Tanner: After staying with friends and grabbing lunch at the popular local diner, Magnolia Cafe on South Congress Ave, we headed for 6th street. We got a later start to the day than we wanted as it was already mid afternoon by the time we made it to the festival. Much to my surprise, we had perfect timing.
As we were heading to the Pitchfork day party at Emo’s, we came across a crowd of people gathering around the uber spectacle known as GWAR. These legends of the rock world, whose costumes and stage show far overshadow their music, basically have free reign wherever they go. Lucky for me, a friend of mine happened to know one of the people helping to manage the band at the festival. So when the line to get into the Pitchfork party stretched across the street, we were ushered in the venue along with the band and their entourage before I could hardly realize what was happening. At this point I was more interested in the bands playing the party than trying to ride GWAR‘s coat tails, so I positioned myself to watch the next band up, New Jersey based Memory Tapes.
Only recently had I discovered Memory Tapes when a friend insisted I join him at their Noisepop show at Bottom Of The Hill a few weeks prior. Though their recorded music didn’t have me clamoring to buy their album, their live show blew me away. Their music has an electronic feel, but the live drums coupled with the guitar, and vocals come together so well, it transcends anything you can find on their myspace page. Singer and brains behind the band, Dayve Hawk, is reportedly very shy and somewhat averse to crowds and attention, but when performing, this is not the case as he had the crowd here fully engaged from start to finish of their set.
[mp3] Memory Tapes – Bicycles from Seek Magic (2009)
Next on the outdoor stage was Florida’s Surfer Blood. They were one of bands entering SXSW with pristine timing as the buzz around this young band was reaching a fever pitch and was one of my must see bands at the festival. When I say, young, I mean young. I can’t say for certain, but I think the ink on their high school diplomas is still drying. That being said, their performance consisted of nothing but the highest level musicianship and showmanship. Sloppy and immature, they were not. In fact, they performed like a band that had been playing together for a decade. To top it off, their guitar player Thomas Fekete spiced up the show by first using a drumstick to create unique sounds with distortion and feedback with his guitar and later playing it with his teeth. I could not help but applaud his effort to pay homage to eighties glam rockers everywhere.
[mp3] Surfer Blood – Take It Easy from Astro Coast (2010)
Playing next was Neon Indian, but alas, the venue was at capacity so we were unable to access the other side again to watch that performance. The double edged sword about SXSW is there are always multiple bands you want to see that is playing at the same time. In this case, it was a good thing.
We headed over to Lovejoys and while waiting in the short line I saw fellow Bay Area music blogger Julie from The OCMD. We exchanged some SXSW highlights and then I headed inside.
First I caught New York band Small Black who played sort of a split set, the latter half acting as Washed Out‘s backing band. Next came South Carolina’s Toro Y Moi. Unfortunately the stage lighting at Lovejoys consisted of a worklamp with about a 60 watt incandescent bulb. And the stage was a loosely delineated, unelevated 10’x15′ area at the end of the room. Although this did make for an intimate and unique experience, it did not play well for photography of the bands and thus I have no photos worth sharing of these two performances. I will be seeing Toro Y Moi at Bottom Of The Hill on April 12th. Maybe I can get some better shots then.
The sun was setting, so a pit stop at Hoboken Pie for a slice of pizza was in order. Then we headed to the Galaxy Room Backyard to catch another must see act of mine, Local Natives. I had been in Austin for 48 hours and still had yet to see Shawn when I received a text from him saying “At Local Natives now”. Surprised, I looked around only to find him standing a few feet in front of me. We caught up a bit and compared photos until the band took the stage.
I can only assume these guys got a thorough soundcheck, which is a rarity at SXSW, because they sounded nearly impeccable. Or maybe that this being their sixth of nine shows at Southby, they knew they had to be on point and be able to handle anything that would be thrown their way and still try to win over the crowd. It appears they did their homework and showed up well prepared. If I were dispensing grades at the festival, this band would be the teacher’s pet. Quite possibly the best performance of the week for me. They took their already great songs and injected a new life in them as any great live act should. As a finale to their set, they invited some guest musicians to join them and add percussion while the stage became a frenzy of energy, which was only contagious to the crowd watching.
[mp3] Local Natives – Airplanes from Gorilla Manor (2010)
After that, I had to go catch a band I have been waiting nearly a year to see. Delorean, the Spanish electronic indie rockers have yet to complete a full US tour, and have yet to come to San Francisco. I instantly fell in love when I heard their debut EP, Ayrton Senna, last summer. So here at SXSW, I finally got to see them and was glad I did. Now I can look forward to seeing them again as they will be opening for Miike Snow at The Independent on April 15th and 16th.
[mp3] Delorean – Deli from Ayrton Senna EP (2009)
Then I was off to The Music Gym to catch an unofficial SXSW party hosted by the Bay Area music blog, Epicsauce. Just as I arrived, Tempo No Tempo was mid set and firing on all cylinders. Playing on the indoor stage, the tightly packed room filled with sweaty bodies seemed to be an appropriate setting for their syncopated, dance inducing rhythms. Despite sustaining an injury just prior to the festival and being unable to play guitar as planned, frontman Tyler McCauley didn’t skip a beat in transcribing those parts to synthesizer and maintaining the integrity and energy of their typical stage show. So much so that anyone new to the band were none the wiser, while those familiar with them regarded it as nothing short of a special performance.
[mp3] Tempo No Tempo – The Rat (Part One) from Waking Heat (2009)
Next on the outdoor stage was the Oakland duo, Wallpaper. The singer and drummer tandem can always get a crowd gyrating and this was no exception. These guys take cues from the best R&B of the early 90’s, and then add their own touch to that throwback sound, complete with auto tuned vocals. Playing original material about weekend parties and drinking champagne, we were also treated to a cover of one of my favorite jams from 1990, Bel Biv Devoe’s Poison. This is not a group that is worth seeing only once and then checked off the list. Every performance is guaranteed a good time and party atmosphere, and when they play The Independent on May 7th, I expect nothing less.
[mp3] Wallpaper – Gettin Drip from Doodoo Face (2009)
Now it was getting late and there was still one more full day of shows ahead of me, so I decided to call it a night. And for some strange reason it was getting quite cold, something that I don’t think anybody attending SXSW was expecting.