SXSW: Kate Nash at the Q Magazine Party
Driskoll Hotel, Austin
Saturday, March 15
Kate Nash is taking her boots off.
She has slipped off her acoustic guitar and is settling in behind the keyboard, pulling her legs underneath to reveal two little feet covered in bright blue socks. The room—at least the front half of the room not out smoking on the patio—is melting. Her delivery is vulnerable, with the endearing accent and the lightheaded cadence, may have disarmed you when first heard it streaming on MySpace. But near the end of this 120s-hour-long binge of alcohol and feedback, that voice is like a big bowl of smiles and sunshine. It's a voice that, when matched with the "Death of a Disco Dancer-esque" intro, can make the line “Why are you being a dickhead for?” sound downright sweet.
Nash has been running around full on since the beginning of last year. She sprinted from Glastonbury to Reading and Leeds, then made it to Jools Holland, then the Top of the Pops on Christmas Day. But the British Islands are small. This year, she will start April in Belgium and end it in Detroit—with Boston, Stockholm, New York, Indio, and a whole bunch of other cities in between.
But here’s Kate Nash today in Austin, taking her boots off. Getting comfortable with us. Slowing down for the marble room at the Driskill. Like she must have looked like in her bedroom, recording tracks on Garage Band, and uploading them to her MySpace page. Oh the mythic legends of a generation. Never mind that we learn quickly, as we watch her blue toes hit the floor pedals, that the boots would have been too cumbersome for her footwork.
She starts into the simple intro of "Foundations," continuously kicking the shit out of the anonymous boy she flogs throughout her set. She has gotten flack for these verbal beatings. Too much complaining, they say. But when is music not essentially bitching about boys and girls? And she can pull it off.
She finishes, does one more song, then looks over to her handler at the edge of the stage. He motions with his fingers, making them run in quick strides in the air off the imaginary stage. It’s time to run. Let’s go. Kate Nash has to go.
The venue: marble covered room on the mezzanine level of the Driskill Hotel. Chandeliers, dark wood, big boring paintings.
The crowd: RSVP only and the selective list shut down days ago, so it's 300 connected Brits, corporate wanks, lots of legs, twee lasses, a gaggle of shaggy hipsters.
Openers: These New Puritans. Tight, loud four piece. Singer has pipes and presence to compete. "They’re Coming to Take Me Away," if written in a South London Garage in 2007. Drummer redeems himself after playing a dreadful round of Guitar Hero—dude didn't realize you had to strum and press the colored buttons. Drummers.
Lightspeed Champion: Endearing acoustic Smiths meets Camper's sad fiddle. Late-night comedown music. The ten-minute closer, "Midnight Surprise," is my take- home song from Texas. Champion also did a killer cover of "Get Free" by the Vines, trading verses with Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man.frontman Frederick Blood-Royale.
The Pigeon Detectives: After Kate Nash, half the room emptied, leaving the Pigeon Detectives and their standard post-Brit pop a little lonely, and me sitting in a chair in the back of the room writing this down.
My favorite: The tiny platinum blonde with the leopard skin shirt, go-go-going like she was on Laugh In. I will see her hips in my nightmares (but in a good way).
Runner up: the middle-aged guy wearing white shorts and a white shirt with Canada written on it, walking around holding a squash racket. I think wandering-into-the-room-while-looking-for-the-gym-but-rolling-with-it was genius. I am wearing my ice hockey gear next year.
Marketing mistake of the day: Co-sponsor Guitar Hero had three Guitar Hero stations set up in the back of the room. With no headphones. And they didn't have a complete demo, only the songs from level 1, which means there were only five songs everyone could play. So before the shows start, I have to listen to all these Brits fucking up "Even Flow" over and over again. At least they had their product out there: Would it have killed Q to have a table with their latest issue?
The drink: Cash bar, drink tickets. Lots of champagne and Corona.
The food: Parmesan-crusted chicken, vegetarian pot stickers, salmon tar tar.
Favorite line from the stage: "This is a song about a prostitute. . . enjoy your food," Lightspeed Champion.