Spoonfed at SXSW Music Festival (Part Two)
Now it’s time for the second instalment of Dom’s manic visit to our friends across the pond…
Friday 19 March: Austin, Texas
Let’s be honest, after all of the weird underground shenanigans and record shop beat downs of Thursday, Friday is going to have to pull something pretty spectacular out of its hat to top what has already been an impossibly good couple of days.
Kicking off with a trip downtown, the official showcase from The XX doesn’t bode well for the rest of the day. Playing what seems to be a massive hay barn, the band’s sound comes across hideously weak, so that by the time they heave their way into their last song, our interest has been lost amongst the tunelessly echoing guitars and the pipsqueak drums.
Fortunately it gets better from there. After hooking up with a couple of Londoners, I head up to Manor Road on the East end of the city where we catch the tail end of The Smith Westerns at the MFL showcase at a lovely little slice of Americana called Red House Pizzeria. From there, we pile into a van and head back into central Austin to hook up with Lovvers again, who are playing a swanky roof top party sponsored by US music magazine Beyond Race.
After seeing the guys lay down another epic half-hour of messy garage rock, we are treated to the sight of New York hip hop artist Esso attempt to perform his new single through the previous bands reverb unit – making for one of the weirdest rap experiences I’ve ever had. It takes a bit of puzzling to get it sorted, but once the sound is fixed the Harlem native flows through a couple of tracks from his new album, and whilst I confess I’m not the biggest fan of rap, he seems pretty decent, and no doubt he’ll soon be coming to a Rihanna/Beyonce record near you.
After all that, we walk back to the East side of town, where the best of LA’s Smell scene is playing a outdoor party down at Union Park. For those of you that don’t know it, The Smell is a venue in LA that has been sort of like ground zero for the city’s revived music scene in the last couple of years. Whilst being a bit shabby and run-down, it has helped launch bands like No Age, Abe Vigoda, Vivian Girls and the Mae Shi to NME kudos and sold out shows at the Scala, so I’m kind of expecting big things here.
Almost straight away The Beets lure us in with a set of happily upbeat 60s pop, and I catch Sun Araw and Bleeker and the Freaks before my thirst gets the better of me and I sneak round back for a couple of cheeky rum and coffee liquors that some people are inexplicably giving away. After treating myself, I half watch The Mantles and an inventive performance from Happy Birthday that I wished I’d payed a bit more attention to, then I’m back with it to see lo-fi punks Nodzzz pump out an impressive set of understated awesomeness.
Followed by a performance from experimental folk act Woods, the sun has set and another chilly Austin night is well under way by the time the Vivian Girls take the stage to play a packed out car park, that has been made all the more surreal by the fairy lights hung liberally from nearby trees, lampposts and portaloos. Playing their trademark indie/punk/shoegaze hybrid that sounds like the Shang ri Las, The Ramones and The Jesus and Mary Chain all at the same time, they seem to cast a level 9 hypnosis spell on the whole evening, so that by the time they finished, we’re all astounded to find out that it’s almost 1am in the morning – meaning that there’s only one hour of official partying left!
Balls. Realising we’re too far from anything good, we stay sat in the back stage area sinking a couple more rum and assorted fruit smoothie concoctions, before heading out into the night with the promises of bridge parties and house parties ringing in our ears. Disappointingly (and perhaps understandably) these all turn out to be bogus, so with a heavy heart and heavier limbs we head back to Guadalupe and home. Oh well there’s always tomorrow right?