Thursday, March 24, 2011

SXSW Guest Blog: Satchel Grande's Austin roundup

This year was truly a learning experience for all of us, and we learned many things we’d do differently next year.  We learned how to hustle more on the front end to potentially get more gigs. We learned how to navigate an amazing city, and how much talent you can squeeze into a 5-day festival.  We learned how many gallons of beer we can consume as a Grande collective.  We learned that it is impossible to see everything, but to enjoy the 1% that you’re fortunate enough to see.  We learned that a van full of dudes can write quite a collection haikus on a 15-hour drive.  We learned new techniques to incorporate into our own set.  And most importantly, we met some of the most incredible people in the business that we all love.  Austin, yes you are still in Texas, but we won’t hold that against you.  And hopefully the SXSW decision makers will extend the “Y’all come back now, ya hear” to us next year.

I obviously can't keep on top of this blogging regimen like Mr. Coffey, but here is the overview of the final two incredible days of music in Austin from one Grande’s perspective.

Top 5 Favorite Performances of the Week:
TV on the Radio @ Stubbs – The doubters thought we couldn’t get in (I’m looking at you Coffey) but amazingly people filed out in steady masses after the first couple of songs of their hour + set.  I personally thanked each departing wave of haters with a sarcastic “Y’all come back now, ya hear” as my hopes of entry exponentially increased.  I think some people have a checklist down there and as soon as they hear a tune or two and capture a quick picture, they have the authority to put it on their bragging rights list.  Or a bunch of people just have garbage taste because TotR totally killed it.   Unbelievable energy and album like execution.  We only missed about four songs while standing in line, but luckily we were able to hear those with relative clarity from outside the Stubb’s compound.  And once we were in, I was able to walk fairly freely to about the 4th row to capture decent iPhone shots (but I stayed for the whole set).  This performance confirmed why they have been a personal favorite for the past couple of years.    

Fitz & The Tantrums @ Waterloo Records – These guys are the next big thing as far as I’m concerned, especially since they are resurrecting the soul/R&B flavor that I do so love.  I’m wishing for only the best, and hope they are in need an opener for their Midwest tour.  Solid lead and backup vocals, crisp horns and an impeccable rhythm section make this a must listen.  And the legendary Waterloo Records parking lot was a really cool venue for them.  And what a fantastic store inside.  I strategically placed a Satchel Grande cd on one of the shelves under the SXSW performing artists section.  I wonder how much they will get for it?

Polack @ Red Eye Fly – These Spaniards pretty much photocopied the first couple pages out of the Phoenix songbook, and since I love Phoenix, that’s just fine with me.  The drummer was solid and lead vocals/guitar sang in perfect English had a perfect synth pop/rock sound that I was looking for.  We had to stalk the lead singer/guitar player after the set to find the stash of cds and finally found the merch girl whose broken English was good enough to complete the $10 transaction.  Very much worth it.  Also, this venue is one of my favorite, too.  Set on top of a small creek with a scenic view, it’s really set up well.  And in the middle of the set we noticed a raccoon clinging to the iron rafters scrambling toward the main speakers mounted on the ceiling.  I was hoping for an epic Eddie Vedder “Even Flow” crowd dive, but no such luck.  He exited the rooftop without incident.

Hey Rosetta @ St. David’s Sanctuary – This was a complete surprise since our intention was to see Fences who performed right after them.  These Canadians who hail from St. John’s Newfoundland have a Local Natives/Mumford & Son’s vibe going on and have a great dynamic variety and sweet vocal arrangements.  They mix in some incredible violin and cello melodies and the guitar and drum work lock perfectly in.  Nice surprise since we left after 3 songs of Fences.  And the venue, was literally in St. David’s Sanctuary.  We sat respectfully in pews and enjoyed the pristine natural reverberated sound that bounced so freely around the sacred room.  A perfect band for this venue.  I noticed G. Love played this same spot 2 hours later, and I’ll I have to say about that is WTF?   

Ghost in the Jukebox @ Maggie Mae’s – This Ben Fold-esque trio consists of a guitar, piano/synth and drums and they bring an energetic and fun sound that was quite refreshing.  Sing songy lyrics and tight three part harmonies complimented the impressive piano technique of Ben Thornewill whose left hand takes care of the bass lines as well as the blazing chords and intricate melodies.  And anytime you can throw some Moog synth lines that work into an indy trio, bring it, I’ll listen.  I also enjoyed the drummer Jesse Kristin’s shtick of systematically flinging his right hand stick during his shaker/maraca lines and his near magical method of refreshing with a new stick from his overstocked quiver.  Since no one was injured, and the gimmick worked in my eyes.    

- Andy Kammerer, Satchel Grande

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