Austin – Some times you just can’t win. Paul already wrote a glowing review for Billy Bragg. And then he asked that I write one to juxtapose his, as if a chemical engineer should have no more problems expressing himself in the language of mathematics anymore than he would in a bastardized Germanic language. Billy himself would be glowing with shame at this inefficiency if he could cast his healthcare model onto Panic Manual’s modus operandi, but given that I have textual diarrhea, I’m happy to oblige.
All this, really, had to be blamed on Bragg, who chose to play twice during SXSW – once in the Sanctuary, and another which I went to, at the Stage on Sixth. Bragg’s singing was seasoned and well-controlled this afternoon. The writing is simple, and the intentions are clearly motivational. Bragg is like a father figure coercing you back in line. Rolling from line to line, though, Paul and I found that he did recycle materials – which good liberal would leave something un-recycled? I won’t enumerate, then, the jokes that Paul had gone through. Suffice to say that from the picture above, the major difference between this and the earlier show was that after a good jolly run, Amanda Palmer crashed the party at Paste’s insistence. Her cortage, or posse, of friends and handlers parted the audience like the red sea and remained right in front of me like some entitled Dead Sea urchins (or pharaohs? I don’t know, my picture books had only slanty-eyes without eyeshadow), around 10 minutes before the show’s end. After joining Billy for one song she did a solo while Bragg watched slightly pained at the sideline (or maybe it was my imagination). Afterward, I (in)famously induced a wave of ridicule from my fellow Paniks when I commented that I had no idea how left-wing and political Bragg was until I went to his show. That ignorance is true, though. I’ve heard of him, but I don’t know what’s he’s famous for… it’s like Coke, everyone knows the taste but few knows the recipe. As consumers of this culture I think one’s hardly to blame for not looking up every word that whizzes past one’s pupil. That’s the whole idea behind a social safety-net: to hopefully dampen your fall when you discover by the 2nd floor balcony that your diving for a frisbee from a 12th floor rooftop was a dumb idea. But if one day my life depends on my knowing Bragg’s reading of Luke’s gospel, his (… not Luke’s) love for NHS, or Palmer’s pandering, after this performance I’ll be happy to say “thank you for being there but I won’t be wasting the taxpayer’s dollars”. Now, that’s an idea so much more left-wing that it left the planet inhabited by the lyrics I heard at this show by gravity slingshot. So, until I hear some meaningful bylines on the same level as Carlin, I’m going to bypass whatever “deeper meanings” and enjoy listening to Billy Bragg, while I keep calm and do unto myself what I would have those businessmen do unto themselves.