Greetings dear readers from a beautiful adobe house outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I'm crashing while my friend's broken-down car gets repaired and while our SXSW afterglow - by which I mean, that composed of a smarting sunburn, stress acne, a thin sheen of beer-y sweat, and the pandemonium of ringing in my ears - fades like a smoldering Texan sunset. It was another great year for music, but a sobering one otherwise, with the festival's typical free beer-fueled debauchery reaching a truly awful low with a disastrous drunk driving accident Wednesday night. It was another reminder of how short and sweet life is - let's do honor to the two music fans who lost their lives by vowing to live life as fully as we can at SXSW's and other festivals to come, while keeping a sense of responsibility for ourselves and looking out for our friends, loved ones, and peers.
To get the good stuff across to you this year I drew some inspiration from my social networking feeds - every other week of the year, I'm treated to all my friends' Buzzfeed quiz results (a lot of people I know got Brie in the "what cheese are you?" one, which is probably why we are friends), but during South By I get an endless stream of what acts my friends are catching, how many fish tacos they've eaten, and plenty of different euphemisms for their intense hungover exhaustion. So, voila - which of my favorite bands at SXSW 2014 are you? Keep track of what letter answers you choose; that's how you'll meet your match. And remember, be honest. Let's go -
If you were an ancient god, how would you keep your followers in line?
A. Demanding human sacrifice
B. Supplying devotees with lots of mind-altering drugs
D. A vaguely intimidating but still inclusive presence
E. Love, affection, and a sense of we're all in this together-ness
F. The sheer power and force of your awe-inspiring presence
G. Leaving foreign, cryptic, and/or surrealist messages
H. Lots of intent eye contact
Which mythological creature do you most identify with?
A. A post-singularity android
B. Lovecraft's undersea alien god, Cthulhu
C. A poltergeist - creepy, but just having fun
D. A banshee
E. Puck, the playful Shakespearian trickster
F. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love
G. A many-headed hydra
H. Medusa, whose gaze can turn you to stone
You run into the devil at a crossroads and he offers you your heart's desire in exchange for your soul. What do you swap for?
A. Unreal, impossible guitar shredding skills
B. The ability to summon demons at will
C. A really, really, really good groove
D. The ability to communicate telepathically with your friends
E. The power to get an entire crowd on your side through the sheer force of your dance moves
F. The singing voice of a goddess (or Nina Simone)
G. A decent baguette in Austin
H. The slow and painful death of everyone who has ever wronged you
Describe the atmosphere in which you feel most comfortable.
A. The future
B. A featureless, eerie, so-quiet-your-ears-ring desert out of your favorite Cormac McCarthy novel
C. A thick pine forest at dusk, preferably in the rain
D. A packed warehouse full of smoke and sweaty bodies
E. Staring at the sea contemplating the fantastic infinitude of human existence
F. An old-school jazz hall
G. A Dadaist Parisian club
H. The peace, quiet, and privacy of your own bedroom
How do you feel about dance moves?
A. I like them so painstakingly choreographed so as to appear robotic
B. Must be kinda violent, with guitars only
D. They can be a really good way to get cardio
E. I go for that totally into-it embarrassing dad vibe
F. I shoot for sexy and somewhat coordinated
G. Mine are coordinated occasionally and seemingly by accident
H. I prefer just staring down my dance-off opponents
Choose the most punk thing from this list of punk things.
A. A stage persona that suggests demonic possession
B. Laying down some of the evilest riffs imaginable on a floral guitar possibly decorated with help from your grandmother
C. Extending an epic last song until the sound guy cuts you off by unplugging all your instruments
D. Jumping around amongst your audience during every song
E. Touring literally endlessly since your inception as a band
F. Breaking out your biggest hit live - and adding an insane trombone solo
G. Coordinated. Leather. Jackets.
H. Busting out a whole lot of rather blunt fuck-you's to ex-lovers, in a church
How many guitars?
A. All you really need is one, but occasionally a second will do
B. Three - and an insane array of pedals, and the amp quotient thus necessitated
C. Two, duetting in perfect concert
D. One, plus some crazy effects
E. None - you can get the desired effect with vocals, bass and synths
F. None, but a veritable army of brass players
G. Who cares when you could have three keyboards?
H. Two - rhythm and lead, bare-bones for maximum heartstring-shredding
How do you like your eardrum annihilation?
