by Bree Perlman
St. David’s Church, 3.15.08. I have found religion.
SXSW is synonymous with sensory overload. 5 days, 10 bands minimum a day, it becomes hard to tell one from the other. The venues aren’t helping either. The smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke left over from the days when it was still legal, blur the doors that separate The Dizzy Rooster from The Dirty Dog. That, coupled with the same skinny black jeans and rocker tees you swore you just saw on the four guys moaning into mics next door, and you could be in any of the shot bars on Sixth Street. And if it was in fact any other week in Austin, most of the industry types here to check out these bands probably wouldn’t dare to be seen in them.
I am neither indie rocker looking for a mic nor industry type looking for the next big thing. I was out for the music (and the occasional interview) and by Saturday afternoon I hit a wall. What began as a private, if not passive-aggressive mantra, “If I hear one more f**king…” quickly morphed into a kind of SXSW paralysis where the slightest task (getting another beer) proved nearly impossible. Just when I thought I could take no more, a kind friend lead me to St. David’s Episcopal Church for an acoustic set by M. Ward and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Both men need not studded belts nor strategically tussled hair to claim their place as outstanding singers. They need nothing more than their guitars and ethereal voices. And a place to be heard; really heard. Behold, St. David’s Church. M. Ward started off with a few songs and then was joined by Jim James for a song they recorded called “Chinese Translation”. Jim stayed on (M. Ward had too leave shortly after for another showcase) and did an unplugged version of his show at Austin City Music Hall. Sublime; transcendent; unworldly. There is no shortage of religious metaphors and in this case, I can think of no other way to describe them. Nor am I, exceptionally, ashamed to use them.Two and a half hours later my soul was renewed, my body restored, and I was ready to finish out the madness that awaited me.