This second full music day of SXSW boiled down to what the festival is generally all about: new music discovery and music reinforcement.
The challenge on days like this is figuring out how to incorporate the familiar while discovering the new and get from venue to venue as quickly as possible in order to not miss a thing, as well as actually get in the door. The lines can be daunting and I wish that I knew how many miles I’ve walked these two days. Basically, SXSW is my life on steroids.
Oh, and I found Jack White’s guacamole! As you can see (photo to the left), I’m not kidding.
Since it was the trade show’s last day of activity, I started there at the Convention Center just before noon. You could tell that the exhibit was winding down but there were still exhibitors doing their thing as well as scheduled music performances from the likes of Chicago’s The Rapper Chicks (self explanatory, folks) and a Swedish contingent including some pretty darned lovely pop from the band Indevotion.
James Bay: This guy. With his debut album Chaos and the Calm set for release in less than a week, James Bay is ‘that guy’ right now: enormous vocal talent, significant songwriting chops, a very identifiable emblem (that hat) and oh so easy to look at. He’s a member of Republic Records Class of 2015 showcase being represented at SXSW this year (what a coincidence, he made my Class of 2015, too!). His first gig at this year’s festival was an exclusive one in the Austin Convention Center’s ballrooms: KCRW’s Radio Day Stage. With just him and his trusty Jerry on percussion (and according to Bay, “Everyone should have a Jerry.”), he held the room incredibly captive song by song with his richly expressive instruments: his voice and that pretty Epiphone Century that he plays and picks damned skillfully. Pretty sure that particular guitar is actually his girlfriend.
Until The Ribbon Breaks: These three guys from Wales (now located in Los Angeles) embrace all manner of genres and sounds of rock, funk, soul, hip hop and electro pop to create musical terrains that are sleek, sexy, intelligent and not without a social and societal voice. And hey the singer, Pete Lawrie-Winfield, can even bust out a trumpet for added effect.
The Mowglis: It just ain’t SXSW if I don’t see, hug and dance to and with the Mowglis at least once. Done…twice.
Dead Sara: It’s either Christmas or my birthday because Dead Sara played two shows in one day, both of which I was present for: Maggie Mae’s Rooftop and the Des Moines Eembassy (that Iowa has an “embassy” is very confusing). The Maggie Mae set was merely a warm up because the Des Moines show was the stuff of why rock/punk rock is beautifully dangerous. All it takes is that one drunk guy with an alcohol level at the “don’t give a fuck” level to get it started. He got it started, eventually security finished it. And the show went on and it’s not hyperbole to say that Dead Sara seems to raise the performance bar with every show. Every show.
Fatherson: The British Embassy (Latitude 30) is my absolute favorite SXSW venue for the simple fact that they host a ton of the artists from the UK in one place and do so by region: England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. They also have free food and drinks but that’s besides the point. Scottish band Fatherson were on my “list” of must-see bands, made my SXSW Spotify playlist and they did not disappoint. At all. It’s rock in one of its lovelier and euphoric states, driving and with an energy that tends to make the blood move all while the soaring voice of lead singer Ross Leighton booms through. Yes, they are Scots so there was a lot of facial hair involved.
Meghann Wright: A rather spunky singer/songwriter from New York with a voice that was adept at balancing the playful with the painful. A little charming, a little NY attitude and a guitar.
The Bros. Landreth: I hear that Canada is a very nice place. I’m inclined to agree because they frequently give up musical talent that’s just brilliant. Coming out of Winnepeg, The Bros. Landreth (also on my Spotify playlist) are all alt-country, soul touched with some funky blues with open heart lyrics. And they’re not afraid to go gospel on you, as that’s how they closed out their set at the Canadian Blast day party. I must have a thing for warm, emotive male vocals because these gentlemen are all rich harmonies that aim to reach out and touch you. That may seem somewhat pervy but it sound goods so I’m not pressing any charges.
Mandy Lee from Misterwives told me a horror story of their lodging experience where the place they rented didn’t AT ALL look a thing like the pictures online. Something about trash, bodily fluids and where’s the camera because this surely must be a joke! Fortunately, they resolved it, moved to another location and their SXSW can continue with one less horror story and a sanitary place to sleep.
Schedule conflicts. Three bands playing at the same time. Decisions. Where’s the free food? Walk. Run. Walk. Run. Wrestle with the urge to break down and hail a pedicab when it feels like the feet are failing. Not enough sleep. SXSW.
Good times and to be continued….