After a couple years of "eh!"-inducing lineups (which the Levi's Fader Fort is producing this year), Spin magazine's once-dominant SXSW day party at Stubb's made a solid comeback Friday -- in large part thanks to an only semi-shakey return by Courtney Love and Hole.
Comedian Margaret Cho gave Love a pretty hilarious introduction, saying that the alt-rock heroine (make sure you spell "heroine" right here) inspired her to "stop wearing underwear and eating cheese." Love herself kept surprisingly mum -- for about 10 minutes. Some of her comments were as bizarre as you'd expect, like when she introduced one new song as, "It reminds me of really [messed]-up sex, when you punch the person." She seemed to be convincing herself more than the crowd that the new Hole lineup will stick: "This is the way it's going to be for a long time, so you'd better get used to it."
It was pretty easy to get used to. The band wasn't exactly tight, but it had the wonderfully messy -- I didn't say grungey! -- sound to reflect the singer's personality. As is always the case with Love, too, some of the new songs had glaringly autobiographical lyrics that were inarguably alluring, such as a power-ballad-ish one where she sang, "I never wanted to be some kind of comic relief... I've been tortured and torn since the day I was born."
Due to writing commitments, I couldn't get out until the late afternoon on Friday -- as if 3 p.m. Is such a late start, leaving me only 11 hours of music! -- so Spin's party was the only one I made. By coincidence, the Spin party led me to see Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings for the second time in order to see the act after them (Hole). Life is good when you're "forced" into a SJ&DP set twice in one week. They played a handful of songs off their new album (due May 4), and while they might've been playing to the rock-centric crowd at Subb's, this was one of the most fast and furious performances of their horn-driven sound I've seen yet.
I also caught Swedish electronic band Miike Snow's set, whose album did nothing for me but were pretty fascinating live -- albeit their Swede look and ambient/stargazey sound couldn't have been more out of place than a SXSW party baked in Texas heat and barbecue smoke. Only thing I didn't like about their set was having to hear people in the crowd make the inevitable Pink Floyd-style joke, "Which one's Miike?"
Photo by Tony Nelson. Full fest coverage at www.startribune.com/sxsw