by Bill Pearis
Wounded Lion @ Shangri La
After Wednedsay and Thursday... I spent most of Friday afternoon -- the hottest day of the fest, well into the '80s --at Sailor Jerry-sponsored East Side dive Shangri La where Chicago label Trouble in Mind was throwing a party in the back yard. Their party at Scoot Inn the year before was one of my favorites of SXSW2010 and I'd have to say the same the same of 2011. The label, run by husband and wife Bill & Lisa Roe (who are also in CoCoComa), is mostly a 7" label, releasing great singles from some of the best garage-pop artists around. Many of whom were there at Shangri La.
I got there as Seattle trio Night Beats were just starting. Never heard them before, but really dug their psych-garage sounds, and they definitely looked the part. They ended their set with a cover of The Count Five's classic "Psychotic Reaction," giving their version a little swing which made it their own. Look for Night Beats debut LP out on Trouble in Mind this summer.
While Cheap Time were playing, I noticed Lars Finberg milling about the yard...what was he doing here? The Intelligence were definitely not here, was his side-project Puberty playing and I didn't know it? No, he told me he was playing drums for L.A.'s Wounded Lion for their Austin shows. I was already looking forward to seeing WL, now even moreso.
I was getting a little antsy and decided to walk around the East Side a bit, stopping by Cheer Up Charlies where I caught a few songs by Norway's Tôg (who are in NYC as we speak) before heading back to the Trouble in Mind party to catch Nashville's The Paperhead. Looking a bit like Red Kross, the band -- all about 19 I think -- are trippier than anyone else on the bill. Their debut just came out on TiM.
Next up Wounded Lion, whose self-titled debut was one of last year's more underrated records. I think seeing them live would change naysayers opinion, they were one of the rockin'est, most fun shows of the week. Two singers: main man Brad Eberhard does the heavy lifting and guitar playing, while singer/percussionist Raffi Kalenderian is more in the Bob Nastanovich of the band, going apeshit with the tambourine and generally keeping things entertaining. There is much switching of instruments. They also let Lars Finberg take lead vocals for the Intelligence's "Turned to Puke." I really thought they'd do "Pony People," a Wounded Lion song that The Intelligence covered on Fake Surfers, but no. Great, great set.
I then Sprinted over to the BrooklynVegan party at Swan Dive for John Grant. Friday was hot and Swan Dive didn't seem to have AC or even ceiling fans and it was an oven in there, but it didn't matter. Another of my favorite shows of the week. I'd seen him play solo at Mercury Lounge, but this show was with Midlake, his backing band on last year's amazing Queen of Denmark. With the band, Grant's late-'70s leaning epics came to lush life. The drums sounded gigantic. So did Grant's voice. All that was missing was sequined clothing and glasses that made points of light look like starbursts. Highlights for me: power-ballad "Mars" and "Chicken Bones" which is some kind of sonic collision of Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Nilsson.
John Grant @ Swan Dive
Things got really crowded next, as The Old '97s, Wye Oak and Oberhofer played on our three stages at the same time. After that, I headed back to the Trouble in Mind party to catch The Wax Museums (superior early-'80s style bratty punk) and Portland's Mean Jeans (didn't do a lot for me).
Leaving Shangri La, I made my only visit to Pitchfork's #Offline Festival to catch Toronto's PS I Love You who were awesome like always despite playing to a mostly-empty tent. Best part of the show: Diamond Rings was on hand for their collaboration "Leftovers" which you can expect they'll do every night they're on tour together, including upcoming stops next week at Mercury Lounge (3/30) and Glasslands (3/31).
After a couple hours for recharging my cellphone and personal batteries, it was back out for the night. First stop was to see Danish funk trio WhoMadeWho. In a sea of weirdos like Austin during SXSW, genuine eccentrics like these guys still stand out. (I have this theory, based solely on my experience with Danish bands, that everyone in Denmark is this eccentric.) They are also genuinely good, laying down serious grooves on tracks like "Keep Me in My Plane," "Small Town City" and new single "Every Minute Alone." They have also garnered a following in America and it was a full house, lapping it up.
I briefly stopped into the Mexican Summer showcase that was happening at a venue called Klub Krucial which shoulda raised a flag with me but I wanted to see L.A.'s Puro Instinct. The band's glammy pop (they're palsy-walsy with Ariel Pink) wasn't bad, but the venue smelled of paint and was oven-like (I felt like I was at Death By Audio in July) so I bailed after a few songs for Latitude 30, that has been home to the "British Music Embassy" for a few years now. If you're an Anglophile you can just go here every night and see most everything from the UK at SXSW. I stopped by to check out Little Comets who are from Sunderland/Newcastle. They are tight and energetic and have some winning tunes, like "One Night in October" and "Joanna," but I also can't get over the fact they kind of remind me of The Kooks for some reason.
