When I woke up this morning there were three thoughts foremost on my mind: breakfast, the 80% chance of rain all damned day and that SXSW was over.
Here’s something that you need to understand: SXSW is my happy place. That’s not hyperbole, exaggeration or a figure of speech. It’s simply the time and place of the year when and where all of the elements and building blocks of my happiness coalesce, exist and thrive off of and because of one another: music, musicians, friends, colleagues and (under normal circumstances) good weather.
Now while rain is a very necessary thing, it’s a bit of a buzz kill in the live music realm. Over at one of the Culture Collide events at the Container Bar, it was a tale of two bands: Black Rivers (formed by 2/3 of Doves) and Taymir. Where, for some reason, our favorite young rockers, Taymir, were able to pull off their rainy set while Black Rivers was a mass of technical problems, feedback, electrical shocks, etc. resulting in the band playing an approximately 45 seconds set. And the song wasn’t even a Black Rivers tune: it was Doves.
The Noisetrade showcase was dealing in noise, good and loud, with part Nashville, part Irish act the Wans. It’s all fun and games until some wonderfully heavy, thunderous garage rock gets in your face and wills it to melt: Simon Kerr, Mark Petaccia and Thomas Bragg are more than capable of that. With a sound that channels a little Sabbath here, a little grunge there, it’s no wonder that they’re on the road with Dead Sara.
Over at the to Swan Dive for Reuben and the Dark and a bevy of other Canadian artists, I noticed Winnipeg’s The Bros. Landreth’s bassist, Dave Landreth, in the room. Wanting simply to say how beautiful their recent performance at St. David’s Church was, instead the conversation descended into the pervy nature of their music mentioned in a previous day’s recap. Yeah, apparently it was that time of the festival when decorum goes out the window.
And it was the last SXSW dance for Halifax, Nova Scotia’s In Flight Safety. Having previously reviewed (and interviewed) them, I stand by In Flight Safety as a band that hits the mark with a smart, elegant and indie sound that’s perfectly Canadian. Closing their set with my favorite track, “Firestarters,” John took to a mid-crowd dance and why the hell not?
Then there’s Liv Warfield. Voice, soul, funk… there may even be a bit of a goddess in there, somewhere. She and her Blackbirds took Stubb’s a little higher and sometimes that’s just what you need.
After catching Irontom’s final SXSW set, I told them that the Mini Mansions (an unusual and unusually good LA band) were playing at midnight at Buffalo Billiards. While Mini Mansions were doing what they do and looking like sharp dressed men, light shined on many cool kids who were in the room rocking out to them: the boys from Irontom, Sam Stewart (touring with HolyChild) and even LA Buzzband’s own Kevin Bronson. Right place, right time.
On the opposite end, this is what it looks like when Collective Soul plays in a little bar called the Chuggin’ Monkey during SXSW (see photo on the left). Everything about this view just screams about the love of music. Amazing.
And so, there you go. As I leave my happy place to return to the real world, I take back with me laundry, a few new bands to dig into, new connections and looking forward to doing it all over again in 358 days.