SXSW 2012 Thursday Recap

<img src="https://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/sxsw2012d3.jpg" alt="SXSW 2012 Thursday Recap : Live" /><br /> It was a very full Thursday at SXSW. ...
SXSW 2012 Thursday Recap
SXSW 2012 Thursday Recap

Even as we await the Mayan Apocalypse, South-by-Southwest goes on.  The 2012 edition of the music industry festival in Austin was an expanded one, taking in both previously unofficial parties such as FADER Fort, as well as growing to an extra day in Tuesday.  Though Syria burned and the interminable Republican Presidential Primary contest went on, it all became background noise to the sweet sounds of SXSW, March 13th to 18th:

 

As Ted Chase was staying on the East Side of Austin this SXSW, he started his day at two East Side venues that were only a block away from each other – FADER Fort and BrooklynVegan & HobNob Wines party at Hotel Vegas.  But the evening had a Third Big Star & more…

 

[note: Thursday’s entry includes writing by Ted Chase and Robin Sinhababu and photo galleries from QRO’s Jessica Alexander, Chris Becker, and Terri Wise]

 

 

Filter Magazine party @ Cedar Street Courtyard – Chris Becker

QRO’s Chris Becker headed early in the day to the Filter party at Cedar Street Courtyard, presented by Poland’s The Adam Mickiewicz Institute with Paula I Karol, Coldair, and Twiilite:

Twiilite

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Coldair

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Paula I Karol

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~

 

Party @ FADER Fort – Ted Chase

Tito Lopez, 1:00 PM

While I was having lunch at FADER, waiting for the first act there (see below), a rapper not on the schedule (QRO preview) opened up the Fort.  I’m not one to judge rappers, but even for a rapper Tito Lopez was spouting an outsized ego (especially for someone playing unannounced at 1:00 PM on a Thursday…).  Of course, saying that would probably make me a hater, and “No Haters Allowed”, but he seemed to think that a lot of the rappers at SXSW weren’t good, and isn’t that hating?  He did have rhymes…

 

Eight and a Half, 1:30 PM

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But I was at FADER Fort early for Eight and a Half.  This trio consists of currently-on-hiatus-Broken Social Scene (QRO spotlight on) drummer Justin Peroff, broken-up-The Stills (QRO spotlight on) singer/guitarist Dave Hamelin (QRO interview, while in The Stills), and keyboardist Liam O’Neill of both bands (though more so The Stills) – so that’s some great pedigree.  However, 1:30 PM on a hot afternoon is not the right place to see this dark band, and I had seen them in the dark at Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review) the month before (QRO review) – this visit was purely to get actually-decent photos before leaving to catch another spin-off of a favorite (see below).

The next day I ran into both Peroff & Hamelin at the SPIN Magazine party at Stubb’s, and Hamelin jokingly asked me if I’d stopped blaming him for breaking up The Stills – I may have jokingly/drunkenly said something like that to him at Mercury.  He said The Stills’ break-up wasn’t his idea, comparing it to George Costanza comparing breaking up a relationship to turning the keys on a nuclear sub – or, as I put it, “If a band has two singers, you know they’re going to break up at some point…”

~

 

Brooklyn Vegan party @ Hotel Vegas – Ted Chase

We Are Serenades, 1:35 PM

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I had seen Eight and a Half before, but not We Are Serenades, the new side-project by Adam Olenius (QRO interview) of another QRO favorite, The Shout Out Louds (QRO spotlight on).  Indeed, I had missed We Are Serenades the night before at SXSW (QRO recap) – and that day Olenius had recognized me from the prior interview at FADER Fort.  So pretty much had to see them.

If Eight and a Half is an stripped down, indietronic version of Broken Social Scene/The Stills (not exactly an apt comparison, but not a million miles off), then We Are Serenades is a stripped down, indietronic version of Shout Out Louds (again, not a perfect analogy).  They are a sunnier band, at least sunnier than Eight and a Half, and so fit better playing outdoors, so early in the hot day.  But what’s with people in great bands doing indietronic-ish side-/post-projects?  Guess keyboards are really that popular these days…

 

Hospitality, 2:15 PM

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Another band I definitely needed to catch at SXSW, Hospitality put out a great self-titled record earlier this year (QRO review), and lived up to it at Hotel Vegas.  This cheery trio was particularly well suited for the time of day.  Did find out that bassist Brian Betancourt has had to leave his other job with also-at-SXSW White Rabbits (see below) – when he joined that band, after already being in Hospitality (and Frances – QRO photos), kind of knew he’d eventually have to pick between the two, and that he’d go with the one he was in first (also, his role is more important in a four-piece like Hospitality than a six-piece like Rabbits, and he wouldn’t be the only one who didn’t move to Brooklyn from Columbia, MO, like he was in the Rabbits…).

