[Gunnison, CO] This band needs a bigger stage. The second they started playing, strumming, hitting, blowing, etc. a happy glow fell over the room – heads bobbing, shoulders swaying. Partiest happiest band I’ve seen in a long time. They are five guys and a girl – saxophone, keyboard, drums, trumpet, guitar, bass (substitute bassist tonight). Multiple band members sing. Classic sounding funk with some reggae-ska funk songs thrown in. They did at least one cover (“Tell Me Something Good”) but rumor says their keyboardist writes a lot of their songs. They make me want to know a whole lot more about funk. All strong musicians and the synergy is there – big thick sound. And this was like their third gig ever – Gunnison’s lucky to have them.
[Atlanta, GA] At Side Bar again because of a bust due to schedule changes, but happily reunited with CameraSmoothie after many many months. This band was unremarkable psych-y jam-y indie pop. I called them “pub rock” which is never a compliment in my book.
[Atlanta, GA] Far and away the best rapper I saw. A mix of styles (stoner, southern, street) done very well over slow heavy bass. Genuis mix of cultures and emotions – Mexican pride, self-effacing humor, serious social statement, and rap bravado. He went from rapping about la familia and his mama to tattoos and cocaine. Jose got no tacos. And the crowd was dancing through all of it. He’s already associated with people like Pharrell and Wiz Khalifa so everyone but me knows…
[Norway] We were in the Warehouse District at 11am specifically to see this band. It turned out to be a set of Nordic shows with free breakfast tacos – Rockboy was pleased (by the tacos). 4 males on 2 guitars, a bass guitar, and a drum. They had a big dense lush sound – melancholy – a little bit of Godspeed You but more Calexico. They mixed atmosphere with hard beats. When they got really anthemic, they reminded me of U2. They were charming fellows. The guitarist mouthed along to his own guitar picking. Another had a blonde Norwegian hipster moustache. The lead singer told the crowd: “Our songs stretch out so we don’t have time to play many” – and at first I thought he was describing the music very aptly with metaphor but then realized his English was just a little sketchy. In reference to the rainy morning: “Lone Star state… with all this humidity… god is making love to us right now.” He really said that.
[New Orleans] R&B infused hip-hop – he was backed by some five DJs or back-up groovers at least. One in particular danced like he was interpreting the song in sign. He’s got that flat kind of monotonic style – something of an Odd Future sound. L.D., a little sweetheart, was with him for a few songs. He mostly seemed really young and nervous – especially when he told the crowd to cheer for drugs and then to put their middle fingers up, but I think he has potential.
[Detroit, MI] This band was on both of our lists, and deservedly so. The show was kind of mellow but they’re the real deal – a band I would actually listen to and so a top SXSW show. The lead singer was in a dumpy suit and brought despair and death to mind. They’re clang guitars, quiet tribal drums, well-paced flat vocals. A little atonal. I heard Hold Steady, Minor Threat, Dinosaur Jr., Swans, and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Rockboy heard The Fall and disagreed with every band I heard. My original description of this band was apocalyptic folk punk which is just about right.
[Burbank, CA] This band nearly managed to override my dislike for screamo. First they really weren’t screamo – more yell-o Second, the music was terrific – melodic math rock – melancholy. The lead singer looked very much like McNulty from The Wire. Rockboy described them as a meld of 80s hardcore (e.g., Fugazi) and early emo (e.g., Rites of Spring).
[New Orleans, LA] This used to be the pool hall I pooled at! Punk n roll with thrash overtones. Riff heavy. Yell-singing. The Ramones. Good variety of sound. Cute female drummer! So we had the name of this band wrong for 16 hours (schedule change) – and ended up seeing this band again the next day… Rockboy refused to pay $20 for their album. Sidenote: I feel the need to state that I was nauseated by all of the indie pop I was subjected to during SXSW research and so any hard band that popped up was treated favorably by my recommendations. And so in the dearth of possibilities for night shows, our limited time for seeing music, this venue was perfect for this evening – although it was an onslaught of same-old punkish bands. They were all excellent though.
[Philadelphia, PA] This band caught my attention during SX research with a cover of The Gun Club’s “Sex Beat.” They do have a tone of The Gun Club’s blues punk but they’re harder, rawer – garage punk maybe. The show was a little off-putting because: 1) there were 7 people in the crowd and the singer referenced the fact a little too bitterly (it was before noon), and 2) there’s only two guys in the band and they don’t have a ‘look.’ The singer wore a pork pie hat, played guitar, and stared us down with an angry I-drank-a-lot-last-night look about him. The drummer had long hair that wasn’t clearly metal or hippie, and a Jesus and the Mary Chain t-shirt (thus the noise-y-ness of the band). Despite being two, they manage to make a whole lot of sound and create a whole lot of atmosphere. They covered the 60s garage song “My Little Red Book.” I liked them a lot.
