It’s taken a week to recover, and the jetlag still rears its head every 5am, but at last we’ve found a minute to document our trials and tribulations at this years SXSW, and it was a lot of fun.
Tuesday night is normally quiet in Austin. Film and Interactive attendees can be seen wandering the streets, but on the music front; events, bands, badge-holders and all, there’s normally little going on. This year? Not so.
Alongside a handful of unofficial parties, including Syndicate at Purevolume House where the line went all the way around the block, official showcases were already going.
We hit Emo’s, and it was a pretty wise choice. Flittering between Emo’s and Emo’s Jr. (one’s a more regular inside venue, and the other outside, under a long wooden canopy), already checking off a bunch of bands we wanted to see at this year’s SXSW.
First up was Jamie Woon at Emo’s Jr., instantly breaking our rule of trying to avoid British bands/artists. He was worth it though. Somewhere between James Blake and John Legend, the R’n’B soul singer draws comparisons to Plan B, who has made it big of late. His voice is powerful and the background music feels fresh, making great use of classical influences.
Weekend, up next, couldn’t have been any more different. Vocally reverb-heavy rock, each track is endlessly driven forward by great percussion. They could have done with a stronger guitar and bass, with more hooks and signature riffs to go against the drawling vocals but they’re a great example of lo-fi that isn’t Best Coast or Wavves, lacking currently on the music scene.
Weekend played outside, and following them were Beach Fossils, the first revelation of 2011’s festival. Summery, bright indie, Beach Fossils are like The Drums, only good, and not formed of four pretentious New Yorkers. Where The Drums are so forced on stage, Beach Fossils just go for it, dancing up and down and running about on stage; they’re great live. They don’t quite have the same energy on record, but check them out in the flesh and you’ll be blown away.
Also under the Emo’s canopy, PS I Love You had a lot of hype in the latter half of 2010 and in the run-up to SXSW. Who knows why? Semi-screaming indie, their vocal style was a little reminiscent of Tenacious D but they don’t have the fun or playful nature, and there’s no spark in their music. They’re solid, but certainly nothing special.
With Gold Panda headlining the night, Mount Kimble were played just before at Emo’s Jr. and it was pretty obvious why they were there as support. Perhaps inevitably, however, they ended up as little more than a weak, if still promising, copy. Spikey and eclectic, Mount Kimble drive a lot from guitar effects but the sound on a whole is still largely electronic.
Gold Panda were the real standout of our first night. Reworking synths and samples for a collection of powerfully rhythmic tracks, Gold Panda sound like little else out there, and while on record Gold Panda’s Lucky Shiner track are quite wonderful, but there’s even more to them live. Playing an incredible 40-minute set with barely a break to introduce himself, Derwin Panda seamlessly merged tracks, one into another, and went off to rapturous applause. A pretty incredible end to what we had expected to be a quiet opener in Austin.