 

Ringo Deathstarr, 2:50 PM (Volstead Lounge)

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The indoor Volstead Lounge at Hotel Vegas was not exactly a great spot to see a show, with no stage riser and people just cramped in the shack-like space.  But QRO’s Peter Noble loves Austin’s own Ringo Deathstarr, and they were playing a showcase with U.K. tourmates The Wedding Present (see below) – not their only showcase with TWP, even.  Punk-garage, more punk than garage, and rather DIY disheveled, though perhaps that was just because of the venue.

~

 

Party @ FADER Fort – Ted Chase

Tribes, 3:00 PM

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Returned to FADER Fort for Tribes.  Had seen them the prior night (QRO recap), but at the loaded-with-tech problems 1100 Warehouse, at night, with tons of people there for the band after them.  The whole situation was much better at FADER Fort (and not just because of the free drinks…).  The sound was much better, there was an actual photo pit (though perhaps too much smoke machine at times), and they definitely played “We Were Children” (QRO mp3 review).  Though I was struck by how strong others songs of theirs from Baby (QRO review) were, such as “Sappho” and “Girlfriend”.  FADER doesn’t allow video (neither does SXSW), usually not a concern, but this was one time at SXSW I wished I could have shot video of a song, since I had a photo of their set list (QRO photo).

Tribes were also the band that got the distant crowd at the large FADER Fort to come up close – one band each day there has to do it, and Thursday it was them.  They do, admittedly, look/dress like ‘stereotypical English rockers’, however – singer has cheetah-print open button-down, guitarist had open Hawaiian shirt, bassist has ironic hat, and drummer has cut-off sleeves.

~

 

BrooklynVegan party @ Hotel Vegas – Ted Chase

Fanfarlo, 3:45 PM

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Back to Hotel Vegas for alt-folk collective stars Fanfarlo.  Another group playing at the right time of day, their brighter styles on the new Rooms Filled With Light (QRO review) did well outdoors.  The collective seems to have slimmed a little bit (or maybe I’m just confusing them with similar-sounding alt-folk collective & prior tourmates Freelance Whales – QRO photos, opening for Fanfarlo), but they played a good, full set.

 

Yellow Ostrich, 4:15 PM

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Inside at Hotel Vegas (note: a different space than the indoor Volstead Lounge) was surprisingly at capacity before Yellow Ostrich went on, though perhaps that was just due to low capacity.  I wasn’t really paying attention to Yellow Ostrich, as I spent most of the time sitting & charging my phone…

 

The Drums, 4:30 PM

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Everybody raves about The Drums, and SXSW is nothing if not a good place to catch bands other people rave about – you’re not committing yourself to a whole show/evening if you end up not liking the act, but can just get a taste.  Of course, SXSW confusion saw me come to Hotel Vegas the day before (QRO recap) for The Drums, only to catch The Drum (QRO photos) – an entirely different act.

There was a large crowd for The Drums, whose indie-dance had more rock than I expected.  The singer thanked BrooklynVegan for being at their first-ever show (can we also thank BV for not wedging in random, ill-fitting hip-hop acts into his ‘Hotel Vegan’ line-up, like so many parties at SXSW?…)

 

The Wedding Present, 5:20 PM

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There was yet a new band behind David Gedge, a.k.a. The Wedding Present – and as opposed to playing an entire old album like they previously had been doing (QRO review), played actual new songs this time, from the upcoming Valentina (out the week after SXSW).

~

 

Core Power party @ Skinny’s Ballroom – Robin Sinhababu

Natural Child, 4:00 PM

Natural Child

Natural Child do a great job.  I saw them the night before (QRO recap) on a divier stage at nighttime in East Austin, which definitely suited their rocking better than the pleasant, air-conditioned, afternoon setting of Skinny’s Ballroom, one of the few downtown bars I recommend.  They didn’t seem to let that worry them; as a touring band, I am sure they know how to roll with it.

Bassist Wes Traylor and guitarist Seth McMurray sing well together on most of their songs.  The tunes are all pretty short and to the point, but they do vary in tightness; some charge hard and others have a more slipshod feel.  That might be intentional, or it might depend on what their drummer, Zack Martin, feels like doing song to song.  I’m not calling him a ringer, but if one of the three was a ringer, I bet it’d be him.  The hat might have a lot do with it.

 

Black Pistol FireBlack Pistol Fire, 5:00 PM

This was a pretty goofy-looking duo.  Guitarist Kevin McKeown was dressed for CMJ, but Eric Owen, on drums, was all metal looking.  They mostly treaded Black Keys (QRO album review) territory, but in a more precious and calculated manner.  In particular, Owen’s drumming, although good, might have been too finesse-y for this kind of music.

