SXSW 2011 Day 2 : Tammi’s Recap

<img src="" alt="SXSW 2011 Day 2 : Tammi's Recap" />I woke up feeling great on Day Two of SXSW, which I came to realize later that this would...
SXSW 2011 Day 2 : Tammi's Recap
SXSW 2011 Day 2 : Tammi'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.


I felt prepared for SXSW this year, but prepared in an intentionally unprepared way.  Lets face it; there is no avoiding the feeling that you’ve missed something by the conclusion of the festival.  So, instead of trying to fight against the inevitable, I decided to devote this year’s SXSW to one simple method of music discovery – stumbling.  There were no planned schedules, no obligations and no rush.  We generally had an idea of where our days were going to start but left the rest to chance…

I woke up feeling great on Day Two, which I came to realize later that this would be the only morning this was going to happen in Austin.  We started our day with lunch at Opal Divines, where a traditional Celtic duo, Bedlam Bards, played the stage and didn’t let us forget that today was also St. Patrick’s Day.


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


Waterloo Records Party

Jessica Lea Mayfield, 3:00pm
Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea MayfieldClick image for full gallery

Waterloo Records’ SXSW parking lot parties are always a great option when the sun is shining – appropriate for a solar powered stage, I suppose.  Being from Chicago, I was just excited to be outside in shorts and sandals.  After last year’s schizophrenic weather, the mid-80 temps were a welcomed surprise.   Luckily, when standing at the stage, we did at least have some shade to keep the heat bearable.

Jessica Lea Mayfield, 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Ohio (who’s “Our Hearts Are Wrong” happened to be NPR’s song of the day at the time) took the stage at about 3:00pm.  I had first heard Jessica Lea Mayfield as part of the vocals on The Black Keys’ (QRO album review) “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be” back in 2007 and she just released her second album, Tell Me in February, produced by Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys – QRO solo album review).  The day before she played the stage at Waterloo, Mayfield made a comment to her fans online that she wished she could just be judged by the music she makes, not by her looks.  Which I could gather is because she’s probably been critiqued on looking a lot younger than you’d expect – but that obviously doesn’t affect her talent.  She’s timid on stage and very humble at times, but her personality shows in her honesty instead of any high-energy performance.

Jessica Lea Mayfield’s background is in blue-grass music and it shows in her emotionally charged ballads, as well as her more upbeat pop songs.  All of the songs are raw and personal and when combined with her voice, can sometimes be heart wrenching, but almost cheerful at the same time.
Jessica Lea Mayfield


Royal Bangs, 4:00pm
Royal Bangs

Click image for full gallery

Royal Bangs played next, which attempted to put some more energy back into a half distracted, half anxious crowd.   The band definitely showed plenty of charisma and energy on stage and it was hard to not catch on to some of their dancey rock tunes.  Most of the songs seem to develop from a more lighthearted pop song into more of an intense high-energy beat.  Overall, I felt like the show may work better in a club/dance-party atmosphere, with lots of booze involved.  I’m not sure the Waterloo stage was their perfect match.
Royal Bangs


Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, 5:00pm
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

Black Joe LewisClick image for full gallery

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears were scheduled to play at 5:00 and while we waited, several people took advantage of the break to run into Waterloo Records to purchase their new Scandalous LP.  I spent the time analyzing the crowd – which was extremely diverse.  Near me, at the front of the stage, were two young boys who seemed extremely out of place even before they marveled at someone’s record like it was a prized antique collectible.

Black Joe Lewis & a RelativeMy only negative feedback about this show is toward those same two boys – apparently they had refused to dance.  They seemed to be enjoying the music, but were not moving, which is totally unacceptable.  If you’ve ever been to a Black Joe Lewis concert, you are aware that he naturally makes it pretty impossible to NOT dance.

The band’s new songs have more soul than ever but are still paired with their same groovy aggressive energy – most easily compared to James Brown.  The energy increased even more when they welcomed special guests, The Relatives – a funky gospel band from Dallas.  While Joe Lewis continued slapping his guitar, The Relatives lead a passionate, crowd-pleasing version of “Let It Shine” that turned the Thursday afternoon parking lot into a church on Sunday morning.  I can see how that wouldn’t always be an ideal situation for a concert experience, but Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears pull it off perfectly.

Even with the strict every-hour SXSW line-up on the Waterloo Stage, the crowd was able to pull the whole band back on stage for an encore and gave us another 5 to 10 minutes of dancing and letting go.
Black Joe Lewis & The Relatives



KEXP Broadcast @ Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop

The Joy Formidable
The Joy Formidable

With our energy at a high (even after one of the longest bathroom lines of the weekend), we decided to move on and see where the rest of the day would take us.  We ended up at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop to catch The Joy Formidable.  I know there are several excuses that can be made here, since this was, in fact, a bike shop and clearly not used to hosting parties or selling beer, but this was one of the most un-organized places of the weekend.   We kept being shuffled between doors since no one really seemed to know where or when the band was playing.  The outside stage was just setting up for the evening showcase, just as the inside was apparently starting to shut down (before The Joy Formidable even took the stage).  We were bounced back and forth again when all of the “bars” had stopped selling beer just assuming the other was still open.

