At the end of the day when South By Southwest is all said and done, there’s nothing left but the unpacking, the laundry, the longing to go back and – of course – some form of wrapping it all up. While much was seen and heard during the weeklong festival, here’s a concise snapshot of a few random acts of musical good experiences in the city of Austin.
Austrian bred and Germany based, Oli Wimmer (vox, guitar), Ali Grumeth (guitar), and Mudi Mudrack (drums) are AudioDamn! (yes, exclamation point included) and a trio with a distinct feel for the groove. While their SXSW set at Vulcan Gas Company was so very far from perfect (technical issues out the ass caused them to start over 20 minutes late and eventually took Grumeth out of the set for at least two songs), you were more than able to get the gist of what they were about: funk, rock, R&B and whatever else feels just right highlighted by the soulful touch of Wimmer’s voice and it all felt (and sounded) just right. Plus extra points for demonstrating grace under pressure by handling the potentially disastrous set with zen-like professionalism and improvisation. They’ve a self-titled EP out to give you a taste of what they have to offer (check the songs “Radar” and “Lights Out”) so here’s to adding some Austrian/German groove to your life with AudioDamn!
MATTHEW LOGAN VASQUEZ
Okay, so Vasquez isn’t a “new” discovery because many are well familiar with the quality of his band Delta Spirit, but his venture into the land of solo artist is well worth notice being taken (see his Austin EP and Solicitor Returns album for further). Having moved back “home” to Austin, TX, when Vasquez took to the Shiner’s Saloon rooftop, two things were transparently evident: the man belongs on a stage and he was truly enjoying the journey this phase of his career has him on. The new music sounds rock n roll old school: that was the point. The songs tell stories: that, too, was the point because the man’s been through some stuff. And whether he was soliciting random audience members to join the band onstage and play guitar or slow dancing with strangers though his 18-minute opus, “Austin,” Vasquez was quite the revelation of the rock n roll-kind. We assume that, too, was the point.
Official SXSW showcases (you know, the kind where you MUST show your credentials to get in the door) are generally indicative of the talent going on within. Inside the warm leather, dim lighting and relaxed atmosphere of Stephen F’s Bar & Terrace at the InterContinental, a small floor stage was the platform for sounds offering something of a respite from crunchy electric noise, thunderous percussion and general SXSW weirdness. This performance was all voice accompianed by simple guitar: Helsinki, Finland native Peppina. Peppina is a bubbling-under-the-surface artist; a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a gentle voice and demeanor propelled by intelligent and thoughtful words, none more so than her song, “Against The Grain” which is basically about taking that route. At 20 years young, having some significant performance notches in her belt such as at the Sundance Film Festival, Peppina seemed singularly confident, comfortable and engaged in her set: even when strumming out chords with eyes closed, her vocals are bright and clarion. Between songs there were moments of charmingly Finnish accented commentary of appreciation and storytelling, but then it was back to the business of song. When she touched on “Still Alone, Together” and “Fire” there were highlights of the lush tone of her voice and sometimes you need a pause in the weird as a reminder of the beautiful. Peppina’s forthright approach as a singer/songwriter tends to capture exactly that.
You know the situation: You’re aware of a band, of their existence in the world wide web of musics and stuff. You know – or more appropriately – “know of” them. But as with so many things, the seeing is the believing and I can now officially believe in Brooklyn’s Spirit Animal. It’s a thing of semi-frightening beauty to watch frontman Steve Cooper all but Hulk out on you and whatever song he’s slamming through with punk rock/funk rock/blues rock bombastic fury (think the Red Hot Chili Peppers…but not). It’s aggressive and celebratory, rock riffs and hip hop attitude…yet it all – oddly – seems quite inviting and safe haven due to the inclusivity and common ground nature of songs like “Regular World,” “The Black Jack White” and “Big Bad Road Dog.” Backed up by Ronen Evron (drums), Paul Michel (bass), and Cal Stamp (guitar) Spirit Animal are a party for the people and, people, this party is about to go off. Now stay tuned for their full length debut on Wind-Up Records.
Want a broader picture of High Voltage at SXSW with sights, words, audio AND video? It’s all just a click away right HERE.