More than any other band I saw this week, Black Pistol Fire needed another instrument.  I think a bassist would help them.  Not so much as to add another voice, as the guitar and drums are interestingly played, but to add some weight.  When McKeown was note riffing and Owen was getting fancy, the thing sounded like it was going to float away, which is not what blues-rock should do.

They were all right, but didn’t grab me.  Case in point: a competent, yet really ill advised, cover of “I Shot the Sheriff”.

~

 

Red Light Management party @ Stubb’s – Chris Becker

Chris Becker headed to Stubb’s for the big names at the Red Light Management day party, MyNameIsJohnMichael, Alberta Cross, The Punch Brothers, and Alabama Shakes:

Alabama Shakes

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The Punch Brothers

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Alberta Cross

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MyNameIsJohnMichael

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~

 

WXPN showcase @ Radio Day Stage Austin Convention Center

Delta Spirit

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QRO’s Jessica Alexander returned to the Radio Day Stage for Delta Spirit.

~

 

Pitchfork Magazine party @ The Mohawk

It wouldn’t be a SXSW without Pitchfork presenting strong acts like Japandroids (and their pimply teenage boy fans) & now more synth-y Lower Dens, who QRO’s Terri Wise saw:

Lower Dens

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Japandroids

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~

 

Under the Radar Magazine party @ Flamingo Cantina

Slow Club

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Chris Becker also made it to Under the Radar‘s second great day party at Flamingo Cantina for Slow Club.

~

 

MTV Woodies @ The Lot at Red River

Rick Kern made it to the big MTVu awards show, ‘The Woodies’, held every year during SXSW, seeing fun., A$AP Rocky, Machine Gun Kelly, and Kimbra:

 

Kimbra

Kimbra

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Machine Gun Kelly

Machine Gun Kelly

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A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky

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fun.

fun.

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~

Death & Taxes/Solid Gold party @ Cheer Up Charlie’s

Caveman, 7:10 PM

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I left The Wedding Present early to try to catch The Love Language (QRO spotlight on) at Cheer Up Charlie’s, only to miss them, so finally crossed I-35 to the Convention Center to (what else?) charge my phone – but ended up heading back to Cheer Up Charlie’s for Caveman.

Matt Iwanusa & Jimmy Carbonetti of Caveman were previously in the hard-to-pigeonhole Subjects (QRO spotlight on), and their new band is similarly diverse and hard-to-describe on debut CoCo Beware (QRO review).  And they’re just as diverse – and hard-to-describe – live, as well.

~

 

Party @ FADER Fort

Zola Jesus, 7:50 PM

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I had a bit of time to kill in the early evening lull of SXSW, so figured it was worth checking out highly hyped Zola Jesus (and get one more free drink at FADER Fort).  I’d seen them once before, but that was a South Street Seaport (QRO venue review) at 7:00 PM on a hot summer Friday (QRO photos) – not exactly the right time for this gothic band.  Admittedly, it wasn’t much later or cooler this time ‘round at FADER Fort, but between the tent, the smoke machine, and the band’s much-improved stage set-up, they certainly fit much better.

 

Those photos are by ZJ fan Chris Becker, who was also at FADER Fort earlier for Teengirl Fantasy, Alice Smith, Nite Jewel, and the latest guy to ‘bring the blues back’ (did it ever go away?), Gary Clark Jr. :

Gary Clark Jr.

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Nite Jewel

Nite Jewel

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Alice Smith

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Teengirl Fantasy

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~

 

SXSW showcase @ Paramount Theatre

Big Star’s Third Tribute Concert

Jody StephensClick image for full gallery

After all of that running around, was nice to sit down – at Paramount Theatre for Big Star’s Third Tribute Concert.  Two years ago, GSD&M head John McGrath got the iconic seventies power-pop outfit (they basically created the genre ‘power-pop’) to reunite at SXSW (QRO recap) – only for singer/guitarist Alex Chilton to pass away on the first night of the festival.  The reunion quickly turned into a tribute, and artists throughout Austin paid respects to Chilton & Big Star (best had to be Grant Hart – QRO interview – who simply ended his SXSW 2010 set by saying, “Alex Chilton” – QRO recap).

