Tanner: Finally getting an early start to the day, I along with everyone else in Austin, was greeted with overcast, breezy, 45 degree weather. I made my way downtown at about noon hoping to capitalize on the ‘Free BBQ’ that was advertised by the Filter Magazine day party. I had yet to check out their festivities thus far despite having a solid lineup. I was only disappointed to find out the ‘Free BBQ’ was burgers and hot dogs that appeared to have been purchased by the hundreds. I am not sure how they can get away with that sort of misrepresentation. After all, this was Texas. I have enough ties to Kansas City to know the difference between a ‘grill out’ and a ‘BBQ’ and the latter means slow smoked meats that have not been ground and made into patties. Luckily they did have free beer, so I stuck it out in their cold outdoor courtyard until I had finished a pint.
Still hungry, I headed to another party in the area advertising ‘Free BBQ’. There, I did find some smoked pulled pork sandwiches that were respectable along with a couple of the guys from Man/Miracle who told me about seeing Andrew WK at a house party the pervious night. Finally feeling satisfied, I headed to Aces Lounge to meet up with some friends and start watching live music again.
French Horn Rebellion, a Brooklyn based electronic indie dance duo, was on stage as I arrived. Catchy beats, pop vocals, and an array of analog synths was all it took to impress me. Although it was clearly for novelty, they did incorporate live French Horn into a couple songs. Allegedly one of the most difficult brass instruments to master, they appeared to have been practicing their skills for years, so in that case I will respectfully accept the novelty.
[mp3] French Horn Rebellion – Up All Night from Up All Night EP (2009)
Then came Chicago’s own synth saturated indie rock trio, Hey Champ. I saw them open for Passion Pit and The Gossip at Mezzanine in December and was sold after that performance, so I was not surprised when they delivered again here at SXSW. Building off momentum that was generated from their epic party video Cold Dust Girl, they have shared the stage with a slew of diverse acts from Lupe Fiasco to Justice. They are set to release their long awaited debut full length on Townie Records this summer.
[mp3] Hey Champ – Cold Dust Girl from Cold Dust Girl Single (2008)
Next, I was off to Beauty Bar to catch a Seattle showcase. Folk duo, The Duchess and The Duke, played a casual and intimate set on the back patio with nothing more than two voices and two guitars. I have been wanting to see this band for a long time now, and was definitely glad I was able to catch their stripped down and beautiful performance here.
[mp3] The Duchess and The Duke – Hands from Sunset/Sunrise (2009)
Another folk and blues inspired group, The Cave Singers, played next. Although I saw them a little over a year ago when they opened for Department Of Eagles at Cafe Du Nord, I was definitely mesmerized by their performance here. Seeming comfortable and at ease among the chaos of SXSW, they held the crowd’s attention and did it on their own terms as if they were playing in their living room to close friends.
[mp3] The Cave Singers – Leap from Welcome Joy (2009)
After we left the Seattle showcase, we headed to the Mess With Texas party that was taking place east of I-35 on a grass covered city block that was fenced off and turned into its own outdoor music festival. A friend of mine had some connections at this party, so we were able to get backstage as soon as we walked up. With the help of some whiskey to warm our blood, we quickly began chatting up others and gossiping about the musicians that we spotted in the area. Not really paying much attention, I followed a young local with a nice camera that I had just met to the photographer pit right in front of the stage. Andrew WK was set to play any minute and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was here that yet again, I happened upon Shawn as he readied himself to capture the scene.
We were allowed to shoot Andrew WK for the first three songs in his set. I had never shot from the photo pit before and in some ways it reflected the raucous mosh pits beyond the security barricade behind us. There was no overt pushing or elbowing, but every one of the few dozen photographers there was constantly in motion trying get the most dynamic angle and establishing your position relative to the other people shooting. After three songs were over we were sent away from the pit and I made my way to the backstage area again, without getting a chance to chat with Shawn. In case you forgot, it was still extremely cold and overcast, so despite the scene of GWAR members wandering about and getting a chance to chat with a couple members of Crystal Antlers, my friends insisted we move on to get some food and warm up.
[mp3] Andrew WK – It’s Time To Partyfrom I Get Wet (2001)
Later that evening, I made my way back to Aces Lounge to catch Bay Area indie pop rockers, Minipop. Despite their success after releasing their full length, A New Hope, in 2008, they have not played many Bay Area shows lately, much to my chagrin. Fronted by the angelic Tricia Kanne, they put on a seamless set as if they hadn’t skipped a beat, which included a stellar cover of The Catherine Wheel’s Black Metallic. I am not sure of their future plans, but I hope it includes releasing some new music soon.
[mp3] Minipop – Like I Do from A New Hope (2008)
After their set, a friend and myself went to join another photographer whom I met in Austin that had a promising lead on an after party. That promise was kept as this party had free booze and killer jams being pumped out live by the likes of Ninjasonik among others. With that combination, it should go without saying that I danced the night away, but not before running into Hudson Mohawke and Olivier Daysoul there. Getting to bed that night at 4am was a fitting end to this multi-day extravaganza that is SXSW.
This was truly a unique experience; unlike any other music festival. It was dreamlike for two reasons. First, when you think about every band you want to see all taking over one city for 5 days, its hard to imagine anything better. Second, waking up Monday morning, I tried to remember all the strange and wonderful things that happened, but some parts were just a bit cloudy. I strongly suggest you start planning your trip for next year. For me, it can’t come soon enough.