SXSW 2011 Friday

I was feeling pretty lazy due to yesterday’s injury combined with hospital prescribed painkillers. But I got over it and rode my bike to the Victory Grill on 11th Street, where KVRX was having a punk show.

I got there just in time to see the epic last song of Female Demand’s set. Unstoppable Death Machines joined them on drums. Basically, three dudes were playing percussion instruments and one was hunched on the floor making experimental wailing sounds with electronic equipment. It was chaos accompanied by a strobe light. Female Demand is a duo from Houston who lives to perform even despite low audience attendance.

I was really surprised that there were few people at the show. The lineup was so good and unexpected. Rocket for Ethiopia was on next. They’re a three piece from Ft. Worth. At times they were super unpredictable, it was hard to tell where the songs were going, but each time they ended up being interesting and surprised me.

The show ended early, so I went home and ate a disappointing meal of cheesy popcorn. It’s really easy to become both malnourished and dehydrated during Southby. Avoid the overly expensive food carts and try to hit up grocery stores and make your own damn sandwiches. Anyway, I rode down to 7th Street where I thought I was going to see Starfucker at Lipstick 24. However, they never showed due to one of them getting arrested. I wish I knew the charge.

Instead, I joined some friends at a house show on King Street. It was really chill and nice. I ate a piece of watermelon that tasted like summer. Dear Human was the band I came to see. They’re from Denton and basically sound like experimental jam rock. It’s not bad though. Afterwards I scored a cold piece of avocado and gorgonzola pizza from the Parlor. Mmmm.

Back to downtown, I waited in line for what I thought was a free Gorilla Vs. Bear showcase. Some strange marching band with people on stilts walked by and was a better distraction than the loud metal music coming from a random tent across from Emo’s. Unfortunately the show cost monies, meaning I was so out of there.

Traveled east side to Longbranch Inn to see Cloud Nothings, a band I would say has an oxymoronic name. Maybe call it Loud Pop Punk Thunderings. Whatever. It’s really catchy and good. And probably the only group I listen to who happens to be from Cleveland. Then Julianna Barwick started. Her stuff is amazing and beautiful, but it’s extremely difficult to listen to angelic tapestries of voice swirl around when you’ve been awake forever. She layers and loops samples of her own voice to create musical magic, which makes sense considering that her new album is called “The Magic Place.”

Man, sleeping comes so easily these days!

SXSW 2011 Thursday

Clearly thinking negative thoughts will bring negative consequences. This week is literally trying to kill me. Thursday morning I was hit by a car. Nothing too serious but so scary. Have you ever rolled off of anyone’s windshield before? It’s oddly comical. I escaped with minor bruises/cuts and one sprained knee. Although bicycle is the best form of transportation during the festival, don’t leave your safety precautions at home. Please wear your helmet no matter how dorky it makes you look.

I had been on my way to a free show at the Spider House that Audrey and I had personally booked. Up first was a shared set by Naked Gods and Invisible Hand. The two bands have a split 7 inch together released by Django Kill. Naked Gods had awesome sound as well as a bluegrass twinge to their indie rock and roll. Invisible Hand was a little more poppy than their peers and the lead singer had a penchant for playing his guitar while lying on the ground.

Next up was BRAHMS, a trio of stylishly dressed pretty boys playing dark pop music. Their set seemed rather short as they had arrived about 15 minutes late. Also late to the show was Cloud Control from Australia. Although they were more than 20 minutes behind schedule they had a great reason for it. Apparently they were forced to hitchhike over to the venue. Their awesome jangly melodies drew the largest crowd so far that day. I nearly died when they covered the Butthole Surfers’ great anthem “Pepper.”

Sunglasses took the stage and were pretty much amazing. However, probably not the right kind of amazing to hold the average crowd at Spider House. Too experimental, I guess. It was two dudes. One had strange blond hair and was wearing some sort of children’s shirt while the other was punked out in a black denim vest and cutoffs. Awesomely enough, their biggest fans in the audience were a group of Japanese musicians. Hailing from Georgia where they attended art school in Savannah, the duo create multilayered pop songs out of electronic beats and a guitar with plenty of feedback.