[Los Angeles, CA] On my list. EVERYBODY loved her – particularly the boy in skin-tight jeans and a tank top who bum rushed the stage before she even started, and leapt throughout the entire show. Dance house –Whitney Houston, Tiffany – some disco. She’s a dance commander – shimmying in her fringes – covering the whole stage – swinging her halo of curls. Loved that the guys backing her up with bass guitar, guitar, and drum had suits and skinny ties on – reverse Robert Palmer. Although she put on a better show than practically any performer we saw, there was something a little calculated about it all – seemed she was trying to mask her actual serious, smart, professional self – but it worked. Her music isn’t something I’d ever listen to, but she was like a cool breeze during SXSW.
[Brooklyn] 80s flavored electro pop – I’m kind of a sucker for this stuff because it reminds me of listening to the radio while running errands with my mom in the minivan. Three keyboards and drums. Rockboy heard Eurythmics and MGMT. They had the BEST outfits.
[Austin TX] We didn’t used to be allowed to see Austin bands, but we don’t live in Austin anymore. And a lot of the good bands were Austin! We both loved this band – they were tighter and cleaner than the previous band. Plus the lead singer was fantastic – kind of glam. Loud rollicking 70s punk. Great musicality. Some moments of Jim Carroll. A band member asked the lead singer: “Have you bought your lawn bricks yet, Julian?” It turned out they were associated with Nick Curran, a beloved Austin musician who died of cancer when we lived there. Rockboy had an adventure with the very high lead singer in the parking lot trying to buy their album. Graffitti in the bathroom: “Everything that costs money is cheap.”
[Australia] Guy on an electronic guitar with a Mac in front of him. The venue insisted on maintaining like a 35% capacity so I watched over the shoulders of bouncers – silly. He was big bright electronic pop. Pleasant – soothing.
[London] It was a SX Miracle – we walked into this show without a wait, a delay, … Or maybe a sad statement on what the kids today know about good music… Or a sad statement on how old we really are. So I’m not exactly well versed in Gary Numan but am so profoundly a fan of “Down in the Park” that I was very enthused about this show. I see him as a predecessor for all the synth punk stuff I can’t get enough of now. I was also prepared for him to be a huge disappointment because I also see him as a goofy oddity of the 80s (“Cars”) and someone who is now really really old. Well turns out he’s fierce – all eyelined, sinewy biceps, and arms snaking to the heavens. This was probably my favorite show of SXSW. Industrial dance, synth punk, goth. I developed crushes on both guitarists – the younger one in particular reminded me of a minor fling of my early 20s I had completely forgotten about, a guitarist with skater flop hair. It quickly became apparent Numan is a dead ringer for Nine Inch Nails, which just intensified my little nostalgic moment with the 90s. I was kind of ashamed for him that he was so derivative, but then redeemed him with a fantasy that I’d found the headwater of all 90s industrial music. Seems it’s more the former, as Rockboy says his new material is a lot harder than his earlier material, which was confirmed through later investigations. In the end, I like his new material a lot and “Down in the Park” the most. And he didn’t play it at the show.
[Austin / Los Angeles] I’d run across this band during SX research and compared them to Drive By Truckers but not so much – more country rock crossed with folk pop. They’re high quality but borrring. And the crowd showed it – lots of good-looking good-doing professionals. Girls on guys’ shoulders, clapping along. We were there for the next band, Gary Numan.
[Brooklyn] They were on my list. Punk band of black and white guys – always nice to see – punk has always felt uncomfortably white to me, particularly with black boys having a lot more reason overall to rage against the status quo. Serious. Hard clean sound. Lead singer is a pretty boy in skinny jeans and toned abs. Very good, although maybe better recorded than live.
[Austin, TX] We had hoofed over to the East Side to meet up with PatientPassion, CAPITALS, and LuckiestKidEver only to be met by lines, lines, lines. So we hoofed up north to see Cheetah Chrome (of Dead Boys fame) play with a local band. Cheetah didn’t show. Eddie Munoz (of The Plimsouls fame and Skunks ‘fame’ (early Austin punk)) played two songs, shouldered his guitar and left. Jesse Sublett (also of The Skunks) sang one song. And then we were left with Tim Napalm – and I just couldn’t get past his silly 70s Brit-punk haircut. Plus the sound wasn’t great. Or maybe my attitude wasn’t great. The highlight of the show, for me, was Eddie doing The Plimsouls’ “Million Miles Away” – and even that wasn’t done well. They were trashy punk – Johnny Thunders – which I usually love, but I was just done done done – too much walking. Nice club though.
