Monday, March 19, 2012

The Big Beat's SXSW Review

For whatever reason, of all of the social platforms available I chose to update my personal Facebook account with quick, capsule thoughts about the bands I caught during SXSW. Here they are, conveniently cut-and-pasted from four posts to one, with my verdict at the end.

(Wednesday, March 14th)
Caged Animals - ok, but just ok.
2:54 - the band was great, especially the rhythm section, but the songs were bit weak. Too centered around the singer. A long way of saying the music was more interesting than the lyrics.
Daughter - very, very good. Seemed genuinely blown away by the audience reception.
Zola Jesus - wow, really boring. left after a few songs.
Got closed out of Django Django. Wasn't willing to wait in line. Would have made it in but The Best Wurst called.
The Men - rawk! Got venues confused, meant to see Blondes and ended up at this backup choice. Left after one song. Too tired to rock, wanted to dance. Ended up just going home. A good start.

(Thursday, March 15th)
Psychic Ills - stoner rock. Not for singing and dancing, but for laying down and avoiding. Far out, maaan.
Turf War - Sloppy, anthemic post-grunge punk from carefree Georgia boys. No beer left untouched. 4 guitarists on stage, don't tell Pitchfork. Long live rock.
Breton - angular, electro English math rock. Love child of Foals and Errors. They've got tunes. First US gig. Big potential.
Clock Opera - ballyhooed, kinda fey English indie pop band version 19,739.
Capsula - thunderous power trio employs every rock star cliche but with infectious enthusiasm. Stooges-style rock that, surprise surprise, played to the largest collection of over 40 year old dudes of the week. Lousy room.
Letting Up Despite Great Faults - posh venue (Driskill) hosting pleasant LA electro pop band. Rattle your jewelry.
Korallreven - delayed start, chatty inattentive audience ruined this Radio Dept. offshoot for me. Hype Hotel fail..
Alpine - Aussie band fronted by two animated, sashaying females. Quirky alt-pop. Not enough tunes.

(Friday, March 16th)
Electric Guest - charming white boy, doo wop reggae. A li'l Vampire Weekend-y. Debut CD recorded w/ Danger Mouse so, yeah, you'll be hearing about them.
Friends - Brooklyn blog buzz band - odd makeup, like they met through want ads - have a few legit bangers but the rest is kinda meh. Black Kids, anyone?
Tanlines - caught the last half of their last song, damn! Like what I've heard from the record though.
Caveman - moody Brooklyn indie that sits comfortably between The Walkmen and Grizzly Bear. Admit to being engaged in conversation throughout. Blame the free Red Stripe.
Three Blind Wolves - Scottish band. Um...that's all I've got.
The Xcerts - more Scots. Energetic emo/screamo trio that sounds pretty 2003 to me yet still have some nice meoldies and an appealing front man.
The Twilight Sad - can you tell I was at a Scottish showcase? Suitably intense & brooding wall of sound. Stumped a Scottish friend when I asked if they have bands that do anything subtle. Singer looks like Ian Curtis. A lot.
The Hundred Days - San Fran guitar pop aiming for alt-rock radio. Too vanilla for my taste but can see them finding airplay.
Tiny Victories - Brooklyn electropop band engaged crowd by sampling audience members voice and looping 'em into each song.

(Saturday, March 17th)
The BlueBonnets - Local all-female band feat. Austin native and Go-Go Kathy Valentine. Melodic adult pop/rock that went down well with mostly local, non-SX crowd out to take in some tunes. The ladies can play.
Howler - The NME hype unrealistically raised expectations for this *very* young band. Their good but not great debut is a promising start with hints of better to come, but let's leave it at that. Their final show of a long week had both band and crowd taking a while to warm up to each other.
DZ Deathrays - Artrocker championed Aussie duo are a scuzzy punk Black Keys. Playing in an awful room, the rawk sounded like a wall of indistinguishable noise. Left after a few songs.
Big Scary - Aussie duo: she plays drums, he alternates between keys & guitar. Supposedly an up and comer down under yet did nothing for me. Starting set with a lengthy, maudlin number never a good idea.
Dutch Uncles - Natty Brits (might be first wingtips ever seen on stage but the pleated pants...dude!) play snappy Noughties-style Britpop. Entertaining and distinctly British, reminded me of Dogs Die In Hot Cars and Maximo Park.
Ceremony - for anyone that missed out on 80's hardcore bands like Black Flag or the Dead Kennedys, this SoCal band bring the sound back. That said, Rollins could eat these guys whole.
Odonis Odonis - huge find here. Canadian trio rocks hard like Future of the Left doing The Jesus and Mary Chain. Lots of melody buried underneath a wall of noise. Yum!
Clock Opera - 2nd time seeing 'em to ensure spot to see the next band. Caught a little more of the nerviness in their music but dude usually sings in a high register, which is a turnoff for me.
Django Django - Franz Ferdinand meets Hot Chip. They've got the tunes and down to earth appeal. "Default" is a legit tune that could launch them here.
D/R/U/G/S - cool, chunky beats that shoulda had the joint bumpin' but 70% left after Django. One of the more intriguing DJ's I've heard in a while. That's all folks.

(The Top 6 SXSW bands/shows)
1. Odonis Odonis
2. Breton
3. Daughter
4. Turf War
5. The Twilight Sad
6. Django Django

Hear a tune from each of the Top 6 on Spotify.


