SXSW 2011 Day 1 : Ted’s Recap

<img src="https://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/sxsw2011d1ted.jpg" alt="SXSW 2011 Day 1 : Ted's Recap" />While missed the daytime stuff, did some successful official evening showcase hopping on Day One of South-by-Southwest 2011. ...
SXSW 2011 Day 1 : Ted's Recap
SXSW 2011 Day 1 : Ted's Recap

The massive music industry festival that is South-by-Southwest fell into some bad timing this year, coming right after the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis, and right before the United States and her allies joined the fight in Libya by bombing Muammar Gaddafi (Day Two of the festival was also St. Patrick’s Day, but SXSW knew that going in…).  It all threatened to make the festival, and music in general, seem irrelevant, what with the world going to hell in a handbasket.  But ensconced in the cocoon that was downtown Austin, on your smart phones and Twitter, with wristbands and free drinks galore, SXSW proved to once again be an engrossing, all-encompassing musical clusterfuck of an experience.

 

My flight and a way-too-long SuperShuttle ride (I was the seventh of seven people in the van to get dropped off…) only got me to downtown Austin in the late afternoon, and by the time I picked up my official credentials and some of my unofficial ones, it was too late to catch even the tail end of the daytime showcases on Day One.  But did the official evening showcases right, catching a bunch of that acts that I’d been planning on to at SXSW, before ending the night at PureVolume’s late-night House.

 

[Note: QRO had a number of correspondents at SXSW this year; this is just the Day One recap from Ted Chase; click here for Amanda Krieg’s Day One recap, click here for Tammi J Myers’ recap, and click here for Robin Sinhababu’s]

 

SXSW Showcase @ Antone’s

Chikita Violenta, 8:00 PM
Chikita Violenta

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Chikita ViolentaSouth-by-Southwest is a good place to catch international acts (if they get their visas – many did not), as well as locals – so started out by seeing Mexico City’s Chikita Violenta.  Not that you could tell they were from south of the border, as they didn’t ‘look’ Mexican, and sang in English – and not that it mattered for anything but back story.  More evocative and expansive than on TRE3S (QRO review), Chikita certainly impressed – and had a pretty good crowd for opening a no-sponsor showcase on Day One.
Chikita Violenta

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Oklahoma Showcase @ Friends Bar

Colourmusic, 9:00 PM
Colourmusic

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Now crossing Texas’ border to the north, headed to the Oklahoma Showcase for Colourmusic.  I last saw them at SXSW 2009 (QRO recap), and while the membership seems to have stayed the same, the band has flipped from the brighter psych-sixties to the harder psych-seventies (Oklahoma has always had a soft spot for alt-psych acts – witness Colourmusiclocals like Evangelicals – QRO spotlight on – and big boys Flaming Lips – QRO live review).  Colourmusic had also dropped the matching all-white outfits for street clothes, at least at Friends Bar, where one could listen and even watch the backs of the band from the street – saw one kid who was far too young to be let into the drinking establishment checking out the band from the sidewalk.
Colourmusic

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Billboard Bungalow @ Buffalo Billiards

The Boxer Rebellion, 9:15 PM
The Boxer Rebellion

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Billboard Magazine took over Buffalo Billiards for all four days of SXSW, and stocked their ‘Bungalow’ with acts that you wanted to see.  One of those was The Boxer Rebellion, who played a packed upstairs (downstairs saw people actually a sensitive Sylarplaying pool, while the tables upstairs had drapes over them).  The English act look set to continue breaking out, with a good-looking frontman in Nathan Nicholson (like an English, sensitive-handsome looking Zachary Quinto), and a tragic sound somewhere between that coming out of the windswept Scottish Highlands and that from the American indie-tragic all-stars The National (QRO spotlight on – who have their own BoxerQRO review).  And the band is willing to do what it takes to get bigger, like writing & performing a song for the movie Going The Distance (remember that film?  Me neither…).
The Boxer Rebellion

 

Bass Drum of Death, 10:00 PM
Bass Drum of Death

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Stuck around at Buffalo Billiards on a comfy couch in the back (had just seen Homer extol his lost couch on the episode where his seldom-seen half-brother Herb returns on The Simpsons).  Those Dancing Days were supposed to be on next, but never got their visas, so filling in for them were Mississippi’s Bass Drum of Death.  The crowd was much sparser than for Boxer, but BDD – who didn’t sound like their name implied, but were rather a guitar-and-drums duo – were good for a guitar-and-drums garage-duo, of which there are admittedly too many of these days (worsening the unemployment rate among bassists…).
Bass Drum of Death

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SXSW Showcase @ 512

Hooray For Earth, 10:15 PM
Hooray For Earth

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Mr. & Mrs. HerouxShould one catch bands from your hometown, bands that you’ve seen a bunch & will see a bunch more, at South-by-Southwest?  You don’t need to, and they’ll hardly be at their best this far from home in a makeshift venue – but one can’t disagree with seeing a band that you know you’ll like, and one wants to support your friends in the strange locale.  So took the opportunity to see long-time ‘Friend of the Q’ (or ‘FoQ’) Hooray For Earth at their official showcase at 512.  The ‘stage’ at 512 was basically a riser in the back, between the stairs leading to rooftop (another official ‘venue’) and the hallway to the bathrooms, so small that the band could barely fit on it – especially as they’d traveled to SXSW with the leading ladies of friends Zambri (one of whom is engaged – or have they finally had the wedding? – to Hooray frontman Noel Heroux).