For SXSW 2012, GSD&M recruited an all-star line-up to perform Big Star’s seminal Third album, something that had been happening already.  Who performed?  Oh, M. Ward to begin the show (it was funny watching all the photographers race over to one side to get photos of Ward over his piano), also (in rough order of appearance) The Dunwells, Tommy Stinson (of The Replacements/Guns ‘n’ Roses/Soul Asylum), Peter Case (of The Plimsouls), Jon Auer (of The Posies & later Big Star), Star and Micey, Ari Picker (of Lost In the Trees), Pat Sansone (of The Autumn Defense & Wilco), Parson Redheads, Ben Nichols (of Lucero), Fan Modine, and, oh, yeah, Peter Buck (of little-known R.E.M.)!  The main band was also a strong one, including Charles Cleaver, Jeff Crawford, Skular Gudasz, Brett Harris, Django Haskins, Matt McMichaels, Jim Spake, Chris Stamey, Scott Thompson, Owen Weaver, and even the Tosca String Quartet (with conductor Brent Baldwin).  Plus, of course, Jody Stephens – the actual drummer for Big Star (and now only surviving member).  And I’m sure I missed some…

It was an epic set of Third and much more (and I saw it all from the front row – was way too easy to just walk in and walk to the front, but meant I could take photos of everybody – even if Peter Buck was only in the back…).  It was all put together by Django Haskins (who at one point played vacuum – QRO photo), who even arranged one song – and warned the crowd that there was a break in it that wasn’t the end, and they could clap, but really shouldn’t (and the crowd didn’t, the first time at a Big Star’s Third tribute show that a crowd could kept it together…).

It’s hard to pick standout tracks from the standout album/band, but certainly among the Third highlights had to be “Thank You Friends”, “Jesus Christ”, and “Femme Fatale” – Buck of course played on “Fatale”, as R.E.M. had so ably covered the song on b-sides & extras collection Dead Letter Office (which Buck wrote the great liner notes), though unfortunately he couldn’t be accompanied by R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, who had been scheduled to appear but was suffering from vertigo (“That’s why it’s always great to have a member of R.E.M. in reserve…” joked McGrath).  And, when Stephens took up the mike, drumming was R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter (who also played guitar).

It was also impressive that Stephens, who could have done as little as he wanted to by pure virtue of who he is, did so much drumming at the show.  It did necessitate him running around a good deal, sometimes getting back to his kit a little late – when Sansone came on stage, Stephens wasn’t yet in place, and Sansone joked, “My kingdom for a drummer…” and, when Stephens made it to his drum stool, “Okay – he’ll do…”

McGrath thanked the audience for coming, “As I know you’ve got a lot of musical options at South-by-Southwest.”  It’s true that one could have caught more sets in that time elsewhere (though probably not more artists…) – but it was wonderful to take a break from all of that and just appreciate a band that influenced & inspired countless acts playing that (or any) SXSW.

[and do you think anyone will be paying tribute to chillwave or post-dubstep thirty or forty years in the future?…]

Set list (with singer):

Peter Buck“Prelude”, then “Nature Boy” – M Ward
“Kizza Me” – Ken Stringfellow
“O, Dana” – Matt McMichaels
“For You” – Jody Stephens
“Take Care” – The Dunwells
“Jesus Christ” – Matt McMichaels
“Nighttime” – Tommy Stinson
“Stroke It, Noel” – Peter Case
“Big Black Car” – Jon Auer
“Femme Fatale” – Brett Harris
“Blue Moon” – Jody Stephens
“Downs” – Star and Micey
“Dream Lover” – Ari Picker
“Holocaust” – Django Haskins
“You Can’t Have Me” – Pat Sansone & Django Haksins
“Kanga Roo” – Brett Harris
“Thank You, Friends” – everybody

“Thirteen” – Skylar Gudasz
“You and Your Sister” – Pat Sansone
“I Am the Cosmos” – Jon Auer
“There Was a Light” – The Parson Red Heads
“Bangkok” – Ben Nichols
“The EMI Song” – Gordon Zacharias & Fan Modine
“Way Out West” – Jody Stephens
“Another Chance” – Matt McMichaels
“September Gurls” – Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow
“The Letter” – Peter Case

~

 

Chaos in Tejas party @ Beerland – Robin Sinhababu

Football, 8:00 PM

Football

After I only caught about forty seconds of Football Wednesday night (QRO recap), I penciled them in for Thursday at 8.  Although I don’t regret this decision, I do think Wednesday’s big Beauty Bar patio stage suited them better than Beerland’s cozier setup.  Not that wild rock antics are inappropriate on a small stage; on the contrary, they’re often better there.  It’s just that Football’s particular brand of enthusiasm – jumping on and off amps, high kicking, and guitar faces – need some room.  Mike Lust, in particular, seemed to need some room to strut around.  I recommend seeing them if they come to your town, but especially if the venue is Wembley Arena.

