Saturday, 20 March 2010

SXSW Report: Thursday

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

Day 1 was a frantic rush from the plane into Texas, so how did a full day for Thursday go off? There's only one way to find out: 

Day 2 at SXSW starts with a confession, once again, of tossing aside my day-show plans, which were, if you recall, to see Liars, Small Black and Surfer Blood, or be damned.  I really need to watch what I commit to in writing!  That said, I’m glad that my eager and predictably non-committal behavior led me to meet up with friends who kindly turned me into a +1 for the Levi’s Fader Fort day show, which included (but was not limited to – in case any lawyers are reading this) Neon Indian and Local Natives.

So look, I hate to sound at all critical because I really have great respect for artists of all types, but after listening to Neon Indian, my friends and I had a bit of a discussion about knowing your limits, or less negatively, knowing your strengths and playing to those.  The sound quality at Levi’s Fader Fort was really quite bothersome and brittle (as spoken by one friend) to begin with, and Neon Indian’s style didn’t lend well to that backdrop.  The vocals were nearly completely lost in the dense lot of background, pre-recorded loops, which came off almost as white noise.  

MP3: Neon Indian - Should Have Taken Acid With You (via Insound)
Taken from the debut album Psychic Chasms - BUY

Having written that, a huge crowd was hopping in sync with the adorable hipster nymph in the red dress on stage, so all was definitely not lost.  Speaking of stage presence, Alan Palomo absolutely owns his space.  Rumor has it that he is 21 years old, but he takes control of a scene as well as anyone.  Though this live show was not stellar, I should mention that the recordings I’ve heard of Neon Indian, including a Daytrotter session among many other listening points, are quite decent and include melodies, if somewhat frenetic.  To give perspective, when played on stage yesterday, I didn’t even recognize the (quite diggable) song “Should Have Taken Acid With You” until almost the end.  In all, I would say that Neon Indian is a great, hipster crowd-pleaser, but one to be seen in perhaps a smaller venue with better sound balance.

At the same Levi’s Fader Fort day party, where by the way, I lost my Budweiser virginity, Local Natives completely tore it up, down and sideways.  These guys put on such a polished, potent show that I actually saw them again later in the evening.

After a day in the sun, and 7 miles of walking (so far), I made a pilgrimage to Guero’s on South Congress for a quick bite.  On the way, a band called Fictionist, who filled the entirety of Cissi’s Market with a sweet sound, distracted me.  Their musicality, look and harmonies reminded me a bit of Hellogoodbye. Alas, it was about 6pm and I was ready to pass out from hunger and dehydration, so I moved on after three songs.  
MP3: Fictionist - Invisible Hand

Wednesday night at SXSW blew my mind (which is why it is 1:37 pm and I’m still coming around).  I decided to camp in a few venues to maximize my music time and minimize the darting from place to place in hopes of catching someone good.  Thus, Emo’s Main Room and Buffalo Billiards were my posts.  Prior to Rogue Wave’s set at Emo’s, I caught Miles Kurosky (Ex-Beulah), who was not my favorite artist of the night.   

When Rogue Wave took the stage, life became very, very good.  The band was absolutely stunning with glorious, rhythmic loops upon which they built majestic melodies.  Zach Rogue's lyrics have depth, but not so much to cause the lilt to decay. I can’t wait to buy their latest record at my local, independent record store.  

MP3: Rogue Wave - Lake Michigan (via Insound)
Taken from the album Asleep at Heaven's Gate- BUY

After Rogue Wave, I saw Local Natives for the second time.  Again, the band was full of drive and power, even more so than on stage at the Fader Fort.  When Kelcey Ayer holds his guitar, one would swear that it’s shocking him with 10 carillion gigahertz (my Physics friends will not be proud of this measurement) while he holds on for dear life.  I found myself watching carefully to see if he was really ok, and oh…he was REALLY ok if you know what I mean.  I don’t know if this band made Spin’s top 51 picks for SXSW, but they should have.

MP3: Local Natives - Sun Hands (via Insound)
Taken from the debut album Gorilla Manor - BUY

To end my night, I made my way up a few blocks to Buffalo Billiards to see Broken Records and, finally (!!), Midlake.  Broken Records lit up the place with such brilliance that I’m pretty sure something cosmic sucked me right up to front and center stage.  The band produced wonderful folk-rock with strings, which made me do a mental wild-woman jig.  They were fun, solid and quite accomplished at not only their music, but also putting on a show to which no one could remain still.   Although Midlake was following them, the crowd groaned at the announcement of Broken Record’s last song.  That’s saying something, isn’t it?

And….finally….the best show of the day: Midlake.  I’ll start with the end: I had tears in my eyes.  They were either that good, or something about a flute makes me really emotional. Mid-show, I had the absolute luck of running into my friend, Dave Heilman, of the very awesome Jupiter One, whom I have never met live, but who has become a BFBF (Best Facebook Friend) over the past few months. What are the chances that someone you know (kind of) walks into a bar and stands right in front of you in the middle of SXSW?  Slim.  

MP3: Midlake - Roscoe (via Insound)
Taken from the album The Trials of Van Occupanther - BUY 

So, together we marveled at Midlake, who brought on an elegant, polished, professional performance, which was helpful in re-setting my reference point after a day full of music.  In fact, I’m not even qualified to write about this band as per my not-so-eloquent ‘tweet’, which summed up my feeling at 1:00 am and again at 1:00 pm: Something about Midlake commands you to stop frittering and think with heft. --kinda like a musical Bitch Slap”

After waiting for a cab for exactly one hour and sixteen minutes, I slid in next to a nice Finnish man who paid for my fare in exchange for sharing a cab. Thank you, nice Finnish man. I was dropped off, and subsequently dropped into bed where I thought two things:  i) I won’t commit to anything in writing tomorrow and ii) I hope my ears don’t start bleeding. 

Feel tired just reading the massive effort that goes into a day down in Austin? Diddums. Then get some shut eye and come back tomorrow to see just what a Friday night in such an environment will bring......a dull ache envelops my liver just considering it.

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