Posted in music on March 21, 2012
by Bill Pearis
The Evaporators (picture by Brent Crane)
Friday was the craziest day of SXSW in terms of sheer overload of people. Many of those people were very, very drunk and cared little about music. Will get to that later. Here's my day chronologically.
An alarm malfunction had me off to a late start. Before heading over to our day party, I made a quick stop at the Hype Hotel just to see what it was all about. Young Man were on stage who left almost zero impression, but the lighting ($250,000 worth!), designed by the Cirque du Soleil lighting designer, sure did. Wow. Bands look and sound great (or as great as they can given the varying level of talent they have) on that stage. They were giving out those Doritos tacos there and I admit I tried one (tasted almost exactly like a regular Taco Bell taco) but felt guilty about it in much the same way I'd feel guilty about eating Pizza Hut in Brooklyn.
Then it was a dash across 6th St to our third day of Hotel Vegan (presented by HobNob Wines). The streets were already crowded at 2pm. I made it time to catch duo Youth Lagoon whose mellow set fit with my not-quite-awake-yet demeanor. Did I just see Becky from Friday Night Lights?
Doldrums set woke me up. Up until very recently, Doldrums was just Airick Woodhead and a table full of samplers, old keyboards and wires. He's now put the "drums" in Doldrums with two percussionists and they made a wild racket. Organized chaos that teetered on the brink of collapse. Some people found it confounding, to me...compelling.
Widowspeak were the first of three bands who played our party Friday that are on Captured Tracks. (DIVE and Craft Spells would be the others.) Molly Hamilton gets compared to Hope Sandoval a lot, and they both do have that sultry breathy vocal quality but Mazzy Starr never got up enough speed for song like Widowspeak's "Fir Coat."
I caught only the last song of Exitmusic and wished I'd seen the whole set, it was terrific: swelling, swooning pop. I spent the whole time asking myself where I knew the lead singer from. Did she work at a bar in my neighborhood? Was she a customer at the video store where I sometimes clerk? Duh, Aleksa Palladino was on Boardwalk Empire as Michael Pitt's wife. Given how good they are, hard to say which is her day job. After that was Toronto's Zeus who fit the vibe of the Volstead perfectly with their late-'60s Britpop sound. Very Zombies and Kinks, with some killer electric piano.
I'm a one man Django Django streat team, I know, but they are my favorite new band in quite some time and was really happy to have them on the main stage Friday. They have a lot of gear but managed to get it all in place pretty quickly and were in top form, getting the crowd dancing for "Default" and "WOR." It was their last show of the day so they hung out, played toss-across in the yard, posed in our Smilebooth, and checked out some of the other bands.
The other big highlight of the day for me was The Evaporators on the inside stage. I'd seen them play three years before completely by chance but this time I knew what I was for, and tried to get as many people to see Nardwuar's interactive concert experience. At one point, one group of people were holding him up while another group were holding his organ (hello!) while he played it... and then he soon climbed on top of it. There were costume changes, group singalongs, question and answer sessions and a lot of really fun garage punk. One of my Top 5 sets of SXSW 2012. Tangentially, have you seen Nardwuar's interview with A$AP Rocky?
While Bleached won Most Shows of SXSW 2012 with approximately 20 performances, Cole Smith probably did more shows between playing in Beach Fossils and DIVE, the latter of whom played our day party Friday. I'm not sure how many shows he'd played by that point but the DIVE's energy was unflagging and played a great set. One of Brooklyn's best new bands.
I associate the music of Light Asylum with dark clubs, smoke machines and strobes... none of which were on the mid-afternoon, outdoor stage where they played (right before Black Angels). But Light Asylum did just fine, thanks to big booming beats and the ultramagnetic charisma of Shannon Funchess. She just commands the stage and dances up a storm.
It was also a danceparty for Craft Spells' set on the Volstead stage, albeit of the indiepop variety. As I mentioned in Wednesday's recap, Craft Spells have gotten super tight in the last year and have developed a nice, dedicated following. They are killing it in the nicest way possible.
Moonmen on the Moon, Man
So begins the disappointing evening program...though not just yet. My 8PM slot I went to the Cake Shop showcase at the Iron Bear for the night's openers Moonmen on the Moon, Man and it was the best I'd ever seen them. (The band features one of the owners of the NYC club/label whose showcase it was.) Playing weird '80s headless guitars (you know, like Lou Reed uses), the band sped through set of punchy indie punk, a la countless '80s college radio bands. I went partially to show support for a friend's band on the tough early slot but the Iron Bear comes with its own built-in clientele who seemed to be enjoying the band even if they were unfamiliar.
Then my friend Chris and I tried to go see the dB's at BD Riley's which is normally an Irish bar and was packed with regulars watching the Notre Dame game, so the line for fans of the dB's snaked long and unmoving out the door. After waiting 20 minutes we decided to go to the Driskill to catch Reggae legend Little Roy who put out a surprisingly entertaining album of Nirvana covers the year before. He sounded just fine but the crowd was the worst, a bunch of drunks who had no idea who he was, talked through most of his set till they realized he was doing "Come As You Are" and began high-fiving each other. We stayed for a few songs and made a hasty exit.
We then headed East to go catch Philadelphia's Tough Shits at the Liberty but stopped at 512 to catch a couple songs from Montreal's Parlovr (who'd played our day party the day before but I missed them). It was guitarist Alex's birthday and the band were in good mood and form. We then power-walked over to the Liberty only to find the place at capacity, which I found unbelievable but the line proved us wrong. So we decided instead go to the Clive Bar. A lot of walking Friday.
So Clive Bar in the Rainey St district it was to catch Hot Chip offshoot New Build. We got in no problem though the club was way, way over capacity. You could barely move. Things were running late, MNDR was just finishing up, and we worked our way down by the stage during the changeover. New Build took forever to set up and were plagued with sound problems. Al Doyle seemed very frustrated. Felix, the other Hot Chip member in New Build, didn't make the tour as he's sick (he's missed Hot Chip tours in the past too). Finally playing, I joked on Twitter "New Build finally on at Clive Bar, opening with a song that I think is called 'More MPCs to the Drummer.' Maybe not." Once they got going it was a great set, as you'd imagine when the frontman plays in Hot Chip and toured with LCD Soundsystem. A major danceparty, especially for new single "Do You Not Feel Loved?"
Then it was back to 6th St. madness, specifically Planet Quebec (aka club Spill) for Montreal's Automelodi. Xavier Paradis, the man in the band, was also having equipment problems but soldiered through. Most of the crowd was there to drink, though, including one guy who was doing firebreathing tricks. Automelodi were maybe a little too effete for this crowd which danced but often mockingly. I'd had enough of these types and headed back to the Iron Bear for the last of the Cake Shop showcase.
Bleeding Rainbow were on their last couple songs when I got to the Iron Bear. A year ago, the Philadelphia band were a duo (still with the name Reading Rainbow) but added a member last fall and then changed their name. Now... they're a four-piece and sounded fierce!
Ringo Deathstarr were fierce as well, plus very loud. Not DZ Deathrays loud, but close. Last band of the night. Nite owl bus nuttiness awaited.