I usually like Beerland’s live sound, but Football was unlucky.  The two guitars were way too low, especially the Indian guy’s.  Since the electric guitar often provides the bulk of a rock song’s melody and harmony, it’s no surprise that the songs seemed dull.  It’s a good thing they had some visual appeal.  Speaking of which, Jered Gummere’s flailing drumming was fun to watch.  Reminded me of the drummer from Chicago’s Bitter Tears, circa summer 2010.

~

 

TuneIn StandUp/Set List showcase @ Esther’s Follies – Robin Sinhababu

Beth Stelling

“Sweet” Beth Stelling is going back to Ohio, and then she’s going to dinner at CVS!  Well, those are two half-sentence synopses of her best jokes!  They’re better when she tells them.

She’s funny.  I liked best that she didn’t invent ridiculous personal problems to joke about, as is common nowadays; she appeared to sincerely talk about her actual faults, and then had the confidence and skill to make us laugh at them.

 

Danny Yeahyeah

“Danny Yeahyeah” was the funniest comic of SXSW.  He was introduced as the warm-up man, and preceded to spend the whole set fiddling with our expectations of such a role.  His main bit, a repetitive call-and-response, had one of those pleasant sine wave crowd responses: his joke became funny, then played out, then funny again, then played out again, and so on, as he just did the same thing for like four minutes.

His set relied heavily on the audience for humor, but in a more prepared and deliberate way than Jerrod Carmichael’s the previous night (QRO recap).  Whether intended (with the first bit it must have been), his audience dialogue followed a similar funny-unfunny-funny progression.

His legal name is Andrés du Bouchet, and he also does a character named Karl Management, which isn’t his real name either.  He writes for Conan.

 

Louis Katz

Louis Katz came on too strong, proving in the process what has already been proven many times: if you’re going to do bro humor, you need to look like a bro.  Actually, it’s best if you do neither, but my point is that half-witted, aggro, testosterone-fueled observational comedy is especially awkward and bad when a nebbish delivers it.  Imagine Woody Allen doing Dane Cook’s set, but if neither of those people were celebrities and therefore you weren’t actually curious about how that would sound.

He then bombed in a second dimension by indulging himself in Ryan Gosling-based humor, which should be immediately punishable by the next bus to San Marcos.  He somewhat made amends by comparing the Gosling meme to the Norris meme, but since he had already delivered Gosling jokes, he was just trying to have his cake and eat it.  That’s not allowed.

~

 

Noisey showcase @ The Parish – Robin Sinhababu

Bass Drum of Death, 9:00 PM

Bass Drum of Death

This was a fun show, partly because the Parish makes bands look good.  Musicians with long hair, such as those in Mississippi’s Bass Drum of Death, are in especially good hands.

I was surprised by how mellow they sounded; from the couple tracks I’d heard, I was expecting something gnarlier.  That wasn’t a disappointment, especially because the more relaxed guitars allowed me to hear the singing, which was good.  They had two guitars, but no bass, which I didn’t miss.  The drumming was definitely the weak link, but maybe that had to do with the arrangement: it’s probably harder to groove with fast guitars than with one and a bass helping you along.

Bass Drum of Death

 

Two Gallants, 10:00 PM

Two Gallants

Two Gallants played like they were trying to show up every band that can’t get by with two people.  There wasn’t a moment that wanted for bass or another guitar, yet they didn’t squander one note. 

Andrew Stephens’s finger style electric carried the band.  Most of his playing was agile and fluid, giving the songs a bright melodicism and sense of motion.  Tyson Vogel matched this by take a more staccato approach on the drums.  He stutter-stepped and ghost-noted his way through, playing the whole kit and almost sounding as if he was making it up as he went along just by listening to Stephens.

It’s impressive, how well the guy sings while playing the guitar that well.  That said, almost every bad thing about this band has to do with him opening his mouth.  Many songs included cringe-inducing lyrics, or at least some faux-rustic pretension like “I shot one man on the county line,” in either case delivered in some pinched hybrid of Geddy Lee, Joanna Newsom, and Guy From Candlebox.

Even their best song indulges in an “I shot my wife today,” repeated “where’er”s and “too late for you to save me”s in the chorus, and a pretty bad title.  None of this would be so bad, except for the fact that it’s coming not from a bearded seventy-year old cuss, but a churlish twenty-something in skinny jeans.  It takes one to know one, you see, which is why I feel so comfortable criticizing him.

He also thanked the audience, “For making this a lot more tolerable,” and unless some tragedy I’m unaware of had befallen the band, it sounded quite spoiled.  Maybe SXSW 2013 can have a special venue for the whiniest bands, with bad sound, lighting, sightlines, A/C, and no free drinks on stage… in other words, the opposite of what Two Gallants got at the Parish.

