But on Wednesday night, the locals had Austin Music Hall.
The crowd at the massive two-floor venue definitely skewed older and/or weirder than anything you'd see at Emo's, from platinum tips and cowboy boots to spiked hair on 50-year olds sporting Dicks and Butthole Surfers T-shirts. The showcase was thrown together by the Austin Chronicle, so fans expecting the Dicks with special guest David Yow were forced to wait through an awards ceremony, with presenters in full formal dress honoring everyone from the Dicks to local metal bands and morning-show DJs. They'd actually arranged folding chairs all along the floor of the venue, and people sat in them the whole way through the Dicks' set. As a first-time SXSW attendee, I had little idea what I was getting into, but the good-nauted heckling from the pit seemed incongruous with the ceremony onstage. To see David Yow walked off by a woman in a ball gown as he gave the crowd the finger, however, might have been worth it.
As it turns out, “special guest” means “coming out to sing one song,” and Yow came out for the Dicks' “Weelchair Epidemic”, which his Jesus Lizard famously covered. Yow was dressed rather formally himself in a suitjacket and big-boy pants, but it didn't stop him from bounding across the stage like a madman, only stopping to rally the crowd in the chorus of “hep, hep.” He's a tough guy to get a photo of. As for the Dicks, they played as if nothing had changed in 20 years, even if everyone was sitting down. They were powerful and concise, and their set was far too brief. The rest of the night would honor Doug Sahm and close with a performance by Roky Erickson. It's comforting to see that there's room for all these originals to be honored somewhere.
Across town at Mohawk's was a gathering of Anticon and Ghostly International artists. Abstract sound scientist Dosh and his band sounded great—and I say sounded, because none of them were visible through the hot, overcrowded room. Yoni Wolf of WHY? was on hand for a rare “unplugged” set, just him singing and playing a keyboard. “The Vowels Pt.2” flowed straight into “These New Presidents,” both from his latest album Alopecia, and Wolf's voice was more than enough to hold the crowd at attention. He then went on to play new, unreleased songs, and while I can't say the stripped-down arrangement was the ideal way to preview brand new tracks, it proved that SXSW can deliver something special for the superfans—not just two dozen sets in a weekend from the same nationally-touring indie bands.