SXSW Online

SXSW Film Review: Clerk [2021, Malcolm Ingram]

Posted on by Gary in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

What is meant to be the functional difference between biography and autobiography?

Methinks the entry exams for all Kevin Smith fan clubs have already been failed by the posing of that question. It will surprise no one (myself included, especially if I was ever to write an autobiography) that I have never seen Clerk(s), nor Jay and Silent Bob(s). While a culture touchstone, there is just an intentional lack of obscurity that I could not abide. The elitist in me felt like shouting, “I’m not even supposed to be here”!

However, that point is also intentionally missed. It is objectively and precisely what makes Kevin Smith such an enduringly popular tide within the phenomenal tsunami of nerd culture. Clerk is a victory lap whose purpose was never in doubt from the first millisecond. What self-respecting, self-deprecating humorist shows off a VHS recording of a grandiose teenage proclamation if it was never realized? In chronological order, Clerk pinballs around the milestones of Kevin Smith’s journey through life, betwixt the movie and comic book industry, supported largely by the same entourage. It charts his constantly rising star and occasionally twinkling luminosity, all the way to the marijuana, heart attack and his “gone soft” moments.

From the outside perspective, it is a defining culture slideshow from the ’90s to the present. Of course Bill and Ted preceded Jay and Silent Bob. Of course 3 decades of longevity can be bestowed upon anything that manages to still receive periodic filling of the feeding trough from its creators, given said creators are still around. Just as the Sundance illuminati figured out that Clerks was not a clever elitist swipe but a genuine blue collar outing, Kevin Smith and Co. also worked out that they didn’t have to bow to any gatekeepers. The joke’s on the Illuminati who funded such a slacker Coming-of-Age – but who’s counting intellectual grudges if one’s hands are riddled by papercuts from Benjamins? The clear differentiation between Hollywood and Nerd subcultures, in their telling, is accessibility. Whereas it is the major currency in Hollywood and perhaps the crossover Influencer universe, it is democratized in the Nerd culture. As they imply from the inside perspective, no less, anyone nerd enough can print accessibility in the View Askewniverse.

In its warmest interpretation, Clerk is indeed a tear-jerking saga where millions awoke with Kevin Smith to find that they resonate with, and more importantly, have the economic might to dictate, a multitude of harmlessly parallel niche worldviews full of wiener-nazis and man-walruses. In the far darker corner, though, sits the he-who-shall-not-be-named president. As Red State foretold, worldview fandom and worldview fundamentalism is not as far separated as they seem. And in the tally, maybe there wasn’t much separating elitism and populism, either.

SXSW Review: Van Mary, Blushing

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

The cancellation of the 2020 edition of SXSW was a big deal and also a bit of a disappointment for us at Panic Manual. We’ve been heading to Austin for years now and after months of buildup leading up to SXSW 2020, it felt odd to not be attending the festival last year. So it was a bit of a relief that SouthBy made its return this year, albeit virtually.

Still, it felt a bit odd not actually being in Austin for this year’s festival. After all, much of the appeal of being at SXSW is, well, actually being at SXSW – walking down 6th Street or South Congress, taking in a show at Cedar Street or the Central Presbyterian Church, grabbing some tacos, making our annual burger pilgrimage to Casino El Camino, and just generally taking in the vibe. So no, unfortunately there will be none of that this year.

But if we can’t come to Austin, it’s nice to know that in a way, Austin can come to us. And that’s just what happened on Friday evening as I tuned in to the Hotel Vegas & Hotel Free TV showcase to take in sets by a bunch of local Austin acts recorded at one of my favourite SXSW venues over the last few years, Hotel Vegas. It was nice to revisit the venue even if it was through a screen and I also appreciated the old school VHS tape aesthetic that Hotel Free TV brought to this production.

There were great performances across the board, from the bratty punk of Lord Friday The 13th to the psychedelic sounds of Holy Wave, but the two acts that made the biggest impression on me were the first two up on the bill – Van Mary and Blushing.

Blushing was a known quantity to me already, having seen them live a couple of times, but the band, made up of two married couples, are always a treat to see live as they’ve got the classic shoegaze sound nailed. Van Mary, who started off the evening, was a completely new discovery for me, but a welcome one. The band, led by Emily Whetstone, played a short but compelling set of indie rock that gave off a bit of an old school Julianna Hatfield/Liz Phair vibe, while also sounding thoroughly modern. It sounded great and I look forward to being able to see Van Mary play these songs in person some time, hopefully next year in Austin.

SXSW Review: The Chairs, GRRRL GANG

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

Having seen a few shows now for SXSW Online, I really appreciate the effort some bands put into their SXSW streaming content. Some just go the extra mile.

The Chairs

Playing in what I can best describe as an indoor fishing pond that is popular in parts of Asia, The Chairs blew me away with their simple three song set.

With a seemingly Wong Kar-Wai inspired feel, the trio sings in multiple languages and has a sort of retro pop vibe that has me feeling like they would play a set in a dingy TST bar in late ’60s Hong Kong (or whatever the equivalent is in Taipei). It’s a simple three song sample, but I’m into it.

Grrrrl Gang

London’s Damnably Records is one of my favorite record labels of recent years and they continue to introduce me to great new bands. And one of the standout bands on their Friday night showcase was Grrrl Gang.

Grrrrl Gang is an Indonesian indie band that has clearly listened to the likes of The Vaselines and The Pastels growing up. Don’t let their influences deter you though, they are their own band and their jangly power pop shined through the TV screen. Colour me impressed.

Their set included someone biking into the space before playing an instrument and concluded with lead singer Angeeta Sentana going back to painting, because of course thats what they would be doing.

SXSW Review: Lambert

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment


In the lead up to last year’s edition of SXSW (prior to its cancellation), we here at Panic Manual wrote up several posts worth of preview coverage taking a look at some of the acts that were scheduled to appear that year. Among those acts was German pianist/composer Lambert and in his profile of Lambert, our illustrious writer Gary took the reader on an unexpected yet intriguing journey.

What began as a music review soon descended into some sort of cosmic horror tale involving beer drinking head worms and sentient, music making facemasks (Or are the masks made out of the music itself? it’s all a bit unclear). It definitely piqued my interest and upon further examination I found Lambert’s music to also be quite intriguing. So it was an easy choice to take in Lambert’s performance at SXSW Online and see how it would all translate to a (somewhat) live setting. And while Gary promised that none of what he imagined would come to pass, some small part of me half expected the show to erupt into a spectacle of semi-Lovecraftian proportions.

As it turns out, no, none of that happened, but what did happen was Lambert’s performance took us on a journey to (to borrow a phrase from Rod Serling) a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.

The setup for the performance itself was rather simple – just one man, his piano, and his giant horned Sardinian mask. When he addressed the audience at home a couple of songs in, he also did so in a fairly simple and straightforward manner, albeit with a suitably odd and humorous tone.

“Dear Texas, and the rest of the world,” he began, adding in a deadpan “Yippee-ki-yay, SXSW” for good measure. In describing his compositions, he noted, “You may call them masterpieces. We wouldn’t mind.” OK, Lambert, if you insist, I’ll call them masterpieces. That seems fair.

Said masterpieces, beautiful piano pieces all, may have been instrumental, but the music certainly told a tale all on its own … though Lambert’s fanciful introductions to pieces like “Jean-Luc” (which I’m pretty sure is about Captain Picard?) certainly helped to tell the tale.

As his showcase came to a close, Lambert addressed the crowd once more, reminding us all to “Stay safe and healthy and do it like Lambert – wear a mask.”

Amen, Lambert. Amen.