BLOG: SXSW Music 2011 - Daily Recaps
Well, another South by Southwest (SXSW) has come and gone. As a random person said to me completely out of the blue last night, "I'm so happy SXSW is over." And with a few days passed to reflect upon it, I agree, of course. I mean, it's quite the strenuous fest. The music portion always "officially" begins on a Wednesday and ends on a Saturday (with the exception of a handful of shows on that Sunday, though most people are recovering by eating big, delicious brunches, crawling into deep, dark holes and detoxing. Okee, that's what I did at least. But, oh wait, I lie. I did not detox on Sunday. In fact, I shared a bottle of champagne with OJ on the side for brunchies. Ooops, detox begins now!). But if you're an Austinite, there are tons of shows, more and more it seems over the years, before the music portion even kicks off. I caught Chris Cornell and Matt and Kim at The Belmont on the Saturday and Monday nights before the real madness began.
Matt and Kim @ The Belmont - Lessons Learned
So, basically what I'm saying is, yes, I'm happy it's over. But not because I don't love love love this fest. It's actually my all-time favorite music festival now, something I discovered a couple years back. 2009 to be exact. So the reason I'm happy it's over is because, well, I'm getting older. So old, nearing the big 3-0 :-) But, no really, I just can't bounce back the way I used to from multi-consecutive nights out, staying up till god knows when. And oddly enough, I'm listening to a new band I discovered at SXSW right now - hands down, my favorite new band from the fest - The Head and the Heart, and the lyrics to their "Heaven Go Easy On Me" are actually telling me that "All good things must end." Yessir!
In other words, what I'm really saying is that I'm happy to look forward to SXSW 2012 and, in the meantime, can't wait for the string of shows passing through town beginning in early April. Music season has officially begun - thank you, SXSW! And thank you for seeming to go back to your roots. I know I haven't been doing this fest long - it's just my 4th year - but, as I discussed with a friend a couple days ago (oh wait, that was yesterday. See, my days are still running together!), there weren't as many upper mid-tier bands in town. The focus was more on the emerging bands that you've never heard of but will most definitely be hearing a lot more from (and rightfully so) - with the exception of Kanye West, Jay-Z (both at the infamous Vevo party) and the Foo Fighters (MTV Woodie Awards), of course.
MTV Woodie Awards
Before I go through the fest day-by-day, here's a quick rundown of my highlights so ya can see if this is even worth reading to you (if you've even made it this far): as already mentioned, The Head and the Heart, along with Marco Benevento, Alexander, Grouplove, Friendly Fires, Deer Tick (Deervana!!), Dawes, Nicos Gun, Geographer...well, shit, this list is getting long. Guess it's time to actually write about 'em all!
Wednesday 3.16.11 - Day 1
Check out more SXSW Music 2011 - Day 1 Photos
I got out the earliest I ever did the whole week on Wednesday. No surprise there though. First up, or so I thought, was the Fader Fort wristband pickup line, but as it was out the door - or, rather, snaking around the street corner (what was up with that, btw?!? I guess Fader has exploded in popularity...) - I checked out Friendly Fires and Mount Kimbie at Shangri La. I honestly didn't fully "get" Friendly Fires till seeing the UK dance punk band the next night at the ND. Intimate nighttime shows seem to almost always trump outdoor daytime sets for lots of bands, especially high energy, dance-y ones. The same probably could've gone for Mount Kimbie, an electronic British duo that I also caught at Shangri La, but I never made it to see them again. The guys in Mount Kimbie have self-classified the band as post-dubstep, i.e. no club bangers but upbeat music of the dubstep variety. They're definitely worth checking out if you're into that sort of thing, which I am.
Mount Kimbie @ Shangri La
While my friends were so kind to wait in the Fader line (which ended up being all for not as we never made it over there throughout the whole fest) after the shows at Shangri La, I checked out the panel "Juggalos to Phish-heads: Managing Fanatical Music Consumers" with JamBase founder Andy Gadiel. He and Ethan Kaplan, founder of REM fan forum Murmurs.com, had some real interesting insights into the minds of fanatics, many of which I personally understood :-) Like spending all of your money (and then some) to see countless shows of your favorite band. But beyond the psyche of a fanatic, they also took it to the professional level and the responsibilities you take on when your play also becomes your work. I definitely found myself agreeing with - and chuckling at - a lot of what they had to say. This panel definitely stuck out to me the most out of the hundreds listed. Good work, guys!
