Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Full Report

Before I upload my full report on SXSW 2010, with short notes on every artist of which I saw at least one full tune, here's the overview:

FAVORITES: Smoke Fairies (did not disappoint), Efterklang (as previously reported), and Vadoinmessico are my top three.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jackie Oates, M. Takara 3, DM Stith, Longital, Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore's Dear Companion Project, Dengue Fever, and Dan Mangan.

GOOD TRENDS: The complete irrelevance of record company showcases.

BAD TRENDS: "Folk Orchestras" with 6+ people vainly in search of one good song.

BEST STREET VENDOR: A guy with a cardboard sign that said "SHITTY ADVICE."

THE USUAL PET PEEVE: Why go to a music bar at a music festival and just talk loudly with your friends while the band plays?

KUDOS: The folks at NPR Music, who provide incredible coverage before and during the conference, and can be regularly spotted running from showcase to showcase, tweeting, recording, snapping photos and taking notes. These people really work their asses off.

OK, here's the Full Monty:

Day 1

5pc w/piano/guitar, banjo/guitar, fiddle, cello, dbl bass, drums, some vocalizing. Pretty but BIG. Nice instrumentation but a bit to simple musically.

Zoƫ Keating
Solo cello with loops. But again, basic 4/4 stuff, nothing particularly interesting going on musically.

Madi Diaz
Madi has a truly great voice, I just wish there were more stand-out tunes like "Let's Go."

Trespassers William
Mostly duo from Seattle. Nice female voice and guitar atmospherics. Interesting, but wore a bit thin for me after a a while.

Dustin O'Halloran
Piano with string quartet. Again, just a bit too simple musically with sting arrangements.

M. Takara 3
Very cool Brazilian trio, electronics, guitar and percussion. Some vocalizing but mostly instrumental. Experimental at times, but always with a groove. A favorite.

Bomba Estereo
Columbian dance band, very uptempo with Spanish rapping. High energy, crowd very into it. Lead singer works it well, although her voice works better rapping... is a bit shrill when singing.

Delhi 2 Dublin
Another high energy crowd pleaser, Canadian band who fuse Indian, Celtic, and beats. Over-the-top stage performance... a bit too much for my taste. But again, the crowd loved 'em.

The Chapin Sisters
Nothing like sister harmonies (Abigail and Lily are daughters of folk singer Tom Chapin and their half-sister Jessica Craven's father is director Wes Craven). Only two of the three though, as Jessica is on maternity leave. Still, great harmonies and acoustic guitars. Too bad it was a noisy bar with bad sound.

Suzanne Vega
I couldn't resist catching the end of her set in St. David's Historic Sanctuary. That voice, and those songs, are like comfort food for me. A short treat!

DM Stith
Now we're talking. A string quartet put to good use! Really interesting music going on here, and Stith has a very listenable voice, and likable demeanor. A nice way to close Day One.

Day 2

Carolina Chocolate Drops
We caught the end of their morning showcase, broadcast live on KUT from the Hilton. An impressive crowd for 10:30 am, who were very enthusiastic. Their star continues to rise.

Brooklyn Rider
NPR Music showcase. Another string quartet, but one with an indie buzz. Great players, supplemented here with dbl bass and percussion. Very impressive. Look for them at the Southern this summer.

Another folk-influenced indie band, this one from North Carolina, with a nice sound. Worthy of further listen, although the two songs I was able to hear were fairly unremarkable.

Sharon Van Etten
Female s/s with a guitar. Very nice voice, haunting songs. But a bit lost to the outdoor stage setting at a park on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Julianna Barwick
Etheral looping vocals. Spacey, pleasant. But again, too much activity in the park for this.

Fishtank Ensemble
Cross-pollinated Gypsy music from California. The instrumentalists in this quartet tear it up! And the singer plays the saw. Fun!

Ben Sollee and Daniel Michael Moore
"Dear Companion" quartet coming to The Cedar. This is really gorgeous stuff. Both guys have beautiful voices, write strong songs and have thoughtful arrangements.

The Black Atlantic
Dutch folk/pop orchestra. Nice sound, but lacked variety. Seemed like every song was in the same key...

The Besnard Lakes
Maybe it was the setting (large, outdoor stage at Stubb's Bar-B-Q), but it sure sounded like arena rock. I was wondering if I was in the right place until they introduced themselves...

Grand Hallway
8-piece folk orchestra. Nice sounds, thoughtful arrangements, but a complete lack of hooks. A lot of these bands make some interesting music, but they need to spend more time writing good songs than arranging them.

Sally Seltmann
Finally, real songwriting! Catchy, clever, compelling. Worthy of further exploration. She co-wrote "1234" with Feist, so you get the idea.

