South of nowhere 

As we all know, it's strange times for the music industry. And this year's South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, saw fewer paid attendees than in recent years but had more folks cramming the free daytime shows. The major label presence was down dramatically, but people lined themselves around a block to get into indie label showcases. Bands sold more vinyl than ever.

Detroiters are, of course, relatively unfazed by hard times, so it stands to reason that there's more great music coming out of the Motor City than in recent memory; hence, Detroit was all over SXSW.

X! Records (Terrible Twos, Tyvek, Frustrations, Human Eye) hosted a killer showcase at a tiki bar called Headhunters, which ended when Human Eye's Tim Vulgar destroyed the stage as King Khan looked on with mouth agape.

Many X!'ers played at Friday's Italy Records/Holographic Resonance show at the ridiculous, awesome, out-of-the-way Moose Lodge, which also featured Silverghost, Aran Ruth and Alan Scheurman. Every band on X! must've played two shows a day down in Texas — including a late-night Tyvek performance on a pedestrian bridge!

Metro Times' official sponsor pick for SXSW — The Hard Lessons — tore up a packed outdoor show on Thursday only to see their Friday night showcase with My Dear Disco, Javelins and Great Lakes Myth Society ruined by atrocious sound. The ever-touring High Strung had the Side Bar chirping to their songs, Nomo debuted an energized new lineup featuring Warren DeFever on bass, and Outrageous Cherry kicked it to a capacity Red Eyed Fly crowd while goofball Little Steven nodded along approvingly.

A highlight was Stone's Throw artist Mayer Hawthorne's full-band debut. Hawthorne is the alter-ego of Athletic Mic League DJ Haircut. Picture Jamie Lidell into Northern Soul and early Motown. ... If Hawthorne was an English white chick, he'd be huge here. Since he's an Ann Arbor white dude, he'll be huge in England and invisible here.

More by Doug Coombe

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