Next up after some wandering around 6th - and hitting up Stony's, aka Austin's best downtown pizza - was Summer Camp at Red Eyed Fly. Maybe I should give 'em another listen, but they weren't all that memorable for me. Then I was off to the MTV Woodie Awards. We caught the last bit of the Foo Fighters, lots of bands I didn't know, one of my faves - Matt and Kim (who won an award) - and Two Door Cinema Club also performed (check out the live concert footage Roxwel shot of them at Stubb's last year!). All in all, it was cool to see how they put on a live broadcast of the show. I was actually flipping through the tube last night and saw part of the re-broadcast, which I'm sure they'll be playing over and over again for the next month or so.
The Naked & Famous @ The Phoenix - Young Blood
Luckily, Austin Music Hall wasn't far from my next stop, The Phoenix, where The Naked And Famous and Alexander were closing out the night. I didn't catch too much of New Zealand natives The Naked & Famous, but I did like what I saw. They were described to me beforehand as having that Passion Pit / MGMT sound to them, though their lead singer is actually a female. Their hit "Young Blood" is definitely pretty catchy.
Alexander @ The Phoenix - Awake My Body
Okee, so the real highlight of my first day was Alexander. I'm a huge Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros fan, so when I saw that Alexander, i.e. Alex Ebert (aka Ed Sharpe)'s solo project, had a gig I was beyond stoked. I picked up his self-titled debut album the week before last, and at first listen, I didn't really feel like it was of the same caliber as Up From Below. But seeing him perform the songs live gave them a whole new world of meaning. I just love that hippie-folksie sound, and I really love Ebert's voice and, of course, his strong stage presence. What a fantastic ending to the beginning of SXSW! And I know I'm not the only one that felt thattaways as girls were coming up to Ebert after the show, pouring their lil' hearts out. I wonder if he feels the pressure of being a life-changer for so many fans...
Thursday 3.17.11 - Day 2
Check out more SXSW Music 2011 - Day 2 Photos
I was dragging ass after my 14-hour day on Wednesday, so I didn't make it out amongst the chaos until 4pm or so to catch the Old 97s at The Belmont for the New West Records party. It was a great start to the day, especially with the sun's rays finally peaking through the clouds. After that, I tried to make the MTV party at the 9th and Red River garage but got shut out, even though it hardly looked full. Oh well, at least I caught Matt and Kim earlier in the week! I heard the bouncy floor in front of the stage was actually a bit frightening anyways.
Geographer @ Maggie Mae's
After missing Grouplove at Lovejoy's (bummer, but at least I ended up catching them on Saturday!), we headed to Maggie Mae's for Geographer, a San Francisco-based trio comprised of a lead singer/guitarist, electric celloist and drummer. Interesting, eh? I thought so. Their songs were ambient but dance-y enough. A good find for sure - and a fitting name for such an eclectic band. Though Jackie Chain might one-up them on overall name creativity. There's just such irony in that name - and the fact that the half Asian hip-hop artist is from Alabama, of all places. However, I can't speak to his music since I missed the set at Venue 222 for Geographer - but I did see him chillin' with chains and all afterwards. He most definitely fits the part!
Oberhofer @ The Aquarium
We continued to amble around 6th, catching uber young'uns Oberhofer. An indie-pop-punkish outfit transplanted from Tacoma, WA to Brooklyn - Brad Oberhofer, at least, anyways - these guys were real good performers with catchy tunes, lots of "oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhs" and whistling - and a xylophone tying it all together. Yellow Ostrich were another band we kind of stumbled upon, but our stay was cut short to make Friendly Fires and Big Freedia at the ND.
