Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SXSW 2011 Recap: Day 3, March 17

Today, I was listening to the WTF podcast with Marc Maron from SXSW - which was seriously hilarious; I totally wish I was there - and I thought to myself, “Didn’t I start doing a recap of MY experience at SXSW?” Why yes I did. Then I realized it is now two months later and I haven’t finished the damn thing. There are still plenty of photos, videos, and stories I would still like to share with you few lucky readers. I know I left ya hanging but I’m still finishing it - wanna fight about it?

Anyway, my third day at SXSW was to be one of the most frustrating days of the festival. The morning was filled with incredible sets brought about by the Exploding in Sound showcase at Friends of Sound Records. However, the night was filled with epic fails as I tried to see big name acts. The whole experience was definitely a learning process of what to do and not to do during SXSW. This particular day did involve some of my more memorable and hilarious adventures as you will soon read.

12:00 PM: Gift Horse – Friends of Sound Records

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The afternoon showcase I attended was put together by Dan (Exploding in Sound), who I had been traveling with, and Friends of Sound Records, an awesome little vinyl shop located across the river on South Congress. The event took place outside on a patio in an alley behind the record store. It was an amazing place for a showcase on such a beautiful day. Gift Horse kicked things off with a tight set of distorted alternative rock bliss. They began with the insanely addictive “Missionaries” and proceeded to treat the crowd to a satisfying fusion of shoegaze, grunge, and rock. Anyone who misses the days when Nirvana were atop the rock and roll charts needs to hear this band. They blew a circuit early in the set, which Dan and I were saying was an inevitability, but lucky they made a quick recovery. The band closed with their new track “Black”, which featured a thrashy, driving verse and another infectious chorus. I was able to capture an excellent video of the closing track that can be viewed below.

1:00 PM: Gypsyblood – Friends of Sound Records

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Gypsyblood were one of my favorite discoveries the week of SXSW. Not only do they do the whole lo-fi garage punk sound better than most of the bands Pitchfork has been shoving down our throats, but their live show has the intensity to match as well. Singer/guitarist Adam James was an absolute madman, throwing himself into fences and trees and kicking rocks while somehow maintaining perfect guitar licks. Beneath their wall of distortion were undeniable hooks and nowhere was this more evident than the song, “Take Your Picture” in which a dissonant stomp was paired with fantastic melody. Their debut full-length, Cold in the Guestway, is now available from Sargent House. I purchased the record and I have to say that it sounds superb on vinyl. Here is a great interview with Adam Jones describing his writing process.

Gypsyblood " Take Your Picture" from Sargent House on Vimeo.

2:00 PM: Zlam Dunk – Friends of Sound Records

Zlam Dunk are a dance punk / post-hardcore outfit that had the energy of about 10 bands. They wielded a mathy dual guitar attack over complex rhythms to create some catchy jams. They brought a lot of people there that seemed to have a deep connection to the music and weren’t afraid to get down. Singer Charlie Day ran around the entire time while contributing cowbell and other percussion along with his half-sung screams. Songs like “Vices” grabbed a hold of you immediately and made you feel ever ounce of their meaning. My favorite was “21st & Kedzie” which contained a killer synth line that recalled the best of the 80s and lyrics that beg you to scream along.

3:00: Disco Doom – Friends of Sound Records

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Disco Doom brought abstract noise and lo-fi indie rock to the good folks of Austin, TX all the way from Zurich, Switzerland. The band opened with the title track from their latest album, Trux Reverb, after a quick stammer which had the frontman somberly explain, “That was supposed to be epic.” It did get epic, however, as they delved into their deeply experiment music. The band maneuvered between songs engulfed in a whirlwind of distorted pedal effects to lo-fi indie pop that ranked with the best of ‘em. Their fascinating and innovative compositions made it a captivating set.

4:00 PM: Markov – Friends of Sound Records

I ate a delicious meal at Wahoo’s Fish Taco before Markov’s set but I made the mistake of getting fish tacos and a burrito and a beer. Suffice to say, I could barely move as I tried to rush back to the show. Luckily, I was able to catch a few songs and the band definitely made it more than worth my while. The singer made good use of the open space, wandering around the patio area as the band were pounding eardrums with their driving post-hardcore. He also kept looking at his phone joking that he was getting texts about Kanye West playing. It was interesting. Markov’s compelling energy and hammering force made them a band you do not want to miss live. Their sound was a mix of the catchy yet angular jangle of Les Savy Fav and the more powerful and sinister style of Fugazi.

5:00 PM: Pulled Apart by Horses – Friends of Sound Records

Pulled Apart by Horses proved that their memorable performance on Tuesday was no fluke. The band ruthlessly punished eardrums with favorites like "High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive", "V.E.N.O.M.", and "I Punched a Lion in the Throat". As expected, frontman Tom Hudson was all over the place, climbing on fences, tables, and stacked amps. He didn’t miss a note as he flipped his shirt over his face and stood on a table to shout into the faces of the spectators. Meanwhile, guitarist James Brown [yeah, I know] was whipping his guitar around furiously despite the blistering heat. I was able to catch the action as they performed “I Punched a Lion in the Throat.”

