Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
SXSW 2012 Day Two
Savoir Adore, Alabama Shakes, Big Deal and more at SXSW
Frank YangKnow what makes it a bit difficult to concentrate on covering stuff in the afternoon? Finding out in the morning that you’ve won a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen in an intimate theatre show that night. Not bragging – okay, a little – just adding some context. And bragging. Yeah.
Anyways, after doing my victory dance (don’t pretend you don’t have a victory dance) I did get out into the world to check out a day show at Jackalope run by fellow blogger Rawkblog that featured one of the bands I was set on catching this week, trans-Atlantic duo Big Deal, whose debut Lights Out I enjoyed back in January. And as much as their combo of loud and soft was a nice way to start the day, they were a bit of a case study in what works well on record doesn’t necessarily work live. As on record, Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe strummed their guitars and sang their songs but what came across as intimate in the headphones was just underwhelming on stage, not helped by the duo’s general lack of charisma. Underwood tried to engage the audience by making some drummer jokes – the meta-joke perhaps being that they didn’t have a drummer – but considering how much their cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen” sped up and slowed down, maybe they should have considered getting one.
You’ll have to fast-forward a couple hours for the day’s next act as I spent some time catching up with friends and just hanging out, but things pick up at Stubb’s for Alabama Shakes. They were one of the festival’s busiest and buzziest bands and based on the half of their set I caught, all the attention was deserved and they were seizing the moment with two hands. Brittany Howard was a dynamic frontwoman and with her cohorts, turned out big, brassy southern-fried rock richly informed by gospel, soul and attitude. Their debut Boys & Girls is out April 10 and they’re at Lee’s Palace on April 17.
Since missing their NXNE show in June of 2010, I’ve been patiently waiting for New York’s Savior Adore to come back to town; that hasn’t happened so seeing them in Texas was the next best thing. Showing up a little late to their set at Red Eyed Fly, the band – ostensibly the duo of Deirdre Muro and Paul Hammer but operating as a five-piece – were already in top gear and quite surprised me with how big and polished their performance was. I expected something a little more studio-y based on the sheen of their debut In The Wooded Forest, but they were like a full-on power pop band up there, complete with dance moves echoed by the audience. Good times all around, and I can’t wait for a second album, local show or ideally both.
I can’t exactly say why I decided to see London’s Charli XCX – probably a combination of her only other show being at the sure-to-be-jammed Pitchfork showcase, her having just signed to Los Angeles label IAMSOUND, who’d incubated the likes of Florence & The Machine and Little Boots, or simply the fact that I was already there. Probably mostly that last one but definitely some of the first two as well. Having not had much time to do my homework on her, I didn’t really know what to expect and after her short set was done, I wasn’t really sure what I just saw. Her gothy/glammy electro pop didn’t necessarily have enough charisma, voice, songs or creativity alone to propel her to stardom but a savvy combination of all of the above could well do it… and then I could say I saw her when. Until then, though, it was just something random to keep me busy until my date with Bruce later that night.
So hey that new Shins record Port Of Morrow is out today and it’s up to stream at Spinner. To mark the occasion, James Mercer has been chatting with a media outlet or two as evidenced by features at The New York Times, NPR (who also have a World Cafe session), Clash, The Sydney Morning Herald, The National Post, and Spinner. The Shins are at The Molson Amphitheatre on August 4.
Stream: The Shins / Port Of Morrow
The new Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s album Rot Gut, Domestic is out today and available to stream at Spinner, who’ve also premiered the new video from said record. They’re at The Garrison on April 5.
Titus Andronicus have assembled a mixtape consisting of live material, covers, demos and a new song from a forthcoming 7″ in “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus”. And you can download it for free, because they’re just that generous.