Texas fest a music marathon
By WHITNEY MATHESON
AUSTIN — New musicians blended with the familiar at this year's South by Southwest music festival, which wrapped Sunday.
"I'd stage-dive, but I'm far too elderly," Courtney Love told the crowd at the end of her Friday afternoon set with the re-formed Hole.
Love was one of the fest's most talked-about acts, and in a good way: Hole powered through a mix of requested favorites, new tracks and covers during its shows (the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil among them).
Surfer Blood, Sleigh Bells, The xx and Frightened Rabbit ranked among newer must-see acts. Several bands played multiple times over the four-day period; Los Angeles rockers Local Natives were booked for at least nine appearances.
"This is our third show of the day, but we are not worn thin, brothers and sisters!" energetic YACHT member Jona Bechtolt told the audience about 11 p.m. Friday.
A whopping 1,981 bands played SXSW this year, and the event attracted more than 13,000 registered attendees, in addition to fans who came out for the growing number of unofficial (and free) parties.
Several celebrities joined the festivities, including Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, who were on hand to promote The Runaways. (The duo took in Band of Horses' performance Thursday, as did Mischa Barton.) "I love music so much. I play guitar, and I love playing it with my friends," Stewart said. "I'm used to making movies and having people take that from me. But to have my (love of music) be somebody else's experience right now I could never be in a band. I could only do that playing someone else."
Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt dropped in during the music fest to promote his interactive video-production Web site, hitRECord.org. His "(500) Days of Summer" co-star, Zooey Deschanel, stayed busy performing several times with her musical duo, She & Him.
SXSW opened with its film and interactive festivals, which also ushered in high attendance numbers. (A record 14,200 folks registered for interactive.)
Music-focused documentaries about David Byrne, the White Stripes, Lemmy from Motorhead and the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt were among the 134 features screened.
But perhaps the most poignant part of the week occurred late Saturday, at a concert that was supposed to be headlined by influential band Big Star.
Despite the news of singer Alex Chilton's death, the show went on with original Big Star members Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel, The Posies' Ken Stringfellow and Ken Auer and an array of special guests paying tribute, including R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, M. Ward, Sondre Lerche and Evan Dando.