SXSW Recap: St. Vincent or How Damon Albarn Saved My Life

I posted on Facebook shortly after seeing St. Vincent at the NPR showcase at SXSW “Who needs Gaga when you have St. Vincent?..” I posted that at 12:36a, Thursday morning of SXSW. More on that in a bit.

If you’re not familiar with St. Vincent, born Annie Clark, it’s high time you become so. She’s 31, hails originally from Dallas, played in The Polyphonic Spree, shreds at guitar, composes her songs with utmost care, she’s beautiful, she’s totally artsy, she’s totally not artsy, she’s quirky, and she puts on a hell of a passionate performance. Oh, yeah, and soccer (see below). Did I mention she’s from Texas. Yes, I’m in love. Le sigh.

Annie’s latest creation is her self-titled record St. Vincent, which most of her showcase was comprised of. I really like the record, and am really fond of its second single, “Digital Witness,” of which no irony is lost on me, however I struggle with how to interpret it’s message.

Digital witnesses, what’s the point of even sleeping?
If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me
What’s the point of doing anything?

-Chorus exeprt from St. Vincent’s “Digital Witness”

It’s obviously apparent that Annie is waging war on our digital lives. Before the show, a recorded voice came on asking to , you know, watch the show in analog, basically, and put down the phone. Annie asks in “Digital Witness,” “if I can’t show you, if you can’t see me, what’s the point of doing anything?” obviously pointing to our online lives we lead in pseudo-parallel to our real ones. That question in the lyrics resonates with me, as I have been an early adopter of social media. I’m not sure where I land in answer Annie’s question, but it has definitely provoked many weeks of thought on the query.

As I said before, St. Vincent featured many songs from her latest effort, but also peppered in a few classics. Her stage presence and showmanship rivals that of Lady Gaga, but challenges the listener in a more cerebral nature than that of the later’s “bold” attempts at presentation. If Gaga thinks she’s art, Annie is the refined art. As if, in the long run, she has less to prove. 

So, as most South By showcases do, this one was running late. St. Vincent was slated to end at 12:00 with Damon Albarn (Gorillaz, Blur) posted to begin his showcase at 12:30. St. Vincent ended up around 12:15. The Orwells were going on stage at 12:30 at Cheer Up Charlies, just catty-corner from Stubb’s on 9th and Red River, where we were. There was a brief moment were the thought was to bail on Albarn and check out The Orwells. But, at the last minute, we decided to stick it out since we had such a good spot in the Stubb’s audience, we thought we might as well check out a few songs. He ended up not coming on for some time, and ultimately, we bailed. But I’m glad we stuck around for as long as we did.

Most know the story by now, but very shortly after 12:30a, a drunk driver plowed through a crowd at the street closure on Red River from 9th to 11th, ultimately killing 3. Had we not stayed at Stubb’s, we would have been in the vicinity at an utmost unfortunate time. 

Thanks, Damon.

Hear St. Vincent’s self-titled album on Spotify below.

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