This spring break, I, along with thousands of other music aficionados, descended upon Austin, Texas to bask in the musical juggernaut that is South by Southwest. Thousands of bands, hundreds of showcases, a multitude of film screenings (both official and not), and riotous good times were to be found by all during the long weekend that comprised the festival. Below, a few highlights from a tremendous experience.
PJ Harvey: Words cannot describe how amazing I find this woman. I was fortunate enough to get into the exclusive KEXP broadcast from ME Studios to see her perform with John Parish in front of a small audience, and she did not disappoint. Having been a fan of hers for a long time, it was a treat for me to finally get to see her live; fortunately, I was able to snap some photos before her management ran through the crowd discouraging it. Their joint album drops tomorrow — look for it on WPRB in the near future.
Wavves: Sharing a can of beer as they nervously started their set at the Terrorbird showcase, Wavves seemed to be acutely aware of the pressures that come with a “Best New Music” accreditation from Pitchfork. Originally recorded as a one-man project from the lead singer Nathan Williams, the touring band expanded to include a drummer (whose name I can’t recall). The band’s noisy sound may be reminiscent of No Age, but onstage they definitely delivered, giving the audience a raucous, brief set that had everyone dancing (or at least jumping around). Their album should be making it onto WPRB airwaves soon (it’s currently out for review), so keep listening for it.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: The best band I saw at SXSW, hands down. I had heard that they were disappointing live, which ultimately proved to be unfounded. While a friend dismissed them as a mere “combination of MBV and the Cure,” I found that combination to be their strong point, both on record and when performing live. Keeping their sets short (barely resting between songs and refraining from excessive interaction with the audience), the band gave a tight presentation of their catchiest tunes (including a new track, “103,” which was great) which I found to be tremendously satisfying.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down: We Brave Bee Stings and All (Kill Rock Stars) was one of my favorite albums of this fall (for one reason or another), and Thao definitely delivered live, recreating her solid folk tracks by injecting them with increased intensity. If you get a chance to see the band live, you should definitely go.
Girls: One of the many buzz bands (like BLK JKS, just added to WPRB’s rotation) that blew my mind. I am now taking as a given that a sign of an awesome band is their ability to, after soundchecking, sit down on the stage and jam for a solid 15 minutes before standing up and beginning their set. Totally awesome, guitar-based 70′s-era rock from these super cool indie-hippies. Their album drops in June; expect to see it on WPRB shortly afterward.
Little Boots: So it may be cliched electro pop. So she may have played Perez Hilton’s SXSW party (which makes me gag). Nonetheless, Little Boots was pure, danceable fun. Performing with a mini light show (apparently imported from Japan), Little Boots commanded the stage, vamping for an enraptured audience. She has an EP out already, and a full-length is expected in the near future.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson: His self-titled LP blew my mind last year; I have no idea why so many people still don’t know his name. Performing in a yard behind an art gallery on South Congress to a miniscule crowd, the band played a brief set, sticking to the strongest tracks of the album. Robinson’s spare indie rock was fleshed out by the inclusion of an amazing violin player, but the sound was kept minimal with the exclusion of drums and, on some tracks, bass.
There were so many more great bands and great experiences (loved Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele, M. Ward, the panel on black rock, experimental films projected on the pitched roof of a church on South Congress), but that will have to do. Hope you have a great week and that you listen to WPRB to hear these fantastic bands!