Friday, March 16th, 2007
SxSW XXI II
Interesting bit of trivia – with the exception of the trip back to the hotel last night, I have gotten lost every time I’ve gotten into my car. Not entirely my fault – they’re closing all different streets at different times this year than last. But for someone who sort of thinks they know their way around downtown Austin by now, it’s a bit embarrassing.
Anyway. Yesterday afternoon was spent at the famous Antone’s club (famous to blues fans, anyway) with the Spaceland/LiveDaily party that I was ostensibly co-presenting. Twelve hours on and I’m still not sure what that meant.
Monsters Are Waiting (Los Angeles, CA) @ Antone’s – Though I arrived a little late, the day also started a little late so I still caught most of MAW’s set. I saw them last year at a little club across the street and this larger space, with the fancy lights and all suited them better. Their new wavey rock and Annalee Fery’s twitchy/sexy stage persona works better when there’s a larger audience to witness it. Interestingly, this was the second time in the past 12 hours or so I’d heard someone play the bassline from “I Wanna Be Adored”. But while Minipop only soundchecked with it, Monsters gave it a proper cover. Which I think they also did last year. That’s okay.
Dirty On Purpose (Brooklyn, NY) @ Antone’s – Dirty On Purpose have been coming to SxSW as long as I have and it doesn’t seem like Sx unless I catch the boys somewhere somewhen. Their set seemed extra short with a couple new songs mixed in with Hallelujah Sirens selections and while it may have been a little early in the day for some to appreciate their fuzz-pop (or maybe just early for the band to be playing) I enjoyed their set as I always do. I also conducted a quick interview with them afterwards for LiveDaily which I’m going to see about getting the audio for and transcribing.
DATAROCK (Bergen, Norway) @ Antone’s – What you need to know: DATAROCK are Norwegian. They wear matching red track suits and red wraparound sunglasses. They play synth rock that’s as awesome as it is ridiculous, I think it’s all a matter of perspective. I personally went with the former. Entertainment personified.
Annuals (Raleigh, NC) @ Antone’s – These guys (and girl) have rather quickly busted out from the “blog favourite” ghetto and are building themselves quite the fanbase. Me, I don’t really get it. Their style of pop is ambitious and they’re all obviously accomplished enough musicians to pull it off but it’s all just a little too dense and (melo)dramatic to tickle my fancy. I felt that way about the album and the live show’s done nothing to convince me otherwise. Points for effort, though.
Blonde Redhead (New York, NY) @ Antone’s – And here’s where things go off the tracks. To this point, things were running around 15 minutes behind. Not ideal, but about what was to be expected. Blonde Redhead, whom I’ve only recently begun listening to with their excellent new record 23, were an exciting choice to headline and I – and the packed club – were excited to see them play. But first they had to soundcheck. For half an hour. They went on and on, testing and re-testing mics, samplers, whatever, before finally starting to play at 5PM. Of course, what we didn’t know at the time (but I suspect they did) was that there was a 5:15 curfew and after four songs and 15 minutes, the band said they were done and left. It’s a good thing that the show was free otherwise things would have gotten ugly – as it was, there was lots of grumbling from the attendees as they were shooed out the door. Even though what the band did play sounded great, it was still a pretty lousy situation. I was not impressed.
Shearwater (Austin, TX) @ The Central Presbyterian Church – The evening itinerary started at a little church at the north end of downtown where local heroes Shearwater played an amazing set. To hear Jonathan Meiburg’s vocals in a church’s acoustics while pounding out “Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five” on a grand piano was something to behold. Playing material from their soon-to-be revitalized Palo Santo as well as a couple of new songs, the band sounded more powerful than I’d imagined they could and their performance was simply jaw-dropping.
Joan As Police Woman (Brooklyn, NY) @ The Ale House – I wasn’t really familiar with JAPW before last night but went to her showcase based on the enthusiasm of some people whom I trust. Playing solo and alternating between guitar and keyboard, Joan Wasser struck me as someone you could classify as a singer-songwriter, but not much beyond that. You couldn’t call her folk, or blues, or even rock or pop – what she was was dark, acerbic, witty and a bit weird. But also quite enjoyable.
Cloud Cult (Minneapolis, MN) @ Emo’s Jr – This was another showcase attended based largely on the positive opinions of others. Objectively, they reminded me of Annuals in the complexity and ambitiousness of their pop music, but subjectively, I enjoyed their stuff much more. It’s less frantic and more elegiac-sounding, thanks in no small part to the cello and violin players’ contributions. I wasn’t blown away but it was a solid performance and positive first impression. They also get points for having the most original band merch – during their set, they had two members painting canvases onstage, and at the end they announced they would sell them via silent auction at the merch table. I don’t know how many takers they got, but the pieces were actually pretty nice. Certainly more unique than a t-shirt.
MySpace: Cloud Cult
The Dears (Montreal, QC) @ Stubb’s – I actually had no intention of seeing The Dears, but my plan of standing in line at Stubb’s for an hour was undone by the fact that there was no lineup. I walked right in, to the front and into the photo pit in under three minutes. Hey. But if there was ever a place The Dears were suited for, it’s a big festival stage with an audience ready and primed for some hyper-emotional and dramatic Brit-influenced rock. A good primer for the headliner, and Murray Lightburn had the quote of the day when he said, “Stick around for the next band and maybe you won’t have to ask me to autograph your Bloc Party CDs”. Golden.
MySpace: The Dears
Bloc Party (London, England) @ Stubb’s – Okay, sign me up for the Bloc Party fan club. I mentioned last week how much I was enjoying their new album A Weekend In The City but now that I’ve seen them live, I’m sold. Energetic, anthemic, charismatic and unbelievably tight, Bloc Party put on one hell of a show at Stubb’s that even if I had had to wait in line for an hour plus, it’d have been worth it. I can’t recall the last time I saw a band that simply owned such a large stage and still managed to make it feel intimite, though in a thoroughly rocking way? it may have been recently – I actually can’t recall. How many bands can say they got me to dance by myself in a field in Texas with 3000 strangers? Just one. A completely atypical SxSW experience in its stadium rock-osity but still sure to be one of the highlights of this week.
MySpace: Bloc Party
Hot Freaks today! If you come by the Mohawk or DeVille, find me and say hi. I’ll be the one with my feet in the epsom salts.