So, I’m conflicted.  This was a classic case of enjoying a band’s set, looking up some of their stuff online when you get home, and wondering what the hell you were thinking at the club.  There’s no denying the rad guitar, the melodic skill, and the cool drumming, but the ludicrous singing and possibility that the band are Two Spoiled Assholes is equally glaring.  Watch a couple videos, and if it’s your thing, go see them with your heckling cap on in case things get silly.

~

 

The End Records showcase @ Red 7 Patio – Robin Sinhababu

Freshkills, 11:00 PM

Freshkills

The NYC quintet Freshkills could be tough to mix.  They’ve got two guitarists who sometimes play real sporadically, accenting the songs with a bunch of little flourishes.  At these times, I was reminded of Peter Phillips and John McLean on “The Pigeon is the Most Popular Bird”.  At other times, they’d just riff statically.  In both cases, they sounded much too quiet.

That wasn’t so bad, since the bassist, who sounded good, seemed to drive the band.  The guy didn’t seem too technical, but he’s creative and a little busy, which suits the music.  Respectable NYC veteran Jim Sclavunos was solid on drums, and Zachary Lipez is a good person to put out front.  He’s well dressed, anxious, and passionate, not unlike a young Peruvian David Byrne after a visit to Buffalo Exchange.

I recommend seeing them.  Give “Positive Vibes” a listen.

 

Hull, 12:00 AM

Hull

Hull are SXSW regulars, and this, my third time seeing them, was the best.  The best show I’ve seen them play, the best show I saw at SXSW this year, and “the best” in the way that you refer to something that was awesome.

They’re a metal band from Brooklyn with three guitarists and a bassist, all of whom sing, plus a drummer.  So they’re quite demanding from a live sound perspective, especially during the more distorted moments.  However, the Red 7 Patio – by no means the best-sounding venue in Austin – totally came through.

It was such a pleasure to see them play so well, and be able to hear everything that was going on.  They seemed to have become more specialized in their various roles since I saw them last: Nick Palmirotto did most of the fast riffing and feedback, Drew Mack handled almost all of the low-end riffing, and Carmine Laietta soloed.  Although I don’t care for electric blues, a bit of bluesiness sounds great in metal – certainly better than straight chromatic shredding – and Laietta seems to be of this school as well.  His solos were awesome.

Fear

Fear, 1:00 AM

I was vaguely familiar with Fear as a classic L.A. hardcore band.  I was not at all familiar with frontman Lee Ving’s reputation for stupid bullshit, so when he started throwing a tantrum over his guitar not working and claimed the monitors were out of order, I decided to leave.  Fortunately, I was there just long enough to hear him yell, “After we bomb Tehran, let’s move on to the sound department!”  Dude.

~

 

SavioursChaos in Tejas party @ Beerland – Robin Sinhababu

Saviours, 1:00 AM

Much like a complex Syrah offered to me in the last half hour of a long Zinfandel tasting, Oakland’s Saviours might have reached my ears in an untimely state of fatigue.

I like shredding that is bluesy; in fact I prefer it to non-bluesy shredding.  I appreciate such refined, high-cymbal drumming; in fact, I think the height of a drummer’s cymbals is the easiest way to guess their skill.  And I dig speedy bass of this sort that both anchors and drives the music.  Everybody in this band was longhaired and competent and at times entertaining, but I just wasn’t that into it.  Probably I was tired.

~

 

Paradigm Booking showcase @ Club de Ville

White Rabbits, 12:00 AM

White Rabbits

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Tried to make it to Haven for Tenacious D, but unsurprisingly the line was ultra-long for the Jack Black-Kyle Gass metal-humor duo.  Haven was at capacity, and they were only letting in badges.  One regular Austenite said he was gonna slip the person at the door a twenty to get in – yeah, that’ll work…

So if there was going to be no cock push-ups or picks of destiny, went to Club de Ville to catch long-time QRO favorite White Rabbits.  Tourmates Tennis were on stage when I got there, and de Ville was packed.  So packed that when I stood in a space with a view of, but not at all near, the stage, a small guy pushed me for standing in front of his small girlfriend (it’s always the small guys who overcompensate…).  That shove pushed me into another girl there with her boyfriend, who also got annoyed.  Between that and Tennis being less-than-gripping, I exited the crowd and waited for them to thin out after the buzz band was done.

