Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SXSW 2011 Recap: Day 2, March 16

The second day of SXSW was much more enjoyable: I actually got sleep the night before; I was more prepared for how to get around; and I didn’t forget my camera. Not only was I in good spirits because of these things but it was also the day where I would see many of my most anticipated sets.

1:30 PM: A Place to Bury Strangers – Emo’s

A Place to Bury Strangers was one hell of a band to see at 1:30 in the afternoon. They were going apeshit from the moment I entered Emo’s. Frontman/guitar Oliver Ackermann was flooding the venue with distortion from his signature Death by Audio pedals. The bassist was accompanying him in destroying equipment the entire time and even broke 3 bass strings. I’ve never seen anyone break one bass string, let alone three! You can see him playing with only one string in the pictures above. Meanwhile, Ackermann kept stacking and throwing amps while he was playing. Somehow, this all worked with the music. It was one hell of a way to wake up.

A Place to Bury Strangers - "In Your Heart"

2:00 PM: La Faro – Austin Convention Center Ballroom A, B, C Foyer

La Faro SXSW 2011 010
La Faro SXSW 2011 011

I quickly made my way to catch the end of La Faro’s set in the foyer of the Austin Convention Center. This was one of the oddest venue pairings I would see all week. The foyer was extremely bright and the only thing that kept the band visible was a weird cardboard backdrop. Since it was right in the hallway of the Austin Convention Center, festival attendees were constantly walking by while one of the heaviest bands I saw at SXSW were rocking out. It was strange but La Faro delivered either way. The band came all the way from Ireland and this was their first trip to the US. They displayed immense energy while thrashing through their memorable tunes such as “Tuppeny Nudger”. The lead singer was quite hilarious when he addressed the modest crowd and during one song he managed to rock out with the janitor who proceeded to play air guitar on his broom.

3:00 PM: True Widow – Emo’s Annex

True Widow SXSW 2011 014

True Widow was basically the polar opposite of the first two bands I saw that day. The slowcore trio played a somber set of their brooding songs. The band is carrying the torch for slowcore innovators like Codeine and are one of the best in the genre today. The drums sounded tremendous and held the fragile music together beautifully. The vocals of both Dan Phillips and Nicole Estill were excellent while gently executing songs from their recently released album, As High as the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth. They are opening this Saturday (April 30) for ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and Surfer Blood at the Middle East.

True Widow - "Skull Eyes"

4:00 PM: Portugal. The Man – IFC House

I made my way to an over packed show at the IFC House with one of the biggest buzz bands of the festival, Portugal. The Man. The band performed songs mostly from their albums The Satanic Satanist and American Ghetto, two of my favorite records of the past few years. It is great to see such a solid band gain steam with mainstream audiences. They also previewed some music from their upcoming major label debut on Atlantic Records. The soaring choruses and big guitar sound perfectly displayed the potential the band possesses. The entire thing was being filmed and you can catch a video of them performing “The Home” below [the fools at IFC have it listed as “People Say”]. There is also an interview conducted by Ted Leo, who seemed to be everywhere dispite my inability to catch any of his performances.

Portugal. The Man - "The Home"

Ted Leo Interviews Portugal. The Man

4:45 PM: STEREO IS A LIE – Skinny’s Ballroom

Over at Skinny’s, STEREO IS A LIE was performing a set of tunes with a flair for catchy guitar rock. The group immediately brought to mind rock revivalists such as Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club. The singer/guitarist was pulling out all the typically rockstar moves, swinging his hips and whipping his guitar. They didn’t exactly align with my tastes but I could see them catching on for a lot of people.

7:30 PM: Red Bellows – The Treehouse Pub

After failing to see The Death Set due to the annoying RSVP system for their show, I briefly caught Boston natives Red Bellows at The Treehouse Pub. Their spacey progressive rock seemed much tighter since last I saw them at Wadzilla Mansion. Their show was definitely more energetic as well. Give their debut EP a spin below.