  1. Thanks for the rundown. I'm excited to check some of these out-- I adore the Twilight Sad and saw them in Portland on the last night of their tour, before they headed to SXSW. It was one of the most intense shows I've ever experienced, but I was shocked that the room wasn't filled.

    I need to thank you again, Mike-- this time for exposing me to so much amazing music over the years. You're my favorite DJ ever and I love your shows.

  2. turf war's better than whipped cream covered tits. "Long live rock" indeed! great review.

  3. This was my first SX and what an experience. Thanks for the run down and sorry I didn't catch you along the way. Here's my rundown if you find such things interesting.

    -Brendan Benson at the Swan Dive. Good act by a crowded and noisy venue. Hot and claustrophobic.
    -Zambri at the Lipstick 24 outdoor stage. Hard to classify for me, but loud and distorted were some words that came to mind. Ended up seeing them twice and they sold quite a few CDs despite not have a mercy table.
    -Teeth and Tongue at Lipstick 24. Gal from Melbourne going solo trying to affect PJ Harvey.
    -Kopecky Family Band. A must see for my cohorts and I. Good as always.
    - Miracles of Modern Science at The JR. Full sound by four guys with no guitars. Complex and interesting songs. Almost too complex and interesting.
    -Hey Marseilles at The JR. 7 guys with lots of strings. Something of a cross between the Decemberists and Beirut. My top new artist for the festival, although I liked their live show better than the disc.
    -Jimmy Cliff at The Main. Hall of Famer brings it, although I couldn't see him clearly.
    -Thomas Dolby at The JR. I was worried that I might be disappointed with this. Great show though, despite running over time and getting his last two songs cut off. Saw him again later and caught the full act. Like the live show a bit better than the new disc. Got to meet him after. The high school me would have been so excited about that.

  4. Thursday:
    -Dinosaur Feathers at Stage on 6th. Loud! Fun sound with high energy. Young guys that I don't think have played out a whole lot.
    -Howler at Stage on 6th. They had a few sound problems that only the band noticed. Again young and loud. They were having fun and interacted with the audience well. Am I the only one who thought the lead singer looked like Ric Ocasek from the Cars?
    -JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound at Stage on 6th. Soul music from the windy city. High energy and lots of fun, especially with a soul cover of Wilco's 'I am trying to break your heart'. Might want to google that one if you've not heard it already.
    -Of Monsters and Men at Stage on 6th. Alt folk? Not a bad sound with nice horns, but not something that stands out these few days later.
    -Rubblebucket at Stage on 6th. Fun poppy songs. I thought they were channeling the 90's, but the people I went with were not very sure about that.
    -We Were Promised Jetpacks at Stage on 6th. They were at least as loud as jetpacks. Heavy wall of sound attempting to win fans by full frontal assault. Reverb levels were set to 'pain'.
    -Blitzen Trapper at Stage on 6th. Not sure what I expected, but they had good energy and some strong alt-rock-country. I know - shame on me for not knowing they very well ahead of time.
    -Built to Spill at Stage on 6th. A packed house with people literally hanging off the windows trying to catch this great act. People knew what to expect and were satisfied with what they got. A good finish to the afternoon.
    -Hotel Vegas shows on Thursday evening included Mujeres, Tacocat, Deadbeat Darlings, Grave Babies, Black Taxi. All rocked out and were generally good bands with lousy names.
    -Colleen Green at Hotel Vegas. Was excited for this act based on her 'Worship You' single. I gave up on a lot of other bands to see her and have to say that I was singularly disappointed. Short set and low energy. Can't really say I know why she much bothered to show up. Truly the low point of the week.
    -Ringo Deathstarr at The Swan Dive. Wanted shoe gaze goodness as with 'Imagine Hearts' single. Got wall of sound from these Austin natives instead. Two disappointments to wind up a Thursday evening.

    -Back at Stage on 6th for some alt country goodness with Crooked Fingers and The Lumineers. Great bands that I'm shamefully admitting to not knowing before now. They share the number 2 spot for new (to me) acts discovered at SX.
    -The Belle Brigade. My friends liked them more than I. Still some alt country goodness, but not 'standing in the sun worthy' by my account.
    -Reptar. Back inside for these Georgia rockers. Good energy but wasn't doing much for me today. Stuck around for 4 songs then went back outside.
    -Rhett Miller of Old 97's rocks the outdoor stage pretty well. A very good set.
    -Idle Warship. The day transitions somehow from alt country to hip hop and soul. Good energy in the band doesn't let an unenthusiastic crowd get them down.
    -Alberta Cross. I'm not sure how you get an alt country wall of sound, but that's what they seem to have done.
    -The Wedding Present. Methodical and lacking in excitement. Hung out for a couple songs and caught the rest from the patio.
    -Punch Brotheres. Too crowded to appreciate their instrumental and fairly quiet set. Worth another look when I can hear them better.
    -Glen Hansard of The Swell Season. I'm not their biggest fan for sure, but it was a good set. He gave the performance I'd have expected.
    -Finished the day with the repeats of Zambri and Thomas Dolby.

    Short day at Stubb's and enjoying free beer at the Rachel Ray event. Great great sets from Bob Schneider, The Black Belles (a Jack White discovery) and LP. All bands that you are either aware of already or should be.

    This week was the first time I ever felt compelled to wear earplugs outside the clubs. The scale of this thing is still hard for me to comprehend.

  5. thanks for sharing, slar. nice job!

  6. and thank you, susank! super nice of you to say. thanks for listening!