Thankfully, the crowd was much nicer for White Rabbits – or should one say, ‘the new White Rabbits’, or rather ‘the new new White Rabbits’?  The group debuted as a more dancehall saloon style Walkmen (QRO live review), but has since evolved even further – and over a shorter span of time/music – than their Brooklyn brethren.  Sophomore release It’s Frightening (QRO review) saw them advance in terms of skill and complexity, and now the just-out Milk Famous sees the group go electro.  None of these changes were bad ones – just as none of their prior great albums needed changes.

White Rabbits took a while to set up (the soundman was telling them to hurry up), but this is a six-piece that would take a while to set up.  They’ve changed, or at least flipped, their stage set-up, with guitarist Alex Even now stuck on his own on stage-right, divided from the rest by singer/keyboardist/guitarist Steve Patterson’s (QRO interview with both) keys – previously, Even was stuck on his own on stage-left.

The short-but-sweet set was naturally mostly Milk (though they did play Frightening‘s single “Percussion Gun”, where you could see the vein in Patterson’s neck bulge…) – but the only piece from debut Fort Nightly (QRO review) that they did, “Kid On My Shoulders”, was reworked into a new dark-funk number.  The revision is understandable, given that any Nightly piece would struggle to fit into today’s White Rabbits, but it’s hard not to get the feeling that the band just doesn’t like their older stuff (‘old’, mind you, is less than five years ago…) – and so, if you like the old White Rabbits, one can feel a bit disdained, even if you like the new White Rabbits too.

~

 

Doritos Stage/giant vending machineDowntown Sixth Street was something to behold past midnight at SXSW.  Doritos had built a giant Doritos vending machine, including giant bags of Doritos inside it.  But could it release a giant bag, and would the giant bag have lots & lots of Doritos, or a normal number of giant Doritos?  I guess no one could enter the punch code – or had the giant change – to get any.  Snoop Dogg was playing the actual ‘Doritos Stage’ beneath – but Snoop at SXSW is old hat (QRO photos from SXSW 2010)…

Smoke was billowing down the bustling Sixth Street, lit up by laser lighting from various nightclubs.  Someone on the street compared it to the ‘dark present’ of Back To the Future, Part II, where bad guy Biff Tannen got a book of scores from his far-future self and proceeded to win so much money betting that he bought the town and turned it into a gambling mecca (yeah, it was a lousy sequel…), and “Everyone’s a prostitute or looking for a prostitute…”

 

Stereogum party @ PureVolume House

Shearwater, 1:00 AM

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While I was able to skip the long line to enter the at-capacity PureVolume House, after entering I almost wished I hadn’t – while the place wasn’t too packed, it was full of the kind of bros & their girlfriends crowd that any visitor to Austin for SXSW wished to avoid.  People were there not for the music, but only for the free drinks and the ‘party’.  There was a massive line for the men’s room, but none for the ladies room – one guy who thought he was clever skipped the men’s room line and went into the women’s, only for the security/fire marshal to barrel into the women’s room, pull him out, and instead of just letting him go with a ‘you got caught,’ made him look at the sign that said ‘Women’, asked him if he was a women, and if not, what was he doing in there?  It was hilarious for all of us waiting on line for the men’s room – there’s a reason none of us did the blatantly obvious & blatantly stupid move – though it was a little unnerving for a female trying to enter, who asked if she could was told, “Yeah – you can enter the women’s room, as long as you’re not swinging…”

(oh, and they stopped enforcing the restriction on the VIP area, so had no refuge from the hoi-polloi – even the bartender in the VIP area was annoyed about that…)

That all being said, Shearwater were actually pretty damn good.  They were less alt-folk, and more indie-rock, than I expected – which was a good thing, considering the crowd…

(there were also some guys making & selling Paninis inside PureVolume House, who took forever to serve the pair of black guys in front of me on line – one of the trying-to-be-customers had to yell at them to get any attention.  However, after that the Panini-maker was super-attentive to them – and to me, thinking that I was with them.  And then he forgot to charge me for the Panini & nachos…)

 

Bear In Heaven, 2:00 AM

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Even more impressively connecting with the crowd was Bear In Heaven.  Admittedly, their electronic stylings are popular these days, but the band was less chill, more dance, at PureVolume House, including the mustachioed bassist and evocative singer.

