Saturday, March 20, 2010

SXSW: Day three wrap-up

My apologies for not blogging much yesterday. I arrived downtown late and ended up getting denied entry to a show because I didn't RSVP for it (some shows you have to do that, but for most you don't). Then I had to hoof it about a mile to another show. Basically, my SXSW didn't get started until about 4 p.m. yesterday.

The first thing that I hit up was The Mynabirds' show at a place called Design Within Reach. It's basically a home design boutique that tries to pass itself off as "affordable" even though a designer chair I saw cost over $1,000. This isn't a recliner, mind you, but a simple wood and aluminum chair you'd find in someone's kitchen or something.

Anyway... The Mynabirds put on another great performance. I've been enjoying the hell out of their record, "What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood," and seeing them perform it live has been a treat. The folks that were there chugging down free Colt 45 and eating free ice cream bars didn't seem to get too into it though.

I talked to Dan McCarthy (of McCarthy Trenching and various other Omaha projects, currently playing bass in The Mynabirds) and we were talking about how no one in Austin gets into the performance very much. Sometimes there's not even the obligatory clapping after a song. It probably comes down to two things: the hipsters are sometimes too cool for school and everyone's seen so many shows through the week that they just don't get that into it. (Side note: I've mentioned McCarthy's mustache before, but I must say that it's one of the very best around.)

After that, I headed back to downtown because I wanted to catch Lucero (the show I didn't RSVP to earlier was a solo show from Lucero frontman Ben Nichols). The bands were running late at Club Deville, but I was pleased to hear Centromatic on the stage. They sounded like classic rock and when Steve Miller Band's "Rock'N Me" came on after their set, it was in the same vein, but Centromatic was above and beyond.

Lucero came on next and killed it. Nichols' voice is like sandpaper on gravel and it has a booze-soaked and sorry quality that makes it sound like the hard nights and heartbreaks that he sings about are real experiences. Lucero is one of the few bands that I've seen (Free Energy comes to mind as well) that broke through to fans. Quite a few folks were dancing, jumping, singing and generally rocking out during their set. (Note: I think I got decent video of "Nights Like These," which I'll be sure to post at the end of the weekend.)

I moved on to It's True, who were playing in BD Riley's, which is more of an Irish pub than a music venue. In fact, the stage in the corner of the room that they played from is probably used to host bands playing traditional Irish music. Still, the people eating their fish 'n chips were converted into fans. Marc Leibowitz and I started laughing when a man in is 60s or 70s started whistling, "woo"-ing and generally going nuts. The band also had a big group hanging outside the bar listening through the open windows, which is something that I haven't seen anyone do all weekend.

After, I quickly ran over to see Digital Leather again, who knocked out another loud, punky, synthy set, this time without Shawn Foree breaking any of his equipment. Unfortunately, there wasn't a big crowd, even though a line stretched down the block outside the venue. Why they weren't letting these people in more quickly is beyond me.

Next, it was on to Little Brazil, who pretty much got screwed by venue they were playing in. It went down like this: I could tell it was going to be a loud show because the band that was on before LB was basically not a loud band, but however the sound blasting through the venue made them sound about as loud as Metallica.

LB took the stage after and decided not to mike any of their equipment because, by then, they realized that if the band before them was loud, they were going to blow the place up. In simple terms, they did. Fans were going nuts and the place was louder than hell. Then, in the middle of a song, the sound engineer interrupted and asked them to turn down their guitars. One, that is kind of a ridiculous request. Two, it was in the middle of their song.

Landon Hedges looked like he was going to eat the sound guy, but held it together. In the end, they didn't turn their equipment down one notch and kept chugging along. The crowd loved it, and even bought shots of RumpleMinze for them while they were still onstage.

Unfortunately for LB, their reluctance to tone down resulted in their set being cut painfully short. Folks in the crowd yelled for "one more song."

"We don't pussyfoot. We play rock music," Hedges told me afterward. "I almost had to break a bottle over someone's head."

The mood lightened afterwards as LB consumed a few more beers and Hedges jumped on the bar and began to pole dance. He was nearly kicked out after that one.

After that debacle, Follow That Bird went onstage and their lead singer can really wail. I don't know her name or much else about the band (other than them being from Austin), but Greg Edds told me they don't have a label and a couple different label people were in the crowd and trying to sign them.

To cap off the night, I headed back to the Mohawk Patio, where Digital Leather played to a tiny crowd. There was still a huge line outside, but the place filled up to see Miike Snow, the Swedes whose members include producers who have made megahits for Britney Spears, Madonna and Kiley Minogue.

They don't sound anything like Britney, so don't worry. They came on stage wearing white masks, dressed otherwise in all black and proceeded to make the place shake. The crowd was grooving to songs like "Funeral" and "Animal" and part of it has to do with them having a couple guys DJing as part of their live performance. They were dropping in samples and record scratches as the rest of the band played their instruments. It was pretty awesome.

After that, it was nearly 2 a.m. and I needed some sleep.

Day four should be fun...

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