WAVVES (Terrorbird/Forcefield PR Party @ Red 7)
I was worried. I didn’t know how WAVVES would translate live but I was satisfied. You can actually understand the vocals during WAVVES’ live performance as opposed to the album. This is usually the other way around for most performers. I really enjoyed lead man Nathan William’s interesting haircut and his precocious stage presence. All in all a good start to SXSW for them.
Shout Out Out Out Out (Terrorbird/Forcefield PR Party @ Red 7)
Where’s Gabriel Herrera when you need him? Shout Out Out Out Out (yes, 4 “outs!”) are a dance band hailing from Alberta, Canada. I didn’t care much for their music as it was about 1:30pm- too early for booming bass. The highlight of their set that I only watched for about 10 minutes was the presence of 4 bass guitars being played simultaneously by 4 different band members. Take it or leave it.
Bad Veins (@ Maggie Mae’s)
I caught this band’s set while waiting for We Were Promised Jetpacks. Bad Veins are a duo from Cincinnati that were surprisingly good. I think their girlfriends in the front row thought so as well. Fans of Andrew Bird and Pale Young Gentlemen will enjoy Bad Veins. The lead singer’s voice is eerily similar to Mike’s of Pale Young Gents. Their music was a little too emotional for me, but sometimes everyone needs that.
We Were Promised Jetpacks (@ Maggie Mae’s)
Yes! We Were Promised Jetpacks is a solid 4-piece rock band from Scotland. They are a lot younger than I thought they would be. Both the lead singer and the bassist have baby faces which makes the band come off as a little green. But once they settle in and the lead’s voice booms (I mean really booms) there is no mistaking. Fans of Frightened Rabbit will really like WWPJ. Also, the thick Scottish accents are very amusing.
Harlem Shakes (@ Maggie Mae’s)
This band is what Vampire Weekend would be if they didn’t quite make it. Harlem Shakes seem to be trying to do too much on stage. A first few listens of their older material displays a jangly, fast-on-their feet approach to indie rock. They seemed to have abandoned that in their newer material which is beefed up with saxophone and keys. They are worth a cursory listen at best.
Cut Off Your Hands (@ Maggie Mae’s)
Cut Off Your Hands are a 4-piece pop/punk act from New Zealand that really delivered Wednesday afternoon. Their songs take on a much rawer, punk sound during their live set. The front man has great stage presence and there was way too much energy on stage for anyone who is at SXSW. I also want to say that the lead singer sounds like Morrissey but that is not terribly accurate. I did have my Smiths’ “Meat is Murder” shirt on and some other guy in the crowd pointed me out because he also had a Smiths’ shirt on. Weirdddd.
Akron/Family (Austinist Party @ Mohawk Patio)
The setting just wasn’t right for Akron/Family. It was too crowded and I think they would come across better in a smaller venue. Their set displayed a lot of tribal and tropical elements and basically turned into a free form jam fest. The band brought up a woman with a headdress on and also a bunch of dudes with beards.
Anni Rossi (4AD Showcase @ Central Presbyterian Church)
Great venue. Mediocre performer. Terrible event management. The SXSW staff running the 4AD showcase last night really disappointed me with how they managed the lines and the timing of the event. We shouldn’t feel so bad when people bash us for our “poor” event management. Anyways, Anni Rossi has some interesting instrumentation but I question her musicianship and her incoherent lyrics. Glaciers? Beekeepers? What? I do encourage you to listen to her song “Wheelpusher.”
M. Ward (4AD Showcase @ Central Presbyterian Church)
M. Ward is a veteran performer. Very smooth and comfortable on stage, the crowd responded to his set with loud applause. He played some favorites of mine from “Post-War” and even took to the grand piano that was wheeled into the church for one song. I was fortunate to catch him play as all week so far he has been generating long lines at every venue he has showed up at.
Department of Eagles (4AD Showcase @ Central Presbyterian Church)
I was really looking forward to this performance. The venue was very fitting for the band who kind of showed up to play. The between-song banter was awkward, maybe a little forced? They played two new songs that are mainly a continuation of “In Ear Park.” My biggest complaint is that they weren’t able to recreate those big moments from the album in a live setting. It seemed like they missed opportunities to really stun and startle the crowd. I won’t give up on them but I expected more.
Talk Normal (Natrix Natrix House)
Well outside the downtown Austin area, Adrian and I showed up at the Natrix Natrix House after a $15.50 cab ride and a VERY interesting conversation with the cab driver. Todd P, the owner of Siltbreeze Records and members of Real Estate were all in attendance at this house party. I caught a bit of Brooklyn band Talk Normal’s set which was unimpressive. They two females that make up Talk Normal had some interesting and original vocal interplay but after a while all the songs melded into one.
Tyvek (Natrix Natrix House)
This band was comprised of three extreme odd-balls. The drummer wore a blue whale shirt and stood up while playing. The music was pretty straightforward punk/rock with no frills. It reminded me of music I would come across at local band shows in Milwaukee in high school. After Tyvek’s set the house cleared out, a lot of empty Lone Star cans left over, and myself, a little worse for the wear (I have a cold).
I will leave you with this lyric sung by M. Ward, that I am using as instruction for the week: “Everyone is going out and having fun, I’m a fool for having none.” SXSW ’09: trying not to be a fool.