The Spin Party at SXSW is generally one of the most coveted events to get into. When I heard that Hole would be playing the U.S for the first time in over a decade here, and Fucked Up were on the bill, I really wanted to go, but knew it would be impossible. However, due to the help of two of my well connected friends, I somehow found myself talking to one of Courtney Love’s people on the phone at 10am while I was having brunch with my mom and my friend who went to the Phoenix show with me the night before. And a few hours later, I had two pretty little passes in my hand.
I took Ronda as my date, and we got there early to enjoy the full event. There were free drinks and food and I’m sure lots of other things everywhere, but we were there for the music.
I watched SF band Rogue Wave while I waited for Ronda to get there. My ex-boyfriend loves them, which automatically means that I do not. Regardless, I was glad to see an SF band on the bill of such a well promoted party.
Next up was Fucked Up, who I had seen almost exactly a year ago and was one of my favorite shows last year. They have great songs, and Damian, or Pink Eyes, is seriously insane. I was curious to see how the crowd would react. There was a ton of press, but also a lot of hipster types. As soon as you lay eyes on this band and hear them you recognize that there is no one like them out there. I believe they started the set with ‘Magic Word’. Pink Eyes has a seemingly permanent lump/bruise on his forehead, and he quickly shows you why as he hits the spot with the microphone over and over.
After the first song, Pink Eyes jumped off the stage, crawled over the barrier, and did the rest of the set in the crowd. He lost his shirt and started just running around and doing stuff to people. It was hilarious to watch people’s reactions- they either wanted to be part of the show or ran away screaming, He drank people’s drinks, sang with them, hugged them (Ronda and I got a group hug with him and some other random guy), took pics with them, and more. Towards the end, he had the band throw him bottles of water, and he got the crowd to help him open them and pour them on the dirt. He made a mud pit that he promptly laid in and then got whoever he could to hug him. It was hilarious. However, I kept trying to look back at the stage to watch the band, but it was hard to take my eyes off what mischief he was causing.
Next up was Miike Snow, from Sweden, who has immense buzz but I’ve never been able to make their always sold out shows work with my schedule. Their electronic rock music was much better than I expected. They are also a uniquely set up band- two guys on beats, a drummer, a bassist, and the lead singer on guitar and piano. The vocalist is very serious; in fact the whole set had a more serious tone than I expected. However, I thought it was kind of ironic that they have a Jackalope as their logo, which is kind of a Southern joke.
After that set, someone came up to me and asked, ‘are you HardRockChick?’. Amazing! Turns out it’s one of the Spinning Platters bloggers, who are SF based. I feel better that I now know they have a staff of 20, because they are EVERYWHERE!
I had heard the name Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, but knew nothing about them. This is the kind of set that I would never see on my own, but am so glad it was sandwiched into this so that I could witness it. Sharon Jones is probably the closest I’ll get to seeing Tina Turner. She’s an exuberant performer who catches the admiration of all who watch her. The Dap Kings are three on horns, two on drums, two on guitar, and one on bass. I saw this extremely tall, tattooed man standing off to the side, and Jones beckoned for him to come out and sang a song to him. Ronda knew that this is Katy Perry’s ex-boyfriend from Gym Class Heroes. I may not like Perry’s music but damn she’s got good taste in men. It was a fun set to watch, though it was a very odd opener for Hole.
I couldn’t really wrap my head around the fact that after 16 years I was finally about to see Courtney Love, and ‘Hole’, though she’s the only original member. And I’d be witnessing it from the front row at the Spin Party, no less. When I was a young teenager playing guitar, Courtney was the only female rock star I ever wanted to be. Yeah, she was fucked up, crazy, and probably not the best musician or singer around, but she’s just got that thing. Plus, Kurt Cobain was my first rock star obsession, and I still think of the two as one in a way.
I would be remiss not to mention the Courtney Love fangirls that we kept watching and eavesdropping on who were front and center. One had a shirt on that had different images of Courtney all over it. Ronda asked her about it and she said it cost upwards of $500! Another girl was already having mini breakdowns before Courtney even came out. And I’ll be damned if I wasn’t alerted the second Courtney was visible on the side of the stage by the cries and screams of these girls. Now, let me take a moment to say that I can be considered a fangirl of several bands that I’ve followed around and been front and center for, but I’ve never been the one that uncontrollably screams and cries before a set. I might be moved to that point during or after, but the before thing is something I don’t get.
Margaret Cho introduced Hole to the stage. They come out and the photographers went wild. They began with ‘Pretty on the Inside’ which flowed into a few verses of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ (kind of ironic considering one of my shows yesterday). The photographers were turning around and photographing the fangirls who were singing along to every word. I was pretty mesmerized- she’s exactly how I’d expect…and more.
Courtney is a performer. The song is just the foundation, but it’s really about how she plays it in her slightly crass way, yet still connecting with the crowd and giving little shout outs with her eyes along the way. She sings to individuals in the crowd for sure, and it’s pretty powerful stuff. But the main part of Courtney’s performance is all of the random stuff she says between songs. ‘I just came’, making fun of Bret Michaels and Rock of Love, the band introductions- the bassist was the ‘best fuck in the U.S’, the guitarist is ‘invisible Dave who shadows her shitty guitar playing’, the drummer lived with her for 5 years so ‘how do you think he feels’, and the guitarist who is ‘is the biggest fuck up she’s ever met’. She talked about hate sex, or fucking and punching, and Facebook messaging Perez, and a lot about her new songs. She wore a sash that said ‘Beware’.
We were standing behind a crate at the rail with a very expensive looking videocamera on it, presumably for the live webcast of the Muse show later that evening. But the exuberant crowd, drunk from the fact that they are seeing Hole and have had free drinks all day, kept trying to make us roll away with the box and camera. After the show, the person who would be operating the camera walked up and was horrified that it had been sitting there the whole time. I assured him that I tossed any drinks that people tried to set on there. Rock & roll karma.
To finally hear ‘Miss World’ and ‘Violet’ live was amazing. The new songs sounded good, too- they seemed to have angry lyrics but sound less angry than the Live Though This material.
The audio sucks….but, you can hear her banter pretty well
She was setting up to play a song when they were told they only had time for one more. She was pissed off about that and launched into ‘Samantha’. Then came the skipped record, ‘did I hear that right’ moment of SXSW for me, when at the end of the song she screamed, “Trent Reznor, 1995, stick it up your ass’. I looked at Ronda and said, “OH MY GOD DID YOU HEAR THAT?” And she did. I thought it was really bizarre that I would be standing in the very place where I first saw NIN with someone who I was meeting for the first time in person who I met through following NIN. Wow. Life is weird.
We were quickly shooed out of there as the last minute announced Muse show was taking place that evening. I thought about hiding in the bathroom to try to sneak into it, but I had to continue my story with another band that evening……