words & photos by Ryan Muir
I flew in to Austin on wednesday morning and the festival was already going strong. After picking up my credentials and looking out from the top of the convention center I started to get a feel for the scope and scale of the whole event.
on top of the Austin convention center
My first stop was the Mohawk for a party sponsored by the familliar Gothamist/Austinist websites. While the first band i saw 'We Barbarians' didnt impress me much, their set allowed for ample time to catch my bearings and down a few complimentary beers. It wasn't too long before i realized Phosphorescent was playing inside downstairs to a packed house. Then Shearwater started their set outside. I tried to catch as much of each set without jumping back and forth - a strategy I would get better at as the days went on.....
The next stop was the well known Emo's for the FORCE FIELD & TERRORBIRD party. When i arrived Panther was finishing playing to a full house on the inside stage and The Blow (just Khaela Maricich) was just starting her minimalist, but crowd-rousing set on the other.
I started to get used to the luxury of popping in and out of each show.....Then I arrived at the FADER Fort. Despite RSVPing, I still had to wait on a line a half a block long in order to receive my reserved wristband. Ends up this would be the easiest time i had getting into the FADER party all week. In fact, it would be one of the only times I went back for that reason. Lines got longer and longer as the week went on.
wristband line @ FADER
Once inside, YACHT put on a suprisingly entertaining performance. Rather than waste any effort making the music in a live way, Jona Bechtolt and his girlfriend Claire Evans play the bleeps and bloops automatically off a computer as they frantically rile the audience up by jumping off the platform and otherwise jittering around the oversized stage. It was a coincedence that i caught The Blow and YACHT back to back. Both bands utilize backing music by Jona aka YACHT, but Jona no longer considers himself a member of the Blow. To compare the two for a second: The Blow felt like a rehearsed performance piece, while YACHT's energy was somewhat fresher - imperfect and more captivating (in my opinion).
From there I sorta stumbled into Habana Calle and caught the last five minutes of a set by Best Fwends while killing time before my next show. It was a sparsely attended show, but that didnt stop the Fwends from giving it their all.
I arrived at the official BrooklynVegan showcase by 9:00. It went off without a hitch - one of the first lineups I'd seen whose participants didnt just seem thrown together (editor's note: Thanks!). I was excited to see much hyped Kaki King and Martha Wainright, but was also pleasantly suprised by the quirky storytelling of Jeffrey Lewis. As the week went on, I learned that Jeffrey Lewis is actually more popular than I knew, and most everyone there also seemed satisfied with his show.
I took off before Shearwater because I saw them earlier in the day, and so I could get over to Todd P's late-night party which had already started. It was a good 30 minute walk north from the downtown nexus of SXSW, but offered an interesting repreive from the bustle of downtown Austin. While several of the performers were unknowns to me, and the announcements of who was playing was very informal and haphazard, one highlight included a couple songs from newly Austin locals A Faulty Chromosome whose lead singer asked for clemency since he was still high and playing a right handed guitar (he was lefty). The biggest suprise however was a fully acoustic set from TheDeathSet. I didnt stick around for Dan Deacon's later promised acoustic set, but I imagined it would be like a big kindergarten sing along.
The rest of the TODD P party pics are HERE. Day 2-4 coming soon.