8:00 PM: Slang Chickens – BD Riley’s Pub

Slang Chickens SXSW 2011 018

Slang Chickens brought their alt/country/punk/surf/blues/everything style to the awkward stage setup at BD Riley’s Pub. These guys were a recent discovery and they performed an incredibly enjoyable set. Highlights included “Never Been High” from this year’s My Floor EP and “Badland Blues”. The band rocked some lap steel guitar for a couple songs which added great flair to their style. The people outside the open window next to the stage seemed to be really enjoying the performance. It was one of the shows where I could only get in because of my wristband so some people had to watch from the street. The band catered to them by sometimes playing right to the outside crowd.

9:00 PM: J Mascis – La Zona Rosa

J Mascis SXSW 2011 020

This is where the real treat began as J Mascis kicked off Rolling Stone’s showcase. I tend to think of J Mascis the way some people think of Jerry Garcia. His solo material and work with Dinosaur Jr. is flawless in my eyes. The slacker guitar god did not let me down in any respect. This way the loudest “acoustic” set I could have possibly expected. When he kicked on the distortion for solos, it made quite the impact. He played several songs from his excellent 2011 solo album Several Shades of Why with classic Dino Jr. tracks mixed in. His dry rapport with the audience only added to the mystique of the performance. Highlights for me included Dino Jr. tracks “Furry Little Things” and “Get Me”, which is one of my favorite songs of all time. Videos of “Ammaring”, “Not Enough”, and “Several Shades of Why” as well as an interview can be seen on Rolling Stone's website here.

10:00 PM: Mini Mansions – La Zona Rosa

Mini Mansions SXSW 2011 022

Next up were Mini Mansions, who have steadily been gaining buzz as of late. The trio had an unusual setup with the frontman playing standing percussion and a keyboardist as well as a guitarist taking each side of him. The music was very hit or miss for me. Some songs jumped out and I really loved them but in between, I wasn’t too hot on the others. One of the biggest standouts was a riveting cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” where they really made the song their own as any good cover has the band doing. They also performed an explosive version of their track “Majik Marker” that really injected some energy into the crowd.

Mini Mansions - "Heart of Glass"

Mini Mansions - "Majik Marker"

11:00 PM: The Black Angels – La Zona Rosa

The Black Angels SXSW 2011 024
The Black Angels SXSW 2011 025
The Black Angels SXSW 2011 026

The audience was eating up everything The Black Angels were offering. They put on a reverb-drenched set with lights blasting in every direction. The band positions themselves in a very small niche of modern bands who can harness the psychedelic rock sound of the 70s perfectly. The mix of material from across their catalog was very satisfying. Fan favorites like “You on the Run” sat seamlessly alongside personal favorites such as “Better Off Alone” and tracks like “Telephone” from their latest album, the underrated Phosphene Dream. They closed with “Young Men Dead”, the opening track from their debut full-length Passover, and I was aching for Queens of the Stone Age to take the stage next. Videos of “The Sniper”, “You on the Run”, and “Black Greese” can be seen on Rolling Stone's website here.

12:00 AM: Queens of the Stone Age – La Zona Rosa

Queens of the Stone Age have been a favorite of mine from the time when they debuted and I haven’t seen them since Lollapalooza 2002 so this performance was on the top of my anticipated list. Josh Homme was in an incredibly playful mood and worked his way through a fifth of vodka as he chain smoked and shredded guitar. Queens executed their self-titled debut album straight through in masterful fashion. This was in celebration of its rerelease which has been held up for an eternity as you know if you have been following it. Opening track “Regular John” got the crowd riled up and set the tone for an incredible performance. My favorite moment was their performance of “Walkin’ on the Sidewalks” which is my favorite song from that album and I was able to capture it wonderfully in the video below. Another standout was “You Can’t Quit Me, Baby” which absolutely brought the house down with its killer guitar assault. The encore could not have been more rewarding as it was laced with my personal favorites: “Turnin’ on the Screw”, “Misfit Love”, “Make It Wit Chu”, “Little Sister”, “Tangled Up in Plaid”, “Go with the Flow”. It was the ideal way to close the night and get excited for the next day.

Queens of the Stone Age - "Walkin' on the Sidewalks"

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