Thursday, March 16th, 2006
SxSW XX I
One down, three to go. Okay kids, you’re getting quick capsule reviews of everything I saw yesterday, in order. As you’ll see, I spent pretty much the whole day and night at Emo’s. Thank Kork and Polyvinyl for that. But anyway, let’s begin.
The Herms (San Francisco, California) @ Emo’s Annex – First band of the fest! Caught just a few songs since I actually showed up early for the next set. Rather jaunty indie rock, decent if undistinctive sound. Jangle and bleeps.
Phosphorescent (Athens, GA) @ Emo’s Annex – A 10-piece, cracked country gospel jamboree loaded down with horns, toy percussion, duelling drummers and a singer with Christmas lights sewn into his jacket. Big and glorious-sounding, and I’m not just saying that because I got my wristband from them.
Magneta Lane (Toronto, ON) @ Emo’s Annex – Hogtown represent! The power-punk-pop trio was a little sloppy and looked like they’d just woken up, and by the time they started getting the energy levels up the bass amp blew up. An inauspicious Texas debut, but they’ll have many more opportunities over the week to make up for it and try and impress.
Skeletons & The Girl-Faced Boys (Brooklyn, NY) @ Emo’s Jr – Crazy psychedelic hippies.
Bright Channel (Denver, CO) @ Red Eyed Fly – Good old fashioned space rock. Jazzmasters and pedals ahoy!
The Octopus Project (Austin, TX) @ Red Eyed Fly – One of the buzz bands of this festival and apparently winners of a MySpace contest, they absolutely packed Red Eyed Fly with local supporters. Throngs of them! Imagine Boards Of Canada, Stereolab and, uh, Trail Of Dead all mashed together. Intense instrumental tunes that graft bleepy, organic electronica melodies and sounds over top punishing guitars, bass and drums. Definitely interesting and unique.
Shearwater (Austin, TX) @ Emo’s – Shearwater played the first of many shows this week with a stripped-down, 4-piece lineup that still managed to recreate their beautifully ghostly, gothic folk. Really, it’s all in Jonathan Meiburg’s voice – it alone can give you chills. Probably not the last time I’ll be seeing them before I leave town.
Charles Bissell (Teaneck, NJ) @ The Lair Upstairs – Flying solo from The Wrens, Bissell used loopers and his guitar to build dense, layers of sounds and backing tracks. Not an uncommon trick these days, but still sounded impressive and distinctly Wrens-ish. The exact context of the material he played was unclear – old material? New material? Solo material?
Page France (Baltimore, MD) @ Emo’s Annex – The blogosphere favourites opened up the official portion of the festivale (read: night shows) with a set of bouncy, happy, clappy pop tunes. I missed the first bit looking for parking.
Headlights (Champaign, IL) @ Emo’s Jr – Much love for Headlights. So much energy onstage and they looked to be having such a great time. Noise and melody, living happily together. Everything from The Enemies EP sounded terrific and the new material, though a little less poppy and heavier, also impressed.
Field Music (Sunderland, England) @ Emo’s – I don’t know if these guys get tired of having Maximo Park and The Futureheads namechecked in every writeup, but if so, they have no one to blame but themselves. Definitely working with the Northern England sound (you know the one), they’re a little less manic and hooky than their compatriots, they didn’t do much for me at first but by the end of their set I was beginning to come around.
Serena Maneesh (Oslo, Norway) @ Emo’s – Serena Maneesh came out, destroyed their gear, destroyed our eardrums, destroyed the stage and left the audience stupefied. And that was just the first song. Amped up beyond all reasoning, the Norwegians were a thunderstorm of bandanas, eyeshadow, flailing guitars and psychotic sound. You really couldn’t hear anything but the drums and bass and a wall of guitars, but that’s okay. It really was. Whoo.
Of Montreal (Athens, GA) @ Emo’s – This was the band the kids came to see. I had no idea Of Montreal were so popular, but there you go – the audience was crying, screaming, gnashing teeth, rending clothes… okay, actually it was Kevin Barnes who was rending his clothes, coming out on stage dressed as a bride and then attacked and stripped by his bandmates before they launched into a thoroughly entertaining set of discoesque pop. Barnes’ has made his mission in life to teach the indie kids to dance again, and judging from the rapturous response, he’s succeeded.
Saturday Looks Good To Me (Ann Arbor, MI) @ Emo’s Jr – Fred Thomas has made good on his promise to completely overhaul his band, as the outfit he took the stage with last night was a far cry from the mini orchestra that so impressed at SxSW last year. They’re now a stripped-down four-piece and he has assumed all vocal duties. Most of the material they played was from the forthcoming new album and it was decidedly noisier, rawer and less obviously retro than Summer Songs or Every Night, but still hook-tacular. A fine way to close out the night.
All my concertation about getting a photo pass seems to have been unnecessary, because no one seems to care this year. Which suits me fine. Many pics are forthcoming, but probably not till I get home. Simply no time to get through them right now – as you can see, I’m barely getting these writeups done before the next day’s madness begins… speaking of which Prefix has Thursday recommendations for SxSW. I have to go over my sched again. No idea where I’m supposed to be today.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, The Toronto Star previews Jenny Lewis’ show at the Opera House tonight and NOW talks to The National about getting The Boss’ seal of approval. The National are at the ‘Shoe next Wednesday.
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np – Film School / Film School