Sunday, March 18th, 2007
SxSW XXI IV
And that’s a wrap. I was actually back at the hotel a good two hours earlier than I’d originally planned, on account of a) being bloody tired and b) being pretty sure there was no way I was getting into any more shows. And that suited me fine. My day – my festival – peaked around 4:00 yesterday afternoon when the audience leapt onstage at Club DeVille with The Rosebuds and danced through the end of their set. Witnessing a moment like that of pure musical joy at a party that I’d helped put together… seriously, one of the best feelings ever and a moment that’ll stick with me a long time.
I’ll get more into the whole Hot Freaks experience in my proper SxSW wrap-up in a couple days, but I will say that though it was a lot more work and stress than I’d anticipated when I signed up, it was totally worth it. But for now, the post-mortem from the fourth and final day at SxSW 2007.
The Broken West (Los Angeles, CA) @ The Mohawk Patio – It was as much a testament to the strength of our lineup as it was the fact that The Broken West had to be elsewhere in the afternoon that they opened up day two with their top-notch power pop, delivered with great energy. I can’t wait to see them at the ElMo next week (the 27th) when I’m able to pay a little more attention to their set.
The Hylozoists (Toronto, ON) @ Club DeVille – Though there were more people onstage than in the audience, the Hylos still gave their all and sounded huge and magnificent. I’d seen a compact version of the band perform before but with a full lineup, their widescreen cinematic sound was just stunning. A welcome punctuation of orchestrated calm and beauty in a sea of guitar rock. Looking forward to seeing them again at the Tranzac on May 3.
The Early Years (London, England) @ The Mohawk Patio – And then it was from The Hylozoists’ vibraphone orchestra to The Early Years’ blisteringly loud guitar rock. While it was obvious that they were a bit unaccustomed to playing in the bright Texas noonday sun, they still turned in a monumental display of space rock the way only the English know how to do. The gentler and more atmospheric numbers from their album were left on the shelf in favour of the goes-to-11 eardrum attackers. Absolutely scorching and a very welcome dose of Britannia to the lineup.
Prototypes (Paris, France) @ Club DeVille – I only popped over to see Prototypes and their Gallic synth rock for a few minutes. Just took some pictures, shook some ass and went on my way.
Frog Eyes (Victoria, BC) @ The Mohawk Patio – Frog Eyes continued an epidemic of string-breakage amongst all the bands, likely thanks to the past three days of heavy gigging. Carey Mercer’s D-string gave up the ghost only a few songs in but he carried on and simply played the other five that much harder. I’ve never really been a fan of the band but I was impressed with their show, which was definitely equal parts rocking and weird, but all wonderful. I may have to revisit their stuff.
Land Of Talk (Montreal, QC) @ Club DeVille – Having played five shows in the previous three days, Land Of Talk were about as honed to razor-sharpness as any band could be. Taut and awesome despite some technical speed bumps along the way (more broken strings!), their performance was as good as I’ve seen them. You can bet I was happy to see the size of the crowd grow steadily and more enthusiastic as their show went on.
The Ponys (Chicago, IL) @ The Mohawk Patio – It was about now that the staggered times of the three stages were drifting further apart and closer together, so as a result I was only able to catch the last song of The Ponys’ set. But it was explosive and made me think that it’s a shame I’ll probably still be asleep, recovering from SxSW, when they play Lee’s Palace on March 29.
Asobi Seksu (Brooklyn, NY) @ The Mohawk Patio – Almost every time I’ve seen Asobi Seksu, they ask that the stage lights keep getting turned lower and lower so I admit a sense of satisfaction in seeing them onstage in the bright afternoon sun, having to suck it up. They were typically loud and excellent and capped their set with a good old fashioned stage invasion by the audience, though as I mentioned above it wouldn’t be the last of the day.
The Rosebuds (Raleigh, NC) @ Club DeVille – I saw the Rosebuds open for Teenage Fanclub a couple years ago but don’t remember them being nearly as funky or dance-friendly as they were yesterday. Sure, they’re still a power pop band at heart but the angles from which they approach it are pretty fresh and, as evidenced by the aforementioned audience participation dance party on stage to close their set, effective. Overflowing buckets of fun.
Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s (Indianapolis, IN) @ The Mohawk Patio – The intention had been to have all the other stages finish up before the main one so that everyone could partake in the headliners. Unfortunately, it didn’t shake out that way and a choice had to be made between the Polyphonic Spree’s sunshiney feel-good finale or Margot’s downbeat denoument. Naturally, I selected the latter. Margot and the Spree had to trade stages since the former’s 20+ members wouldn’t have fit on the Mohawk stage but the So & Sos, being no slouches in the band personnel department either, had to cram pretty hard to get everyone up there. With both Richard Edwards and Emily Watkins sporting goth-approved dyed black hair, the band previewed some new material and aired out some old, much to the delight of the nearly packed audience (and myself, this being my first opportunity to see them since Sx last year). It was hard to tell what kind of mood they were in, but the set was rather fiercer than I’d expected and the finale suitably cacophonous. I’m sorry I missed seeing The Spree but not sorry at all that I chose to watch Margot’s set as the grand finale.
If it seems that I’m saying every band that played our show was excellent, it’s because it was true. Amazingly, every act seemed to bring their A-game, even for a day show. Maybe it was because it was the last day of SxSW and for most of the bands, their last shows so there was no reason not to leave everything out there. But whatever the reason, the net result was collectively one of the best days of music I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. That was the high point of the day. The low point was when I accidentally sat in gum.
But after the headiness of the day, the official evening showcases seemed like a bit of a let down. I had stuff I wanted to see at 8PM and 12:45AM, but in-between was stuff I was only mildly enthusiastic about and unlikely to be able to get into anyway. As it happened, I bailed on trying to see The Tragically Hip at Antone’s, as novel as that’d have been, because the value of the extra two hours of sleep I got for not staying out that late far outweighed any nostalgia points I’d get for hearing “At The Hundredth Meridian” again, if I even got into the club. So instead I saw whatever I could, which wasn’t much, and called it a year.
My Latest Novel (Glasgow, Scotland) @ Buffalo Billiards – I skipped some three or four of their shows in Toronto last weekend during Canadian Music Week, so I felt a bit obliged to see them here. I found their set strangely solemn, starting out slowly and only building to any sort of a climax after three or four songs. Granted, Wolves isn’t exactly a dance party record but for a band that looks (and is) so young, it’s strange to see such seriousness on display. It didn’t detract at all from the loveliness of the songs but did make for a strange presentation.
The Electric Soft Parade (Brighton, England) @ Cedar Street Courtyard – I had meant to see ESP the previous night but didn’t, so thanks to their double booking I got a second chance. This show was part of an extremely odd lineup that started with The Watson Twins and ended with Redman. I used to have their debut album Holes In The Wall and while I enjoyed their songcraft, I was put off by the overly-slick and fiddly production. Happily, perhaps as a result of their off-the-cuff aesthetic in Brakes or maybe simply because that’s how they are live, they sounded a good deal looser and more energetic than listening to the record might have suggested. Playing loud, punchy guitar rock with a distinct British accent, they were obviously happy to be capping an intense week at SxSW. My interest in the band has been re-piqued so I’m looking forward to hearing their new one No Need To Be Downhearted when it comes out April 30. Here’s hoping they forgot how to (over)use ProTools.
Palomar (New York, NY) @ Habana Calle 6 Patio – Ideally I’d have been able to wrap up my SxSW experience with something grand and finale-worthy, but instead I stood in line at Habana Called 6 for fifteen minutes at the Absolutely Kosher/Misra showcase to try and see New York’s Palomar. The three-girl, one-guy outfit offer up punchy guitar pop that jangles and riffs in all the right places and combined with their four-part vocals and sharp wit are a real indie-pop treat. Their new album All Things Forest is out on Tuesday.
And then I went home. As I mentioned before, I’ve got random thoughts and observations about this year’s Sx as a whole, but will save that for later. But for now, I’m signing off from Austin. See you from back in the Big Smoke. Thanks for reading.