reviewed & photos by Mai Huynh
SXSW 2008 came and went bringing plenty of sleepless nights, tired feet, and amazing music. I left Boston with a plan on how to tackle the thousands of bands that would be performing in Austin but by Wednesday night that plan was out the door. I basically saw all the bands I did because of chance. And sometimes, that’s the best way of experiencing SXSW.
Here’s my recap of Day 1, Wednesday, March 12th:
City and Colour (fronted by Dallas Green of Alexisonfire) – Here’s a band that I had no intention of seeing since my only knowledge of Alexisonfire is that they’re a post-hardcore band, which isn’t really my thing. However, my best friend’s boyfriend Tom, actually works for the label that Alexisonfire is on and brought us to watch City and Colour play at the Canadian BBQ Party. The moment I saw Dallas on stage I knew I was already in for a surprise because he resembled an “indie hipster” more than he did the singer of a screamo band and was equally shocked when he strummed his first chord and sang his first lyric. He opened up with a song called ‘The Girl’ from his upcoming release, Bring Me Your Love. The sound is completely opposite than his work with Alexisonfire and is more folk oriented, mellow, lyrically driven and just plain sad. The album features harmonica and banjo but they all play secondary roles to Dallas Green, his voice, and his guitar. He may have stood on stage alone with an acoustic guitar but honestly commanded the entire operation. Few musicians have ever captivated me on first impressions alone and Dallas did so within the first 10 seconds. The way he sings and plays highlights his vulnerability, his passion and that is endearing to see. One of my favorites from the entire festival.
Grande ‘Ole Party – Lead singer, drummer, female. Three things that may seem like separate entities but in GOP, three separate entities happen to be one thing, Kristin Gundred. I stumbled upon this band by chance and stayed because of curiosity. Gundred’s drumming is not complicated but neither is GOP’s music. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what GOP sounds like but Gundred has a really interesting voice and their sound is a mix of Rilo Kiley meets Janis Joplin meets Bessie Smith. What may seem like a strange combination actually works for this band because they already break any molds on what traditional lead singers do, play, and sing. If you like soul songstresses than GOP is the band for you, every emotion Gundred sings about can be seen in her face and heard in her voice.
Corto Maltese – I saw this band outside the open window of BD Riley’s while waiting to get into The Duke Spirit and couldn’t help but wander over and listen. To be honest, the band was pretty boring to watch live but the guitar riffs were really inspiring and the only way to really describe it was ‘fun.’ Listening to them is like a musical rollercoaster because immediately they remind you of many different bands, but not in a bad way. Mostly, their music reminds me of Wolf Parade; I guess because their music is also just as fun and they have similar sounding keyboard loops that just change the dynamic of entire songs. I don’t have too much to say about them because I only made it for a handful of songs but what I did see, I liked. Corto Maltese is a local Austin band with a lot of potential and I can’t wait to experience their full sound.
Dorian – I wish I could have understood at least one word they sang, but unfortunately there’s a language barrier with this electronic/pop band from Barcelona. On my way home across the S. Congress bridge to the Embassy I walked by a near empty Copa lounge where it was ‘World Music’ night. Dorian was the last band of the night and they made me stop in my tracks. After discovering their name I was intrigued even more since Dorian is also the name of my boss’ son. What I was able to understand was that this band was really interesting and I guess music really does allow people the opportunity to overcome whatever language barriers there may be. There were certain songs which might have been better for me if they had been in English, like ‘El Futuro No Es De Nadie,’ which roughly translates to ‘The future is not anyones.’ Musically the song was weak and not as catchy as their other ones but there seemed to be a deeper, stronger message in the lyrics that I wish I understood. However, there were plenty of songs which didn’t require words at all. Overall, this international band experience just helped me understand how beautiful music can be, words or no words music really can transcend verbal or physical boundaries and it was a great way to end the night.