Thursday, June 23, 2011

SXSW 2011 Recap: Day 5, March 19

Saturday is the last of “official” day of SXSW and mine turned out to be a disaster after starting out so strong. Some of the best, most memorable sets during the day were tainted by my infuriating night. This was a vastly different experience than the previous day. Again, I learned that SXSW is an unpredictable rollercoaster ride.

1:00 PM: Pulled Apart by Horses – Latitude 30

Dan (Exploding in Sound) and I knew we had to catch Pulled Apart by Horses one last time after their previous unforgettable performances. We were both wondering if they would be as wild at 1:00 pm as they were the previous days, but we were unprepared for what the answer was. Not only was the band as insane as ever but they put on the craziest performance I've ever seen. From the start, the band announced that they we hung over from drinking the entire night before. I was unsure what this would mean but I expected they would be sluggish. They were anything but with guitarist James Brown climbing on the bar and drinking the money from the tip jar after accidently smashing it off the lights hanging above. Singer/guitarist Tom Hudson stood on top of a small table covered in drinks while amazingly still blasting out guitar licks. He jumped off just as the top snapped off sending glasses everywhere. Shortly after, he took a slip from a woman’s drink next to me while making his way through the crowd. As he was doing so, Matt Bigland of Dinosaur Pile-Up jumped on his back knocking him over. Tom got up quickly and began throwing up on his own pile of broken glass and destruction. With songs like "High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive" and "I Punched a Lion in the Throat” all of this somehow seemed appropriate. I knew that was the craziest goddamn thing I was going to see all week and a hell of a way to start the day.

2:00 PM: Meat Puppets – Waterloo Records

Meat Puppets SXSW 2011

Being from Boston, I was not prepared to have my face completely fried in the middle of March but that is exactly what happened when I caught Meat Puppets playing at a stage in the parking lot of Waterloo Records. I wasn’t the only thing catching fire, as Meat Puppets were playing blazing hot versions of their hits like “Lake of Fire” and “Plateau.” I was especially pleased to hear “Up on the Sun” which is where I felt like I was at the moment and it is also one of my favorite songs of theirs. For a couple of old-timers, the Kirkwood brothers can certainly still teach today’s youngsters how to put on a show. The solos and grooves the trio poured onto the crowd were refreshing and revealed that Meat Puppets can still jam like the best of them.

3:50 PM: Grass Is Green – The Blind Pig Rooftop

I kept it outdoors when I caught one of Boston’s best, Grass is Green, playing The Blind Pig Rooftop. The band exhibited great chemistry as they swam through time signatures and angular riffs. Their intense delivery made sure that everyone there was taking note. It was a treat to see singer/guitarist Andy Chervenak and Devin McKnight weave technical guitar licks together outside the city of Boston. The rhythm section of bassist Alex Priesto and drummer Jesse Weiss made sure everything was held tightly together during the more twisting guitar riffs. Having now been road-tested, they display a new sense of confidence in their performance. The band played a nice spread of tunes from their debut Yeddo and their latest release Chibimoon.

4:20 PM: The Dirty Dishes – The Blind Pig Rooftop

The Dirty Dishes, another band creating huge buzz in Boston, took the stage next. Their sound invokes comparisons to The Smashing Pumpkins and Deftones while maintaining a voice of its own. Tracks like “Stolen Apples” exposed the group's vast level of creative songwriting to the people in attendance. Frontwoman Jenny Tuite is coming into her own as a singer and her delicate vocals perfectly compliment the band's mix of thoughtful indie rock and heavy alternative music. They played songs from their debut EP In the Clouds and some new tracks from their upcoming release that had me brimming with anticipation.

5:00 PM: …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – The Blind Pig Rooftop

One of my most anticipated sets, I couldn’t help but be let down by …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. The band arrived late and their sound suffered as the result of missing the sound check. In the middle of their performance, the power cut out on half of the stage. However, the group took it in stride and recovered nicely getting better as the set went on. As an excellent treat, they performed songs from all over their catalog including their first two albums. Songs such as “Pure Radio Cosplay”, “Summer of Dead Souls”, and “Weight of the Sun” from their criminally underrated new album Tao of the Dead fared well among the classics, proving it is one of their stronger releases in years. They retained their signature intensity even while switching instruments but I still miss when they used to tour as a larger unit with two drummers. The band more than made up for any shortcomings when I caught their riveting performance at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA and few weeks later.

8:00 PM: Dan Deacon – Cheer Up Charlie’s

Dan Deacon SXSW 2011 1
Dan Deacon SXSW 2011 2

The line for Dan Deacon was surprisingly long. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were playing outside while I was waiting in line and I ended up listening to the entire set. Although I couldn’t really see much of them through the fence, I can say that the songs off their 2011 release Belong sounded really great. It was one of the best sets I heard while waiting in line that day [you’ll get this joke after you read the rest of this recap]. Also while I was waiting, a man came up to me and asked if he could cut in line because his sister and friends were already in there to which I responded with the rolling of my eyes. I caved stating that I guess it wouldn’t make a difference [even though I have bad luck with these things and one person can make a difference in a line especially at SXSW]. He said he’d buy me a beer to sweeten the deal. We got to chatting and he ended up being a fellow alumnus from Northeastern University. I still got into the show and got a free Brooklyn Lager pounder [which I didn’t know they made until then] so all was good.