 

Screaming Females, 2:30 AM

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I had forgotten that Screaming Females were up between Bear In Heaven & Zambri (see below), and was definitely disappointed when I saw them starting up on stage.  Lots of people rave about Screaming Females, but personally I’ve never seen why – and this set was no exception.  Maybe it’s because they started out by opening for lots of great acts (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. – the Screaming (male) bassist so wishes he was Lou Barlow – QRO album review), but I’ve always felt that they were very overrated.  Somewhere between Janis Joplin & Dinosaur Jr. (QRO live review), they accomplish neither.  Screaming Females sound like their name – a screaming female with a screaming guitar.  And Sonic Youth (QRO live review) have always had crappy openers…

 

Zambri, 3:00 AM

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An act I definitely needed to see at SXSW 2012 was Zambri.  They’re close friends with QRO favorite Hooray For Earth (QRO spotlight on) – one of the two sisters is married to Hooray frontman Noel Heroux, and their drummer Seth Kasper used to be in Hooray (as well as, in between, Wild Light – QRO spotlight on) – but the last time I saw them, at CMJ 2011 (QRO recap), it was late, after many free beers, and, by the band’s own admission, not their best set.  Seeing them at 3:00 AM at douche-filled open bar PureVolume House seemed like a recipe for a repeat of that under-delivery – happily, Zambri kept up Shearwater & Bear In Heaven’s surprisingly strong PureVolume delivery that night.

Zambri electro-rocked/danced even harder than Bear – with members of Hooray in the crowd (they seemed to go to all of each other’s SXSW shows, as well as Zambri folks at Bear In Heaven shows, as it seems the unmarried Zambri sister is dating BIH’s singer…).  So, despite the crowd, PureVolume House was great.

~

 

Chop Shop Records showcase @ Maggie Mae’s Rooftop

Thankfully Chris Becker caught a showcase I unfortunately missed, The Features & We Are Augustines at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop for Chop Shop Records:

We Are Augustines

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The Features

The Features

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~

 

PASTE Magazine showcase @ The Belmont

Terri Wise headed over to The Belmont early for PASTE Magazine’s showcase, with The Octopus Project, Titus Andronicus, Night Beats, and Cold Showers, while Chris Becker managed to join her for headliner – the return of eighties new wave icons The Jesus and Mary Chain (an act that definitely deserved double the photographers – though neither took photos of the guy who jumped up on stage and stripped down to his mary chain…):

Cold Showers

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Night Beats

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Titus Andronicus

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The Octopus Project

The Octopus Project

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The Jesus and Mary Chain – Terri Wise

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The Jesus and Mary Chain – Chris Becker

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Chris Becker

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~

 

Unfortunately Missed – Ted Chase:

-Kaiser Chiefs (QRO album review) @ Cedar Door, 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM.  This was your best chance to catch big-name Kaiser Chiefs at SXSW, at the belVita breakfast bar ‘Power Breakfast’ – if you were up & about that early…

-Walk the Moon (QRO photos) @ Antone’s, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM.  While I saw them at CMJ (QRO recap), didn’t really key into them then, and since hearing their great “Anna Sun”, definitely want to see them again.

-Bear Hands (QRO spotlight on) @ Beauty Bar, 1:40 PM – 2:35 PM.  Never did catch these Friends-of-the-Q at SXSW.

-Andrew W.K. (QRO live review) & Nardwuar @ Headhunters, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM.  Gonzo musician & party impresario Andrew W.K. and gonzo journalist Nardwuar!

-Keane (QRO album review) & Kaiser Chiefs @ Cedar Street Courtyard, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM.  All they needed was also-at-SXSW Kasabian for the ‘KKK’ of Brit-rock…

-Fort Lean (QRO photos), Computer Magic, and Princeton (QRO spotlight on) @ PureVolume House, 4:15 PM – 6:30 PM.  The best daytime line-up at PureVolume House.

-The Love Language @ Cheer Up Charlie’s, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM.  See above

-The Shins (QRO live review) and M Ward (QRO album review) @ Auditorium Shores Stage, 6:45 PM – 9:00 PM.  SXSW always has good free shows at Auditorium Shores Stage on the other side of Lady Bird Lake.

-Bruce Springsteen (QRO live review) – Yes, ‘The Boss’ played South-by-Southwest, but you had to win tickets to see him.

-Courtesy Tier (QRO album review), Rare Monk, and Beast Make Bomb (QRO photos) @ Fado’s Irish Pub, 8:45 PM – 11:00 PM.  Nice showcase from ReThinkPopMusic.

-Miike Snow (QRO live review) & YACHT (QRO spotlight on) @ Lustre Pearl, 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM.  Dance party!

-Tenacious D @ Haven, 12:00 AM – 1:00 AM.  See above

-Patrick Watson (QRO spotlight on[) @ St. David’s Bethel Hall, 12:30 AM – 1:30 AM.  Only SXSW appearance by the amazing Watson – and at a church, to boot…

 

Unfortunately Missed – Robin Sinhababu:

-Kid Congo Powers @ Trailer Space, 5:00 PM

-Talkdemonic (QRO photos) @ Hideout, 8:00 PM

-Zechs Marquise @ Flamingo Cantina, 12:00 AM

 

 

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