One of Mo’s faves from SXSW, this Dublin bunch of boys who call themselves Girl Band are angular and messy and melodic and chaotic and awesome. Imagine the Fall’s Mark E. Smith fronting the Liars and then make it more muscular… Something like that. (And they are playing Thursday 3/26 at the Echo, just in case you’re curious because live… they DESTROY.)
Saturday in Austin brought more rain and mud, and the burnout factor… but our Mo trudged on and saw a few bands for you!
It was far too early in the morning for a band this loud to be rocking as hard as they do, but duo Cairo Knife Fight out of New Zealand brought their Black Sabbath meets Death From Above 1979 thrash to brunch and it was glorious.
Austin’s Residual Kid sound like they grew up with Nirvana and AC/DC, but considering they ages average about 15, that sort of isn’t possible. They rock with the kind of abandon only kids can have, but damn talented kids, with more energy than anyone at the showcase – except maybe their high school friends. Expect them to take over the world soon.
Out of Madrid came Hinds (formerly Deers) to play cute rowdy indie pop that the crowd positively ate up. Slightly retro 60s, melodic and sometimes a bit naughty, always fun and pretty adorable.
Another European band, this one called Makthaverskan (say that three times fast… hell, say it once!) out of Sweden did those angular early new wave guitar like structures but were fronted by a peppy frontwoman screaming in an early Bjork like fashion. Art damage and whimsy all in one place.
LA’s Mini Mansions, led by QOTSA bassist Michael Shulman, was a very pop, yet somehow trippy and badass affair. It was mesmerizing, for the stage antics as well as the unfolding drama of the melodies, that translated beautifully live.
And more LA… of Verona brought their indie electro to the stage, segueing in some of the 60’s and 70’s groove that shaped them without making it to obvious (except for the gorgeous cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”).
Then it was done. The official stuff, anyway… Till next year, SXSW!
Not wind nor rain nor exhaustion could stop the SXSW music fest in Austin from happening… although maybe it sent more people to the indoor venues as the outdoor ones got muddy really fast. Here’s a bit of the Friday action to report for you from Mo.
Philadelphia’s dream punk group Creepoid turned day into night at the noonish show put on by Brooklyn Vegan, all melodic noise and smoke machines and tastiness.
Another outfit from Philly, Marian Hill, is normally a duo but played as a trio this outing, for the ever important addition of a live saxophone or bass. Think if the XX had a jolt of caffeine and were more sexed up, and you’re getting there with Marian Hill’s slinky yet minimal grooves.
Then on to see what our favorite California boosters, Best Coast, were up to. The new single, “California Nights,” sounded amazing live, and the old tracks were fun as usual too.
Out to the muddy stage of the Bay Area’s K. Flay, whose bass boomed so loud the puddle vibrated visibly as did anyone’s eardrums in a 100 foot radius. Just further testimony to the hip hop singer’s badassery.
Colombian born, Virginian raised Kali Uchis did her sultry alt soul thing, all day glo and retro with modern electro twists that kept her cooing and fawning for an excited party crowd.
The much buzzed about singer songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. did a very low key, piano based set at the Central Presbyterian Church, an appropriate environment for his hushed tones and mellow vibes.
French Cuban twinset Ibeyi used the same venue for a much more spirited show, with the two sisters dancing up and down the aisles demanding the now standing audience to sing along with them. Ranging from a soulful take of Bjork like delicacies without the extremes, or solid world influenced grooves amazing harmonies, this was an excellent way to get people to enjoy church.
South Korea’s Big Phony (by way of LA & NYC) is the project of Bobby Chan, a sweet singer/songwriter who decided to give dreampop a try and found people loved it. Maybe because it sounds pretty awesome?
And finally to indulge in a bit of nostalgia, LA’s thundering space rockers Failure played an epic 90 minute set (, which included an encore, unheard of in the ADD scheduling of SXSW) deep in a small Austin warehouse to clamoring fans. They were also treated to a new track, “Hot Traveler,” as the band is working on their 4th album (the last one was in 1996). The perfect exit to a cold, misty Austin night.
Day and night, the music just keeps going and going at SXSW. So what kind of music did Mo check out? Plenty! Read on…
There isn’t a single girl in Girl Band, and these Dublin lads recall the Fall’s delivery and the Liars’ chaos at times, but definitely have an angular aggression all their own.
The ladies of Chastity Belt came from Seattle to play wry, dry, melodic indie for SXSW. They were both earnest and funny, and it was okay to chuckle along with the sincerity.