Friendly Fires @ the ND
Waiting briefly in line, we caught the last half of Friendly Fires' show, which was a real blast. From Hertfordshire, UK, these guys definitely had quite the buzz surrounding them at the fest. And they gave a nice shout out for Big Freedia at the end of their show, saying everyone should stick around. And they were/are quite right. If you're not familiar, Big Freedia is making a name for herself as the transvestite star of New Orleans' underground "bounce" scene. And, well, what can I say? There's just "azz everywhere." For realz. It's bouncing everywhere - from Big Freedia herself, from the booty gals and guys on stage, and even from the fans. Big Freedia's show is pure entertainment. I just remember thinking the first time I saw her at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2010, "How the hell do you get your booty to bounce like that." I was highly impressed.
Big Freedia @ the ND
Last but not at all least, I saw Nicos Gun perform at Annie's West in the 1am slot. Hailing from Philly with a poppy-psychedelic sound, these guys really shouldn't be missed. Their tunes are catchy and their vibe electric. AND the funniest thing of the evening happened to me here. Having split from friends and on my way home, I caught this show solo. There was a good crowd inside dancing to the music, and I chatted with this one chick who was real friendly (don't read into this though - I'm a chick, too, and straight at that) early on. A bit later, she handed over a full beer (and, no, it was not roofied), giving it to me because she couldn't find her friend. I thought that was real nice - and it's a rarity to turn down free booze at SXSW - so I happily obliged. After listening to her go on and on about the Widespread Panic show she had just seen, she disappeared, only to return when I was about halfway done with the beer. And ya know what? She wanted it back! Apparently, she found her friend. Awesome...you can't be an Indian giver (sorry...I know that's not PC, but I just don't know how else to put it) with beer, people! Other than that, Nicos put on a really good show - be sure to check 'em out if ya can!
Nicos Gun @ Annie's West
Friday 3.18.11 - Day 3
Check out more SXSW Music 2011 - Day 3 Photo
The Head and the Heart
Another late start today. Walking over to the French Legation to catch !!! (Chk Chk Chk) at 6pm, I came across the Ice Cream Man's truck. Yessss, free Ben & Jerry's! Well, not so much. By the time I got inside, they were all done run out (it's cool...it was the end of the day!). And though I didn't really get in the crowd to see !!! (or score any ice cream), the party had a real chill atmosphere and was a great way to kick off the evening.
Marco Benevento @ Momo's
I had been looking forward to Marco Benevento's set since SXSW began. He's so talented and one of my all-time favorite artists. And, man, those fingers! It's just really amazing the way he moves them across that keyboard. And he's all smiles, all the time. It's just so refreshing to watch him play. "What's That Dude Play?" said it better than I ever could: "Hands moving across the keys of the piano, a Macbook, several stompboxes and a Fender amp, Marco seamlessly integrated his many tools into a wonderous, polyphonic pleasure..." Accompanied by a bassist and drummer - who both kicked ass too! - Benevento was a real a sight to behold...and heard. KUT (aka Austin's best radio station, NPR affiliate) broadcasted their whole showcase live on the air.
Miami Horror @ the ND
With time in between Marco Benevento's set and the next highlight of the evening (and the fest, in my opinion), The Head and the Heart, we wandered down 6th, weaving through an underground venue (where we heard a member of MGMT was playing...false rumor), and made our way to the ND for Miami Horror after striking out on several shows: Gayngs (well, we got into this show, but I just really didn't get 'em...at all. The music didn't go anywhere.), The Joy Formidable, Twin Shadow and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. But Miami Horror, an electro-pop band from Melbourne, Australia, was fun with their disco throwback style and flare for the 90s.