Last on the lineup was The Diamond Center, a psych folk rock group that seemed to be just the thing to keep people’s attention. While their songs were long and drawn out, they had an outdoor festival kind of sound. The five piece will be back in Austin for the annual Psych Fest, taking place this year at the end of April.

The show was a success. The shop fixed my bike for free. I got two delicious free tacos. Things were starting to look up. But then I realized that my knee hurt probably a little more than it should and rode over to Brackenridge hospital. I was there three hours with very little entertainment. Thank god for the pinball game on my phone. At the end of my visit, they diagnosed my knee as being sprained. So now I have to wear an ace bandage and not partake in physical activity. Hmm, that seems just about impossible this week.

Disregarding everything I had been told, I rode over to Cheer Up Charlie’s to see the very end of KVRXplosion, KVRX’s biggest night show during SXSW. I got there in time to watch Lesands, an awesome electro pop group from San Diego that got the crowd dancing their eighties synth loving asses off.

Dominique Young Unique was the last performer that I stuck around to see. She has so much attitude and swagger. I felt so bad for the student sound people when she started going off on them for not having it right. Of course it’s not like she was present for the sound check anyway, diva. Her dress had strains of bronze sequins on it that sort of matched the black sequined tunic her crazy platinum long blond DJ was wearing. The weave she had on basically looked like a curly orangey brown mohawk. Let’s not forget about her fierce platform stilettos. When she finally got going, it was spot on amazing. Nearly at the end of her set, she abandoned the song she was in the middle of to launch into “Show My Ass,” which I like to think is a feminist dance piece.

And so I rode my bike home triumphantly to go to sleep for another day.

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SXSW 2011 Wednesday

I woke up feeling awful probably due to my 5am bedtime. This week is clearly going to kill me. At around 12:30pm I rode my bike to Waterloo Records to catch Morning Teleportation. They’re a young band with a lot of heart. For some reason they’ve got that psychedelic thing going on mixed with a style of folk punk. Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse signed MT to his label, Glacial Pace.

Across the street from Waterloo is Whole Foods, so I went over there to try to score some free food. It was a meager lunch, but a third of a mango, some cinnamon chips, and bread would have to get me through the next few hours. I had some time to kill before the next band I wanted to see, so I headed over to Red 7 to get in to the Terrorbird day party. Inside, Rainbow Arabia was playing. They are an Arabian music inspired group made up of a female singer/instrumentalist and a male electronic percussionist.

Next, I went to Fado, an Irish themed pub on Fourth Street. There, I was hoping to catch Alcoholic Faith Mission, a Danish band. I sat through some terrible acts as I waited for the stylish six to finally start playing. Instead, it was announced that their set had been cancelled as a result of the venue being an hour behind. Welcome to SXSW, AFM. That would have been their first performance at the festival ever.

To combat my disappointment I headed to the KVRX hip hop show, held at Cream Vintage. I figured I had missed Phil Ade’s set by at least an hour, yet when I asked around people said he hadn’t even played. The word on the street was that he would show up eventually. Some rapper from Maryland, Logic?, tried to hype up the crowd with the worst rhyming I’ve ever heard. His flow was pretty good, but not creative at all, too predictable, too “I’m an angry mixed kid trying to live in a white man’s world.” Thank god for Phil Ade. I was so sure that Wednesday was going to turn out to be the worst day ever, when he finally took the stage. Ade blew everyone away with sick beats and even sicker spit. Both acts are from 368 Music Group.

After a brief refueling session at my house, I was back in action again attempting to find my friend downtown. It is a foolhardy task to walk a bike through these insane almost riot-like sized crowds. But somehow I found him and we went to the Lose Control party at Vice for a hot minute. Vice is sort of a joke to most people. It’s this 18 and up dance club with three dancing levels advertised. Basically, dudes go there to get some jailbait. Luckily it was 21 and up for Wednesday night. We watched some hipster band who had funny haircuts and really loud flashy music.

My friend, Russell, isn’t into that kind of thing, so we briefly went to the HM Magazine free show to see Christian hardcore. Oddly enough, the band who was playing is called Before There Was Rosalyn and some of its members are from my hometown. They say they’re from Houston, because it’s way cooler than saying you’re from Lake Jackson. Maybe some day a musician will own up to have lived in a suburban paradise. Anyway, the performance was pretty crazy. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Christian band live, but they’re constantly making worship signs and cult-like gestures. The music was hard, I guess. The crowd was moshing a bit, which is a really annoying display of masculinity.

