Thursday, June 23, 2011

SXSW 2011 Recap: Day 4, March 18

Friday was up there with Wednesday in terms of sheer awesomeness. All of the prior day’s mistakes were rectified. I saw so many great bands that are just now beginning to make noise in 2011. It was also one of the days where I participated in everyone’s favorite SXSW pastime: drinking. Before hitting up the first set, my friend and I fueled up on some delicious Texas BBQ at Iron Works which I can now highly recommend. While eating, we were able to spot Billy Gibbons and Devin the Dude. You know it’s good BBQ when those guys show up.

1:00 PM: Cults – Emo’s

Cults SXSW 2011 101
Cults SXSW 2011 104
Cults SXSW 2011 105

The first set of the day came from 2011 buzz band phenom Cults, who just released their excellent self-titled major label debut. Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion are the duo that comprises Cults but they play with a full band when they tour. It’s easy to see why everyone has fallen in love with their combination of 60’s style soul and R&B mixed with a dash of twee pop. Madeline’s reverb-laced vocals were drenching the crowd in waves of bright melodies. “You Know What I Mean” was the standout for me and my favorite song by Cults. It allows Madeline to cut loose and show that she has some serious pipes under that childlike innocence.

1:30 PM: Killer Mike / Fang Island– Scoot Inn

Fang Island SXSW 2011 111
Fang Island SXSW 2011 112

Next I made my way to the outskirts of the city to see the unbeatable combination of Killer Mike and Fang Island at Scoot Inn. They were playing simultaneously, so I first watched Killer Mike’s set outside before making my way inside to catch the end of Fang Island’s. Killer Mike mostly spit rhymes over songs that he was a guest on such as Outkast's "The Whole World.” He successfully worked the crowd and was dancing all over the stage while throwing down some raw, confident verses. His 2011 album PL3DGE contains some of the most remarkable hip-hop you will hear this year. Fang Island’s triumphant sound was akin to the victory song in Final Fantasy. If you have seen them before, you know what I mean. Their celebratory sound and explosive live show is like watching indoor fireworks.

2:40 PM: The Death Set – Dirty Dog Bar

The Death Set SXSW 2011 114
The Death Set SXSW 2011 115

I finally took the opportunity to catch a full set from The Death Set and I was so glad that I did. They are one of the craziest, most energetic bands currently touring. Their recent release Michel Poiccard is one of my favorites and easily one of the best of 2011. They battered the crowd with a unique concoction of punk, noise, and electropop while interjecting classic rap samples in between songs. The trio was all over the place with the singer even snagging someone’s camera and taking a picture of his ass (under the jeans of course). He also managed to wrap the mic down and around someone’s shirt while performing. They played favorites like “Negative Thinking” which is impossible not to jump around to and ended with an encore of “Moving Forward”. I was able to capture some of the latter which is a personal favorite in the video below.

3:30 PM: Yuck – East Side Drive-In

Yuck is the best new band to break out in 2011 and may have released the best record with their self-titled debut. I was extremely pleased with their live performance after I caught them outside in the blistering heat at the East Side Drive-In. They played a new song that completely sucked me in called “Milkshake” which they recently made available on the “Shook Down” single. The guitars of Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom sounded every bit as good live as they do on the studio versions of their songs. This was especially evident on their guitar-driven rockers like “Get Away.” The rhythm section of bassist Mariko Doi and drummer Jonny Rogoff was as tight as anyone could have hoped providing a thunderous backdrop. Even their live show is reminiscent of the 90s alternative groups like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth that their sound evokes. Their set was cut short due to time constraints but they managed to fit in their epic closer “Rubber” to much applause. I was disappointed that I didn’t get a live version of “Holing Out” but you can’t win them all.

Shook Down / Milkshake by Yuck

5:20 PM: Suuns – Spill

Suuns SXSW 2011 124
Suuns SXSW 2011 125
Suuns SXSW 2011 127

Unfortunately, The Twilight Sad’s 4:00 pm set at Annie’s West was canceled so I made my way to catch Suuns at Spill. I was very happy with that decision since they were one of the most unique and captivating bands I would see that week. The group possesses a strange noisy yet danceable sound that has an undeniably eerie quality about it. They interjected electronics into some seriously creative indie rock compositions. Each member played their instrument with an almost uncomfortable intensity as if they were possessed. Songs like “Up Past the Nursery” and “Pie IX” standout as signature tunes for their ability to combine unnerving atmospherics with an infectious beat. “Sweet Nothing” is almost a straight dance punk song and is sure to get anyone’s feet tapping along. I can’t recommend their debut Zeroes QC enough for those looking for an adventurous listening experience.

7:30 PM: The Fling – Mellow Johnny’s

The Fling SXSW 2011 133
The Fling SXSW 2011 135

I made the trek all the way across town (too far, really) to see The Fling at Mellow Johnny’s. Since I arrived early, I listened to one song from John Vanderslice and I really wish I knew what it was because I enjoyed it quite a bit. Afterwards, I went to the tent outside which was disappointedly empty for such a great up-and-coming band. The Fling played to a modest crowd but that didn’t stop them from putting on a great show. They did an excellent job of combining duel guitars with multipart harmonies that captured a classic rock sound that people are complaining isn’t around anymore. They also weren’t afraid to embrace some twang with their rock and roll. I would recommend them to anyone who appreciates what bands such as Dr. Dog and Alberta Cross have been doing.

