SXSW 2011 Day 5 check-in: Screeching Weasel fallout and L.A.'s Foster the People win over Austin
Saturday night's San Antonio Screeching Weasel concert has been cancelled, the announcement coming about 12 hours after lead singer Ben Weasel was removed from an Austin, Texas, venue after an altercation with a female fan. Screeching Weasel had been on the comeback trail of late, having just released its first new album in 11 years, but the act's first-ever performance at the South by Southwest music festival and conference ended with a fistfight.
Saturday's San Antonio concert was to be held at the White Rabbit. During the band's SXSW appearance, Weasel had bragged that his band was to receive a $25,000 guarantee to appear at the San Antonio venue, and griped that the act was receiving only $250 for its SXSW appearance.
Police were called to Austin's Scoot Inn, where the band was performing as part of a showcase of Fat Wreck Chord bands. No action, however, was taken at the venue, as Weasel and the two women involved in the fracas had all left the scene. The Austin Police Department on Saturday was unable to reveal whether or not charges had been filed. The department's public information officer on-call was only able to discuss Saturday matters and said to call back during business hours.
Additionally, numerous calls to Scoot Inn went unanswered. A spokeswoman for Fat Wreck Chords said the label will release no official statement, but said, "Obviously, we don't condone violence, ever. We weren't impressed." The label, she said, has had zero contact with the band since the incident occurred.
Other quick notes from Day 5 of Austin, Texas:
Quote of the day: Portia Sabin, who oversees indie label Kill Rock Stars, had this to say about what should and shouldn't be free at a Saturday morning panel: "Stealing music is wrong, people," Sabin said. "It's our livelihood. I don't know where anyone got the idea that music is free. Gasoline should be free, not music."
For the people: L.A. locals Foster the People have been drawing raves from nearly everyone I spoke to over the past four days. I made a point to check in with the band and see how its Austin sets were going over. The one I caught was a noon showcase at the SXSW convention center, far from an ideal setting, and the band looked downright exhausted. So was the crowd, meaning it was far from a small victory when Foster the People had the audience dancing in the aisles before the end of its 25-minute set. With the multi-keyboard setup one could have expected yet another addition to 2011's litter of synth-pop bands. Yet synths were used for largely two purposes: One, to build an atmospheric undertone to each song, and two, to fill in the moments between the act's powerfully off-kilter rhythms. There's a worldly influence to the band's grooves, no doubt, but this is high-energy pop with plenty of hooks. Set closer "Don't Stop" was layered with loops that sounded like a broken tape recorder and grew in momentum with cleverly designed cut-and-paste builds. Yet the objective was to get the crowd moving, and move they did.
Look for a more detailed SXSW wrap Sunday, complete with numerous bands I have to have time to write up.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Screen shot of the cancellation poster from San Antonio's White Rabbit. See more 2011 SXSW photos.