Broadcast 2000
Quirky British pop. Reminded me of Micachu a bit. Lots of fun, but a bit unrelenting.

Superb set. If the crowd size and response is any indication, with their new record on 4AD, these guys could be on the verge. *UPDATE: I've now listened to the record, Magic Chairs, and while it's worthy of further review, it does lack the energy they delivered with the material live...

Slovakian duo, completely original and exciting. Electronics, funky bass, good tunes, and shredding guitar, sometimes bowed.

The Very Best
African folk music with an 80's rap presentation, propelled by a British DJ. A great way to introduce a new generation of kids to African music.

Day 3

The Deep Dark Woods
Canadian Americana. Nothing particularly distinctive going on here.

Soulful voiced s/s from Chicago. That voice sets her apart.

Dengue Fever
Psychedelic rock with trad Cambodian female singer. Unique and cool. Strong live show.

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles
Bluesy country-rock from Boston. Not my thing, but a fun set with good energy.

The Living Sisters
3-part vocal harmonies by three "sisters" (Becky Stark, Eleni Mandell and Anara George), somewhat reminiscent of The Roches. Great harmonies, and that's what it is.

The Watson Twins
This one was a major clunker for me. Neither the music nor the twins' vocal talents were to my liking.

Black Prairie
Acoustic mish-mash side project with 3 members of The Decemberists. Maybe a bit too much of a mish-mash. It felt like a side project.

Harper Blynn
N.Y. power pop quartet. Catchy songs, high energy, strong 3-part harmonies. Well done.

British folk revivalists. Nice stuff, but I wish they would lose the drum kit. Hand percussion would be much better suited.

Tyler Ramsey
Guy with a guitar and a nice voice. Nothing more.

Lost in the Trees
N.C. folk orchestra. Again, full of musical ideas, way too earnest... and a lack of tunes. Maybe some humor would help?

Irish genre bender with folk orchestra ambitions but with electric instruments. Just caught the end of the set but it held my interest well.

Admiral Radley
Caught two songs of this new Jason Lytle project. Honestly, it did nothing for me.

Jackie Oates
A former member of the Rachel Unthank clan, she struck out on her own and has accumulated her own awards and accolades. It's easy to see why. This was an exquisite set of largely trad Brit folk. Gorgeous.

Unni Lovlid
Norwegian trad singer, with a percussionist and electronics wizard dude, together they create atmospheric and experimental mind trips. Too bad this one was in a bar.

Son Lux
Electronic and compositional whiz-kid, here with a drummer. A creative composer whose brilliant at dynamics on his recordings. But in a club setting it was mostly loud beat music. Still interesting.

The Unthanks
A new band, with the two sisters, violin and piano as before, supplemented here with bass (acoustic and electric), cello and drums. New material stretches out a bit- for the better.

Day 4

Allo Darlin'
Bouncy British pop, with a ukulele. Fun and energetic.

The Crookes
More high-powered pop, this time with an array of influences, but nothing that convinced me to stay past two songs.

The Middle East
Interesting folk-rock ensemble from Australia. Good vocals, nice harmonies.

Rogue Wave
Strong mid-tempo pop, some good lyrics and songwriting. Pretty timeless. And good humor.

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit
Solid U.K. troubadour with 4-piece. Good songwriting and strong playing. A touch of British Folk with blues and pop.

Excellent London-based band with distinctive lead vocalist, influences all over the map and some great songs.

Merideth Bragg
Male s/s with keyboard player and drummer. Nice voice, but largely unremarkable.

This Will Destroy You
"Post Rock" with some noise thrown in. Not one of the more particularly interesting bands of the genre, at least not outdoors at 40 degrees and a stiff wind.

Sebastian Schuller
Singer with electronics. Bleeps and boops. I actually nodded off.

Maine acoustic couple. Very quiet, wispy music, very pretty at times, but often a bit too unsubstantial.

Dan Mangan
Vancouver s/s with great songs, poignant and humorous, yes, finally, some humor! Great backing band as well. A highlight.

Smoke Fairies
What a great sound, two female voices with timbre and harmonies evocative of classic British folk music, backed by a smokey, bluesy, distinctly American sounding groove. I'm hoping we'll see these guys at our venue soon.

Colombian dance, hip-hop flavored band. Another one that had the crowd going, was more 80's rap crowd call-and-response and hip-hop flavored than anything distinctly Colombian. But they kept the crowd moving!

Can I nap now?


Jason said...

Posted at 4:20? You can nap now.

Mama E Dub said...

Thank you. THANK YOU. THANK YOU! for filtering through a bunch of bands for us homebodies.

I appreciate your opinions and will follow several of those links tomorrow.

So you didn't go see Warpaint, huh?