SXSW: Days 4 and 5

20 Mar 2013

Dan Monsell delivers the final, dishevelled, part of our coverage from SXSW.


Waxahatchee SXSW

For most music festivals, three days (read about Day 1 and 2 here and 3 here) is easily enough. In fact, it’s often more than enough as we find ourselves yearning for the comfort of bed and a DVD whilst we sadly stareoutward at a damp UK field.

Such is the perfect temperature of the Austin days, and the constant flow of aural - alcohol & BBQ - delights that SXSW quite quickly becomes a preferable home to the one we already inhabit. It’s the new life we’ve made, a warped and twisted reality when one drinks until the sun comes up and Prince plays to 500 people on behalf of Samsung (we missed that show, but are told he did 7 encores and was frustrated at being asked to stop by 3am). We’ve made new friends, our pawn shop bike tyres are well acquainted with the Texas ground and the cash machine keeps coughing out dollars to play with. It’s fair to say home is the last thing on our minds.

As we’re now living in Austin forever, Day 4 gives us one more run-around to catch the next big thing for a day, as the big guns are rolling into town tomorrow for super Saturday. Yep, Timberlake, Vampire Weekend, Depeche Mode and more are set to play SXSW’s tiny clubs for a mixture of die-hard fans who’ve queued since Wednesday, ad agency bosses and music industry powerhouses who are able to pull a favour or two.

Early afternoon in the blazing Friday sun brings us someone we could dub the Dutch Ariel Pink - Jacco Gardner. Gardner exists in the weird-folk side of the psych spectrum and presents his fantastic debut album in a genuinely exciting manner.

Next up are LA’s Pacific Air who leave us feeling slightly underwhelmed, sounding as light and breezy as their name suggests.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra perform on the back of releasing their fantastic new album and much like Toro Y Moi, who also has a brilliant new record doing the rounds this year, are justifiably riding high at SXSW and headlining a number of US blog showcases. UMO put on a great performance and frontman Reuben Nielson’s guitar skills reminds us all their currently one of the finest players around.

Baths offers a charismatic and energetic solo performance, his glitchy backpack hip-hop material is now complimented by a Postal Service-esque vibe that altogether creates a naturally more commercial feel to the music and lifts him well above artists of a similar ilk.

As the Austin sun sets, we cycle over to a hotel function room to watch Wardell - one of this year’s most talked about buzz bands. The sibling duo are the offspring of a certain Hollywood director, famed for his work on 1991 motion picture Hook, and are seemingly on the runway to sure fire success. Unfortunately, their competent attempt at She and Him style indie-pop seems to have left its songs at home on this occasion.

We revisit Cashmere Cat in an Austin mega-club we can’t remember the name of and look on at kids foaming at mouth and jumping to ceiling as lasers sync with every drop and synth punch of his tech-electro sound.  We exit out onto Austin’s main drag a find an indescribable mess of people jacked up on hotel lobby margaritas, scurrying and shouting like characters from Garland’s novel The Beach. We search for solace but find stripper turned rapper Brooke Candy thrilling a crowd that for all intents and purposes is completely losing its shit over some of the hardest beats we’ve heard all weekend. She’s like a Chris Morris creation of a hipster rapper and whilst the music is hideous it’s all extremely entertaining.

It’s, clearly, time to leave and our journey back finds us settled into our new life of constant critique and confusion as the new music of this week busies our brains. One more day to go and we’re a delighted, broken, mess.

It’s now our final day of SXSW, home time is coming. The end is nigh.


Kendrick Lamar SXSW

We’ve opted for the main man in US hip-hop right now Kendrick Lamar to finish our SXSW but we must first cram in one last mesh of new music before our week in the sun is put to an unfortunate rest.

Waxhatchee are one of our favourite SXSW discoveries. Genuine US indie rock that lack in pretence and offers hope to all those that swear by Pavement and The Pixes and channel alt-rock heroes Liz Phair, Elliot Smith and The Breeders but not in an entirely retrogressive manner. 

Other solid indie-rock comes from Smiths and Orange Juice-indebted Brooklyn band Ski Lodge, whilst Toronto’s Moonking blow our minds with their high energy punk-pop assault that oddly sounds like a warped Cranberries. Even better live than on record.

Majical Cloudz offers an intense performance, chasing eye contact with the crowd and gripping his microphone with impressive ferocity, He’s flanked by another musician emitting restrained noise from drum machine’s and other instruments. Sonically, it’s similar to Talk Talk or Japan and is an utterly captivating and somewhat special watch. We nearly wept but that could’ve been from exhaustion, we’re not sure.

We wander into a Moog showcase to see Austin cold-wave stalwarts S U R V I V E and count ten synths on stage as they put together a set of incredible analogue sounds reminiscent of Kavinsky or Cliff Marinez’s Drive soundtrack but slowed down to a doomed out drone.

All of this is a musically inappropriate warm-up for the big man Kendrick Lamar who in turn has Harlem Shake-man Baauer open for him. The crowd are largely unreceptive, far more intent on Lamar’s arrival. There are queues of frustrated folk and talk from security is that fire-marshall’s are set down close down the venue until out of nowhere Kendrick appears and runs out into the baying crowd for the start of an incredible set. It’s a party but the depth is clear and one gets the feeling that this is only the beginning of an incredible career for Lamar as he demonstrates his mad flow and currently unmatched way with words.

Team RFB heads to an afterparty and find a decent chunk of SXSW’s leftover booze on a table around us, the night takes a spiral upward and possibly downward, depending on which way we look at it.

Morning comes and a turned down request for a breakfast martini serves as a reminder of the people we have now become and will shortly have to cease being. We’re done in and have seen so much our eyes and minds are likely to never be the same again. See you next year Austin. Thanks for our week in the sun.

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