Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SXSW Day 3 - Saturday, March 17th

Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds at Waterloo Records
First up for Saturday were garage rock and punk band Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds. The band is fronted by guitarist Kid Congo Powers aka Brian Tristan, who used to be part of The Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and The Gun Club. I thoroughly enjoyed their slightly quirky but fun set of songs, including a song called "History of French Cuisine" and a cover of "I'm Cramped" by, you guessed it, The Cramps.

Built to Spill at Cedar Street Courtyard

Oberhofer at Cedar Street Courtyard
From there I headed over to Cedar Street Courtyard again to catch Brooklyn indie rock band Oberhofer's performance. Their music is undeniably catchy, best exemplified by the single, "Away Frm U." While it's great to see bands that can perform live as well as they do on an album, it's also nice to singers with charismatic stage presences, essentially elevating them to performers. Brad Oberhofer was just that guy. His youthful enthusiasm for his guitar playing and willingness to entertain the crowd was a sight to see. At one point he ran up the stairs by the stage to the balcony and swung down it like a monkey. I have to say, after seeing the band live, the studio versions of their songs don't do them as much justice. Idaho rockers Built to Spill put on an amazing set, with the sheer loudness of their three layered guitars. I was impressed with how in time they kept with each other, and no one was overpowered instrument-wise. Unfortunately, the vocals were soft to inaudible the whole time. They have just the right mix of alternative rock and jam band tendencies (yes, this makes their songs quite long). Although their last release was in 2009, their laid back nineties rock was much appreciated by the crowd, and makes me wonder why I haven't checked them out all these years. One of my favorite songs was "Traces, " which you can watch here. They closed out a great set with crowd pleaser "Carry the Zero."

Shiny Toy Guns at Auditorium Shores (courtesy of Baylor Lariat)
226/365:  The Cult featuring Matthew McConaughey
The Cult featuring Matthew McConaughey at Auditorium Shores
Shiny Toy Guns, an electronic rock band from LA, played a set at Auditorium Shores in the late afternoon. They used to be one of my favorite bands when We Are Pilots came out, but after the lineup change I wasn't so keen on them anymore (although there were a few songs I liked off of Season of Poison). Now that they have Carah back, I was excited to see them come back together as a band. It was like she had never left. Her and Chad have great vocal chemistry. The band performed some songs from their upcoming album III, as well as older songs "You Are The One," "Don't Cry Out,"

two highlights, "Starts With One" and "Le Disko" They also did "Ricochet," (one of the songs I liked off of SoP) which sounded great with Carah singing it, and their cover of Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)." Austin rock band The Bright Light Social Hour played after that, and like some local bands, are pretty overhyped. They played a diverse set of songs, but nothing really sunk in for me. The vocals didn't do anything for me either. The Cult headlined a much larger audience than the one at Waterloo, which was obviously a more scaled down version of what they're capable of. I was excited to see them again. Ian Astbury is a great frontman, and guitarist Billy Duffy has a great sound. The set was stronger than the day before, and new songs as well as old were played. As an added treat, the band brought Matthew McConaughey to play the bongos on "Spiritwalker" (which you can watch here) and new song "Lucifer." Towards the end of the set Astbury demanded that the crowd let loose, and they did for the last song "Love Removal Machine." It was a great way to bring an end to my SXSW.

Here is my last playlist. I hope you enjoyed my SXSW recap!

Monday, March 26, 2012

SXSW Day 2 - Friday, March 16th

Of Montreal at Waterloo Records (courtesy of their Facebook)
Gary Clark Jr. at Waterloo Records
Psychedelic Indie pop rock band Of Montreal were the first act I saw on Friday. I've heard some songs of theirs here and there, so I was somewhat looking forward to their set which included songs from the newly released Paralytic Stalks. I was pretty disappointed with them. The set was very disjointed, and while there were a couple of better moments, it never found a good groove. Howlin Rain was our segway act for Gary Clark Jr. Briefly looking them up before their set, I had a feeling that they would be pretty good. I was right. The band has a cool seventies vibe to them, and they played a very energetic and great set of songs from their new album The Russian Wilds. Austinite blues rock guitarist Gary Clark Jr., referred by some as the next Jimi Hendrix, was next. I obviously had high expectations for him, and was not let down. I'm just not sure of his relation to Hendrix except for the color of his skin. His skills on the guitar are impressive though, and he has a great voice to match- almost a dead ringer for Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Clark chose to adopt a serious stance throughout his set, letting his guitar skills shine through. The songs "Please Come Home" and "Bright Lights" from his most recent EP were highlights. The final act at Waterloo were The Cult, a British post-punk and hard rock band from the eighties. With an overwhelming amount of photographers present, they performed an intense set of songs from their new album to come out in May. They also played their biggest hit, "She Sells Sanctuary." The band was very well received, which you could tell they were pleased with.
The Cult at Waterloo Records (courtesy of Facebook)
Counting Crows at Auditorium Shores (courtesy of 5342 Studios)
Counting Crows played a lengthy free show to a crowd of thousands at Auditorium Shores, which is the perfect setting for such a group, overlooking the city of Austin on such a lukewarm night. I chose the word "lukewarm," because I'm not such a fan of this group. Yes, I've only heard their singles, but I've never been impressed enough to check them out beyond that. I couldn't get into most of their set, except oddly enough a couple of country covers they played and the song "Color Blind" is nice. I won't deny that singer Adam Duritz has a great voice and some of the lyrics of their songs were good- it's just musically I wasn't very moved by it. The band performed old songs as well as new ones from their new album "Underwater Sunshine (or what we did on our summer vacation)," to be released in April.

