So yeah, I went to SXSW this year, my third year, and it was kind of a mixed experience. I enjoyed hanging out with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and met some rad new ones, but the whole thing left me feeling a little bit dirty. There is a part of the music industry that I love — the part about creative, passionate people working to further musical expression — but there’s also a part I don’t. That part has something to do with shady industry people and VIP parties in places like this, both of which soured my experience a little this year. Still, the good people outnumbered the bad, and so did the good music. Here’s what I saw:
Panther is Charlie from The Planet The doing broken electro trauma music. I’ve seen him a bunch of times in Portland, and was stoked to see how the whole thing would go over in non-Cascadian territory. I only caught the last song, which fortunately ended up being the one where he mimes being shocked by his backing synths. Standing there watching a small, pre-breakfast crowd of Panther-virgins watching a grown man writhing and whimpering on the floor, only to pop back up and start scat-rapping gibberish whilst dancing like a candy raver on crack (which may or may not be redundant) — that was the right way to start SXSW ’06.
Spider and the Webs
At this point I was eating free BBQ for breakfast (meat AND beans!) whilst chilling on a rooftop bar in the sunshine with friends. You could see the stage from the table too (FYI this is maybe the best way to see music ever) and on that stage performed Spider and the Webs. I was pretty into it – some sounded to straightforward for my ears, but others got into a nice groove, with shouty vocals and spazzy guitar. Someone told me later that Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill is in this band.
Mellow folky stuff. Sounded nice but I was distracted. I guess this guy is also the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s new touring guitarist, which is kind of surprising given the vast stylistic chasm between that music and his.
Tapes ‘n’ Tapes
These guys and Birdmonster where the big hype/buzz bands going into the festival. (And yeah, at this point pretty much whichever band Pitchfork gives Best New Music to closest to the festival will be one of those bands – see also: Love is All). Kind of old-school indie rock in the Modest Mouse vein, lots of cool guitar parts and gruff man vocals. I’ve been kind of “eh” on the recorded stuff, but live they had a lot of energy and the songs were way tight. Should be interesting to see what they do from here.
All I really remember about these guys is that they were crazy tight for such a young band, and the music kind of reminded me of At The Drive In (one of them was wearing an ATDI t-shirt no less). So that makes two for two SXSW buzz bands doing the return to straight-up indie rock thing. Interesting, given that the past couple years were all about Franz Ferdinand, MIA, LCD Soundsystem, Dizzee Rascal. If Ghostface hadn’t been such a huge presence I’d say we were in the midst of a slight electro/dancerock backlash. ???
Kind of Beta Band meets The Books. Some cool ideas here, but some of the melodies felt really simple when they were supposed to feel epic.
New band from a couple ex-Liars people. Sounds something like (surprise!) old Liars meets A-Frames, which sounds a lot more exciting than it reads. The rhythm section was fucking awesome, to the point that I found myself trying to pin down just why that cowbell sounded simultaneously completely unlike any other cowbell part ever and really really funky.
Another ex-members project, this time with guys from the Unicorns. Sounds like the poppest parts of that band (which were also my favorite parts) mixed with all kind of crazy world music influences, string sections, and cameos from Busdriver and Cadence Weapon. I ended up liking this a lot – just some way awesome riffs and choruses and lots of interesting freaky stuff to pad it out. And that’s pretty much my musical crack.
My dudes! I manage this band, and spent a ton of energy setting up this show and trying to hook up some more gigs to round out their Austin experience. The other gigs didn’t come through (lesson: SXSW is really geared towards helping labels promote artists, so it’s tough if you’re not on a label), but this one did. When I say this one, I mean the opening slot at the coveted FADER magazine day party, which always has lines down the block and big name bands. Unfortunately the doors opened right as Blitzen went on, so the crowd was mostly industry people looking to check them out. This is good thing of course, but a little nerve-wracking for the band themselves. And then Eric’s freaking guitar broke! He’s had the thing for years and it decides to take a crap the one time he’s travelled 50+ hours to play one show. Geez. Anyway, they managed way better than I ever could, and people left smiling.
Surprise favorite! I went to see Spankrock, and these guys were on when I got there. Totally futuristic beats and crazy energetic MCs. Did I mention they were rapping in French? They were, but STOKED defies language.
The picture kind of says it, really. Party vibes!
My favorite show of the weekend. I’ve been meaning to check these guys out for a long time, and they did not disappoint. For the last song they bought up this superfun in the audience, who proceeded to shout “MY DREAM COME TRUE! MY DREAM COME TRUE!” thoughout the jammy breakdown. Jaded veneers cracked, people laughed and smiled, and I remembered I was AT A SHOW. A really good one, too.
The guy with the afro in TV On The Radio. I like the band, but this was kind of boring, singer-songwritery for me. Maybe it was all the free Red Stripes and jabbering in the FADER tent (see below).
I was sitting on a car seat drinking beer and talking through this. The above shot was my view from the chair. DISTRACTED. Which is a shame because I like what I’ve heard from this guy.
Love is All
Again distracted, but not enough to realize, hey, I like this band. They’ve got the Slits vibe (I like the Slits) and the melodies are catchy as hell (I like the catchy melodies). Bought the CD when I got back – the first two tracks are awesome, the verdict’s out on the rest.
I have no memory of this, but I was facing the stage the whole time, and the person I was standing with for part of the time later said it was amazing. I suck!
Gang of Four
[Special thanks to Dave Allen for the rad video!]
Amazing, as ever. This show was on the roof of a freaking parking garage. Pretty awesome end to the weekend, I’d say.
PS: I’d swear Hugo is a drum machine in this clip.