Backwash

Fear of a hip planet? Austin swarms with the Łbercool during SXSW.

Listeners were thrown for a loop with separate Friday showcases from Vaux and Cephalic Carnage, two decidedly ear-splitting hardcore and noise outfits that have never had anything at all to do with Elephant 6 or any other pet sounds, thank you. With a full-length album, There Must Be Some Way to Stop Them, coming out on the Volcom label in April, Vaux abused a willing crowd that seemed relieved to encounter something so thrillingly different from the garage rock and faux-Brit whining going on in other venues. Later the same evening, at the beer-and-urine-smelling Emo's Annex, Cephalic Carnage got in touch with its potentially chemical-addled audience: "This song is for all the tweakers," said vocalist Lenzig, before tearing into a death-metal ode to amphetamines.

Early the following night, things were calm along 6th Street, Austin's main music drag, a combination of Beale and Bourbon streets. Kicking off the evening at BD Ryder's, Otis Taylor performed for nearly an hour, moving soulfully through material from his albums Respect the Dead and White African. Taylor's set demonstrated why he's such a compelling blues performer, a player with a rasp of a voice and a pair of eyes that match the intensity of his lyrics. Whether the smallish crowd noticed this -- or knew that Taylor had snagged the prestigious W.C. Handy Award last year -- is hard to guess. The evening was still young, and after three days of music, most SXSW-ers were still awaiting that all-important second wind.

For some, it never came. Which may explain why, about thirty minutes after takeoff, all of the hipsters on my plane had gone to sleep.

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