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Girl Germs Messes with Texas: Day 2

March 23, 2011
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Friday was an emotional rollercoaster at SXSW, full of ecstatic highs and tantrum-inducing lows. The day started off with me missing out on Yoko Ono’s interview at the Austin Convention Center. I felt like the forces of the universe (and of traffic, sleep deprivation, parking and…maybe that impending Supermoon) had combined to stop me from seeing Yoko, an experience I’ve been dreaming about for weeks. Alas, I missed it. I drowned my Yoko sorrows in a bottle of iced tea at the ginormous Whole Foods before heading over to the iconic Waterloo Records to catch a set from Girl Germs favorites Dum Dum Girls.

It was super hot in Austin (for a Minnesotan at least) but there was no time sit idly in the shade. I went over to Cheapo Records on Lamar to meet up with Screaming Females (who recorded this awesome in-studio session for Girl Germs back when we were on Radio K). Since I last spoke to the Jarett Dougherty, Marisa Paternoster and King Mike in May, they had spent the rest of 2010 touring (including going to Europe for the first time) behind their album Castle Talk.Dougherty told me they’ve been taking it easier in 2011–“easier for us at least”–playing a few shows here and there, and that they’ll record a new record in December or January.

“We decided for this [record] we’ll try working out a whole bunch of songs so we can go in the studio and cut the best parts of the record…which we’ve never tried before,” explains Dougherty. “It’s always like ‘write 10 songs and go record them before we forget them’.”

The band, who are SXSW first-timers, drove to Texas from New Jersey and arrived Tuesday. They said all the venues they’ve played have been on the small side, but full–which can be a tricky balance to strike when playing something as huge as SXSW. They were excited to play the outdoor Mess with Texas Fest the following day, and had six shows total lined up–only one of them an officially sanctioned SXSW show, which would mean dodging the crowds and chaos of 6th Street downtown. “Who know if we’ll even be able to get inside; that’s anyone’s guess,” said Paternoster.

Mike added, “I kind of want to vomit just thinking about it.”

Speaking of NOT vomiting, later that day I finally got my hands on some delicious Tex-Mex. NOM.

I also did some record shopping and found a hard-to-find Tickley Feather album for cheap (along with some PiL):

And saw this, which I can’t really explain. Apparently vegetarians are imaginary? Texas logic.

When I ventured back downtown that night, I was still feeling pretty bummed about the Yoko debacle, but still held on to hope that I’d see her Saturday night at the Japan showcase. I braved 6th Street–which looked like the photo below–to sit down with Piper Kaplan, the singer of LA-based Puro Instinct. Kaplan was subdued and completely calm amidst the chaos (or maybe she was just really tired). The band, who were on their second SXSW, had arrived Tuesday night and had been “galavanting around Austin, shooting the shit” with John Maus in addition to “a lot of napping” and playing a few shows. “We’re all pretty broke and lazy,” she said.

Kaplan mentioned Puro Instinct is slated to play a Coachella offshoot party in April. “It’s cool because we won’t really have to play Coachella,” she said, laughing. She told me the band is putting together a summer tour (including European dates) and a European release is in the works. “If there’s any reason to play live, it’s to get the fuck out of your hometown,” she said.

I then darted over to Red 7 to catch up with Hunx and His Punx, a band that features not only Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams, but Seth Bogart, one of Girl Germs’ honorary ladies. Shaw couldn’t make it to the interview (second bummer of the day, wah wah), but the remaining three ladies in the band, Michelle Santamaria, Erin Emslie and Amy Blaustein crowded into a very loud booth and chatted with Bogart and me about life at SXSW.

The previous day the band had played five shows. “I think four out of five us cried,” said Bogart. Guitarist Michelle Santamaria added, “We had a meltdown on the bus ride home.” The band flew to Austin and were getting around without a car, taking the bus and cabs between downtown and their friend’s house.

“We drove last year on tour, and it was fine…but we’re old,” Bogart said, laughing. The band said they’d been busy playing a computer game version of Family Fued (precious!), gossiping and trying–unsuccessfully–to sneak into friends’ hotel rooms to order room service when not playing. Hunx and His Punx, who just released Too Young to Be in Love, will tour with their “sister band” Shannon and the Clams and will be in Minneapolis at the 7th Street Entry May 1 (Travis Ramin, last month’s TV Party DJ, will open the show with his new band!).

Bogart told me he’s very honored to be featured on a female-centric show (also precious!), and to that I say: we are honored to have you, sir!

After my interview with Hunx, Friday started to redeem itself. I stuck around the Sub Pop/Hardly Art showcase to watch Colleen Green, a new Hardly Art artist. She is amazing! If you like fast rock ‘n’ roll with fuzzed-out guitars and drum machines, you will love her. I dipped back over to Klub Krucial for fabulous sets from No Joy (another one of my new favorites), a lady-led LA/Montreal-based quartet. Their music had a similar aesthetic and ethereal nature to Puro Instinct, but was harder, faster and more guitar-heavy–I’d compare them to a poppier Magik Markers.

Puro Instinct was up next, and they lived up to all the hype. Apparently MTV thinks so, because they were filming the show. Down in front, MTV!

I was so impressed by Skylar Kaplan of Puro Instinct’s guitar work. She has a really unique style that’s subtle yet powerful–a sort of stoic counterpart to her sister’s vocals, which almost seem to float. The rest of the band was great, too. I seriously can’t say enough good things about this band, not because of the buzz surrounding them or their outfits or Piper’s dancing–because they are talented young songwriters and performers. Which made me even angrier at this lazy, annoying, eye roll-worthy Spin review of the same show I went to (seriously, “Foxy” went in the headline? Yuck!).

I went back to Red 7 to catch Moondoggies and part of Obits (I also ran into Katy Goodman of La Sera and Vivian Girls, Kristin Gundred of Dum Dum Girls and the ladies of Hunx in the restroom) before the real treat started: Hunx and His Punx.  The band had all changed into stage attire, and put on a rollicking show. Bogart moves around so much on stage that I couldn’t really get a great shot, but here’s an attempt:

I skipped out on Dum Dum Girls (since I’ve already seen them a few times) and La Sera to head over to the Parish for the Merge Records showcase. I arrived just in time to see the holy grails of the evening: Wye Oak and Wild Flag! We at Girl Germs are totally in love with the songs on Wye Oak’s latest, Civilian, and again I was incredibly impressed with the guitar-playing I saw. I’ve always liked Wye Oak but never thought of singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner as being that proficient…but oh boy, was I wrong. Watching her play really solidified the complexity of her songs, and caused me to listen to Civilian almost the whole plane ride home.

My expectations for Wild Flag (which consists of Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia; Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, the Jicks and Quasi; Mary Timony of Helium; and Rebecca Cole of the Minders) were high. I was also a little afraid of the band members recognizing me as the girl who almost plowed into them, starstruck, walking around at the Austin Convention Center the other day–then pulled off to the side to Tweet about it (I’m so ashamed…). The show was a great way to cap off the night, and I fought my aching feet and tired eyes to make it through the entire set. I’ve always been a bigger Helium fan than Sleater-Kinney, so I of course loved the songs that Timony sang. But I also love Brownstein and Weiss, who both have really great stage presence, so it was a win-win all around (although I wasn’t crazy about the keyboards, to be honest).

Stay tuned for an update from Saturday, where you’ll hear about my close encounter with Exene Cervenka and find out if I ever got to see Yoko!

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