SXSW wrap up Part 1

Welcome to Austin

So SX is already old news, but I’ve got a lot of semi-crappy iPhone video for you!  Actually the audio in most cases is pretty good…still surprised the at capabilities of the 4.  Now if I could just stand still at these shows…

Day 1

While I had seen a little from the likes of Washed Out and No Age during the Interactive part of SX, I couldn’t really give them my full attention.  So Day 1 for me was March 15th – the crossover day where Music begins picking up even though it doesn’t officially start until the next day.  It was a warm up day for me as well, with only a couple bands.  (Didn’t take any video).

First, was The Foo Fighters at the closing party for Interactive.  I had actually been anticipating the originally billed group, Fitz and the Tantrums, but the Foo took their spot.  (I learned later that Fitz went on much later in the evening, but at the time had no idea whether they would be performing or whether Foo had been a last minute replacement.  Hope to see Fitz et. al.’s soul re-hash someday).  I respect the Foo Fighters, dig Dave Grohl’s sense of humor and charisma, but I would never pay to see them.  However, seeing them for free at the less than 2000 person Stubbs was a nice treat.  They played their forgettable new album in its entirety and then 6 or so of the hits everyone wants to hear.

Not knowing the status of Fitz and curious about looking forward musically rather than backward to Fitz’s Motown-soul, I moved on to Emo’s for Mount Kimbie and Golden Panda.  I only caught the last two songs of Mt. Kimbie, but all of Panda.  Both acts to me reveal a future direction for music – I have a feeling the bands who follow in these guys footsteps will create so much bass, chopped vocals and noise that I will have to admit old-man defeat (aka my musical glass ceiling).  But for now I find myself very curious about these acts and actually enjoyed their sets.  The way both of these acts play and manipulate their electronics and how they combine them with vocals and/or “regular” instruments seems novel compared to a lot of electronic artists.  Hoping to see Mount Kimbie for a full set at Coachella so I can get a better reading on them.

Day 2

The second day was my first full day of music.  Things began in the afternoon at Club de Ville with Yuck and Smith Westerns.  I hadn’t really listened to either act very thoroughly, but was curious especially about SW as more than a few people had said their album, Dye It Blonde, was their new favorite.  I found both acts enjoyable, though I wasn’t blown away by either.

In the evening I saw James Blake back at Stubbs.  His smooth R&B croon combined with blasts of heavy bass had the girls in front of me swooning.  This is the more accessible future of music (as compared to somewhat less accessible Golden Panda and Mount Kimbie – the latter being a band he used to play with).  Here are videos of the two most popular song from his most recent album:

Freddie Gibbs – I wasn’t too impressed with.  Halfway through the show at the Mohawk he felt compelled to take off his shirt to show off his gym body.  Cool bro.  It is often hard for good hip-hop on albums to translate live, but this was especially poor.

Low – I left the hip hop showcase at Mohawk a bit earlier than I thought to go to church.  Yeah they use a couple downtown churches for showcases of mellow acts.  I knew nothing about Low but discovered they are quite popular – there was a sizable crowd waiting to get a spot in the pews.  I could see why, these guys make powerful songs (that was only enhanced by the setting).  This was my favorite song from their set:

Memoryhouse was the reason I came to the church.  After hearing just a couple songs from the blogosphere (probably GvB) I was curious to hear more from them.  I was into the “chillwave” acts from a couple years ago (Memory Tapes, Washed Out, etc.) and these guys seemed in that vein.  Their setup ran into a little trouble – a pedal for the guitarist didn’t seem to be working right – and they were delayed probably 15-20 minutes.

As an aside, probably the most common and difficult thing (for audiences and bands alike) at SX is not getting proper sound checks and/or quality sound people at various venues.  This was not the only time I saw technical difficulties delay a performance.  And of course, even if a band gets their set up done without a hitch, the sound systems at a lot of venues leave a lot to be desired.  To me, this SX fact of life might actually serve the beneficial purpose of putting bands through numerous trials by fire – if you can setup your own stuff and not get flustered by any problems you run into, it seems even the greenest of bands will be well seasoned after playing 4-8 SX sets.

