Day 2 was my first "full" day at SXSW, and armed with an 8GB CF card in my camera, I was determined to see as much as I could, and shoot it as well. Wednesday's Dept. of Eagles set was pretty incredible, so I had high hopes for Thursday.
After an exhaustive search, I finally found a parking spot on 7th and Neches and hoofed it to the Parish to catch the tail end of the NPR Showcase, walking in on Blitzen Trapper's last song. While I enjoyed their debut, Wild Mountain Nation, their new record Furr didn't make as big of an impact on me, trading much of the kooky mountain man stuff for some more subdued Dylanism. The only true upside to missing this showcase was bumping into Annie Clark of St. Vincent in the Parish stairway. I congratulated her on her set last night, and she seemed pleasant if not a little distracted. St. Vincent plays two or three more gigs before Sunday; I don't think I'll be able to catch any of them, but if you're at SXSW I highly recommend one of her shows.
After the NPR showcase, I popped my head into ... um, now I can't remember the name of the venue. But I do know that the band inside was called Sickboy, from Ireland. The trio (two gingers and a Pete Doherty/Quentin Tarantino doppleganger) played a propulsive set, all stomps and downbeats, laying a solid foundation for two- and three-part harmonies (if you can call shouting in unison "harmony.") It reminded me of a rawer, scrappier (and better) Futureheads.
I decided to try and line up early for the Sub Pop Showcase at Radio Room, even though the only act I could catch was noise-pop duo No Age, who made a big splash with their latest record, Nouns. First mistake: forgetting ear plugs. Second mistake: standing next to THE BIGGEST NO AGE FAN IN THE WORLD, who proceeded to elbow-dance to every song, only slowing down during the white-noise sections. It was pretty hilarious, and he actually upstaged No Age a bit. I'm not their biggest fan â?? they basically play pretty standard garage-rock with some noisy interludes â?? but their drummer, Dean Allen Sprunt, was fun to watch.
After No Age I had to run off to Emo's Jr. to catch local sensations Hacienda. Being early, I walked into the tail end of indie-pop Austin group The Carrots, who take a cue from '60s girl-groups with at least three female vocalists and coordinated outfits. I didn't see enough to really make an educated decision on whether or not they were too gimmicky, but the last two songs I heard were pop perfection.
Taking the stage after them was Garotas Suecas from Sao Paolo, Brazil. This group really won the club over, despite the language barrier (I think they were singing in Portuguese). The youthful Garotas clearly had passion for American soul music, channeling the swagger of Jagger and the ass-grooving basslines of James Brown. And their cover of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" really brought the house down, and the energy up.
Hacienda was up next. This was their third or fourth show at SXSW, and they just came off their two-week national tour with Dan Auerbach (guitarist for the Black Keys). But instead of showing signs of road-weariness or been-there-done-that-syndrome, Hacienda simply knew the drill â?? taking the stage without a lot of fanfare but then proceeding to rock the hell out of Emos Jr. The band of brothers (and a cousin) may look and sound like '6os pop throwbacks, but this isn't a tribute band â?? when Hacienda covers the moldy Sonny and Cher song "Baby Don't Go," they're not doing it to be ironic â?? they're doing it because, removed from the cheesy context of the Sonny and Cher variety show, it's actually a pretty damn good pop song.
It fits right in among the rest of their set, heavy with tunes from their Auerbach-produced debut album, Loud is the Night. By show's end, all four members were sweat-soaked, but grinning â?? and the audience was more than appreciative. Look for a longer, more in-depth review of the Hacienda showcase at Emo's Jr. in next week's issue of the Current.
After Hacienda's amazing performance, I was inspired to check out another local artist repping San Antonio: rapper Daniel Boskind, better known as Question. Question, who brought along other SA artist R&B wonder Eddie B and rapper Fast Money, had the double-edged honor of following Da C.O.D., an Austin crew that was immensely popular judging by the crowd's reaction. When Question's initial shout-out to San Antonio was met with a muted response, he brushed it off, getting cheers when he switched gears and started asking for people from Texas to make some noise. Despite the noticeable lack of audience participation at the beginning of the show, Question's not-too-fast, not-too-slow flow began to win the room.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure if the trend continued, since had to duck out early to catch Moth!Fight! at Wave. Moth!Fight! is an Austin band with a special San Antonio connection: Marcus Rubio plays violin, saxophone, Micro-Korg, and tiny megaphone. As you could guess, Moth!Fight! have a ton of instruments and gear, all aimed at creating a fantasy landscape that is both modern and oddly Victorian â?? sort of a cheery steampunk. It's hard to explain adequately, but the members of Moth!Fight! are so enthusiastic that they eventually convert everybody in the vicinity â?? even drunk cougars whose favorite artist is probably Kelly Clarkson.
Stay tuned for EVEN MORE SXSW coverage, right here on Curblog!