Mitski has vocals both strong and delicate, like her songs, depending on what she’s up to at the moment. Her lyrics lean towards the dramatic, and occasionally her vocals do too, but it isn’t necessarily off putting. She just screams the way you wish you could sometimes.
The Vaccines came from the UK to bounce around a bit, and it was pretty fun. (That new track “Handsome “was WAY fun, actually.)
Then came the noise… sorta. Canada’s Viet Cong, loud with a dramatic 80s flair, came onstage and the drummer proceeded to pound out his parts with one arms – the other was wrapped up and in a sling. No matter, though, it only brought out the vocals and when it came time to do their 11 minute opus, “Death,” they simply added the drummer from METZ for a 3 armed percussion attack. Successfully.
METZ really brought the noise, though. Loud, fast, totally in control. Rowdy, calculated, amazing. Ears were ringing, even the ones protected by earplugs.
Austin’s own My Jerusalem showcased a couple new rock numbers along with their melodic older stuff, punctuated by Jeff Klein’s dramatic howls. Horns, insane drumming, harmonies, moody Sergio Leone-esque guitar licks…always a trip to a dark and pretty place with these guys.
And now for something completely different – Leon Bridges. Folks in the crowd played “name that era” with his sweet soul revue… 1953? 1957? 1961? Did it matter? He proved Sam Cooke will always be cool, and his voice and band backed up that soul is cool in any era.
Checking into Buzzbands LA’s stellar afternoon party, Dear Boy took the stage in their black clad glory. Bits of Franz Ferdinand and Catherine Wheel swirled about the energetic performance, and by the end, most of the guys had actually rocked their sunglasses off.
Then a stop into the convention center to see the amazing Laura Marling, a petite poet who knows how to do some amazing things with an acoustic guitar and turn a very clever phrase. Plenty of new music from her album due out next week.
Sweet strumminess came that evening from Girlpool, a Philly duo that harmonize like nobody’s business and had the earnest and bittersweet thing down. Caustic and funny and heartwarming too.
The night belonged to Aussie Courtney Barnett, who played her entire album and wowed the Stubbs patio with her rowdy guitar work and enthusiastic and biting charm. Like the Runaways meet the Velvet Underground while drunk on cheap beer… How does she remember all those words?
Out of the UK tore Only Real, working up the outdoor stage at Cheer Up Charlie’s with a punky quick fire rap like delivery that whipped up the crowd.
Twin Peaks, hailing from Chicago, did an amazing job making people forget that the Damned were playing next door. Despite both bands being outdoors and literally separated by one concrete wall, Twin Peaks truly ripped it up, mosh pits and crowdsurfing and all.
Time delays sort of ruled the rest of the evening (and therefore, show misses and rescheduling), so the last band of the night to barely hit the stage did so with force… Philly’s Sheer Mag, full of scuzzy classic rock bravado (in the veins of Thin Lizzy or Kiss) filtered through punk rock (a la X or the Gossip) didn’t even really need a sound check to blast Hotel Vegas out the front door anyway.
SXSW Music kicks off a bit earlier each year, and there are only so many acts you can see as soon as you step off the plane. Mo checks in with Gals with Guitars kind of night. Also – kind of like the 90’s.
Waxahatchee, releasing a new album on Merge in April, did a solo acoustic performance (well, she was joined by her sister on a few numbers) to a rapt audience. Waxahatchee, aka Katie Crutchfield of Birmingham, Alabama, strummed along while reminiscing amusedly about how her first concert was Mr. Alan Jackson. The songs may have been a bit heartbreaking, but the banter was pretty lovely.
Speedy Ortiz came on next to rock anyone out of any semblance of mellow that may have remained after the previous set. Lead vocalist Sadie Dupuis threw out the occasional zingers (asking for any member of N*Sync to join her on stage, please) and the drummer soundchecked with Beastie Boys lyrics. But once they kicked off, it was a 90s nostalgia trip without the nostaligia, because they were tougher than the Spinanes/Pavement combo they almost sounded like.
The last lady of the evening was Angel Olsen, who announced she had tried not to get drunk, but Jesus told her to go ahead and do so anyway. She played about 40 minutes of beautifully smart and sad folk, with her appropriately angelic voice well in tune. A simple and lovely set, she apologized towards the end for trying to put people to sleep. Honestly, the crowd seemed a bit more mesmerized than that…
Any of our listeners at SXSW this week? Make sure to go check out the Buzzbands LA show and say hi to Bronson!
Our ever hard working music director Mo will be off to Texas this week, so keep watch here and on our FB page for coverage of SXSW stuff!