SXSW Recap: South By South Wednesday
The hordes of people were out Wednesday, in all their hip-hop, hipster, too-stylish-for-80-degree-weather fashion glory. The funny thing about the music portion of SXSW is that it’s basically a drunken runway show. Wednesday’s music lineup was killer though, so who really cares?
As always, it’s a struggle of planning and chanting to yourself, “I won’t find the unicorn. Don’t chase the unicorn.” Or, in other words, you aren’t going to get to see EVERY single thing you want to. There are so many bands and so many shows, you will never find the magical key that unlocks time travel. For SXSWednesday, I tried to keep it more like South By Serendipitous. Having only picked out a few shows to see throughout the day, the hours in between were left to stumble around and see whatever bands I could. It worked out pretty well.
Early in the day The Consequence of Sound Cosigns Party was a good place to get your feet wet. The venue is dark and cold, and CoS put together a great early lineup. Wampire was playing the Parish (upstairs) when I got there. These dudes were pretty interesting. It was distorted rock with some dream pop elements. The synth added in gave The Strokes-ish sound a space element, like if Julian Casablancas sang in the Milky Way in 1986. Unlike most SXSW day parties, the set was pretty close to a full 45 minutes.
Downstairs at The Parish Underground three Canadian chicks and a dude, White Lung, played their little punk rock hearts out until the drummer broke her bass pedal and the rest of the set went to shit. The head-banging was sincerely high level for 1:30 pm, even for SXSW. The rice-cake thin lead singer was a surprise of ferocity. Those blonde bangs sure fooled me until she started rockin’ out and talking shit to the crowd. White Lung was memorable, if you like to kick and punch the air from time to time.
The Fader Fort, one of the most popular venues in all of SXSW wasn’t too packed when I headed over yesterday to holler at Matt and Kim. While I was hanging around, I got to see Nu Sensae perform a couple songs and HOLY LEAD VOICE Batman, that girl can growl! The over-size Neil Young tee was in no way a pre-cursor to what came out of the lead singer’s mouth. If there was a depth to scream-growling into the microphone, she would have it. These punkers went hard, looked like 90’s era grungers and produced an admirably riotous sound for a trio.
RDGLDGRN was next on the lineup and those Virginia boys did it well. The three dudes, dressed in (yeah) Red, Gold and Green had a lot of energy and were another WTF moment at SXSWednesday. Upon them first taking the stage, it looked as though the lead singer was going to lay verse over the other two guys’ guitar and bass. Although that was a majority of their set, RDGLDGRN worked a lot of rock into their set. Imagine Young the Giant having a couple of rap verses in their songs, then turn around for a backbeat and bass heavy rhythm like any traditional rap song.
East Austin is known as being the stomping grounds for “the hipsters of Austin” but in reality it’s maybe the biggest visible chunk of the “Keep Austin Weird” vibe. The bars are eclectic, well put together and have KILLER sound. At Paptino’s yesterday afternoon I was fortunate enough to catch a non-crowded hour-long set from The Sheepdogs. Remember that contest Rolling Stone had a while back, where America cast its vote and picked the first unsigned band to ever be on the cover? Well, The Sheepdogs won and rightly so. Another Canadian band, these dudes look like they fell straight out of the best part 70’s rock. Take 2 parts Almost Famous, 1 part Dr. Hook and 1 part internet-age and voila! You have The Sheepdogs. The reason these guys don’t fall into the trying-too-hard category of 70’s imitators is because these guys are very talented musicians. They’ve found the thing that they are the best at. Listening to them is all-encompassing.
After foraging for free tacos in a line as long as the Mississippi, John McCauley from Deer Tick sent me a message via ESP that his show was going to be real special. What does one do when faced with the choice of The Black Angels or John McCauley and Friends? Go to John McCauley cause he’s a tad depraved and has a silver tooth. McCauley opened with three solo acoustic songs, one of which was “Cake and Eggs.” If you haven’t heard “Cake and Eggs” yet, fire up the Spotify immediately and check it out. McCauley has grown, his hair is long, he still has a twinkle of mischief in his eye, yet not like before. He playing seemed a bit tamer than past Deer Tick shows. Next, McCauley’s old friend Brendon Massei came on stage and the duo played four more songs. “If you like Deer Tick, you’ll love this guy. Deer Tick wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for him,” McCauley said of Massei. The rest of Deer Tick came out then and they sang a few songs as well. The most memorable part of the show was after McCauley had been on stage for nearly 45 minutes already and some of the members of Grupo Fantasma took the stage. This new lineup included three horns, a singer, and a couple of other dudes as well. That means there were close to 10 people on stage near the end of the show. It was magical.