ladies of ZambriThey were lit well, and (most importantly) sounded good (their soundman was graciously filling in – he had to run from this show to do sound for The Antlers – QRO live review).  They played mostly new stuff from the upcoming True Loves, all of which still certainly sounded like Hooray – complex and requiring multiple spins, so maybe seeing half of their set on half of a stage on Day One wasn’t the best time to fully judge.
Hooray For Earth

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The Roxy/Swinghouse Showcase @ Black & Tan

Hot Panda, 10:35 PM
Hot Panda

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Last caught these Canadians last SXSW (QRO recap), but since then have finally heard them on record.  How Come I’m Dead? (QRO review) is as odd a record as its name (or that of the band), but comes out a lot better live, even at SXSW.  The singer/guitarist frontman is an engaging and humorous personality, joking about being unable to find ‘Rock’ in the record store (“It’s all ‘Alternative’ or ‘Pop’…”) and whispering (into the mic) that if anyone wanted to buy drugs, hot horse headmeet him after the show (they’re Canadian, so is that cheap prescription drugs?  Oh, wait, they’re from Vancouver – probably black tar heroin, or at least high-grade hothouse hashish…).  The band had a guest horn player on one song, but that didn’t stop the bassist from also playing her own horn – and her bass guitar, at the same time (she did do something weird with her hair, maybe making her slightly less of an indie-crush…).  And the guitarist/keyboardist left the stage at one point, only to return wearing a horse’s head mask…

Still odd live, but having heard & digested How Come I’m Dead?, they’re somewhat less of an ultra-curveball to experience.
Hot Panda

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Billboard Bungalow @ Buffalo Billiards

Royal Bangs, 11:10 PM
Royal Bangs

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Headed back to Buffalo Billiards for Royal Bangs, but was tiring and couldn’t give them my full attention.  They sounded like Passion Pit (QRO album review) with more rock, getting harder in sound as their show went on – admittedly that’s not the most in-depth ‘rock critique’…
Royal Bangs

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M is for Montreal Showcase @ Spill

The Dears, 11:25 PM
The Dears

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But got all that energy back & more at the best performance of Day One (setting a high bar for the rest of SXSW), from The Dears.  Spill was at capacity for the showcase of Montreal bands, but only just, and was able to make it in (and could hear the band from the street).  The Dears had a fuckin’ epic set, including Natalia Yunchuksinger Murray Lightburn going into the crowd during “5 Chords” – and don’t forget about the oft-overlooked keyboardist Natalia Yunchuk (who’s easily the prettiest grey-haired lady I can think of, save perhaps for when Marge went grey in an episode this season of The Simpsons), or the rest of the changing ensemble around those two that make up The Dears.

I’d been listening a bunch to their new Degeneration Street in order to post the review before SXSW, but didn’t get to it until afterwards (QRO review) – but my appreciation of their show, and of the record, was definitely lifted by this set, where it was hard not to rock along.  The Dears are back!
Murray Lightburn Spills into the crowd

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RCD LBL party @ PureVolume House

Oberhofer, 12:30 AM
Oberhofer

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For any New Yorker (or native of New Orleans or Nevada), one of the main problems with South-by-Southwest is that the shows end at 2:00 AM – because that’s when the bars close in Austin (and in Oberhoferthe rest of the country – or earlier).  But PureVolume was putting on a late-night RSVP-only showcase whose doors didn’t open until 11:00 PM, with the first band on after midnight.  There was a massive line for the RSVPers to get in, and even some confusion at the VIP/Press door, but made it in (stopped worrying when I realized that I was in the same line as the bassist from Grizzly Bear – QRO live review).

No paying tickets or price for alcohol meant that the place could stay open as long as it wanted to – and that PureVolume House had no incentive to let in as many people as possible; actually, the incentive was to keep the number low, for a better show & fewer free drinkers.  The only free beer was the unbelievably skunky Lagunitas (I wasn’t the only one who had to choke it down, with a thankfully-on-offer free breath mint afterwards), but also whatever vodka they were pushing plus either energy drinks or some sort of tea in a can.  Ended up with vodka + green tea, as it was like an alcoholic mint drink.

