[Live: SXSW 2012]
I’m writing this partly because I enjoyed SXSW, but mostly because I want to wind up Achal for not being there. Bwahaha. SORRY MATE. Anyway, this was my first trip to Texas and I didn’t even have time to play Cowboys and Indians. Pretty gutted.
[KM: We dunno what an Achal is]
Austin during mid-March is an assault on your senses, liver and personal space. 6thstreet in particular, where every other building seems to be a bar. Music bears down on you from all angles. It’s an overwhelming experience, especially for a newbie like me.
So, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? By running between stages like a madman and trying to see as much music as humanly possible. Earplugs are a necessity.
1. The Apache Relay
Let’s go right back to the start, Tuesday night at the Bat Bar, which incidentally has a shot bar at the back. In a way, I’m glad we don’t really do this in London. I’d be ruined. The Apache Relay kicked things off and provided us with folky Nashville ditties. Yep, you heard right – apparently there’s more to Tennessee than country music. I enjoyed this band, partly because they have a violin and violins are bloody brilliant.
The Apache Relay – State Trooper
2. Youth Lagoon
Wednesday was particularly brilliant thanks to Youth Lagoon. It’s worth pointing out at this juncture that I’ve listened to ‘The Year of Hibernation’ more than you’ve had hot dinners. Narrowly avoided a fanboy moment when I brushed past Trev at the bar he was about to play. He was being fawned over by some old-enough-to-know-better blokes anyway. It could so nearly have been me buying him a drink and saying “Montana was so, y’know, real. It made me cry”. He was as good as expected. His voice seemed slightly more tortured than I remembered on the record, somehow, but all the songs translated nicely to the live setting. It was a short set – probably because he was playing like 10 shows at SX.
Later that evening was the Frenchkiss party – and the annoyingly named 1,2,3 from Pittsburgh, who you may be familiar with after previous jaunts to our shores including shows at Club NME and Great Escape. The distinctive and flamboyant voice of Nic Snyder combined with endless catchy hooks made them very watchable live. I was quite drunk by this point. It wouldn’t exactly be a party without a few bevvies now, would it?
[KM: Or more to the point, you simply wouldn't be you, would you buddy?]
1,2,3 – Scared But Not That Scared
This brings us nicely to Thursday.
4. Clock Opera
Clock Opera, at risk of being Captain Obvious, are pretty damn good. What is their genre again? Chop pop? Let’s forget about that and focus on the positives. Synth driven, but held together by Guy Connolly’s delicate voice, they’ve got the lot. I’m pretty sure that this is the band that Elbow would be if they made interesting music. I’m not going to link to one of their tracks because if you’ve not heard them yet, you’re living under a rock and need to learn how to Google. I did get a great pic of them at Maggie Mae’s juxtaposed with some blonde lady’s short haircut though. SEE ABOVE.
5. The Mowgli’s
I also caught a cracking band called The Mowgli’s. I’m 99% sure that apostrophe shouldn’t be there BUT IT IS. That represents misuse, right? It was rowdy party folk music, harmonica and all. Maybe even a bit of pop-punk in there too. The live show had everyone dancing during the mid-afternoon lull – that alone is worthy of a great big gold medal. This was also the point that I discovered the bar had cider. Didn’t realise it had made it to Texas.
The Mowgli’s – San Francisco
6. Ramona Falls
A short nap later and it was time to head to the Barsuk showcase for Ramona Falls at the Red Eyed Fly, an interesting little venue that looks like it’s been ripped apart by a tornado. Half open air, half indoors. Having been (and still am) a huge fan of Menomena, it was great to see the Brent Knopf’s new project for the first time. They didn’t disappoint (although the tree in front of me did), driving through a collection of old and new songs.
They’re also responsible for the best video ever.
The night took a tumble at this point, though. Family Records made us aware of the Girl Talk/Nike secret show happening on 5th Street. Unfortunately, no priority was given to badges what-so-ever. After much gesticulating, we managed to bribe the guy on the door to give us a couple of wristbands but by this point the queue was one-in-one-out. I need to see Girl Talk again soon. Someone book him for London, please.
7. Andrew WK
Fresh from this disappointment, we went to see Andrew WK. Literally the only man I wanted to see at that moment other than Girl Talk. He didn’t disappoint. Roaring through a set full of stage diving (often from 8ft amps) and a baying crowd, he ended with a predictable little number. Everyone was happy after this. Somehow I managed this review without mentioning the P word.
So, we hit Friday.
8. Team Me
I managed to wake up before midday, somehow, and went to see a morning show by Team Me. With a distinctively Scandinavian sound – think a less proggy version of Mew – they soon woke everyone up. I was a little disturbed by the amount of drinking taking place at 11am though.
9. Vintage Trouble
Then we swung by Parkside. Many weary figures entered The Orchard party, but HOW good were Vintage Trouble? These guys are regularly compared to acts as diverse as James Brown and Led Zep. And now I know why. It was a pleasure to watch them whip up the crowd into a frenzy and then make them sit down while being serenaded by singer Ty Taylor. Get into their Bush Hall shows at all costs.
Vintage Trouble – Nobody Told Me
10. The Static Jacks
After this, we checked out The Static Jacks – not just because Laissez Faire Club would kill us if we missed them, but because they’re a rip-roaring live act. A packed house at the Dirty Dog (no description of this venue required) lapped it up, with singer Ian Devaney’s voice straining for more throughout. It’s no surprise that they’re compared to fellow New Jersey residents, The Gaslight Anthem.
11. Crystal Fighters
Later in the night, we stumbled upon The Parish. I bought a round of shots, requesting “anything that isn’t sambuca or tequila” and we caught Crystal Fighters. Plenty of dancing was had, but my memory is extremely hazy. They definitely played Plage. I also remembered that my favourite Crystal Fighters track is actually a remix by D/R/U/G/S.
OK, so now we were feeling the heat. So many 4am finishes take their toll on the body. Mark was buggering off back to Blighty, so I was left carrying the Union Jack for The Orchard.
First up, I went to meet Eric of The Wild Honey Pie fame at Peckerheads. It was timed perfectly so we could catch Reptar. Playing their 7th show in 3 days you’d think they’d be jaded, but they weren’t in the slightest. Definitely one of the most energetic and fun acts of the whole week. They have a unique brand of sun-kissed jangly pop songs, a whole host of weird influences and a guitarist who dons the coolest power-stances you’ll ever see. LOVE their geeky website too: http://reptarmusic.com/
Reptar – Sebastian
13. Creed Bratton
Another highlight of Saturday was recognising the name of Creed Bratton from The Office (US) on the lineup. It was decided that we HAD to go see him, so we took a pedicab and rolled up to the Palm Door. His folky singer-songwriter songs seemed largely unappreciated by a crowd who had clearly just turned up because he’s, well, Creed. Ourselves included.
One of my favourite live bands on the planet right now is Givers. They have gallons of energy and perhaps fittingly were the last band I saw at SXSW, at the dreadfully named Chevrolet Sound Garage. We tied to sneak a friend in without a badge via an emergency exit but got promptly shutdown. Anyway, back to the music. The key ingredient is the singer/drummer/ukulele player Tiffany. Her enthusiasm and passion is so infectious it’s impossible to leave feeling ungratified. It’s like there was a party in my ears and Givers were invited.
And so that was it. I went back home and waved goodbye to the glorious Tex-Mex food and BBQ, no more Dos Equis. Roll on next year.
Words: Chris Duncan
Pictures: Chris Duncan, apart from the one’s we’ve stolen for various bands.