A. Served on a silver platter of brutal and brilliant guitar pyrotechnics
B. Drone-shattered, complete, and undiscerning
C. Melted by a ton of perfectly syncopated, jangly feedback
D. Scorched by shrieking yelp after shrieking yelp
E. Shocked into submission by a combination of '80s romantic baritone and metal-ish roaring
F. Wiped out by a relentless horn section
G. Frazzled by crazy synth riffs galore
H. Blocked by the force of your own tears
You're heading out with friends for a night at the club. What look are you rocking?
A. A top artfully ripped and colored so as to appear covered in blood
B. A full-on Wild West villain look with some snakeskin cowboy boots
C. Jeans and a t-shirt, to keep it chill
D. A cut-up band tee and a ton of bright colors
E. Anything movement-friendly enough to allow for full showcasing of your dancefloor skills, while still remaining professional
F. Flowing layers and jewels galore
G. A leather jacket, Doc Martens, and/or a Hawaiian shirt
H. Something simple and classy - plus great eyeliner
If you got mostly A's, you're St. Vincent! You manifest in the human world as a vaguely androidal alien goddess sent back in time to harvest our souls. We are kind of scared of you, but impressed by your robotic dance moves, insane guitar skills, and gift for earworming weirdo songwriting. We promise to do your bidding once you've achieved your inevitable world domination.
If you got mostly B's, you're Destruction Unit! We're kind of scared of you too. You have probably stared death in the face and offered to split your joint. Still, we'll come to see you play live four times during SXSW week because the searing feedback-fest / sonic trainwreck every song hurtles toward, through a starless desert night at breakneck speed with the conductor acid-tripping behind the wheel, is no less exhilarating when you've gone almost completely deaf.
If you got mostly C's, you're Viet Cong! Your chill appearance and Canadian respectability belies your taste for eerie, eardrum-piercing guitar riffs in wild syncopation, a taut Kraut-y groove as backbone, and fifteen-plus minute jams broken out at that choice moment when the sound guy offers you "one more song." Not to mention, you've got not one but two upcoming full-length releases up your sleeve - the reissuing of a sold-out tape, and another complete LP.
If you got mostly D's, you're Guerrilla Toss! Your full-throttle assault comes in at the ears, then in the eyes, as frontwoman Kassie Carlson conducts a rictus of banshee wails and impossibly coordinated, complex maximalism, all the while joining bassist Peter Negroponte in the audience, facing the rest of the band and as likely to jump on your foot as the drunk dude next to you. The life of the party, if the party could sneak up on you when you're not looking.
If you got mostly E's, you're Future Islands! Yeah, we know hay has been made of frontman Sam Herring's dance moves, but they are really something, and so is the rest of his magnanimous stage presence, as well as the band's knack for the kind of lighters-up anthemic jams whose choruses you can't help but memorize after one listen. You're tirelessly hardworking, instantly enjoyable, and generally irresistible - this is your year.
If you got mostly F's, you're Kelis! We really want to play trombone in your giant band. Not only did you break out "Milkshake" with a cadre of backup singers and a raucous horn section providing a sultry backbone (thus proving that song's eternal relevance more than a decade later), you took every opportunity possible to segue into a riotous cover of Nina Simone's "I'm Feeling Good," which somehow felt better every time.
If you got mostly G's, you're La Femme! We're envious of your Parisian steez, endearing French accents, coordinated leather jackets, and, mostly, great jams, with layer upon layer of keyboard and synth sounds taking a backseat only to charming, mesmerizing group vocals en Français. Even at a noontime show, you got every pizza-and-whiskey-clutching audience member grooving - in the SXSW Olympics, a gold medal achievement. Bien sur! (Ed. note: I'm La Femme!)
If you got mostly H's, you're Angel Olsen! Your icy gaze and singular vocals had a packed crowd of concertgoers at Central Presbyterian Church staring silently, breathlessly altar-wards as though they were watching a sweaty guy preach fire and brimstone. Except you rely not on over-the-top proselytizing but on heart-rendering lyrics and plain-and-simple guitar chords to get your point across, and it works - a moment in your presence feels so fragile and special, it could almost break if you dropped it.
Did you make it down to SXSW this year or catch any live streams? What were your favorite sets? The best food truck you went to like six times? We wanna hear - along with your quiz results. And stay tuned - we're sure you'll hear more from all these amazing bands this year. Until next time - and wish me luck getting our car repaired.