The line-up late night at PureVolume House (they also had all-ages daytime showcases there) was a mix of acts that you’d wanted to see and some you’d never heard of, but in the former camp was the burgeoning Oberhofer.  Sort of a mix of Surfer Blood (QRO live review) & Vampire Weekend (QRO live review), but in the right way, the band made for an enjoyable show.
Oberhofer

 

Telephoned, 1:20 AM
Telephoned

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In the ‘never heard of’ camp was Telephoned – does that verbed form of the telephone name mean ‘having called someone with a telephone’ or ‘having hit someone with a telephone’?  Would you want to have been ‘telephoned’ by Naomi Campbell or Russell Crowe?  Telephoned opened with a remix of “Safety Dance”, and were all about the dance, kind of like a poor man’s MNDR & Mark Ronson (QRO photos together).
Telephoned

 

Moby (DJ set), 2:20 AM
Moby

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Post-2:00 AM is just the right time for Moby (and PureVolume House didn’t close its bar).  It was just a DJ set, but if you’re going to get a DJ set, Moby is the person to get it from.  There might not be anyone more knowledgeable in music than best-known vegan in music (take that, Dave!…) – he literally predicted the digitalization and personal organization of music in guest piece in The Economist like ten, fifteen years ago.
Moby

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Other notes:

-Fared much better with lines this year than last (QRO SXSW 2010 Day One recap), probably because I was sticking with lines where I had press credentials, not just the RSVPs of the hoi-polloi (though the RSVP line at PureVolume House seemed to be moving much faster than the VIP/Press line, but was still much longer).

-QRO’s Austin local, Robin Sinhababu, recommended another great food joint – burgers at Jackalope (even if they’d suspended two-for-one Wednesdays during SXSW…).

-If getting into PureVolume House was a bit chaotic, it was nothing compared to trying to get out.  At some point in the evening, the fire marshal had ordered the main entrance closed because too many people were slipping in that way, with an EMT standing guard.  But the VIP/Press entrance had only one of its two doors open, and that was for people who were still trying to get in.  Literally the security guy at the VIP/Press door would tell you to leave via the other door, but the EMT guy at that door told you it was closed and to leave via the VIP/Press door – and since neither left their posts, they didn’t know you couldn’t leave via the other door (and of course they wouldn’t believe any of the people who kept coming up, telling them that they couldn’t leave via the other door).  After trying for over an hour to get out, the harried staff at the VIP/Press door finally realized that security & the fire marshal were keeping people from leaving the PureVolume House, and opened up the second of the twin doors at the VIP/Press entrance, making it for people wanting to exit.

 

Unfortunately missed:

-PS I Love You (QRO photos) @ Brush Square Park (East Tent), 4:00 PM.  Also missed the brisket…

-The Smith Westerns (QRO photos) & Yuck @ Club de Ville, 4:45 PM – 6:30 PM.  Two highly hyped acts at Fat Possum Records’ showcase.

-Surfer Blood, The Vaccines (QRO live review), Darwin Deez (QRO photos), A Place To Bury Strangers (QRO spotlight on) & more @ Emo’s Main Room, 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM.  Brooklyn Vegan had a nice free showcase to start SXSW.

-Raphael Saadiq, Friendly Fires (QRO album review), Young the Giant, DOM (QRO photos) & Oh Land (QRO album review) @ FADER Fort, 3:00 PM – 6:45 PM.  Why did some of FADER‘s best have to be on the first day?

-DOM, Hooray For Earth, Eugene Mirman (QRO photos), Funeral Party (QRO live review), Girlfriends (QRO album review), The Seedy Seeds (QRO album review), Young Adults (QRO album review) & more @ Klub Krucial, 12:15 PM – 6:00 PM.  Some of the best of Boston (and Brooklyn) (and beyond).

-These United States (QRO live review) @ Lovejoy’s, 5:15 PM – 6:00 PM.  Latest What Lasts (QRO review) wasn’t as strong as prior TUS, and had started last SXSW with the band (QRO SXSW 2010 Day One recap) – as well as Northside 2010 (QRO Northside 2010 Day One recap).

-Friendly Fires & DOM @ Shangri-La, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM.

-The Dig (QRO live review) @ Treasure Island, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM.  Bound to showcase some new material, like “For All Your Sins” (QRO mp3 review).

-Telekinesis (QRO album review), Apex Manor (QRO interview), Wild Flag (QRO photos) & more @ Waterloo Records, 2:00 PM – 7:00 PM.  While I had just caught Telekinesis (QRO photos), and Terri Wise had just caught Wild Flag, I’d been planning on seeing the brand-new Apex Manor on my way from my rental in Clarksville to downtown – but SuperShuttle took way too long, and had a deadline for when I could pick up credentials for MTV’s Red River Garage (see Day Two).

-Foo Fighters, Two Door Cinema Club (QRO album review), Sleigh Bells (QRO photos), Matt & Kim (QRO spotlight on) & more @ Austin Music Hall, 8:30 PM – 12:00 AM.  Didn’t ask in time to get credentials for mtvU’s Woodie Awards, a massive happening that was also being televised, but would see Matt & Kim the next day at MTV’s Red River Garage (see Day Two), and would only want to catch Foo Fighters if Krist Novoselic was there…

-Gringo Star (QRO spotlight on) @ The Belmont, 9:15 PM – 10:00 PM.  Too far west, but would have liked to have heard their new stuff.

-Duran Duran @ Stubb’s, 12:30 AM – 2:00 AM.  Admit it – you’d have wanted to see Duran Duran, too…

 

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