Sometimes at SXSW you go see things you don't need to because friends are going. Which is what takes me to the Merge showcase at The Parish, one of the nicer rooms in Austin. Both Versus and Wye Oak played BrooklynVegan parties that week -- and I've seen both bands many times before -- but I also can't say I was sorry to see either again. Veteran indie rockers, Versus are still underdogs and last year's On the Ones and Threes is an excellent album not enough people heard. They were great here.
Ditto for Wye Oak who, honestly, I rarely pass up a chance to see these days. Their new album, Civilian, is easily one of the year's best and the band are spectacular live. Rarely have two people been able to make such a textured, big sound as Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack. They're on tour with Callers right now (including a 4/12 stop at Bowery Ballroom), go see them.
The Soundtrack of our Lives @ Cedar Street Courtyard
At this point me and my friend Steve tried to go see The Raveonettes only to find out they didn't make it into the country due to vida issues. Recalibrating our plans, we head to see Swedish rock gods and one of the great live bands of our age The Soundtrack of Our Lives at outdoor venue Cedar Street Courtyard. Pretty sure every SXSW attendee with a leather jacket was at this show.
With a new best-of album out, I was expecting a few more hits. Maybe they would've gotten around to TSOOL classics like "Sister Surround" and "20th Century Ripoff" if the 2AM curfew hadn't hit right after a blazing version of "Thrill Me." The band got a late start, and these guys are prone to two-hour sets, so they -- and the crowd who chanted "ONE MORE SONG" -- were just getting warmed up.
A few more pictures and videos from Friday are below...
Night Beats - "Psychotic Reaction" at Spider House SXSW 2011
John Grant w/ Midlake ...
John Grant w/ Midlake - "Jesus Hates Faggots" @ BrooklynVegan Day Party 2011
The Wax Museums...
PS I Love You...
with Diamond Rings...
WhoMadeWho @SXSW 2011
Wye Oak @ BV Austin Day Party 2011
The Soundtrack of Our Lives...
TSOOL - "Sister Surround" @ SXSW 2011
WYE OAK - 2011 TOUR DATES
03/25/2011 San Francisco, CA USA Bottom of the Hill ^
03/27/2011 Vancouver, BC Canada Media Club ^
03/29/2011 Portland, OR USA Mississippi Studios ^
03/31/2011 Nampa, ID USA Flying M CoffeeGarage ^
04/01/2011 Salt Lake City, UT USA Kilby Court ^
04/02/2011 Denver, CO USA Larimer Lounge ^
04/03/2011 Omaha, NE USA Slowdown ^
04/04/2011 Iowa City, IA USA The Mill^^
04/05/2011 St. Paul, MN USA Turf Club ^
04/06/2011 Appleton, WI USA Lawrence University ^
04/07/2011 Chicago, IL USA Schubas ^
04/08/2011 Detroit, MI USA Magic Stick ^
04/09/2011 Toronto, ON Canada El Mocambo ^
04/10/2011 Montreal, QC Canada Casa Del Popolo
04/12/2011 Boston, MA USA Middle East Upstairs ^
04/14/2011 New York, NY USA Bowery Ballroom ^
04/15/2011 Philadelphia, PA USA Johnny Brenda's ^
05/28/2011 George, WA USA Sasquatch! Festival
PS I Love You - 2011 Tour Dates
Mar. 24 - Saskatoon, SK - Amigos *
Mar. 25 - Winnipeg, MB - Lo Pub *
Mar. 26 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry
Mar. 28 - Chicago IL - Empty Bottle *
Mar. 29 - Akron, OH - Musica *
Mar. 30 - New York, NY - Mercury Lounge *
Mar. 31 - Brooklyn, NY - Glasslands *
Apr. 02 - Boston, MA - TT The Bears *
Apr. 05 - Peterborough, ON - Red Dog
Apr. 06 - Ottawa, ON - Mavericks
Apr. 07 - Toronto, ON - Garrison
Apr. 08 - Montreal, QC - Casa Del Popolo
Apr. 09 - Kingston, ON - Grad Club
Apr. 29 - Barcelona, ES - K.G.B.
Apr. 30 - Madrid, ES - Sala Heineken
May 02 - Toulouse, FR - Le Sein Des Seins
May 03 - Evreue, FR - Abordage
May 05 - London, UK - Lexington
May 06 - Leeds, UK - Cockpit 3
May 07 - Glasgow, UK - Captains Rest
May 08 - Edinburgh, UK - Sneaky Pete's
May 09 - Manchester, UK - Night and Day
May 10 - Sheffield, UK - Harley
May 12 - Brighton, UK - Hectors House (The Great Escape)
May 13 - Brighton, UK - The Albert (The Great Escape)
May 14 - Hamburg, DE - Molotow (Upstairs)
May 15 - Cologne, DE - Studio 672
May 16 - Munich, DE - Backstage Club
May 17 - Berlin, DE - Levee
May 18 - Munster, DE - Amp
May 10 - Paris, FR - Club Folamour @ Point Ephemere
May 21 - Laval, FR - Les 3 Elephants Festival
* w/ DIAMOND RINGS