[Philadelphia, PA? / Southern California?] First show of SXSW! I was trying to stay calm but it is only the best holiday of the year! Our real first show (Dune Rats) was a bust (changed schedules), so we schlepped over to the bar next door to see the band our new friend from the bus stop (member of Rare Monk) was hustling downtown in the late morning to see. Five minutes into the band our ‘friend’ was there to see – twee girl in a shorts and top outfit made of an impossibly thick beige material covered in bumblebees – convinced us to see the inside band instead. And Rockboy loved them… he does tend to be enthusiastic in the first flush of SXSW … but they were good. Big indie pop with some psych-y touches – Rockboy heard The Strokes. They covered La Bamba, used a megaphone…
[Gunnison, CO]: It was possibly the longest sound check ever, and ElPrimoHaole and Rockboy, in particular, were getting fractious. You would have thought they were Metallica (should Metallica ever play a bar… in a town of 5,000 … and manage all their own sound equipment) – eliciting sound check advice from the crowd, positioning the band members throughout the crowd to verify the advice, and then doing it all over again. Once the whole town was packed into the bar, and TakeThatLife was giving girls who bumped her seat hard looks, the music finally started. And he was a single man on a barstool. Alex Nugent had a lovely voice and was dressed very nicely, but after all the build-up, the crowd (or our crowd) was somewhat let down. Our table decided he was Ryan Gosling in what Alex Keaton would wear in the 2000s. He did polished soulful singer/songwriter (i.e., adult contemporary) covers of popular songs. I was only offended by the grocery store rendition of “American Girl.” Two hours after said start time, Feed the Bear took the stage. Rumor had it that the band was an “indie rock” band – I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say the band departs That Far from Gunnison’s pet sounds—jam, reggae, bluegrass (case in point: their mike stand was a hockey stick) —but I liked what they did with their sound very much. They were a drummer, two guitarists/vocalists, another vocalist, a bassist, and a saxophonist. Their sound was some mix of O.A.R., Van Morrison, prog pop, Jack Johnson, island music, Spanish guitar, Steely Dan… I particularly enjoyed the contributions of the saxophonist, who turns out is not a regular member of the band. Their sound is inconsistent, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but once they solidify their sound so they can make a name for themselves, I hope they follow the prog road, because I like prog pop a lot. “Feed the Bear” defined: “The act of throwing in an enormous lip or “pich” of chewing tobacco, specifically Kodiak brand.”
Last show of the evening was Hellvar at Harlem, a venue reminiscent of one you’d find in Austin: dark, small, in dire need of revamping, yet has character. Loved it. Hellvar, the all-female hard rocking band, was the redeeming closeout to the evening after the Amsterdam Café. Vocalists had amazing range… if your voice can still be heard over four guitars jamming at the same time, you deserve some respect. Energizing music, toying with the crowd in between sets and teasing the gents, fun stuff. It was hard not to bang along with them. Thanks for a great end ladies!
Female lead with an appealing power-wail. So good. Six piece band that managed to take advantage of all the instruments crammed on stage to give a ferocious performance searing guitar riffs slathered in alt-rock sensibilities with a side of grunge. (Try ordering that at Amsterdam Cafe).
Of all the Icelandic bands I’ve seen the last few days, they most clearly evoked the Sugarcubes (the original Icelandic post-modern reference point). Fun to watch, hammered through their set with an infectious cheerfulness. Great end to our festival.
Kept waiting for this gig to take off. The music wasn’t horrible but had the impact of elevator music. Lead female singer had ethereal and utterly boring vocals and the rest of the band were half-asleep.
Good thing they played Amsterdam. Terrible venue acoustics and the crowd talked over the music to the last.
Across the street was Amsterdam Café featuring Oyama. The band had potential but couldn’t pull it together. First song reminded me of The Lion King soundtrack with its drumbeats, and a female vocalist who had the tone of Julee Cruise (good) but no emotion and incomprehensible lyrics (bad). I had visions of wanting to throw my sunglasses on with my beanie, get onstage, push her aside, and grab the mic. We stuck around for two songs. Average music, uninspiring vocals. Can’t believe these guys got critical praise at last year’s festival, maybe I missed something or they had an off night. Get me outta here.
