There is live music 365 days a year in Austin - I'm just going to report on what I've seen or what new music I'm listening to!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SXSW Day 2 - A Night at the Cedar Street Courtyard

A simple plan for Tuesday night – the Dyn Listening Party at Cedar Street Courtyard with a ton of bands and pick up my SXSW Music Wristband and get entered in the lottery for a ticket to the surprise Springsteen and E Street Band Show to be held at an unnamed location on Thursday. Somehow I ended up with the VIP code for the Dyn party which got me in early for free food from Malaga – and they had a ton of tapas setup. Some really awesome dessert trays and the music was about to start. After getting my wristband for the party (a high class Pura Vida wristband – not those crappy paper ones) and with attendance low I decided to head over to the Convention Center and get it over with. Fortunately the line was short and I was in and out in 15 minutes and back to the music.

I got back just as the Parlotones from Johannesburg, South Africa were taking the stage. Their sound was very much like the Killers to me and I liked them a lot and am going to acquire a CD and see if it continues. Next up was the Kopecky Family Band. They are another high energy group from Nashville and I enjoyed their set as well as they got the crowd involved by tossing tambourines out into the crowd. According to the staff Dawes was set for 11:30 AM and although later than I would have liked I’d give up some sleep to hear them!

The Lumineers were on stage next, with a record about to come out they were good as well. Kind of in the Mumford & Sons vein and will be getting the CD when it’s released. I think the two leaders are either twins or at least brothers and a very enjoyable set. The Wandas played a high energy guitar centered set with a terrific finish with three guitars blazing. They are from Boston and understand the SXSW concept – handing out vinyl, CD’s, shirts, etc. afterwards. I took vinyl home with a free download code so it’s on the Ipod as well. I liked the live show a lot and need to listen to the recorded version a few more times.

At this point set changes seemed to slow down and that was concerning! In between sets a group setup on the upper walkway called Elk and Bear from Seattle. They should have been called Irritating and Painful. I would have taken silence over them but I think it was really the girl that was trying to sing backup vocals that was the issue.

The next act on the main stage was Brown Bird. Another in the folkie / acoustic genre and really good with just a standup bass and a guitar. Biggest issue was it took the entire set to figure out who they were. Lesson #1 that every band has to learn at SXSW say the name of your band at least 3 times a set. We see a million bands and have a short attention span. Keep feeding us the info. If not we’ll forget it before we even get back to our cars!

Following them there was an announcement that Dawes would now be performing at 12:15 AM. Not good that some moron had scheduled a dentist appointment for 8 AM the next day! As the next band struggles to get their sound check completed I realized it was already 11:30 and no way was 12:15 even realistic – more like 12:30 best case and if they play an hour set as headliners that means I get home at 2 AM and the alarm is set for 7. Not the way to get the real SXSW days off to a start so I decide to bail on Dawes since I saw them twice in 2011 it’s not the end of the world. Not bad 6 bands, some good desserts, got my wristband and still time for some sleep.

Wednesday’s plan is the Billy Reid / American Songwriter at Swan Dive and then the NPR showcase at Stubb’s with Fiona Apple, Sharon Van Etten and Alabama Shakes – or at least I thought that was the plan!

The Madness Begins – SXSW Monday

As usual I made my list of bands I “had” to see this year in advance of SXSW. High on my list were the Heartless Bastards. I had heard a lot of good things about them, had their new CD but still wasn’t getting it. I got an email about a Monday night party at GSD&M (ad agency) that really wasn’t SXSW music but was being held on their campus – right by Waterloo. Per Rolling Stone motopony from Seattle was one of the Top 25 acts to see this year and our friends from Nashville, The Apache Relay, were on the bill as well. It seemed like a can’t miss show so I headed downtown around 7 to catch the show.

motopony was up first and I’d have to say I wasn’t impressed – if your song is about drugs you don’t have to tell me – either I’ll figure it out or I’ll be clueless! As always my favorite thing about SXSW remains if you don’t like the band don’t worry you’re only 30 minutes away from the next band. Always good to hear some familiar songs as well and The Apache Relay didn’t disappoint. These guys are working hard and just need a break and you won’t see them playing an ad agency campus.

A couple of great new songs, our favorites “American Nomad” and “Lost Kid” and my first dose of Bruce for the week with their great cover of “State Trooper”. Got a chance to talk to them a little bit and complement them on their new Mercedes Touring Van – big improvement over the white van that broke down in the middle of the desert last year on their way home from their first national tour!

Next up was the original target for the night with the Heartless Bastards but first another of the perks of SXSW –some free steak fajita tacos! The band came on and unfortunately nothing changed as far as my feelings. There were just not any songs that really caught my ear. A solid four piece band but I still haven’t got them – not saying I won’t keep listening but I’m not clamoring for their next show. So three bands and the first 3 hours of music for the week in the book and time to go home – an early night as the week would turn out. Next up the Dyn Listening Room with headliners and creators of my 2011 Album of the Year – Dawes!