Tuesday, 23 March 2010

SXSW Report: Saturday

H-T-A is lucky enough to be receiving the inside scoop on the Austin shenanigans courtesy of music lover/writer/glutton for chaos Darci Spiker

With final day emotion and fatigue setting in, is there any enthusiasm or energy remaining for yet more music? With the aid of Mexican martini the answer is, thankfully for us, yes indeedy.....

The final day of SXSW 2010 has arrived.  There is a sense of urgency in the air between my ears, which is causing me to wish I were moving much more quickly than is actually possible at this moment.  With three, 4 am nights under my belt, I’m batting about 100…wait…that’s bad, right?  To bat 1000 is good, so 100 must be pretty bad. You know, just to be safe, let’s say I’m batting 1. However, no matter how tired I feel, the desire to pack as much as humanly possible into my last day is fairly strong and will prevail (I hope)

As previously mentioned, I have had extraordinary luck this year with friends and acquaintances who helped me get into shows that otherwise would have been accessible to only the chosen few-thousand.  Today was no different in that the very talented Bob Schneider recently offered to put me on his guest list for the Rachael Rae Saturday party at Stubb’s. Thank you, Bob!  With that on my immediate horizon, I made my way to the throw-down, which boasted an enviable band lineup, including Bob Schneider, Dr. Dog, School of Seven Bells, Local Natives, Street Sweeper Social Club, Justin Townes Earl, She & Him and Jacob Dylan with Neko Case.

Though it was nearly freezing outside, this party was absolutely incredible with bands killing it at every blink and the best food I’d had all week, which was made even better by the fact that I was ready to chew off my arm due to hunger.  With this many amazing bands, I will just comment on a few.  School of Seven Bells played a great show with an astringent, almost shoe-gaze effect that included plenty of beats.  A picturesque setting, flush with smoke-machine-fluff-backlit-in-blue was a perfect backdrop for the statuesque Deheza twins, who book ended the stage and produced ghostly vocals that took me to a non-catatonic, trance-like state.  I’m certainly going to check out some of their music next week when I return home with my mile-long list of records to buy.

Taken from the debut album Alpinisms - BUY

My favorite show on Saturday (day) was Justin Townes Earl, who put on a perfectly polished, quirky show that made me feel like I was having the same experience as many did in the 1950s era of the Grand Ole Opry, when music was pure and June Carter performed a hilariously na├»ve comedy routine.  His show was balmy, as was his dimpled smile, and I felt like he was singing every word, especially those about fried chicken, right to me.  Justin Townes Earl may have put on the most genuine, non-contrived, non-begging-to-be-noticed show I have seen thus far at SX.  His confidence and obvious love for his place in life reminded me that he really is like a jawbreaker, in that every layer of him reveals an expertise and love for music and performance.  Well-done, good sir!

The final band at Rachael Rae’s party was She & Him.  On my list from day one, I was thrilled to finally catch Zooey Deschanel and Portland singer-songwriter M. Ward, who were maybe not at their best on this entirely freezing day.  I wanted them to catapult me to great places, but instead my experience was more like shopping at Anthropologie or Pottery Barn.  For the gentlemen readers who don’t shop at Anthropologie: the show was kind of lacking in luster.

After running home in 50 mph winds to put on more clothes, I was ready for my final night at SXSW.  To kick off the evening, I chose to see Lynhurst at The Parish.  This three-sibling band from Minneapolis gets better (both musically and physically) every time I see them and now has the stunning 19-year-old, Mari, fronting the band with breathy, but powerful vocals and drums. The three have a similarly captivating stage presence, which sucked all of the young women in the audience to front and center stage before the end of the first song.  Experts at eye contact and communication with the crowd, Lynhurst bestows upon their audience a feeling of sheer appreciation.  The pop tunes were romantically sweet, yet crafted with just enough edge.  I’m guessing that this is a band from which we will hear more in the near future.  Maybe Disney will swoop them up for another hit show on their network.

Following the Lynhurst set, I went to the Iron Cactus for a bite to eat and a Mexican martini.  Though my plans were to next see Titus Andronicus, the line made the execution of this impossible.  Fortunately, I met someone who offered to take me into the VIP section for the Surfer Blood show, which was an excellent ‘Plan B’.  From the top perch, we had a perfect view of the band, which played with almost shocking confidence to a completely packed house at Mohawk Patio.  The vocals of John Paul Pitts stood up well to the raucous feedback that guitarist Tom Fekete piled on like a nice lunch lady serving mashed potatoes.  Surfer Blood, with a squeaky clean appearance that recalled The Beach Boys, most certainly played a wildly powerful show, which surpassed my expectations of both sound quality and, quite honestly, fun.   Admit it, oh, austere hipsters (who I love), the show was fun!

I left the Surfer Blood show in time to catch The Ugly Suit one more time at Soho Lounge before seeing my final show of SXSW: Stars of Track and Field.  This Portland, Oregon band was successfully rallying for a sprint finish, which buoyed me from a teetering state of exhaustion. In a phenomenal final performance, filled with strength and angst, SOTF squeezed out of me the last bit of ecstatic appreciation that I had.  In all, it was a moving end to SXSW 2010, an unbelievably emotionally and physically affecting five days.

These final hours of SX gave rise to some thoughts about the mental state that ensues after being continuously, musically stimulated.  In day-to-day life, I use music as either a backdrop, or an inspiration for my proceedings.  In a five-day immersion of non-stop music, however, there is a risk of becoming numb to the resonating phrases whose voraciousness would normally set the scene to an important life event; it becomes “just more music”.  Don’t get me wrong, I love (LOVE!) the SXSW scene and I hope to be sprinting around with my camo pants when I’m 127 seeing the latest bands, but there is certainly something to be said for the idea that music can be very supplemental in people’s lives; perhaps it is not meant to be the main event for days on end.  Obviously, there are many who would argue this, possibly including me on a different day.  

That said, the musical inundation has now given me a giant list of bands to explore.  It will be interesting to see who shakes out as the “scene-setters” to my daily life.

Thus ends the SXSW adventure. Thanks SO much to Darci for walking the tight rope over entertainment and exhaustion to bring us these impassioned reports. Here's to SXSW 2011! (Oh, and a bonus Titus Andronicus MP3 for anyone wishing they had got into that packed show.....)

MP3: Titus Andronicus - Four Score and Seven Part I (via Insound)  
Taken from the new album The Monitor- BUY

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