Fortunately, Myrra Ros was playing at the Gamli and offset the experience we call Mosi with her music. Myrra, I think I love you. Amazing voice, both in the sung and spoken word…sweet, soulful, dreamy, soothing lyrics. Started with guitar solo which appeared as though she was tickling her guitar. Had her friends join her onstage to add depth with backup vocals, cello and piano to additional songs. Overtones of Matson Belle’s Float with some of the music she performed. Simple and amazing. Thank you Myrra, you were probably my favorite during this festival. Your 45 minutes went by too quickly.
Lush and dreamy vocals, haunting at times, stirring at others. She started solo on the guitar, two songs in added cello and piano and later keyboards. Each instrument added a layer of grandeur to support her gorgeous vocals. She sang songs in Icelandic and English, and introduced each one with a little story.
Lara’s Song, sung in Icelandic, was written for her daughter. She talked about having her daughter help her during the soundcheck of a gig earlier in the week. Myrra came across as down to earth and extremely likeable. A real joy to listen to her in all aspects of her performance.
The last two songs Animal and the new track Brother we’re knockouts.
Moody keyboard driven music. Drum machine steered the songs towards electronica and away from harmony. Unfortunately the tunes were unmemorable and not much fun either. Not sure why it took 5 people to make this mess.
Marx and I stopped into Lucky Records to see the day’s earlier blessed event that occurred (his Bjork sighting and meetup – the lucky bastard) and to catch the band Mosi. Bjork now drives her son-in-law around with the set for his performances, one that took place at Lucky Records while I was sitting my happy ass in the happy Blue Lagoon about 45 miles away. Figures.
Now, about Mosi.
Depressing, somber soundscape with a lead vocalist who could easily pass for Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys. Backup vocalists did little to add to the experience and looked to be in a daze. This set was probably the biggest WTF? moment of Airwaves. An electronic mess. I truly wondered if drugs were legal here for a brief moment.
Sindri Eldon is a former rock critic turned musician with his band the Ways. He was well-known for being critical of Icelandic music, which alienated him from the locals scene. Then, his step-mother is Björk-easily the most famous Icelandic (musician)-so he had a reputation of being something of a self-hater.
Today, Björk walked in for the band’s set. So that happened. (And she DROVE the band to their gig!)
The first track was swamped by a bad vocal mix was low. But they figured it out after that. Sindri Eldon and the Ways is a 3-piece rock band that flirts with punk (the way Green Day does) but Violent Femmes is better comparison.
The songs alternated between Icelandic and English. It was a pure unfiltered rock jam in either language. Sindri stuck to Icelandic in between songs going so far as to tell a joke in Icelandic to see if anyone knew the language. Not many laughed.
The music was sharp and high-energy. It made the tiny record store feel like an arena. Sindri didn’t know what to do with himself on so small a stage, and he roamed around like a panther, dropping to his knees, howling into the mic, and bouncing around like he was looking for someone to crash into. It was mesmerizing without taking away from the music.
I can’t stress how much I liked this set.
Hannah performed a couple songs solo on the guitar. She has a beautiful tone to her voice, soft and powerful.
Parker Ainsworth joined her for Wash it Away and he took over on guitar for the rest of the set. They are a seriously charming, cute duo. Easy banter about song choice (rejecting Today is a Good Day to Run by claiming the only thing he was running for was coffee and a croissant) and teasing the audience about their enthusiasm “pretty good for the last day of the festival and a Sunday.”
Their voices harmonized on gorgeous stripped-down tunes. They closed their set with what they called a “whisper-along,” the wistful track I Like It.
US band On an On was enjoyable, reminding me of alternative music I so enjoyed in college. Not much more to say.
Took me a while to warm up to them. Pretty generic alt-rock in the vein of Belle & Sebastian. Not sure if I mean that as a compliment. Chicago band that managed to play their best song back to back with their absolute vocoder-infused worst. I’m sure I don’t mean that as a compliment.
Still, Lead singer looked like he was having a blast and it made me want to have fun with him. That says a lot about their energy. Their worst drove us out of the venue and back to the hotel. That says a lot about them too.
Headed to Harpa to see bands Money, Asgeir, and On and On. I notice Harpa at night from the outside looks like how a honeycomb may appear to someone who just downed some magic mushrooms – multicolored window panes that keep changing colors on and off. Interesting.
Both UK band Money and Icelandic band Asgeir bore eerie semblance to meditation/spa music, with a few vocals thrown in on occasion. Not horrible, but not impressive. However, I did enjoy the pretty light shows onstage as well as Money’s vocalist-balancing-beer-on-his-noggin act despite Marx not being amused. BRAVO dude. Kudos as well to the drunk or coked up (or whatever) gents just getting in groove with the music. The world is your oyster guys – enjoy!