“I don’t get the 9.2 thing. Why don’t you just give a guy a 10?”
So said Mark Kozelek, gently poking fun at the folks from Pitchfork, who were presenting this evening’s showcase at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church, which is always one of the best venues in town during SXSW. Kozelek thanked Pitchfork for having him there and also for having someone other than Stephen Deusner write the review.
All things considered, Kozelek seemed to be in quite good spirits, which, based on past reports, seems surprising. Kozelek’s shows are famously antagonistic, with him berating audience members for talking while he’s playing or other such transgressions. In a review of a previous Toronto show, the Panic Manual’s Allison likened him to Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi so it certainly seemed like of all places, Kozelek would hate SXSW. After all, a short walk from the church would bring one to Sixth Street, which on a Friday night works as a display for some of the worst aspects of humanity. Kozelek must hate being here, right?
“I’m having a good time. My backstages are usually like jail cells. This time there’s all these young people and cute looking girls. I should have opening acts more often” said Kozelek, after noting that there are two categories of people at SXSW: those who are excited about it and those who can’t believe they got talked into it. While Kozelek was having a good time, his selection of songs off his latest, Benji, had more of a mournful tone to them. Full of stories and refelctions from Kozelek’s life, everything from his parents to the death of his cousin to watching The Song Remains The Same, Kozelek had the audience’s rapt attention throughout.
While I went into this almost looking forward to seeing a cranky Mark Kozelek rip into an inattentive SXSW crowd like some sort of Howard Beale with a guitar, what I got was even better – a solid set by a talented songwriter. Seriously though, Pitchfork, why not just give the guy a 10?