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?
This is it — the penultimate showdown before the big dance on November 4. Grab a brew and get ready to holler at your favorite candidate on the big screen. Watch the final Obama-McCain televised deathmatch at the following political-friendly hotspots.
New York ● Fashion 40 Lounge (Times Square) – Obama and McCain, in surround sound. ● The Tank @ DCTV (Chinatown) – The Hysterical Festival Laughing Liberally and Final Debate Watch Party with Katie Halper (Huffington Post), Erin Judge (Comedy Central), Negin Farsad (Comedy Central), Lizz Winstead (Shoot the Messenger, The Daily Show) and Mindy Raf as Leibya Rogers (VH1). ● Tribeca Grand Hotel (Tribeca): Tribeca Film Festival white-hot zone stays steaming all year round.
● Pacific Standard (Park Slope) – Presidential Debate Watching Party with Beer Specials! ● Galapagos Art Space (Brooklyn South) – Great shows at this enduring ex-Williamsburg classic. ● Flatbush Farm & Bar (Prospect Heights) – Farm chic hits the Slope, with a double-wide backyard for your slow dining pleasure.
Los Angeles ● Big Wangs (Hollywood) – Big-screen sports barn with displaced Midwestern alternatives reliving their shitty hometown drinking holes over beers and chicken Wangs. ● The Dime (Mid-City West) – Drown your tears next to Heather Graham at this dusky, good-looking, small, and going-off martini lounge. ● The Belmont (West Hollywood) – Well-dressed hot crowd not cool enough to get into Hyde slinks into semi-swank steakhouse. ● W Hotel (Westwood) – For the hip, but practical, well-to-do guest who doesn’t smoke and actually gets to bed before 1:30 a.m.
Chicago ● Enoteca Roma Winebar and Bruschetteria (Wicker Park) – Delicious little restaurant/wine bar with down-to-Earth servers and not-to-be-missed bruschetta. ● M Lounge (South Loop) – Jazz and martini lounge. ● Matilda (Lakeview) – Old dry cleaners turned hippie dippie LSD resto-bar. It’s a trip. ● Join Chicago Public Radio’s Ben Calhoun at the Chicago History Museum (Lincoln Park) – History in the making.
Las Vegas ● Drinking Liberally at the Roadrunner Saloon (Henderson) – One of Vegas’ many cowboy-themed bars serves up beers, shots, and Dr. Pepper-marinated tacos.