Afterwards, the band was kind enough to hang around and talk with everyone. They seemed extremely nice for a bunch of guys making brutal music. Tom was even greeted by an adorable little girl who seemed to be their biggest fan. It was a bit perplexing to hear a little girl say that her favorite band was Pulled Apart by Horses. This showcase demonstrated what was great about the festival. These little intimate shows are the ones you have to experience to understand why SXSW is so special: Indie bands at an indie venue promoted by one of your favorite blogs where the bands are interfacing directly with the fans. Shortly after, I would experience the polar opposite side of the festival.

8:00 PM: The Strokes – Auditorium Shores

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Here’s where things got shaky and the night became a learning process about what you sacrifice to see the big acts during SXSW. I was determined to see The Strokes since I had been listening to their latest album, Angles, a lot that week and I wanted to see a big outdoor event while I was at SXSW. Little did I know how big it would be.

First, I had no idea where the venue was so I traveled in the wrong direction for an embarrassing amount of time. I was stopped by some kids once I realized my mistake because they noticed my ‘Smoking Pot Makes Me Not Want to Kill Myself – Stardeath and White Dwarfs’ shirt, which I had to discuss with about 50 people that day. I figured they were also going to The Strokes show and confirmed that I was heading in the right direction. They said that I could be the fourth in their cab so I hopped in and we off to Auditorium Shores.

Apparently, the entire city was trying to go to the show and thus in gridlock. Thankfully, our cabby knew some tricks to bob and weave through side streets and voila, we were there. It was quite the scene once I arrived. People were screaming at security and rushing the fence. They were clearly unprepared for the massive amount of people that showed up. I was thinking about hopping the fence but I watched as someone else tried and quickly got tackled by a security guard. Still, I was determined to get in and there was no way I just went through all that and wasted that time to not get into the show.

I decided there had to be a break in the fence somewhere if I walked all the way around the back. As I was doing so a bunch of people began to coalesce as we all were having the same idea. Security guards were watching us until we got around to the back and I point to a section of the fence and screamed, “There’s a weak part of the fence!” Everyone rushed it, knocking it over. I shuffled through some people and ended up on the left side of the stage.

The Strokes were great while maintaining their infamous nonchalant composure. I could see how it turns people off but it doesn’t bother me and seems quite fitting for their style. It’s strange to see a band of their ilk reach that stature though. They seem like they would be more fitting for a bar yet here they were playing the biggest show at SXSW. They played their excellent new single “Under the Cover of Darkness” to perfection and followed it with one of my favorites, “New York City Cops.” Other highlights included “Reptilia” followed by my favorite off their new album, “Taken for a Fool.” The encore included “Gratisfaction”, “Hard to Explain”, and “Last Nite.” The latter of which was accompanied by a spectacular fireworks display. I could only get one crappy picture (that I think actually looks kind of cool) and a video where I attempt to capture “Last Nite” and the fireworks display.

11:15 PM: The Death Set – Beauty Bar Backyard

The Strokes set me way off. My cell phone was dying and I couldn’t remember where any good shows were during this time. I also couldn’t text anyone because Sprint was having network problems probably due to the amount of people in Austin trying to do the same thing. After realizing The Death Set were playing The Beauty Bar, I was only able to catch two songs and I had to watch from the outside of the fence because it was at capacity. The band were going crazy as usual and I really wished I was able to see the whole performance. The venue is now infamous as the spot where a riot broke out when Death From Above 1979 played a secret show. After, I tried to find where Wu-Tang Clan was performing but with my now dead cell phone, it was a complete fail. I decided to cut my losses and head to Stubb’s early to see TV on the Radio.

12:30 PM: TV on the Radio – Stubb’s

Here is where I learned ‘early’ means nothing for a big act during SXSW. There was a crazy line for TV on the Radio even for wristband holders who usually had priority and got in quickly. I had to listen to a couple of songs while in line including my favorite, “Young Liars”, which absolutely killed me. When I finally got in, I was treated to one of my favorite performances of my stay in Austin.

I was in a bad mood after the night’s previous events but TV on the Radio remedied that quickly. I forgot how tight the band is live. Tunde Adebimpe was belting his vocal melodies flawlessly while David Sitek and Kyp Malone were tearing it up on guitar. Tunde was throwing his hands at the audience and it was evident he was feeling every note. Sitek was tucked away on the right side with chimes hanging from his guitar and was performing next to their trombone player who added excellent dynamic flare.

The group played a satisfying mix of old and new. They performed the classics like everyone’s favorite “Wolf Like Me” but it was new songs like “Will Do” and “Repetition” that I found the most compelling. The latter I really appreciated due to the emotional roller coaster it took me on. At first, the repressed and simplistic beat had me thinking, “Oh great, another band where I don’t like their new material.” But as the song progressed, it kept adding layers and built to a rousing crescendo and burst of energy. My thoughts quickly changed to, “This is incredible.” Overall, TV on the Radio is one of my most highly recommended live bands and ended the day on a high note.

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