Seeing as Pat and I mostly saw the same bands yesterday I’ve let him handle the fine details in the post that follows. Delegation: it’s one of the marvels of being an editor. Suffice to say that SXSW is every bit as rad as I remember from last year assuming you have a badge and not a wrist-band.
I should explain. The festival basically has two tiers (well three if you count the people who come down here strictly for the free/unofficial showcases of which there are more than enough to keep even someone with the most miniscule attention span in a state of permanent glee) — there are badges and then there are wristbands. Folks with badges get to flit about from venue to venue spreading buzz and good vibes like pollin-crazed butterflies to sexy musical stamen (to abuse a metaphor). Folks with wristbands seem to spend much of their time standing outside venues in block-spanning lines since no one wristbands get in until everyone with a badge does.
The system works in that it gives people without $600 of petty cash kicking around a chance to see some pretty decent bils but it also means there are two entirely different festival experiences going on at any time. Wristbands are why SXSW has a reputation for long lines and frustration with tales of people standing around for hours hoping to spot their favourite band only to have a venue turn “badge only” at the last second. Badges are why the festival has a rep as a place where all your dreams come true — heck I’ve managed to see Akron/Family Jarvis Cocker M. Ward and School of Seven Bells and it’s only been a day.
It’s about time to run off and see Calgary’s own Women play at an Urban Outfitters down the street (since day parties are unofficial the badge/wristband divide disappears and lineups become a very real possibility) so I’ll leave you with Pat’s rundown. Hard to believe there’s still three more days of this to go:
Pat’s Obscenely Long Summary:
Note: You can follow my progress in real-time at http://www.twitter.com/pmjboyle (I admit it–twitter is a lot less lame than I had myself convinced it was…)
The day began with the killrockstars party Club Deville where the free breakfast tacos disappeared altogether too fast. Fortunately our clutch of Calgarians arrived early enough to snag a few; appetites were sated. Then we watched a band called Explode Into Color a trio of ladies performing churning rhythmic rock songs with vocals that were mostly shrieks and warbles. The day’s first pleasant surprise!
Our next stop was Red 7 for the Terrorbird party but along the way I ducked in at Red Eyed Fly drawn by the rocking Malkmus-esque riffs of the Upside-Down. Unfortunately when they launched into their next track the vocals were… awful? Hits and misses dear readers hits and misses. So it was on to Terrorbird.
First up on that bill was Wavves one of the most buzz-addled bands du jour on the market. Slated to play some ridiculous number of shows this week (I’ve heard 16?) the indie world’s next superstar is a wiry teenager with a floppy haircut slamming through riffs on his seemingly brand-new baby blue Strat. While the show was nothing short of a condensed cranked-to-the-max romp I can’t say I was terribly impressed music-wise. Fortunately chances are very high that I’ll be able to report back at some point later on in the week.
After watching another couple sets by Shout Out Out Out Out (awesome as always but what happened to Nik’s ponytail!?) and Loney Dear (meh to the max) we trekked back to the convention centre for a very special lecture from fake-professor Jarvis Cocker (Univ. of Common People) on the importance of lyrics in music. The talk which ran a slightly-uncomfortable 100 minutes interspersed notes from the speaker with examples of the principles mostly in the form of videos but with a few live performances thrown in for good measure. The cheeky brit tore apart lyrics by hacks like James Blunt while heaping praise upon classic talents like Gordon Lightfoot Leonard Cohen and… Eminem? Two high points:
– Jarvis’s performance of his first ever song about a girlfriend who only speaks in lines from Shakespeare. “Shakespeare Rock” indeed!
– A karaoke version of “Life” by Des’ree which was presented as an example of the pitfalls of excessive rhyming. Look it up: she rhymes “ghost” with “most” then “toast”. Yikes.
After the lecture we skipped the Canadian Blast BBQ (no time!) and beat a path to Mohawk to catch psych-hippie demons Akron/Family. As promised they were crazy loud and crazy energetic. They weren’t necessarily as tight as I would have hoped but they made up for it with intensity. The first few songs were mellow but morphed into a monster jam with a pair of hirsute redheads (Peter tells me they’re the band Megafaun) brought on stage to thicken up the tribal vibrations along with a pristine nordic specimen named Thor on the floor tom and a feather-garbed tambourine-smashing dancer urging the crowd to come along for the ride. As the set powered on well beyond its designated end time we could hear the sound guy screaming at the band through the monitors to get off the stage even as they tore through an abbreviated version of their new single “Everyone Is Guilty”–sublime even without its epic bridge. Watch for them in later posts this week and at the Calgary Folk Fest this summer!
A quick interlude between day and evening shows allowed for dinner with the boys from Azeda Booth and a trip back to the hotel to change into more forgiving footwear. Then it was across the street to the Central Presbyterian Church for Anni Rossi M. Ward and possibly more. A huge line had formed at the doors but our badges allowed us immediate entrance. Score!
Rossi’s style on the viola is a unique blend of pizzicato and lightning-fast bow strokes with percussive slaps and taps. Somehow she manages to out-tricky Andrew Bird and Final Fantasy both of whom are working with the advantage of a loop pedal which she eschews. Definitely worth checking out–an extremely compelling live performer.
Then it was M. Ward… What to say? To see him play is to see something absurdly good. His skill in the ways of folk guitar are otherworldly; it is straight-up guitar porn. His stage presence is a singularity writhing around a mic stand slapping his guitar with such vigor drawing out each vocal segment just-so. And the church–what a great setting!
My next stop was at Elysium–the city’s best dance club according to their marquee–to see Germany’s Boyz Noize. He was pretty rad for a DJ and there was plenty of enthusiasm but there was more head-bobbing than straight-up dancing and I was disappointed not to hear his hit single. Dang Dang Dang!
After that I returned to the Red Eyed Fly this time at their awesome outdoor stage to see Canadians Nick Thorburn (of Islands fame) and Jim Guthrie (of Jim Guthrie fame) in their Human Highway project. It sounded pretty awesome especially with the addition of a keyboard player formerly of the Barmitzvah Bros. according to Peter who was really into the show. The whole experience was somewhat soured by the fact that good old Nicky Diamonds appeared to be in an impenetrably pissy mood but he was nicely counterbalanced by consummate friendly man Guthrie who was dressed exactly as he was on the album cover.
One more stop at Central Presbyterian to see Camera Obscura was short-lived (disapointed with band church was sleepy-inducing hot etc.) and sent me towards 6th Street in search of delicious street meat. I was not disappointed! My italian sausage was an exquisite messy treat and while I waited I was treated to the sounds of Angry vs. the Bear (I think?) washing out the doors of a nearby bar. The night’s final stop was at Headhunters where the Black Diamond Heavies churned through a jaw-dropping set. Matching a tight drummer with a shirtless lunatic growling Waits-meets-Motorhead vocals over a heavily distorted Rhodes piano. I don’t have enough words (or time) to describe how good it was. Best surprise of the day! Go find them on
Myspace–they must be heard.