At the end of a really long line, we saw some friends and asked who the hell they were waiting to see. Apparently The Black Lips were going to play at Emo’s in a few hours and they were just gonna wait all night. We decided that was a dumb way to spend time, so we biked across the highway to catch a presumably free show at ND. After we got our IDs checked, we were informed that it was an official showcase, meaning we’d have to pay $13. Um, no thanks.

We ended up at Cheer Up Charlies, where Russell purchased a seemingly scrumptious chili cheese dog from a vegan food trailer. Some girl was singing along to interesting electronic music. She was operating an entire setup by herself with mixers and samplers and stuff. I got a text tipoff that Toro y Moi was playing at Longbranch on 11th Street, so we hauled ass over there. TYM had cancelled the set, but as we waited in line outside the venue I could hear Pictureplane, whom I’d always wanted to see. We didn’t get in until he’d already stopped spinning, but we made peace with the fact that we’d at least get to see Das Racist. The song that made them famous describes the confusion that two friends had trying to find each other at one of those weird fast food collaboration restaurants.

“I’m at the pizza hut (what?), I’m at the taco bell (what?), I’m at the combination pizza hut and taco bell.”

The show was a little out of control which was surprising considering that the crowd looked to be made of mostly older music industry professionals. People got on stage and sang along to songs or danced provocatively. A drum was passed around. I’m not sure what constitutes a good performance from them honestly. The beats were good, but the sound was pretty awful.

We called it a night around 1:30am. When I got home, I received a text saying I should come hang out at Rio Rita. Oh hellllll no. Exhausted from biking all over town, must sleep!

SXSW 2011 Tuesday

After a couple relaxing hours of gardening, I decided it was time to venture into the craziness that is South by Southwest. First on today’s agenda was to attend the Ice Cream Man party at Club DeVille. Rode my bike over to experience free ice creams and great sounds provided by Screaming Females. There is only one female out of the trio, Marissa Paternoster, but she does scream. It’s more like a really intense high-pitched growl. She’s got mad shredding skills and is probably only a little taller than 5 feet. They kind of sound like a Joan Jett fronted indie band. But it’s good, I promise!

I left after their set to investigate the scene on Sixth Street. It was pretty lame, so I rode over to the Art Authority over by campus. Confusion overcame me as I walked through the door. Turned out that a female/male duo was playing heavy noise to a crowd of about ten. The band is called UNMOOR and they were a part of the first ever Slow Pump drone fest sponsored by Switched On, a local electronic instruments store. Basically it sounded like the sky was falling down and thunder was crashing everywhere.

I took a brief detour through west campus and chatted with a presumably insane bum about conspiracy theories. My final destination was Cheer Up Charlie’s, a queer friendly bar on the eastside. RYAT was playing the outside side stage while someone else played the parking lot. The band is comprised of Christina McGleehan and Tim Conley, a couple from Philly. I was impressed at the quality of music they create.  McGleehan’s vocals are beautiful paired with dueling electronic melodies.

The last place I went to is a venue right by my house called Club 1808. It’s so close that I walked there. The show was the fifth in a series called ESCAPES booked by Party Party Partners (a bunch of Austin kids involved in the underground music scene). I saw a couple mediocre bands followed by a pretty good band that went by the name Quiet Hooves. For lack of better words it sounded like demented polka or a melting psychedelic record. Or both…at once.

Anyway the main attraction was Janka Nabay, a band made of several Brooklyn musicians backing a Bubu legend. Ahmed Janka Nabay proudly performs his style of traditional Sierra Leonean music. Dressed up in a hat with a feather, Nabay was hilarious and exciting. He hyped up the crowd by showing off his excellent dance moves and stated that no one was allowed to stand still during the set. The complexity of the rhythms was very entertaining and even a little bit foreign to those with the most discerning ears.

Not a bad day considering that the music portion of SXSW doesn’t officially start until Wednesday. Get ready for more of my daily festival highlights!