Dan Deacon began with his opening ritual: having everyone point in the air and follow his bizarre hokey pokey like instructions. His final instruction was for everyone to dance before launching into his blippy onslaught. Immediately, a cloud of dust overtook the crowd. Perhaps an outdoor venue wasn’t a well-thought place to have a Dan Deacon concert? Some new tracks made the set and more than accomplished their goal of getting everyone dancing. Somehow while wearing sandals, I managed to dance my way all the way to the front and took the incredible video below of “Snookered” complete with intro and outro. It was easily one of my favorite moments of SXSW. The set closed with the fan favorite sing along "Wham City". Afterwards, he confessed that he was finishing a new album but he really likes The Larry Sanders Show and that had been taking up a lot of his time. The performance left me blowing black snot all night from all the dust but it was totally worth it to catch Dan Deacon’s one and only SXSW show.

9:00 PM: Odd Future – East Side Drive-In

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All SXSW 2011

As I was making my way to the Sargent House Records showcase at Emo’s Annex, I got distracted when I walked by East Side Drive-In and saw someone rapping from the rafters. I figured I had to check it out and before I knew it, I was witnessing an Odd Future performance. Say what you will about the attitudes, the lyrics, or the hype [and believe me, I could write a book about those things], Odd Future unquestionably put on a good live show. They had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. The collective looked like they were having a blast going crazy while spitting endless strings of their controversial lyrics. They were having so much fun; it looked as if they were never going to leave the stage even though they got a warning about the time. I didn’t plan on going to an Odd Future performance but ended up getting sucked in anyway and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Check out the bizarre must-see interview with Odd Future by Nardwuar from the festival.

10:30 PM – 12:50 AM: Adebisi Shank, Le Butcherettes, Fang Island, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group – Emo’s Annex

This is where things got ugly. I (along with several hundred more people) completely underestimated the draw for the Sargent House Records showcase. The problem was that once word got out that Cedric Bixler-Zavala would be joining Omar Rodriquez-Lopez, the rumor mill started turning. Is it an At the Drive-In reunion? Will The Mars Volta be performing? This was their turf after all so fans of all their projects started showing up by the hundreds in speculation.

It wasn’t even 10:00 PM so I thought I would have plenty of time to get into the showcase while the lesser known bands were on. With this in mind, I stopped in to get some delicious sliders close by before heading over the Emo’s Annex tent. When I arrived, there was already a line and I was told about the ridiculous pecking order: Everyone with a badge has to get in first, then they start to let in people with wristbands, and finally everyone else waiting in line. This left me waiting in line for almost the entire night standing right near the entrance in the wristband line. I was actually the next to be let in for about two hours. Every time I was next to get in, a new group of badge holders would show up. This pattern perpetuated and proved to be one of the most frustrating, infuriating things I have ever experienced in my life.

On top of all this, people in line started to riot once they realized there was no chance in hell that they were getting in. This meant that several times they gave me the go ahead to get in then stopped me because security had to breakup a fight or pull people off the fence. This was enough to make my head explode. Since I spent most of the time listening to Adebisi Shank, Le Butcherettes, Fang Island, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group while waiting in line, I will talk about the new albums from each band which are among my favorites of 2011 and are beginning to make waves in the music world. In case you were wondering, all of these bands sounded incredible which made the wait simultaneously more enjoyable yet more painful.

Adebisi Shank was one of my most anticipated sets of SXSW as I had just fell in love with their new record, the appropriately titled This is the Second Album of a band called Adebisi Shank. It is a must-hear fusion of math rock and dance punk akin Battles. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see them pull off their insane technical musical maneuvers but fortunately, some videos of the performance were posted.

[live tv] #026 Pt.1-2 - Adebisi Shank - Masa from RaRaRa on Vimeo.

[live tv] #026 Pt.2-2 - Adebisi Shank - Shunk from RaRaRa on Vimeo.

Le Butcherettes apparently have one of the craziest live shows of all the bands that performed at SXSW. I was especially sad that I did not get to see them after hearing their fantastic debut, Sin Sin Sin. The project of frontwoman Teri Gender Bender (Teri Suarez), Le Butcherettes is an amalgamation of punk, indie, and rock influences that bring to mind everything from Yeah Yeah Yeahs to PJ Harvey. "Henry Don't Got Love" is one of the most infectious and daring singles of 2011 due to it's memorable refrain of "I'm green when you kick me / Your man thinks he's bigger than my law / You're ashamed of me / Do-do-do-do-do.” Listen below and see for yourself.

Fang Island were the next band I missed but heard. Thankfully, I saw them the day before. However, you can never get enough of a band that's as good as they are. The group hasn't released anything in 2011 but word is that they are in the studio working on their sophomore album. You can put that right up there with my most anticipated releases.

I would also like to mention Therapies Son who were on the bill earlier in the day. Their debut EP Over the Sea is one of the better EPs to come out so far in 2011. It has a dreamy quality and Beach Boys influenced melodies that are perfect for the summer weather.

The Mars Volta SXSW 2011 1
The Mars Volta SXSW 2011 2
The Mars Volta SXSW 2011 3

Finally, I did make it into Omar Rodriquez-Lopez Group to hear the last three songs. It was fairly evident that I was witnessing new songs from The Mars Volta. The songs were progressive, atmospheric, and unequivocally amazing. My anticipation for their next release is now through the roof. The songs had singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala making the most of his impressive range while Omar conjured up all the guitar-abusing magic he could. One song in particular grabbed me because of the slower unnerving atmosphere it occupied where you really felt the notes pouring out of the two. You can hear some of it in the teaser video below.

I love Sargent House Records but the showcase should have been held somewhere else. Not only so that I could have got in, but also because these bands deserve the expose that they could have had. If even half the people who were waiting in line were able to see the showcase, these bands would have surely have made a lot of new fans. A place like Stubbs would have been ideal given the draw. Luckily, I was able to see Omar Rodriquez-Lopez Group (aka The Mars Volta) a few days later at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA and it was easily one of the best shows I’ve seen all year. At the time, I couldn’t help end the day with a feeling of disappointment but I was still ready for my last day in Austin, TX.

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