On the last day of my visit to Austin, TX’s SXSW Festival, I felt somewhere along the lines of a pencil that’s been sharpened down to its eraser. I barely had any energy left to dedicate to roaming around the city trying to find the “Next Big Band” and just let my friends pretty much direct me where to go. There were only a handful of bands I wanted to check out that day but overall, I was pretty beat.
First I waited on line at the MOG party at Mohawk for about an hour before I was told that I was “VIP” and could get in through the side door. I’m not bragging, I’m actually letting you know how much of an idiot I am for standing outside in the 90 degree heat while my friends were rocking out to Yuck.
Anyway, I was able to watch Okkervil River for the second time. I swear these guys never get old when it comes to their live performances. Will Sheff is about as charismatic as one would hope and the rest of the band meshes well in this delightful combination of heart-wrenching folk rock and groove-based bluegrass. Even the new songs off I Am Very Far sounded very familiar; even though this was the second time I’ve ever heard them.
Note: Since seeing them in SXSW, I have been listening to I Am Very Far over and over again…it is extremely good.
After Okkervil I went downstairs to finally witness Twin Shadow; George Lewis Jr’s undeniably enjoyable project. I had heard mixed reactions about his shows, but it seemed to be more about the odd venue choices or poor sound system than his overall set. With that noted, Twin Shadow was very enjoyable. As a fan of last year’s Forget, I found the show to be an intimate (The Mohawk’s indoor stage is very small, 70+ people at best) and entertaining set. The crowd was dancing and I was properly rocking out, which was reason enough for me to stay his entire set.
Next up on the outdoor stage was TV on the Radio. I had seen TVOTR several times but they’re never one to slack on live shows. Off the top of my head I can say that the new songs were played with a bit more enthusiasm than the golden favorites. Even the songs from Dear Science were kind of missing that noticeable energy, but once anything from Nine Types of Light was played, the band would erupt. This was fine considering most of the songs off the new album are quite intense. Generally I was satisfied with their set, but I would have liked to know the new songs better, obviously.
After TV on the Radio I stuck around to watch Outkast’s Big Boi perform a “Greatest Hits” set of his material. Basically the show consisted of Outkast tracks he’s the primarily on and many songs from last year’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. The place erupted on pretty much every song, which was magnetic if you were in the base of the audience. I however, left about ¾ the way through his set. Sometimes a hunger for Korean tacos takes precedence over listening to modern hip-hop, no matter how good it is.
I couldn’t help but notice I wasn’t the only one that was phoning it in that day. I can only experience so much music in a matter of 4-days. I knew people that were rocking out for over 5-days and running on zero sleep and on an unhealthy supper of brisket and 5-hour energy.
More power to ya buddy!
After a good long break I was able catch a few songs from Futurebirds, a southern rock & roll band from Athens, GA. It was interesting and if anything else, memorable mainly because of how they were able to rock the slimming crowd that gathered that evening.
Next I joined some friends to see Big Freedia at MWTX 2011, who wins as “Most Bizarrely Fun Act” of SXSW 2011. With 4 booty shakers on stage and the towering Big Freedia him/her(self?), the show is just an utter chaos-bomb of debauchery.
Next I went over to some shack (seriously, I have no idea where I was) and got to watch EMA (ex-GOWNS singer/guitarist Erika M. Anderson) churn out a few tunes. I don’t think I had much of an opinion since I was already getting kind of drunk and was running on fumes at about this time. But I know they weren’t horrible…
Finally I caught a band I’ve been following for quite some time now, SUNBEARS! That’s actually how they’re addressed; SUNBEARS! Anyway, the band sounds like Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips with a dash of Postal Service. But don’t let that pigeon hole their style for you, SUNBEARS! live is a joyous and high energy event. While this was tamed compared to their opening slot for Mates of State a few years ago (the set included an enormous inflatable balloon that drifted over the crowd….okay that is very ‘Flaming Lips-ish’). Playing mostly from their DREAM HAPPY DREAMS EP, the band did garner a sizable crowd and from I could tell, the audience was very much into their set. It’s only a matter of time before these guys get the attention they deserve.
So there it is, my second SXSW. It’s honestly a summer camp for music fans. A Six Flags of music lovers. A Disneyland for indie rock snobs. Whatever you want to refer to it as, it’s a hub for 20-somethings to band together and wear rock t-shirts, drink free beer, eat breakfast tacos, and check out the latest and greatest of modern indie music (or whatever you want to call it). Yes, Kanye West, Kesha, Duran Duran, and even P. Diddy showed up to prove they’re still relevant in indie-culture. But even though they are the polar opposite of what SXSW represents, they are helping with bringing attention to one of the greatest music festivals on the planet. You can easily ignore the SPONSORED BY…Toyota-Pepsi-AXE-State Farm-Rachel Ray-Valtrex-whatever and just enjoy yourself with friends who enjoy music as much as you. I know I did. See you next year…