When The Madhouse Appear by The Fling

8:10 PM: Red Fang – Dirty Dog Bar

Red Fang SXSW 2011 143
Red Fang SXSW 2011 145
Red Fang SXSW 2011 146

I hadn’t been a big fan of Red Fang but I can now say that their live show has converted me. They not only bludgeoned ears with sludgy riffs but rocked the fuck out on top of it. It was clear to see that these guys were well versed in their metal and their appearance as well as their performance was the ultimate example. Their tunes fit somewhere in between of The Melvins and Big Business while utilizing plenty of guitar-shredding. Standouts included “Prehistoric Dog” which you can view in all its crushing glory below.

9:00 PM: Capsula – Red Eyed Fly

Capsula SXSW 2011 149
Capsula SXSW 2011 152

Holy shit. That is how any review of a Capsula live show has to begin. I had no idea about this band before I came to SXSW but they put on one of the best live performances I have ever seen. They had the editor of Rolling Stone in tow for a reason. The trio from Spain demonstrated an uncanny amount of rock and roll prowess. They treated the audience to a wild display of hip-shaking guitar-driven rock. Each member was irrefutably talented and fed off each other impeccably. Their sound combined the best of glam gods like David Bowie with the stadium rock of The Who. The real draw was frontman (madman) Martin Guevara who used everything in sight on his guitar including a camera from a photographer trying to shoot. He had the charisma and swagger of a Spanish Mick Jagger. They even did a cover of “Moonage Daydream” that was better than I could imagine coming from anyone else besides David Bowie himself.

10:00 PM: Eksi Ekso – Valhalla

Capsula SXSW 2011 153
Eksi Ekso SXSW 2011 156

I had to show some love to Boston post-rock innovators Eksi Ekso when they performed at Valhalla. The group has found a striking middle ground between the dynamics of post-rock and the sensibility of indie pop. They played songs from their excellent 2011 release Brown Shark, Red Lion. The band possesses one of the most talented rhythm sections in music which is accompanied by diverse instrumentation and the soaring vocals of Tom Korkidis. They speckled their performance with horns and strings that were extremely tasteful instead of gimmicky. Make sure to catch them live if you have the opportunity, especially if you are a Boston native.

11:00 PM: GUARDS – East Tiger Patio

GUARDS SXSW 2011 157
GUARDS SXSW 2011 161
GUARDS SXSW 2011 163

I believe this was the only set at SXSW by 60s pop rock revivalists GUARDS so I made sure that I did not miss it. The group is a project from Richie Follin (The Willowz) and is not too far removed from his sister Madeline’s band Cults except it’s a little edgier while heavier on the rock and roll. They took a while to setup and I was getting nervous since they were having sound check problems after arriving late. Once they got situated, it was gravy. The group played a short but sweet set with many highlights. Richie’s reverb-laden vocals made the case for him being an underrated singer. Especially while belting out “You know I never wanted all that pain / You know I could have gave it all away” from their single and flagship song “Revolution of One.” The members backing Follin were impressive and it was really hard to take my eyes off the gorgeous woman playing some kind of weird lap organ. Their debut EP is a current obsession of mine and an absolute must-have. It is seven songs of songwriting perfection and you have no excuse not to listen to it since it is available for free download on their bandcamp.

12:10 PM: J Mascis – Red 7 Patio

J Mascis SXSW 2011 165

I quickly darted over to Red 7 Patio to see my second J Mascis performance of the week. It was a good thing I got there quickly, as I just barely made it in but did thanks to my wristband. It would have been a shame to miss such a personal and powerful performance. Even though he is sitting in a chair, you can tell that the songs from his new album Several Shades of Why as well as some old Dinosaur Jr. tracks are very personal and intimidating for J to play live. The crowd was thankful for every ounce of emotion Mascis squeezed into each song. His set was similar to the one I saw on Wednesday but the solos seemed to have more vigor to them. The last one - drenched in a wall of distortion and feedback despite it being an “acoustic” set - completely melted my face off. I had to gather what was left of my head and drag it over to my last set of the day.

1:00 AM: Young Adults – Easy Tiger Patio

I made my way back to Easy Tiger Patio to catch a set from one of my absolute favorite Boston bands, Young Adults. It’s great to see they had an official showcase to close out Friday as I think they have some of the greatest potential of current local bands. They play with serious force and they do so as loud as possible. The band combines shoegaze guitars with indie rock melodies and thick, fuzzy riffs better than most of their peers. Songs like “Impression” are noisy earworms that are meant be shouted along with. The audience seemed like they had dug the trio’s blistering set which is not too far removed from Torche’s more accessible moments. I spoke with some people from Boston and one of them told me about a Dan Deacon show the next day that I was completely unaware of but made note not to miss. At this point, I had successfully “tied one on” as they like to say and I was ready to go to bed and get ready for the next day.

YOUNG ADULTS - "Let Us Out" from YOUNG ADULTS on Vimeo.

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