Anyway, Memoryhouse was ok.  Coming after Low, whose music filled the room, Memoryhouse felt a little more hallow.  The lead singer has a pretty voice, but it is very stiff and mannered.  Listening to them live this aspect of her vocals seemed more pronounced than on record.  After spending upwards of two hours in church pews I got antsy and left about 3/4s into their set.

I ended my night at a bar on 6th Street, listening to DJ Cam.  His setup took longer than you would think for a DJ because he seemed to really need this little projection screen behind him that just showed still pictures of forest scenes.  His set was decent, but unfortunately the plug was pulled on him just as it seemed he was getting into the hip-hop portion of his set.

Day 3

Day 3 began with an afternoon Miami Horror DJ set put on by Om Records and some magazine.  They played a fun set mostly of forgotten 80s electro/house – the most memorable track included snippets from some old Arnold Schwarzenegger workout video.  I tried to ignore the ping-pong table that wasn’t being used (and to some degree abused) on the W Terrace.  Hey K-Swiss, if you’re going to put a branded ping pong table up at a party, maybe you should have someone there encouraging people to use it for something more than a drink table or bench.

In the evening, I made it an unheard of back-to-back nights in a church, this time the Presbyterian one, to see Julianna Harwick and Cults.  I really wanted to stay for Glasser as well, but had a conflict with The Kills who I can’t really get enough of.  Harwick is kinda a one-trick pony; using only her vocals and a device that loops her phrases, she creates these soaring, ethereal songs.  It is powerful stuff, again aided in no small way by the soaring ceilings and lit stained glass windows.

Cults followed Harwick.  This was another band whom I hadn’t heard more than 2-3 tracks from, but seemed to be gaining momentum on the internet and from music festival programmers (they are scheduled to play Coachella among other fests).  Yet again sound setup problems delayed their set, but it was not nearly as long as Memoryhouse the night before.  Cults trade in sugary sweet poppy songs.  Some of their songs sound like songs for toddlers.  That sounds like a putdown, but it’s not.  It’s incredibly catchy stuff.  I don’t think the church setting was too helpful for their sound, but they didn’t sound bad either.  And in the clip below can see a lady with some sweet hair bopping along to their song “Go Outside.”  Look for Cults songs to be licensed to any brand that wants to convey “summeryness” in its commercials this summer.

I hustled my way over the Emo’s so as to make sure I got in for The Kills and got there early enough to see Austra.  I had never heard of her, and I found it decent.  The frontwoman has an amazing voice.  The overall feel of the music and show was like “what if Fever Ray went glam?”  You can get more background on Austra and better video here.  But here is my crappy video from her set:

Ah the main event – The Kills.  I was very much looking forward to seeing them in such a small venue as Emo’s, and a venue that is grimy enough to fit the vibe of their whole sleazy aesthetic.  The couple new songs from their upcoming album I had heard before this set were very promising and the new songs they played during this set might have been even better, including the one I recorded below, “Heart is a Beating Drum.”  Their set was all new music except for “Sour Cherry” and “No Wow.”  I’m hoping we get a slightly longer set at Coachella so they can play a few more old songs alongside the great new album.

All jazzed up after The Kills, I was hoping to catch an artist named Woolfy.  I have his album but have never really investigated anything about him.  The album is just pure funky goodness.  Unfortunately after hoofing it across town to Malverde, I discovered he wasn’t playing for some unknown reason.  So Woolfy remains a mystery.  Instead I got a DJ set from Classixx (pretty fun, more 80s funky electro) and then a karok-ish act called Punches.  I felt compelled to record them because they have their very own Bez.  Bez was a member of the Happy Mondays, whose sole job was to dance ridiculously on stage during their shows.   Well this group Punches has their very own Bez, for better or worse.  Or maybe a redundant backup twin DJ since at the end of this clip the Bez takes control of the computer and the similar-looking DJ becomes the Bez.


Day 4

Odd Future chaos at Scoot Inn, Toro y Moi, the Dig, Dickies showcase: Noah & Whale, Gayngs, Black Lips, Little Dragon

Day 5

Mog party: Okkervil River, Twin Shadow, TV on the Radio, Big Boi.  And the DFA 1979 riot.


0 Responses to “SXSW wrap up Part 1”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: