If there is any sort of down time in the ten-day span of SXSW, it’s the beginning of the first week as the Interactive portion of the conference winds down, the majority of the film premieres have happened, and local Austinites try to squeeze in a few days of work before most of the city becomes a potpourri of live music, gridlock, and parties.
Not to say that things have returned to normal. Screening lines are still wrapping around city blocks, and there are slam-packed private parties with open bars from 2 to 5 PM. A couple of film sales went down on Day 4, the most notable being the remake rights to the high school football documentary Undefeated, that sold to The Weinstein Company for a reported seven figures after an all-night bidding war.
I checked out Errol Morris’s new documentary Tabloid, about Joyce McKinney and The Case of the Manacled Mormon, which is a fascinating and funny look into how being a tabloid star warps a person’s life. There were a few film parties and ho-hum events after that, but as night fell, there was a pressure building—secret last-minute shows announced, like TV on the Radio at the Whitley, and Yeasayer at the new Austin City Limits stage. I opt out of the huge, insanely packed shows and head to see Brooklyn’s Matt and Kim at The Belmont, a small club nestled between skyscrapers on West Sixth, an area known more for its polo-wearing ex-frat brother bars and Sandra Bullock’s upscale restaurant, than its live music.
The Belmont appears determined to change that, as I caught an acoustic Chris Cornell set there the prior weekend. After a talented warm-up from Chicago DJs Flosstradamus, I was caught completely off-guard by the sheer, ecstatic joy of Matt and Kim as they burst onto the stage. Kim doesn’t stop smiling ear-to-ear for the entire set, except when handing out shots to the front row. It is the first—and probably last—time I will mosh to “Better Off Alone” with absolute glee. As they wrap up with “Daylight,” the only song most really know from the duo, SXSW is revived, and there’s an unspoken energy in the air that says: can we get to the music already?