SXSW Day 2: Old-Timers Night

Ray Davies
On one hand, I feel like it sort of betrays everything South by Southwest is supposed to represent for me to spend my first night here watching Ray Davies and Roky Erickson
— two pretty safely established acts, I'd say, who probably aren’t in need of discovery or extra exposure, or much of anything really. (Though if you don’t know who one of those guys is, get to Wikipedia immediately, and I’ll pretend we never had this conversation.)

But on the other hand, fuck it. If Alex Chilton’s death has taught me anything this week, it’s that you have to see the legends when you get the chance, and I’ve never seen either of these dudes before. So after an extremely cramped shuttle ride with Snoqualmie Pass, Washington’s T-Bagging Bandits (sample dialog: “How come when you drive by a funeral home and they’re cremating a body it doesn’t smell like barbecue?”) and arriving at the Austin Convention Center just in time to get my badge before they closed, I hiked over to La Zona Rosa to go dancing with the Kinks. Davies opened with “This Is Where I Belong” and threw in a few Austin mentions, which I’m sure he’s totally never done for any other city ever. I expected a crowd of old farts, and there was at least one old guy literally farting non-stop directly in front of me. For the most part though, the crowd was pretty evenly split between grayhairs who’d probably bought Schoolboys in Disgrace on 8-track and 20-somethings who were texting the setlist to their parents.

Considering Davies was writing pleas for a return to the good old days of afternoon tea in the mid-to-late’60s, there’s something weird about people taking his picture on their smartphones. The mopey ass kicking of “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” “Ape Man,” and “David Watts” transcend Twitter, Foursquare, Chatroulette and whatever the hell else you kids are doing these days, and the audience young and old responds accordingly. Davies tears through 25 songs in about an hour and the audience sings along with the songs they know, and cheers more than politely at the ones they don’t, of which there aren’t that many. Other than Waterloo Sunset, he plays most of the songs I wanted him to, obligatory (“You Really Got Me Now,” “Lola”) and those I’d assume are slightly more obscure (“Two Sisters*,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” “Celluloid Heroes”) but that the audience screamed wildly for. Guess I’m not such a unique snowflake Kinks fan after all.