AUSTIN, Texas — Though it takes more than 12 hours to drive the more than 800 miles from Omaha to here, dozens of Nebraskans made the trip to South by Southwest.
Plenty of them are in bands, which I’ve written about in this column, but plenty more are here just to see the music.
Spencer Munson, a DJ and concert promoter, traveled from Lincoln with friends to check out music and have some tacos here at SXSW.
Munson hit up lots of electronic music, and some of his favorites were Justin Martin and Claude VonStroke, both international artists who Munson said we wouldn’t normally see in Lincoln or Omaha.
Jesse Flinck, also of Lincoln, agreed. He loved to see artists you normally never get to see back home. He also loved stumbling on artists he wouldn’t normally have tried out.
“That’s the best thing: seeing those random morsels,” Flinck said.
On Friday, about a dozen people from Nebraska met up to share SXSW war stories — who they saw, who they missed, what they had to do to get VIP passes or sneak into a show — as well as plan their night, talk about their band’s new music and drink margaritas (extra tequila, please).
SXSW is a huge festival — thousands of bands performing through five days — so none of us saw the same lineup of bands even though many of us shared interests.
After the meetup, we all headed in different directions again.
I went to see Frightened Rabbit, a Scottish rock band that will perform in Lincoln next week. “Pedestrian Verse,” the band’s new album, was the theme of the short set, which was done in about 30 minutes.
I’m excited to see them in Lincoln, where they’ll include more of the band’s older material, which is introspective, folky and often full of inner turmoil.
I capped the night with The Flaming Lips’ concert at Auditorium Shores, the festival’s biggest stage.
Thousands were on hand to hear the debut of “The Terror,” the space-rock band’s upcoming album, in its entirety.
I enjoy The Flaming Lips when they’re more rock and pop than heady experimental space rock, so I hoped for the best. What we got was the worst.
Enigmatic and entertaining frontman Wayne Coyne stood in front of the stage draped in rope lights and carrying a baby doll, which he often caressed and kissed. (No, I’m not making this up.)
Most songs involved a droning melody and a never-changing drum beat. Variations included some spacey guitar riffs (“Turning Violent”), ethereal vocals (Sarah Barthel of Phantogram guesting on “You Lust”) or heavy-metal jamming (album-closer “Always There in Our Hearts”).
The whole thing, from Coyne’s baby (which I heard several fans remark derogatorily about) to the ceaselessly droning music, screamed “look at how different we are.”
Luckily for us, “The Terror” didn’t take up the whole set. After finishing the album, The Flaming Lips moved to the band’s best material.
The day before, the band played its best album, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” in its entirety. After its terrible start, the band redeemed itself (at least a little) by playing songs such as “Fight Test,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1” and “Do You Realize?” — the band’s iconic hit.
Jim James of My Morning Jacket, who opened the show with another spacey set, joined Coyne to sing the finale.
It was easily the best moment of the 90-minute performance, and the audience joined Coyne and James in singing the song’s final words.
“Love you guys,” Coyne said as he left the stage. “We’ll see you again. Let’s go get drunk.”
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