Friday, March 26, 2010

Recap: SXSW

I deliberately did not write my sxsw recap immediately after returning to Minneapolis. I couldn't. I was still taking everything in and attempting to make sense of it all. So much for my career as a journalist in the fast-paced world of chirps and Myface.

66 bands. 3.5 days. 36 degree weather in Austin, TX. Yikes.

Main Figurehead and I saw a number of the same acts. If I were to list everyone I saw on Saturday, it would look much the same as his post for nearly the whole day. So instead, I'm only going to tell you about the favorites. The cream of the crop.


Doll & The Kicks: I saw this group play on a boulevard. A Karen O lookalike with a good UK rock sounding band. Stopping to watch gave me some time to finish dinner.

Dustin O'Halloran/Hauschka: These two piano men played back to back in one of the best sounding venues, St. David's Bethel Hall. O'Halloran plays contemporary classical piano and Hauschka prepares his instrument - at its best when he had a pile of little stones that he dropped one by one into the body of the piano. They had recruited a string quartet to learn both their material in a single day. While the compositions didn't blow me away, it was a nice break from the abrasive rock happening outside, and I loved hearing about how Hauschka got his first piano (from his grandmother under the condition he would only play classical music. He promptly joined a band. He didn't give the piano back).

Strange Boys: I hate to admit that I almost missed this show. I ended up finding their name in my list after leaving another underwhelming show after only two songs. When I got to the venue, there was a line, and a "one in one out" waiting period. But I made it, and they were wonderful. Youthful but unfazed. Raw. Gritty. Saxophone. Mmm.


Carolina Chocolate Drops: What can I say? These three are old favorites that do not disappoint. At this show I was especially struck by the bones. For me, it really conjures the image of a Grateful Dead-like dancing skeleton. It seems as though the instrument is just an extension of his body. Chilling - even at 10:30 a.m. in a hotel lobby.

Delhi 2 Dublin: ENERGY. Super fun. But the crowd was not matching their efforts. Thank you to the one aging punk in full leather and studs who swerved and sweated without ever cracking a smile.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings: She is the real thing. A soul queen. She has me wrapped around her microphone stand, and I'll do anything she tells me to. Wish I would have stayed for her full set.

Fishtank Ensemble: Sassy, sexy strings with gypsy flavor. They had their look down too: A saw-playing lady in red flanked by rockabilly boys in black.

Daniel Martin Moore and Ben Sollee's Dear Companion project: Sigh. Dear Daniel, I still have a crush on you.

Gringo Star: This is a band I followed because I loved one song. Surprisingly, despite that set up they pulled through. High-energy rock and roll. A REALLY tight, well-versed band. They switched instruments after nearly every song.

Mountain Man: Chilling three-part harmony from lovely girls. I can picture this at The Cedar in the middle of winter before an audience bundled up in bulky coats drinking their steaming cups of tea. It reminded me of an early Rachel Unthank performance I saw - stark but stunning.

Surf City: Garage rock at its best. No frills.

Olof Arnalds: The former member of Mum took a different route than band mate Kria Brekkan who performed a highly experimental set in a rock club on the other side of downtown. Arnalds played spooky, beautiful, folk-tinged tunes with hints of Sigur Ros. Lovely lovely lovely. Another one I hope to see at The Cedar.

The Pines: Local boys still doing Minneapolis proud. I was glad to see they brought their banjo player with them.

Wye Oak: Another set I wish I could have watched in full. Jenn Wasner started with a solo song that was shockingly honest. I thought I saw tears in her eyes, but I could have been mistaken. The full band stuff was just as good. Hoping to catch them in town very soon.

MNDR: Per the request of blogger Princess, I stopped in on a set by this DJ. She really is that good. Read Princess' take here.

Phantogram: This New York duo is getting plenty of hype. I don't need to add to it. They were fun. The crowd LOVED them.


Efterklang: They normally have a string player (violin? viola? I so don't remember) but for SXSW had Camera Obscura's horn player sitting in. Really cool. Like a hybrid of Beirut and Sigur Ros. Young, bouncy, fun. Smiles all around.

The Living Sisters: Freaking beautiful. On all counts. Read what Main Figurehead had to say here.

Jenny Owen Youngs: So cute. Like, I want to hug her and then make her be my friend. But I wish her biting sarcasm and witty remarks would come through more in her music. Pretty music, pretty/smart girl, smart/funny banter.

Son Lux: I had never heard this Anticon artist before, and was disappointed to come in after Dosh had finished. But Son Lux delivered despite having trouble with the sound engineer. Anyone who can hold my attention while plinking away at a laptop is doing something right.

True Widow: Perfect. This band is just exactly what I am looking for; just the right combination of Autolux, Low, slow, dirge-y grunge rock, and a badass female bass player. Oof. Seriously amazing.

Dengue Fever: I have waited a long time to see this group, and it was well worth it. The Cambodian singer is maybe the most beautiful woman on the planet, and the band found their groove and is sticking to it. A great way to close the night.


Longital: Read about them here. SO SO SO good. A prize for anyone who can succinctly (and accurately) describe what this group sounds like.

Malachai: One of their first performances in the U.S. You can watch the very first one here. SO eccentric, so smooth. I have had a hard time listening to anything but this band after returning home.

Miss Li: The Swedish version of Alice Russell + Annie. Bubblegum lyrics, soul-style belting. A backing band of cute swedish boys. Not bad.

Smoke Fairies: Again, Figurehead summed this up pretty well. So I'll suggest you read his take here. This group is enchanting, and probably the one I would be most excited about seeing at The Cedar. Here's hoping.

ChocQuibTown: Really fun. I almost had to dance. Made me want to listen to the record more.

That's all for now.