Friday, March 19th, 2010
SxSW 2010 Day Two
Slow Club, The Morning Benders, Ume and more at SxSW
Frank YangBeyond the pleasure of being able to attach one’s name to a lineup of great acts that you can (mostly) whole-heartedly endorse, one of the big perks of presenting a day show at SxSW is that it gives you an excuse to NOT run around the city all day from showcase to showcase. If you’ve done your job in curating well enough, there’s no real reason you’d want to be anywhere but your own show. And so most all of yesterday afternoon was spent at a parking lot just on the wrong side of I35 where Eastbound & Found, the party put together by myself and esteemed bloggers and sponsors.
Freelance Whales were generous enough to take one of the earliest spots, their peppy co-ed indie-pop almost the perfect thing to rouse the keeners who were on site at the break of noon. At times I find them almost a bit too chirpy but there’s usually a hook or melody waiting just around to corner to get me back onside. Their show at the El Mocambo with Cymbals Eat Guitars on April 6 is probably a bit too soon for me to need to see them again, but I’m perfectly happy to have them opening for Shout Out Louds at the Mod Club on May 8.
Down the hill at the south stage, Toronto’s Diamond Rings was letting his unicorn flag unfurl, dishing out electro beats perfectly suited to the bright, sunny weather – same songs but somehow different vibe from his Canadian Musicfest gig last week. The crowd was pretty sparse to begin with but as Freelance Whales’ set ended and people discovered there was a second stage (not the easiest to locate without signage), they filled in and danced. And there was even some celeb-spotting, as Little Boots – who’s even littler in person/off stage than you’d think – was in attendance and tweeted her approval.
Back at the mainstage, Austin’s own Ume were setting up to shred some faces – they were one of my top discoveries of last year’s fest so I was very pleased to have them playing our show, and not just because a daytime performance meant I’d have enough light to try and capture Lauren Larsen’s guitar heroics on film (well, digital sensor). As they’ve done every time I’ve seen them, they played a demolishing set of pure rock drawn from their Sunshower EP as well as new material that will hopefully be out sooner rather than later. The only difference from past shows was that Larsen’s axe-mangling didn’t end with her on her knees, strangling notes out of her Fender – the painful-looking skin marks on her legs made it clear that there’d already been a little too much of that before this show.
Next up were Los Angeles’ Warpaint, who despite taking a kind of meandering approach to their set – were they soundchecking? Jamming? Playing songs? – walked a very appealing line of musical experimentation and pop sensibilities. I was only able to stick around for a couple of songs, but was intrigued enough that their remaining shows for the week – and there were a lot of them still – all stayed on my schedule so I could hear some more. Odds are I won’t, but it won’t be for lack of trying. Or wanting to try.
Back down at the second stage was one of my picks for the party, Sheffield’s Slow Club, whose debut Yeah, So? has been one of my favourite debuts of the year (in North America, anyways – it came out in the UK last Summer). Evidently I wasn’t the only one won over by the drum-and-guitar duo, as there was a small but very enthused audience gathered for their set of wonderfully hepped-up folk-pop. Charles and Rebecca are maybe the most adorable pairing since Matt & Kim, and after simultaneously destroying their guitar amp and kick pedal respectively, took to the edge of the stage with acoustic guitars to sing out to their fans unamplified. Giddy and glorious.
I’d seen The Morning Benders back in February of last year and while I found their indie-pop stylings pleasant, with the requisite jangles and hooks, but not especially distinctive. With their new one Big Echo, however, they’ve not only raised the ante but bet the house – it’s a much more massive and interesting record; noisier and moodier than I’d have thought them capable of but still immensely pop at its core. Correspondingly, the live show was much more intense and volume-abusing than I’d expected. Most impressive. They are at the Drake on April 14.
As Here We Go Magic got started on the main stage, I could feel myself hitting a wall in terms of being able to concentrate on new music, or even stand up for any period of time. Their stuff required a little too much attention to properly appreciate, so after a few songs I wandered back down to the south stage where Spain’s Delorean were kicking up a mostly-instrumental electro-pop dance party. That held my interest for a little while, but the need to not be where I was became overwhelming and I had to hoof it back to the hotel to get my head together. Which, sadly, meant missing our headlining set with GZA AND the fact that Bill Murray apparently accepted my invitation and showed up. For serious, people.