SXSW Rumor Control: Handicapping the odds on Jack White, At The Drive-In,Springsteen’s show and more
Rampant speculation about secret shows and surprise events is more than just part of the fun at SXSW — it’s practically a cottage industry.
Remember the hype that the Kanye event at Seaholm Power Plant garnered? The line around the block when it was revealed that The Mars Volta were playing as The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group at Emo’s? The near-riot that occurred when the Death From Above 1979 reunion turned out to actually be happening? And all of that was just last year.
This year, the rumors are still flying, and the speculation is as high as ever about who might make a surprise appearance or drop in for an unannounced show. Let’s take a look at some of the speculation and see how likely they are to actually happen.
Will Jack White debut songs from his new solo album at SXSW this year?
Why that’s ridiculous: Jack White is a huge draw, and the fact that his solo debut is getting ready for release so close to SXSW makes it seem like he’d have been a lock for an official showcase if he were interested. The fest loves its marquee acts, and it’s hard to imagine why he’d decline to build on the hype that a well-publicized SXSW debut of the solo material could help him garner. If he wanted to play, he’d have played. The fact that he hasn’t been announced is all the proof you need that he won’t be there.
Why it could happen: Well, check this out: The former White Stripes frontman is booked for only a handful of U.S. dates at the moment, and they wind him from Chatanooga out west to Tulsa, ending on March 15. On March 16, meanwhile, White’s record label, Third Man Records, has its official showcase. He’ll be eight hours away the night before, and why the hell does anybody end a tour in Oklahoma around SXSW if they’re not going to be coming to Austin?
Furthermore, that Third Man showcase is pretty light on star power at the moment — John C. Reilly (Cal Noughton Jr. himself) is no longer listed as the headliner — so an appearance by the label boss could drive some interest. The Stage On Sixth is a 1000-capacity room, which is pretty big for SXSW, and it’s hard to imagine how else they’re going to pack that room.
Odds: 2:1 that White shows up in Austin during SXSW (that tour route is pretty suggestive) but a lot longer that he does anything besides set up his mobile record store, hang out and maybe play sideman with some of his label’s signees. We wouldn’t count on a Jack White show, per se, but he’ll probably be around.
UPDATE 3/6, 2:35pm: Third Man Records confirms that Jack White will be playing the showcase at The Stage On Sixth.
Will we get a sneak preview of the At The Drive-In reunion before it hits Coachella?
Why that’s ridiculous: Okay, let’s put it bluntly: Most of these reunion shows are motivated by money, and playing at SXSW doesn’t come with a big paycheck. (The band actually cited “money” as its motivation for reuniting when asked last month.) It’s hard to imagine that At The Drive-In would squander the excitement surrounding the first-show-in-over-a-decade status that their Coachella gig has for a freebie somewhere in Austin. As exciting as it would be to see the Texas natives give us a sneak preview of what they have planned, it’s hard to imagine what the incentive would be.
Why it could happen: ATDI members Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have a strong relationship with the festival in their guise as The Mars Volta, they’ve been a part of it as recently as last year, and it’s possible they have some nostalgic attachment to SXSW with At The Drive-In, as the band’s 2000 showcase at the Flamingo Cantina was a pretty big deal. (The band also cited “nostalgia” in that same interview.)
Furthermore, playing your first show in over a decade to a massive Coachella audience could be a recipe for disaster. Why wouldn’t they want to open things up at a show in a friendly environment, just to shake off the cobwebs? Plus, Rodriguez-Lopez — the band’s driving force — will be in town for the premiere of his movie Los Chidos, so all he has to do is convince his bandmates to come join him.
Odds: 12:1. It’s not exactly convincing, but those question marks at the top of the poster for Mess With Texas have to represent somebody huge, or they wouldn’t be publicizing it. And if anybody’s got the juice to get At The Drive-In to play a warm-up show, it’s the Transmission Entertainment crew. Still, it could just as easily be Lana Del Rey or somebody. (Okay, not her, but that’s what happens when it could be literally anybody.)
Will the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show be at ACL Live?
Why that’s ridiculous: The announcement that The Boss would be strapping on a guitar during SXSW featured the word “intimate” prominently. And while ACL Live is a great venue, when you consider the options in town, there are about fifty other places that scream “intimate” more than a 2,700-capacity theater. If The Boss wants to really create an air of “you had to be there” coolness to the event, it’ll have to be a club show. Who wouldn’t want to tell their grandkids that they saw Bruce Springsteen play at, for example, Emo’s, just like Johnny Cash did in 1994?
Why it could happen: When you’re talking about an artist of Springsteen’s stature, “intimate” becomes a relative term. Last time he played in Austin, he sold out the Frank Erwin Center (capacity: 18,000), and the man’s one of the top five concert draws in the entire world. Anybody who can play a Super Bowl operates in a world where “intimate” has a different meaning than it does to mortals like us.
Plus, ACL Live, despite the seating capacity, actually is a pretty intimate venue. Plus, the announced artists at the venue the night of the Springsteen show are the Low Anthem, who are the sort of young, indie-folk act that the Boss probably digs, and his good friend Alejandro Escovedo. Doesn’t that seem like a bill tailor-made for Springsteen?
Odds: 3:2. Emo’s East doesn’t have a bill announced for the night of the Springsteen show at press time, and it would be keeping with SXSW tradition to put a legendary artist at Emo’s, but it’s hard to imagine he won’t be rocking the best-sounding venue in the country for the lone “intimate” show he’ll be playing this decade that doesn’t have a President, Pope or Queen in attendance.