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Jack Black happy to be in Austin again

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Ghostland Observatory and Cisco Adler play with a giant power cord before the Doritos Jacked Maxim Party on Thursday night.

As "Austin City Limits" associate producer Emily Joyce noted on Twitter, "Austinites: please quit fishing for compliments about Austin during panel Q&A sessions. It's embarrassing."

So I felt a slight twinge of guilt when I steered the end of a conversation with Jack Black toward Austin. But Black, in town to promote Richard Linklater's hilarious new "Bernie," has spent a good deal of time here — filming, playing music, attending several of our festivals — so I was curious about his relationship with the city after all these years.

"I was walking the streets last night, because I couldn't sleep because I had jet lag," Black said. "And just remembering how much I love it here, walking up and down Congress from the Capitol building to Magnolia (Cafe). Everybody was having so much fun ... and the shops and the people ... I definitely could imagine not only living here but feeling like I should be living here. ... This is so much better than L.A. It's so one of the grooviest towns that I've visited in my travels around this country."

True to his word, we spotted Black walking down Congress Avenue again the next day. Black performed with his band, Tenacious D, Thursday night in Austin.

Look for more from our talk with Black when "Bernie" is released later this spring. And, Emily, hope we didn't break the rules.

- Matthew Odam

5 bands get a lift from Converse studio

For five Texas bands, it's the chance of a lifetime.

They're getting time this week to lay down tracks with the help of a team of record industry pros, all thanks to Converse.

The shoemaker took its Rubber Tracks studio, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., on the road for South by Southwest, setting up shop in East Austin.

Converse started Rubber Tracks a year ago, offering studio time to more than 160 bands so far, according to Geoff Cottrill, the company's chief marketing officer.

"It's for artists who aren't on the big stages and in the big showcases," Cottrill said. "These are new and emerging artists who don't have the means to get a good studio. They need the help."

Recording this week are Denton's Sundress, plus four Austin acts: Crooks, Kay Leotard, Soul Track Mind and Treetop Sailors.

- Gary Dinges

Lots of big Doritos stuff — er, and music

The week isn't over yet, but the clubhouse leader for best branding initiative at this year's SXSW has got to be Doritos. You can't walk 10 feet downtown without seeing someone munching from a bag of their new oversized Jacked chips, given out by an armada of brand ambassadors that might outnumber visiting musicians at this point.

The "main event" of this whole effort was perched at the corner of Fifth Street and Red River on Thursday night: a 50-something foot-tall stage/vending machine filled with 9-foot bags of chips that attendees of the company's party could win via finding oversize quarters hidden around town. Or something.

It's like the brainstorming session for this whole campaign came immediately after a certain recreational activity that lots of college students (or guest performer Snoop Dogg) engage in before plowing through an entire bag of Doritos on any given Friday night. One wonders why Zig-Zag wasn't the party's co-sponsor rather than Maxim magazine.

No matter. The crowd assembled early and danced in a setting where oversized props of every sort were available for photos and a giant power cord was plugged into a giant wall outlet to power up the stage/vending machine and reveal Austin dance rockers Ghostland Observatory, who were as intense and moving as ever. Chances are Snoop did what he's been doing for 20 years at this point and the crowd loved every second of it, but an hour or so of that spectacle was enough and the night's search to discover new, exciting music had to begin. En total, the scene was a snapshot of what SXSW is fast becoming: crowds and corporations coming together in ridiculous ways, with music as the social glue.

- Chad Swiatecki

Spontaneous street show from Wino Vino

After midnight Thursday, it looked like every college-age kid in Texas had abandoned the beaches in order to hit Sixth Street (aka "The Street Where Spandex Will Never Die") with relatively few SXSW badges in sight. While many of the 20-somethings had the purposeful air of people in search of drink specials, and others stopped in the middle of intersections to flirt with any likely-looking member of the opposite sex, others lined up to get into clubs apparently already filled with the holders of badges. Buffalo Billiards had a very long queue, presumably either for Lovedrug, who should have been on at that point, or Say Anything, coming up at 1 a.m.

Meanwhile, Austin band Wino Vino had captured the attention of a good-size crowd by grabbing a spot along the sidewalk, toward the Congress Avenue end, where it played its unamplified, gypsified, Eastern Europeanish, circusesque tunes, fueled by accordion, clarinet, violin, guitar, drum and trombone.

People kept using a waist-high planter as a convenient seat to watch or shoot photos, while an older gentleman in black pants and a white, short-sleeve dress shirt, apparently a security guard, kept trying to shoo them away. A friend of the band darted around selling CDs, while curious onlookers bobbed their heads as the musicians chorused merrily, "They say the ice is melting, they say the ship is sinking." One young woman in fishnet tights and a dirndl miniskirt scuttled by as though the group might bite, while the next two women who passed through boogied their way down the sidewalk, one holding her cell phone aloft. Later, a guy danced past.

To the delight of the crowd, the guitar player suddenly scrambled up onto the planter midsong just to leap back off, rock-star style. When the musicians ran around and weaved through the assemblage as they played, everybody cheered, and then they cheered again when the players resumed their impromptu stage. After all the frantic perusing of schedules and standing in lines and waiting out delays, the spontaneity of it all was truly refreshing.

- Parry Gettelman