Eventually returning inside with full beers, we were welcomed by a crowd… not a real large crowd, but a crowd large for the space we were in.  Not only could I not see any bit of a stage, but also it took more than halfway through the set to realize that the ‘stage’ was not even where I thought it was.  I kept staring at the back wall, assuming the members of the band were back there somewhere.  Turns out, they were a lot closer than expected – underneath a hanging bicycle, near the center of the room.  It gave an illusion that the band was playing directly in the middle of the crowd, which I’m sure would have been an amazing experience if I was much closer.  As an alternative, I stared at the back of people’s heads and glared toward the videographer’s ladder wondering if he’d notice if I climbed up the opposite side to have a look.  I’ve always wondered how so much rock can come out of the tiny framed lead, Ritzy Bryan, but it seemed as if my mystery was not going to be solved without even so much as a quick glance of the band.

The Welsh rock trio had this constant electric energy that had the crowd’s attention through the whole set.  Every song had so much power behind it; I kept thinking they were leading up to a finale when they weren’t.  I had fun imagining them dancing around while aggressively playing their instruments, but even without the visual, the energy was still contagious. It should also be mentioned, that even without actually seeing the band play, it was still one of my favorite shows of the week.

The Joy Formidable will definitely be one band that will benefit greatly from SXSW, seeing as the festival almost collided with their first full-length album’s March 15th release and Austin was just one stop on their world tour that will continue through the end of April.  I don’t doubt that you’ll be hearing a lot more from them very soon.



After leaving Mellow Johnny’s, we headed over to The Ginger Man where we actually stood in line for the only time all week (not including bathroom lines, of course).  Ironically, it was just to get into an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day, but luckily, it wasn’t for more than 5 minutes.  The Ginger Man had live music all night out on the back patio, but the place was so crowded, we didn’t even make it that far.  We eventually made ourselves comfortable, sharing a table opposite the bar with a very welcoming (read: highly intoxicated) group of people.  The indoor crowds were clearly celebrating the holiday more than SXSW, but with a great selection of draft beer, we hung out a while and welcomed the festivity overlap.



JBTV/Threadless Party @ The Trophy Room

Blah Blah Blah, 10:00pm
Blah Blah Blah

SXCHIClick image for full gallery

Easily distracted by anything ‘Chicago’ while in Austin, we ended up at the JBTV/Threadless SXCHI show at The Trophy Room.  This was one of those bars that didn’t let you forget you were in Texas – animal heads mounted to the walls and a mirrored saddle hanging from the ceiling acting as a disco ball.  I heard a rumor that they’re known for their mechanical bull, but I was either too distracted (that sounds better than drunk, right?) to notice or it was moved to make room for the performers.

Blah Blah Blah took the stage at about 10pm – the band name luckily didn’t help to describe the show, which was not as indifferent as you may expect.  Their pleasing melodic sound can be easily compared to The Cure or The Smiths and definitely caught the attention of people passing by outside.  The most energetic of the four, was Phil Ferguson on keys/guitar who never stopped jumping around while slamming his hands on the keys to each upbeat tempo.

The way Day 2 ended actually became the norm for the remaining days as well.  Turns out, after drinking all day, our experience-new-music quest quickly changes to let’s-go-dance.  Dance to anything and everything as long as there was room for us to move.  We weren’t picky, but we did make sure to make our first full day of SXSW as long (and energetic) as possible.
Sixth Street


Other notes:

-Jamie from Top Chef was seen hanging out in the back of the crowd at Mellow Johnny’s, also looking a little disappointed that there was no way to actually watch the band perform.

-To all of the drunken Sixth Street partiers that see my camera and stop me so they can pose for a photo.   Fine, I’ll take your picture (or at least pretend to take your picture), but the group hug afterwards is totally unnecessary.

-Cabs = impossible. I think I have cab hail-confidence after living in the city for so long, so after close to an hour of NOTHING, I felt super defeated.


Unfortunately missed:

-Raphael Saadiq @ The Cedar Courtyard.

-Wye Oak (QRO album review) @ Waterloo.  Not sure I would have changed my decision to leave Waterloo for The Joy Formidable even if I knew I wasn’t going to SEE them play, but still would have liked to catch this show.

busking for change-Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (QRO photos) @ The Paste Party.   Bad name for a good band.

-Daphne Willis (QRO photos the following day) and band busking @ 8th & Brazos.   Because how often do you watch successful artists playing on a street corner for tips?

-Talib Kweli @ Emo’s.


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