SXSW 2012: Day One
Well I've been in Austin for approximately 36 hours and I think my body has reluctantly accepted the time difference. I don't however believe that my feet have accepted the constant walking back and forth between venues in Austin!
I arrived here on Monday night Austin time about 9pm, and literally had time to drop my case at the hotel before being taken out to a couple of parties by Paul the CEO of Amazing Radio. Monday night was the final night of the Interactive sessions and even Paul said there had been a definite shift in the type of people there from Monday onwards. This was confirmed by the amount of people in the taxi queue at the Hilton on Tuesday morning too. I was taken to a couple of parties on Monday night, but all Austin could offer me, was drunk people, skimpily clad girls and the star DJ at the party I attended was Nick Cannon, Mariah Careys husband. Really? Underwhelmed.
So Tuesday, I decided to take the bull by the horns and sort out my data plan problem. Whilst wi-fi is prevalent over here in hotels and coffee shops, when you're racing between gigs and you want to keep an eye on things cropping up, or tweet your thoughts, it's a no go, so off to the AT&T store I trekked. I basically walked the length of Austin (it's huge) - and then got I stranded in a part of town with no taxis. Yes, SXSW is crazy, transport is all concentrated downtown, and it's worth bearing that in mind if you decide to head out of town at all. I was eventually saved by a pedi-cab who cycled me back to downtown. So armed with a data plan and the worlds biggest iPhone (iPad) - I decided to go in search of bands...
First up, I headed to a billiard bar on 6th Street to catch up with Manchesters very own Brown Brogues. They've been in the states for a few days already, heading to Virginia and elsewhere. They regaled me with stories of their visit to Dinosaur Land (see their tweets on @brownbrogues for hilarity) eating steaks the size of Bens head, and their first visit to the shooting range including Marks use of a machine gun. Seriously Don't mess! They're playing their first show at the Hype Hotel (Hype Machine party) in an hour. Do not miss!
My first official gig was an all Austin showcase, and I just had to check out Love Inks. I loved their record and had never managed to see them live. I was surprised there wasn't a larger turn out, but chatting to a local blogger made me realise that local people figure they can see local bands any time, so they head to see international acts. That was certainly the case ad The British Embassy showcase is excessively in demand over here.
I then headed across town to the Elysium venue to catch Jonti & The Stepkids. Jonti was great, energetic, electronic, engaging and a whole lot of other E's. The band that followed him though. Crikey. Ok, so it's hot here, it's humid. My hair has resembled a backcombed mess since I arrived, and yesterday I ate an ice cream sandwich that ended up more on me than in me due to the heat. So, why? WHY? would you wear a coat and a wooly hat on stage? When a band who clearly aren't rock are trying to be rock, it's cringeworthy. I would tell you their name, but I don't know it. There were two acts crammed in between Jonti and The Stepkids, probably to take advantage of the crowd. Anyway, it was running late, I wanted to see The Stepkids but as usual, no matter how much you plan these things sometimes the feeling on the day just takes over. So I spotted at Club Deville a Prefix Magazine/Pianos NYC party with a massive line up and just decided to sod it and go there.
I arrived to find New Moods still on the stage as they were running late, however, my excitement was short lived, they were out of time, out of tune and it was a bit of a disappointment after so much hype. But, all hope was not lost! The saviour came in the form of Caged Animals. I've been dying to see these guys for months and I was out of town the one and only time they played in Manchester. They playing a crowd-rousing set despite being one guitarist down. The lovely twangy guitar on 'Teflon Heart' was missed, although the slightly speedier version was music to my ears...
I've been in love with Gardens and Villa for about a year now. Their self-titled debut album was recorded whilst they camped in the studio grounds and lived off fruit and berries, either due to a lack of funds, getting back to nature, or a combination of both. Despite saying I only want to see bands I've not seen before, I couldn't help myself, and WOW, they didn't let me down. Their live sound has been honed further since I watched them In Leeds last year and the label guy stood next to me was shocked he'd never heard of them, and gutted they were already signed.
Being a bit of a garage/psyche head, there was no way I was going to miss Pond - an Australian outfit that comprises the rhythm section from Tame Impala. They recorded an album in 2010 just before Tame Impala blew up and had to put it on the back burner until the time was right. That album was released last week and is entitled Beards, Wives, Denim. It's a more rawkus affair than Tame Impala, and lead singer Nick (bass in Tame Impala) writhed around, throwing himself into the crowd, crowd surfing, jumping on peoples shoulders and throwing shapes that David Bowie would be proud of. It was engaging, it was raw and frankly, you just couldn't tear your eyes away.
Sadly the party was running so late that I decided enough was enough at 2am, partly due to the time, partly as I didn't see how any other band could top that show. Unfortunately this meant I missed final act Hooray For Earth but I'm sure there will be other times and other shows...
Today is a clashathon but I won't let that deter me. More tomorrow but I gotta go dust down my dirty denim and whack my shades in place ready for Brown Brogues in an hour.
Austin and out..
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Thursday was a tough day for everyone. We were sluggish in our hotel until the mid-afternoon, loathe to rejoin the crowded streets of downtown that now seemed steeped in tragedy. My whole plan for the day had been to stay at the Stereogum showcase which, given its proximity to Mohawk and where the accident occurred, had been cancelled. [read more]
Friday at SXSW proved that the festival was still focused on the weekend. Maybe I just got the hang of how to handle Austin or maybe Friday was actually just better than the rest of the week, I'm not really sure. The day started off terribly when the bus driver made me throw away one of the best coffees I've ever had—from Austin's acclaimed Bennu Coffee—and then abruptly ended his route halfway through. [read more]
I should've known Wednesday was going to be a bad day when Kevin Gates didn't show for his performance at the Pitchfork Showcase at 12:30 PM. Although I had my reservations that he'd be able to make the early-ish set time, his no-show was a move that clearly disappointed the fans gathered on the grassy hillside at French Legation to see him. His DJ played the hits and then quit with no announcement or explanation. [read more]