Wednesday, March 18th, 2009
Dusk Till Dawn
Six acts to watch at SxSW 2009
LadyhawkeHello from sunny – and goodness, is it sunny – Austin, Texas, where I will be spending the next five days or so inundating you with dispatches from SxSW Music that you probably care nothing about. I’m okay with that. The blow-by-blow will start tomorrow, but for today I’ll do the preview thing, listing off a half-dozen of the new or new-to-me acts that I’m most looking forward to seeing over the next four days and nights.
I admit to feeling a twinge of guilt when I listen to New Zealander Pip Brown, aka Ladyhawke, but any reservations I have about enjoying something so utterly and unabashedly ’80s retro evaporate right about the moment the chorus kicks in. My initial experience with “Paris Is Burning,” for example, went something like “oh my god I hope she’s paying Gary Numan royalt– OMG ENDORPHIN RUSH”, and that buzz recurs all throughout the record. You must understand, I grew up in the ’80s and as much as I might want to deny it for cred’s sake, that shit is absolutely baked into my DNA. Hell, I even loved the Matthew Broderick movie that’s Brown’s creative namesake. The synths, the guitars, the glossy sonics, the massive pop hooks, all of it triggers something very deep and primal and it will not be denied. On her 2008 self-titled debut, Brown manages to shed the really dubious aspects of the 1980s production aesthetic and just keep the good stuff. Or maybe she doesn’t and I’m in too deep to realize it. But you know what? I don’t care.
Ladyhawke’s official showcase goes tonight at Stubb’s at 10PM. Brown has been diagnosed with Aspberger’s Syndrome and apparently is still getting used to live performance but she doesn’t have to make eye contact – just play “Back Of The Van”. I’m really looking forward to this set. Like, totally.
The Telegraph has a feature on Ladyhawke.
Though they’re decidedly overused as reference points, in the case of London’s Fanfarlo, the Arcade Fire really are an apt reference point. Just imagine if they were more folkish, less angsty and their frontman sounded like a more lilting David Byrne rather than the tightly-wound, live wire variety. I suspect that this isn’t the most compelling description of the band and for that I apologize, but their latest album Reservoir is really a grand and sweeping record with the aforementioned characteristics and is definitely worth your time. Their official showcase is on Friday at 9PM at the Central Presbyterian Church, but if you can’t make that they’re playing a number of unofficial shows throughout the week.
Channel M had the band in their studios for a five-song video session.
Leeds’ Sky Larkin should be familiar to anyone who reads this site, so introductions should be unnecessary. Sufficed to say that I’m glad to finally have a chance to see them live at midnight Wednesday evening on Red 7’s patio, even if they are going to be in Toronto in a couple weeks at the Opera House opening for Los Campesinos! on April 1.
This Is Fake DIY reports that the band’s next single, “Antibodies”, will be released on cassette tape. Oh, Sky Larkin.
I don’t even know when/where/how I stumbled across Austin’s Ume but I’m so very glad I did. Loud and abrasive but with a gooey pop center, they sound to me like Belly covering Nirvana – remember, even though I grew up in the ’80s, I came of age in the ’90s and a combination like that is irresistible. If they can rip it up live the way they do in their video, this is going to as good as I’m hoping. They play at 7:30 tonight at Maggie Mae’s.
Crocodile are from Oklahoma and sound nothing like the Flaming Lips. Just to be clear. What they do sound like is chirpy, female-fronted guitar pop with just the right dollop of synth in the mix. No angle on this one – just catchy, straight-ahead good tunes. Not to be confused with Crocodiles, who will also be in Austin this week, albeit in an unofficial (no SxSW showcase) capacity. Crocodile (singular) are on at 8 tonight on the rooftop of Wave.
I’d been hoping for a chance to see Athens, Georgia’s Venice Is Sinking since first hearing their debut Sorry About The Flowers back in 2006, but figured it was unlikely they’d ever find cause or opportunity to tour this far north. Happily, the release of the follow-up Azar, out March 31, has garnered the band a SxSW showcase – tonight at 10PM at Ace’s Lounge – where I’ll finally get to savour their lush orch-gaze in person. Yes, I said orch-gaze. Shut up.
And that’s just a tiny, tiny sample of the stuff I have on my radar this week. Obviously I won’t see nearly all of it but it’s good to have options. If you’re curious, check out my sched at sched.org and if there’s something I simply must see that’s not on there, lemme know. And I just realized that five of the six aforementioned picks are playing tonight. Go Wednesday!
And some related bits from acts showcasing at SxSW this week.
Austin’s Voxtrot are back, just a little. They’ve offered up a new track to download. Work continues on album number two.
Exclaim reports that Echo & The Bunnymen will be releasing a live, orchestrally-enhanced version of Ocean Rain recorded last November in Liverpool, on or around May 1. Needless to say, I’m excited to be seeing them – finally – this week, if in somewhat less auspicious settings than the Liverpool Echo Arena. Which isn’t to say a gay Texan cowboy bar won’t have its own unique charm.
Camera Obscura has released a video for the first single from My Maudlin Career, out April 21, and I daresay this is easily the band’s best album yet. They play Hot Freaks at the Mohawk on Saturday afternoon at 5PM.
And a non-SxSW note – to everyone who actually bit on that Stone Roses reunion rumour… silly silly silly silly silly. Everyone knows they’re in Austin to play Stubb’s on Friday night with Metallica. And The Beatles.