Did PJ Harvey and John Parish win SXSW 2009?

If anyone “won” SXSW, it might have been PJ Harvey and John Parish.  For the past few weeks, PJ Harvey and John Parish have taken America’s underground music scene by storm in support of the new album,  A Woman A Man Walked By.  With just a few performances, the ever-enigmatic Polly Jean lit up this part of the industry with maximum efficiency.

The launch of her latest collaboration with longtime friend and one-time guitar teacher John Parish, has been a highly efficient blitz of traditional and new media outlets including NME, debuting the latest video, a film by the Chapman Brothers; KCRW, who did Morning Becomes Eclectic from Austin; an appearance on KGSR with Jody Denberg (pictured below!); a five song preview on Last.fm and probably a bit of television on the way back to England, like Letterman. Plus all the gossip and reviews that come with visiting SXSW.  I didn’t hear of her jumping on stage with people or doing panels like Pete Townshend and artists who really “work it,” but amongst the people I met, there was a lot of interest in her activities.

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Jody Denberg, Polly Jean Harvey and John Parish (photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

After two “difficult” PJ Harvey albums, A Woman A Man Walked By is a more listenable album in the vein of her big ones To Bring You My Love and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.  As an artist that is so deeply protective of her image, and only performs under the most exotic and controled circumstances, it created quite a buzz that she was performing.  The fact that the music hadn’t been out long makes a critical audience like the SXSW crowd eager to listen as well.  It was not a wall to wall campaign in Austin for PJ Harvey (note she is not listed as Polly Jean as on Dance Hall at Louse Point), but I think in terms of effectiveness and buzz, PJ Harvey and John Parish probably won SXSW!

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