Wolves, horses, and Moz, oh my. Last week Austin gave music fans everything short of Hasidic reggae rap. In its 20th year, SXSW may not be “what it used to be,” but we wouldn’t know about that. It was Stereogum’s first time at the annual festival. Thursday was all about South By Stereogum (behind-the-scenes post coming up) and Saturday was literally a wash (Aziz, Jed, Jim, and I checked out of our motel only to stand in the rain with our luggage desperately trying to get a cab). But on St. Patrick’s Day we rocked from early morning to … early morning. Camera in tow, this was Stereogum’s Friday:
We arrived at Filter’s Blogger Brunch just late enough to miss all the free bloody marys and the announcement of FMA’s Blogger Of The Year (Stereogum won 2nd place to Gorilla V Bear. Congrats Chris!) Illinois (not from Illinois, not a Sufjan Stevens tribute band) was the first act we saw. Round the corner from Cedar Street Courtyard was Philadelphia folkie Amos Lee, to whom Village Indian introduced us.
Pitchfork’s day party had a promising line-up, but there was some confusion over whether some of the acts (e.g., The Juan MacLean, Ladytron) would be performing or just DJing. With material about excessive steakhouse portions and gay ’80s metal, Patton Oswalt was a riot as always. He also claimed to be a Stereogum fan when we caught up with him in between sets. I spotted Laura Veirs, and babbled to her about Year Of Meteors being one of my favorite albums of last year. “What’s your band’s name again?” she asked. She was very sweet, though.
THE JUAN MACLEAN
Over at Spin’s shindig, Ninja kicked out the jams with The Go! Team. When I first saw them live a year ago there was no free BBQ, so the indie cheerleaders’ Stubb’s set gets a bigger thumbs up. Over at Insound’s showcase, the Boy Least Likely To were tweerific and Black Mountain spin-off Pink Mountaintops, led by hirsuite Mr. McBean, brought their psychedelic Evol to life. Arctic Monkeys (now in their eighth or ninth stage?) were spotted enjoying the Stills at Spin while Tyler and Sean from Clap Your Hands chilled at Insound. When I asked to take their photo for the ‘Gum, Tyler responded, “You realize we’re just the rhythm section, right?”
THE GO! TEAM
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO
Back at Emo’s Annex, PFork’s line for admission curled around the block (buzz band Love Is All were playing). We made our way in for a DJ set from RJD2, who expertly matched beats from ELO, En Vogue, and dozens of bands we couldn’t identify. Headliners Art Brut kicked off a too-short set with “Back In Black” > “Formed A Band.” Matt Fluxblog recommended Parts & Labor next, but instead we recharged at the Hilton Starbucks. Then, across the street at Brush Square Park, we caught the end of a high voltage set from our NY buddies the Giraffes. Next, with their metal axes and singer Zolberg’s pink face paint, Iceland’s The Sign hinted at something different and unexpected … but Giraffes’ openers 5 O’Clock Heroes took their amp away from the Sign mid-song. The gig ended a mess, but hilarious and unforgettable.
Speaking of unexpected, we came upon 1920’s-throwback blues trio The Crooners performing at a street corner. Jim, Jed, and I then realized (“Wait … is that, K-Dawg?”) that we went to college with all three of them. AND their manager. At SXSW even the street musicians have managers. Paul swung by and did a quick segment with them for Best Week Ever. Surreal.
On Ted Leo’s recommendation, we headed to Red 7 for blistering Barcelona duo Les Aus, arriving early enough to catch some tunes from Chicago’s Ambulette. We were excited for Band Of Horses at the Sub Pop showcase, and queued up at Red Eyed Fly behind Ryan Pitchfork and his wife, but the line was not moving. So instead, apropos of St. Paddy’s Day, we took in singer/songwriter Gemma Hayes at the Soho Lounge. The Irish beauty opened with “Happy Sad” from her excellent new album. Anticipating more full capacity at Stubb’s (Magic Numbers and Snow Patrol were to close out a Brit showcase), we headed to Fox and Hound for The Mutts, Tom Brosseau, and Animal Collective. AC eschewed the eccentric folk of their studio songs for a frenetic but captivating set of eerie, echoing noise rock.
And here’s where a perfect day got really shitty. Shortly after the Animals, we called for a cab (the guy even recognized Jim’s cell # and told him to be patient), only to spend two hours on the corner of 4th & Congress waiting for one. Any one. Are there, like, five cabs in Austin? The street emptied out. At around 3:30 AM, the Sign (!) walked by. I chatted with them a bit about their recent gigs at Pianos & CBGBs (they bought t-shirts) and our transportation predicament. Drummer Eagle teased in broken English, “You won’t be mad … if we get a cab before you?” Amazingly, he then turned on the Reykjavik charm to some random driving by, and all of the Sign scammed a ride, leaving us in the dust. We finally got back, exhausted, at around 4:30 AM. Aziz acted out the trailer to Snakes On A Plane and I passed out.
I know, we missed out on plenty of stuff. You can’t see ‘em all. Until Lollapalooza.
Coming up: behind-the-scenes of South By Stereogum featuring Aloha, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Thunderbirds Are Now!, Rogue Wave, and Ted Leo & The Rx.