SXSW: Day 3
17 Mar 2013
Dan Monsell picks up the baton and reports on day three of this year's SXSW.
Baton passed to me from mischief-searching green-bus-riding graffit-scamp Toby L, the main challenge here felt to be living up to his day of chaos and margaritas (read reports of days one and two here). In a day that ended watching kids let off fireworks while Merchandise and Parquet Courts played on a bridge in front of what felt like millions, there were similar off-piste delights to stick in memory.
Day three kicked off much like numbers one and two - a bleary-eyed wake up and confused scramble to plan a day of seeing everything before combating jetlag and jumping on my pawn shop bought bike (50 bucks - a steal as they said they'd buy back for 25 at the end) and zipping around the baking furnace of the hot plate of Austin to catch as much as possible.
First up at The Scoot Inn for the Converse Death Match stage (featuring a skate ramp in a big dusty car park), The Orwells demonstrated that they're one of the best new bands of this year's event. They have both the songs and a genuine sense of energy, danger and excitement, making them a hugely exciting proposition all around. Solid.
Next up it's packed for Mø over at Red Eyed Fly as she shows the world gathered in a small Austin dive bar that she has literally buckets - stored in her and band's drum machine, keyboards, voice, and guitar - of fierce electro pop songs with hip hop beats and catchy guitar hooks. Like The Orwells she's cool as hell but has got the chops to be a massive pop act. The holy grail.
We catch a bit of new US band Haerts in the same venue who fail to impress, taking the Fleetwood Mac zeitgeist a little too far into the region of The Corrs. We move on.
A double-bill of daytime club sounds hits us next. This year at SXSW it's been fascinating to watch the US embrace the so-called "EDM explosion" of European-tinged dance music invading the country, and inspiring a raft of new US acts now to make electronic music. Rave sticks are gripped by spring breakers around town. Frat boys bro-down as floors erupt with bass drops in the same way that mosh pits and crowds used to break out for bands at choruses.
A double bill of Cashmere Cat and Ryan Hemsworth demonstrates that while the likes of Bassnectar are making it a pretty hideous mainstream break-out, there is clearly some real talent and exciting stuff in North America coming through. Both share a focus on the track and song rather than a straightforward DJ journey in amongst their set. Their live shows are full of big shards and stabs of sound that grip you enough to stand there and watch and not even need to dance. Hemsworth has more of a hip hop approach to his remixes whilst Cashmere Cat is more of a considered synth-blaring warrior in the vein of Lindstrom. Looking forward to hearing much more from both of these.
A pre-dnner slump is broken up with a little bit of Hey Marseilles, an act looked after by the team behind breakout stars The Lumineers. They have the Mumford hoe-down thing down with some songs that would likely set Radio 2 alight, but at times their trumpets make them sound a little too like The Mavericks (who are also playing SXSW this year) for our liking.
Then it's Rockfeedback and Transgressive showcase time at Latitude 30. The night is fun throughout, as we build from the splendour and hallowed sounds of Marika Hackman straight through to the all-out party of Flume, as we watch the man begin his conquering of the US. Before Flume plays an Aussie grabs me and mistakes me for an American in town and shouts, "Have you see Flume before mate? He's going to blow your country wide open. Get fucking ready!" Such is the way his country has embraced him, it won't be long before the rest of the world does just the same.
Between these bookends, the evening is full of delights and surprises. WALL draws an interested crowd for her captivating electro-acoustic fok, Vinyl Williams transfer us to Manchester by way of LA with their Primal Scream meets Californian cosmic mysticism. NO CERMEMONY// also pack out the place with their actual Manchester sounds. Glitchy visuals bleep away as this trio show they are keeping alive the city's tradition, going for forward-thinking electronica that can still speak to the hearts and minds of the masses. They are very good indeed tonight.
Mikhael Paskalev is also impeccably talented. His catchy indie-pop is remincisent of US indie bands like Modest Mouse and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but his Nordic filter makes it much more direct and immediate. His moustache also makes us want to hang out with him and drink gin and tonics and talk about Scanadavian football.
Party done and dusted, we head to the bridge. It takes about 45 minutes to walk there and we've acquired half of the UK music industry, forming a small army trekking across town to something we are hopeful is actually happening. When we arrive at the footbridge a mass of people are drunkenly crowdsurfing and surrounding one of the main talking point bands of SXSW, Merchandise, kicking it out through amps set up on the bridge itself. Parquet Courts played previously and we're all having a great time until someone starts letting off fireworks and throwing them into the crowd. The atmosphere turns tense and after Merchanidse finish the crowd begins to depart. We join the train out, as there's also no beer to be had.
HOME TIME. It's very late. Day three over, day four begins. My feet hurt.