There were freestyle battles in the street, and buskers with keyboards and mini amps doing eager Hall & Oates covers. Winding strings of friends, bands, and band hangers-on wound up and down the street all week, modeling the latest in skinny jean fashion and lean-to haircuts.

But then it was Saturday, and St. Patrick’s Day.

Suddenly there were still freestyle battles, rock star (-ish) kids, and barkers yelling through megaphones to check out their venues. But now there were UT dudes in green plastic beanies, and gangs of women in green halter tops and LED-powered novelty necklaces. And everyone was drunk. Which reminds me — the only other vehicles allowed to break Sixth St.’s traffic barriers at SXSW were the beer trucks. And they kept on lumbering up that street all damn week.

It was havoc, really. Havoc with a fancy haircut, maybe, or havoc with a sleeveless Tony Romo jersey and a sweaty handful of green plastic beads. But it was havoc all the same, and when we left our last official musical venue of the evening just after 1am, we expected to exit straight into a street fight between the green beanies and the tight pants mafia. That didn’t happen. Not that I saw, anyway. But when I was safe in my hotel room at the end of Sixth, watching The Bodyguard on TNT and waiting for word about an afterparty that never came (a blessing in retrospect), I realized what had been so strange about the appearance of the green beanie army in the midst of SXSW. For three days, 99% of those walking the streets of Austin had fit perfectly (or purposely imperfectly, depending on how much money they spent to look the way they did) into the equation of hip in 2007. Every strain was represented, from the chafing unavoidability of the tight pants boys (I think Albert Hammond, Jr. is their king, but I could be wrong; I wouldn’t even know how to put on pants that tight) to the American Apparel coed farm team, a smattering of hoodied emo kids (I remember seeing Hawthorne Heights’s name on a bill somewhere), European music kids who actually succeeded at looking cool, Japanese music kids who looked cooler than anyone, and the dudes in glasses and Silver Tab jeans who can only be called Radio Station Guys. All of these types, crashing the boards on a street already built to party, and ultimately clashing with the regulars. Because when you look at all of them in their torn tights and Converse All-Stars and colored leather jackets, you start to think it’d be better just being a boozing guy in a Longhorns shirt, adorned with green beads and looking for his 14th Shiner Bock of the evening. It’d be less to worry about.

I’m not separate from it. It’s not like I hovered above all of this for three days, observing it from my Segway high horse. I make my concessions to music-inspired fashion, and never wear khakis or pleats. But it’s just so hilarious being in a city full of archetypes, especially when around every corner, another set of those archetypes are tuning up their instruments. What’s it going to be this time, angular indie jism or another set from Pete Townshend, who as one of SXSW 2007's keynote guests was whispered as appearing at unannounced venues like an apparition more than possibly Jesus Christ. I guess he did do a song with young buzzed-about Englishmen the Kooks, but it must've been in an Emo’s different from the one I was in line waiting to enter.

JTL

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