Houston Calling

SXSW: report from the field (Friday)

March 19th, 2011 · 1 Comment

This just in from Dryvetyme Onlyne‘s Adam P. Newton:

SXSW 2011
Friday, March 18th, 2011

To be quite upfront with you, I didn’t’ do as much “in the field” today as I usually do at SXSW. I knew what bands I wanted to see, so, after seeing them, I felt I was finished for the day. The result was that I really enjoyed myself yesterday, as I didn’t rush around to six (or more) different venues to see ten to thirteen different acts (many of whom I usually don’t know).

White Laces

My day began at Agave, a long, narrow “shot bar” when SXSW isn’t in town. The place was on the empty side for the first hour or so, as festival attendees were still waking up from Thursday’s St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans. Up first was White Laces, a band whose EP I reviewed earlier this year and whose brand of second-wave-emo-tinged post-punk I really dug. The quartet put together a strong five-song set that was crisp, on-point, and pleasantly loud, complete with excellent guitar tones pulsing with tremolo.

Tiger Bones

Tiger Bones, a four-piece out of Chicago, played next, with its own snaking, wiry version of post-punk. Working from its 2011 debut EP, the group hit some great notes, included some ‘60s garage influences, and the sound was all-around tight with sharp edges. A relative one-man band called Idiot Glee took the stage next, and provided a complete change of pace. Call it quirky bedroom pop for hipsters, but this Kentucky native merged together ‘70s pop slow jams (a la Neil Diamond) with current trends in indie-pop by playing pop chord progressions on a keyboard while zippy beats burst from a processor. And it didn’t hurt that the guy bantered with the crowd with relative ease. 

Twin Shadow

I then meandered down 6th Street to Emo’s, a proper, long-established Austin music venue. I was eager to see Twin Shadow and discover how he would bring forth the sounds of his 2010 debut full-length to the stage. And he delivered with style, as he proved to be a stellar guitar player backed by a drummer, a bassist (who also worked a Micro Korg synth), and a Jeanene Garaolo look-alike playing a full-sized Nord synth and an old-school Roland Juno keyboard. The band’s overall aesthetic was quite righteously ‘80s, from the drum patterns and guitar riffs to the sexy, body-moving combination of dance, pop, and goth.

Esben And The Witch

Though I saw Esben And The Witch yesterday, I welcomed the chance to see the trio perform inside with a real sound system. The result was magical, as I was able to hear more of the programmed beats that propel each song (and hear them more clearly), and the bass and drum kicked much harder. While yesterday’s passion wasn’t diminished in the slightest, the band did play the exact same set, though that’s somewhat to be expected when you’re guided by technology and play two sets a day for four days straight. On the whole, I found myself liking this group even more, with its very English take on the tribal, spectral side of goth and rock.

The only band I had slated to see today that I’d never heard of before was The Naked And Famous, a quintet from New Zealand. The group performed six songs, only two of which have actually made it stateside – the overall sound was glam mixed with electro and up-tempo mainstream rock. While I really wasn’t into the band’s music, I did admire its energy and the fact that four guys and a girl were good performers who engaged the crowd well. The group was a bit too theatrical and over-eager for my tastes, but I’d rather hear this sort of music on mainstream rock radio than most of the schlock that’s there now.


I called an end to my day after viewing Braids. I wanted to see this Canadian quartet for the same reason I wanted to hear Esben And The Witch yesterday – not every young band who makes a buzzed-about debut record can actually perform those songs live. I came away mildly impressed with how thick and full the songs were, as I quite expected the quartet’s brand of ethereal, post-Animal Collective pop to be quite wispy and airy. Between two keyboards, two guitars, and a drummer, the sound was rather layered, and the vocal harmonies (usually the two women) were outstanding in their clarity and in how they supplemented the music. The guitars were more texture than anything traditionally chord-based, as the swaths of noise from the heavily tweaked synths led these delicate songs. On the whole, I liked what I heard, though I’d recommend seeing this band inside: the music would probably float away into the atmosphere on an outside stage.

On to Saturday!

Thanks to Adam for the SXSW coverage.

Tags: Music · Reviews · SXSW

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