Day two had its ups and downs, but it was still a fun time. Here is a second playlist for these artist. Are you ready for day three?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

SXSW Day 1 - Thursday, March 15th

I apologize for not updating for so long, and also for taking so long to post this.

For the first time since living in Austin, I attended SXSW. I know, crazy right? Now, a lot of people think you have to have a wristband or a badge to see any music down there, but that's not true. Every single one of the 20 bands I saw were for free (the key is to RSVP to every party and look up all the shows of course)! Next year I'd probably be willing to fork over some money to see some more known artists (especially since there were quite a few acts that I've mentioned in here that I didn't get to see), but it was great experience to get turned onto so much great music.

This will be in three parts since I went three days, so here is Thursday, day one.

The Little Willies at Waterloo Records
The day started in the early afternoon at Waterloo records parking lot. Blitzen Trapper is a folk/country band with some experimental tendencies from Portland, Oregon. This band is not really my kind of music, but they're good for what they are. "Might Find it Cheap" is a pretty good song. The Little Willies were up next and are one of Norah Jones' side projects founded in 2003. The band mostly performs country cover songs. Despite Jones' assertion that she just woke up, she and the group sounded great and you could tell that they were enjoying themselves. They played a few songs from their new album For The Good Times, including Loretta Lynn's "Fist City," the bluegrass fun of Ralph Stanley's "I Worship You" and a beautiful rendition of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."

SXSW - Kimbra @ La Zona Rosa
Kimbra at La Zona Rosa (photo by Kirk Stauffer)

From there I headed to La Zona Rosa's Warner Music showcase to check out The Staves, a folk trio of sisters from the UK. Their music makes for some hauntingly beautiful voices and melodies. I wouldn't say I was blown away, but I enjoyed what I heard. Things changed gears completely with Crystal Fighters, a British/Spanish electronic band from the UK. Their music draws from many influences such as basque, Spanish punk and dance. They got the crowd hyped and were a lot of fun to dance to. It was pretty cool how they performed live band dubstep in the track "Swallow." You can view some of that song's goodness as well as "I Love London" here. Headliner Kimbra is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand. You might have heard her voice on Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know." She's definitely a good enough artist on her own. She played a stripped down set at the Warner Sound show at La Zona Rosa. What can I say? The girl can sing her ass off, perform extremely well, and write some great lyrics. Check out Kimbra performing "Two Way Street." Her album Vows will be out in the US in early May.

Keane at Cedar Street Courtyard (photo by themusic.com.au)
Surely you've heard of British rock band Keane? Or at least know one of their songs "Somewhere Only We Know" or "Is It Any Wonder?" They were one of the bigger bands I saw at SXSW who I just happened to stumble upon. Their set at Cedar Street Courtyard, which included the aforementioned hits, was amazing. The band sounded clean, and the singer's vocals were on point the whole time. The band performed a new single called "Silenced by the Night," which you can check out here, as well as "Somewhere Only We Know" here. Their new album Strangeland comes out May 7th.

Cairo Knife Fight at New Zealand showcase

Electric Wire Hustle were part of the New Zealand party showcase that I attended. Their music is electronic based with hip hop/r&b influences- very chill sounding. It was also a perfect setting and atmosphere to be sipping on the free wine the party provided. They definitely have an interesting thing going on. Cairo Knife Fight, a hard rock duo, were the next New Zealand band. For just two guys, they make a lot of noise ala Death From Above 1979 and put on quite a show- musically and energetically. After quite a long wait, folk group Avalanche City played, but were boring and not very impressive so I left after two songs. The sound was also very off for their performance, so I give them the benefit of the doubt since the studio versions are better.

So my first day of SXSW was a great success. I never thought I would get a chance to see so many bands in one day. Lastly, here is a playlist I made of all the artists I saw. Enjoy, and stay tuned for SXSW days two and three!

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