Ginger Does SXSW 2008 – Still Hurtin’
by Ginger Herbert
As my streets began to become once again infested by beards, bikes, beers, bands, and boobs, I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the mental illness that we call, South By Southwest. What’s South by Southwest you say? (SXSW) is a set of independently ran, interactive, film, and music celebrations that have become an annual festivity each March in the charming city of Austin, Texas. The music portion held March 12th — 16th is the last and largest part of the event. All of the musicians who can afford to travel (and some who can’t) scrounge for loose change in the band room sofa just for the commute to Austin to partake in the five solid days of jams. There are over 1,200 bands that perform each year over the span of the week at over 200 live music locations, some of which are actually live music venues, and others are just made up of backyards, hallways, roof tops and parking lots. It’s something you just might have to experience to believe.
I started this years event at Brush Square Park for the third annual Canadian Blast BBQ, a day show. The line-up included sets by two ladies with the rawest of the blues, The Pack A.D, a Hippity Hop partnership featuring Ghislain Poirier and Cadence Weapon, kick ass guitar heavy Hot Springs, and an electro-pop foursome called Dragonette. I’ve found that Canada produces a lot of good music, but the most noteworthy performance this day came from a man named Dallas Green. Formerly of the post-hardcore band Alexisonfire, Dallas is now touring with his acoustic solo project, City And Colour, a much better suite for Green’s killer vocal. His velvety yet commanding tone of affection and reason makes for a pretty emotional set, the ladies eat it up like… well whatever it is ladies eat. After a quick nap I headed to a bar called Cedar Door where The Photo Atlas, an indie dance band from Denver Colorado was playing. Their set was honest, and they managed to make every person there dance along to their typical drum beats and spastic high-pitched vocal. I then quickly ran (literally ran) to Creekside Lounge finishing off my night with some Austin locals. A new band called NBD, brought an electronic dance party. This five piece, consisting of mostly sarcastic females, use modulators, laptops, talk boxes, and all bootylicious bass lines to make their ironic tunes about Austin’s ever-changing skylines, “you live in a condo? I live in a condo”.[album: http://skopemag.com/images/SXSW2008/]
Under The Radar Magazine and Team Clermont Publicity hosted the day party that I chose for day two, and the line-up was killer. First up was Noah and the Whale, a brit-folk, vocal driven, five pieces from the UK with dual female/male singers, basic guitar, and a violin. Elf Power, followed shortly after, a Georgia based band that I happen to be previously familiar with. These guys have been around a while… with nine albums under their belt and still going strong, I was thrilled to finally catch them live. Fleet Foxes and The Helio Sequence also made appearances at this particular showcase but it was Akron/Family and Rogue Wave that stood out as the hot day and free beer pounded on and on. Akron/Family is high energy freak-folk with three part vocal harmonies and sound that’s packed like a jar of pickles. If only my pickles made such engaging music. These guys should never stop touring; they’ve sincerely made me a believer, part of the family. Zach Rogue and Pat Spurgeon of Rogue Wave, seem almost made for each other, the way they play off one another is quite the site to see. Their live set felt very homey, and provided warmth that I had not yet received from my sxsw experience. I would see this showcase again in a heartbeat. The Mohawk was my next destination, where I’d spend the night with a list of bands, most of whom I’d never heard of. Phosphorescent, a four piece from Brooklyn NY stole my heart that night. Front man Matthew Houck’s songwriting is pretty standard these days, but his deliverance is what reels you in like a flopping fish on the line. His vocal is matchless, recognizable, gruff, soft, folk and rock all draped up in one very hairy package, very reminiscent of Austin’s own, Willie Nelson. Bodies of Water who played next, reminded me of being raised by pot smoking hippies. Pretty large sound, female/male cult-choir-like vocals, a chic drummer, and lots of energy. This band rushed me to front and center stage, but had a really hard time keeping me there, growing slightly annoying after about the third song, maybe they deserve another try. Evangelicals, Bon Iver, and Jens Lekman also played, but Black Mountain finished the show with their psych-rock jam band styled set. If you get the opportunity to see these Canadians in the flesh, please do yourself a favor… Sooo good.
By Friday I was exhausted, but I had managed to get some sort of super second wind, and good thing I did, because the IHeartComix vs. Mad Decent showcase at the Austin Blowout parking garage made it hard not to shake the hell out of my ass. This party had the sweetest setup, free drinks, lots of fluffy seating sections, dj’s, dancing, and a huge shuffleboard game. Har Mar Superstar was the first band I saw, very interesting combination of sweaty RnB boogie tunes, the color pink, a homemade mic stand, and lots of… belly? Next I saw The Whip, a typical dance band from Manchester UK. Their sound was tight and pretty bass heavy as most electro-pop bands are, no fireworks here. Zizek Club, Santagold and Flosstradamus finished my day off, I left prematurely as the sun had drained all th life out of my body. I had to recharge.
Austin is known for its music, and although SXSW is such a sensational event, it lacks good local music. This is where we come in… Your very own Skope Magazine teamed up with MeowPoww Media, and turned out a radical day show on what had to have been the hottest, most hectic day this year at sxsw. Triple Crown Tattoo Parlor was the terrain and Meowpoww Media supplied us with the greatest of Austin music. First up on was Gold Teeth And Gucci, a hip hop foursome with super-soul, yeah that’s totally a word now. As the sun reached it’s place directly above the stage, I didn’t hate on the mild stripping that went on by bass player/singer Brett, it was hot… literally. The Model UN, an up-beat pop-rock quartet took the homemade stage next. Singer Warren Mills’ smooth vocal vibrato danced around Jeff Given’s progressive guitar parts. Their dynamics and songwriting are well worth mentioning. The guys just released a new EP called Tiger Physics, which were totally free at the show, score! Following after was The Tangle, originally from New Orleans, they found themselves in Austin as a result of hurricane Katrina, and have been making a name for themselves since. Their bluesy, funk roots were evident in their 45 minute live preview to their upcoming debut album. Singer Darcy Boye gives a poignant vocal with an exceptionally pure tone. Accompanied by her guitarist/husband Chris Boye, they’ve formed a funky team that’s oozing with creative promise; they even painted their own t-shirts. Can you get any cuter?
The last two bands hold the titles for my “favorite local bands,” The Fever Dreams and Haunting Oboe Music. The Fever Dreams have the most distinctive sound around town. Guitarist Drew Durish, lives and breathes his six strings and it’s evident by his insane guitar skills, most of which make no sense to me. Chris King’s key/vocal combination helps to unfold their sound and light bulbs start to flicker all over the place. The five-piece has a way of taking sugary sounds over gloomy, bottomless ones and the result is a bit like the wizard of oz on drugs and reverb… and I don’t want to go back to Kansas. The headliner, Haunting Oboe Music should pride themselves on their live show. This one in particular, cause it was spot on. It’s not everyday you see two full drum sets being played concurrently, well unless you live in Austin hahah… Dual drummers Nick and Anthony, joined by Jared, the dancing bass player make up a swell rhythm section, helping to give HOM their extensive sound. Guitars, keys, melodic singing, sadistic screaming, trumpets, screeching, humming, jumping, soothing, and Capri pants… There’s never a dull or silent moment, being all over the place is essentially a good thing here. The guys have bit off a lot this year and seem to be chewing each bite 20 times like mama taught them. They’ve committed to the release of 12 EP’s this year, one a month. Quite gallant guys, keep it up. By the end of the 8 hour show, drinks plus direct sunlight had caused my head to almost explode, so I had to call it a night. In fact, I slept through the entire next day… SXSW can wear a girl out, good thing I have a year to recover.