The Head and the Heart @ Red 7 - Honey Come Home
And, Oh. My. Gosh. Up next was The Head and the Heart, 1am at Red 7. I had heard a good deal of buzz on this band over the past few days and was dying to check 'em out. My friends described them as Edward Sharpe-esque with a more rock-y, tighter sound. And that's pretty much what I thought. And, let me just go ahead and say it here, I am most definitely biased when it comes to Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros as they're one of my most favorite new(er) bands out there. The Head and the Heart just didn't quite have that hippie vibe to them. I mean, there are lots of people on stage (I think I counted 6). There are two main girl and guy vocalists (like your Jade and Alex Ebert. Okee, there's actually three - two guys and a girl - close enough though, right?). There are tambourines. And happiness. Emotion. Energy. But with a more rock edge - just look at Charity Thielen (lead female vocalist - actually, she's the only female in the band. AND she plays the violin!)'s outfit, which I loved, btw. The Head and the Heart represented Seattle - and Sub Pop Records, who they recently signed to - well. I heart The Head and the Heart. Oh, and a fan ran up on stage, smiling from ear to ear while singing and dancing about...check him out!
The Head and the Heart @ Red 7 - Rivers and Roads
Saturday 3.19.11 - Day 4
Check out more SXSW Music 2011 - Day 4 Photos
Saturday had a real nice, chill start to it. After an early afternoon beer (and delicious grilled cheese with bacon, tomato and avocado...mmm), I jetted to catch Grouplove at Klub Krucial. And, luckily, the shows there were running behind schedule, so I didn't miss any of their set (nor did my friend who's battery died in the driveway)...phewwww! Anyhoo, I had heard a number of people talking up the Los Angeles-based (though the band members are from all over the country and world) five piece throughout the week, and this was their very last show. And, man, did they bring it! Considering the strain on artists playing show after show during such a fest as SXSW, their energy was just amazing. And with tons of sold out shows just ahead of them, you'll definitely be hearing a lot more from this indie-pop outfit, promising a full-length debut album by mid-2011.
Grouplove @ Klub Krucial
After stopping by the Side Bar for the 40 Watt party, I headed east to see DeadEye, a local Austin Dead tribute band (so super good!), at Kenny Dorham's Backyard. I can't think of anything better than some Dead tunes, at sunset, on the very last day of SXSW - open spaces, smiling faces...and, of course, tie-dye! Check out "Casey Jones" and be sure to catch 'em in Austin if you're a yocal - or visiting!
DeadEye @ Kenny Dorham's Backyard - Casey Jones
Back to 6th Street...after tending to a barbed wire cut on zee leg (the thing is, I saw the barbed wire when I was initially walking over to Kenny Dorham's and thought, "Hmmm that looks kinda dangerrrus." And sho nuff I walked right into it! Sweet.) Running in to catch the very end of Jonquil at Emo's Jr, I wished I could've caught more of the show. Just see what "Best New Bands" wrote about the Euro-indie-pop outfit: "Recipe for the best indie band: Start with beautiful voices that can sing the lowest lows and the highest highs. Stir in an assortment of instruments, most especially organs, harmonicas, trumpets and electronic keyboards. Add a dash of British flavor. Lastly, wrap up the package with outstanding lyric writing." That's Jonquil...check 'em out and don't miss out!
After a disappointing few songs from Jezebel at Maggie Mae's, we hit up the last shows of the night at Lustre Pearl. What a way to end the evening and SXSW 2011! Dawes and Deer Tick made the night for me...for sure. Never having seen Dawes outside of daytime festival sets, I really had no idea just how good they were. Robbie Robertson is apparently impressed too, tapping Dawes to tour with him (for the first time since 1976's taping of The Last Waltz in San Francisco) as "the Band." Congrats, guys! And thanks for bringing it - you definitely have a new fan!
Dawes @ Lustre Pearl - Fire Away
And, wowza, I had no idea (though it did kinda come back to me that someone mentioned it the day beforehand) that Deer Tick was performing all Nirvana covers. Last slot of the very last night of SXSW? "Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!!" The so-called "Deervana" set was the kicker for an amazing fest. I've read that some are calling it a "stunt," devoting the set to Nirvana songs. I just think it was brilliant. How many of us actually got to see Nirvana live? Well, not me, at least. And if that's as close as I'll ever get to it, which it is, I'll take it...and happily at that. Who needs Kanye when you've got people moshing and singing their hearts out to one of the greatest grunge rock bands ever? Not me! A great vibe was in the air that night. So long, SXSW...see ya on the flip siiide (and new bands discovered, see you soon)!
Deer Tick @ Lustre Pearl - Lithium