SXSW 2011: Day 1

Posted in Music, SXSW
By Sam Bathe on 31 Mar 2011

The start of SXSW proper, unofficial day shows were-a-plenty on the Wednesday, but we opted to see some old friends, and the recently resurgent, Eastern Conference Champions first. Fresh off the back of a track on the latest Twilight OST, the Cali three-piece debuted a bunch of new songs that go further than all of their material in the past. A little similar to best track to date, Noah, ECC exhibited more variation and all faster songs. Anticipation for their sophomore record Speak Ahh is building.

Teased into hanging around at Cedar Street Courtyard for Voxhaul Broadcast, the similarly LA-based band have been building momentum in their hometown. Funny on stage, they introduced each member a gauged how much the crowd liked them from their cheer, entertaining interludes between the still quite captivating tracks. Voxhaul Broadcast play heavy indie rock, there’s a touch of Angels And Airwaves to them, and could go far.

One of the most hyped acts going into SXSW, Yuck have failed to fully capitalise on their early potential and haven’t exploded in the way they would have hoped in the UK, but big things were expected of them on their foray into the States. Though Operation would have you believing they’re fairly slipstream indie, hook-driven rock, quite reminiscent of The Cribs, in general they’re far more reverb-heavy, often slower and more moany.

Heading to The Parish next for 1,2,3, we were treated to a brief snippet of Fidlar first. If only. A Hives-ish garage that probably shouldn’t have made it as far SXSW, we quickly returned to the bar, but when 1,2,3 later came out, they weren’t much better either. Playing light rock, they’re competent enough, and certainly indie movie soundtrack material, but nothing particularly special.

Fairly soon we ducked out for Maggie Mae’s, and Errors certainly put on a much better performance. The British band have made significant inroads in the UK over the last couple of years and it’s pretty clear why. Playing math-y prog. synth-rock, though they can’t entirely back up standout track Supertribe, they’re still great live and wowed the on-looking crowd no end.

As is often the case for visiting bands, Veronica Falls, playing at Beauty Bar, soon announced that they were tired and highly jetlagged, but vowed not to let it get in the way of a stirring performance. And it didn’t. Lo-fi has threatened to take over of late and Veronica Falls are likely one of the first of a raft of post-Best Coast and Wavves bands. While the London four-piece’s tracks are quite twee, and they similarly lack a ‘big’ song, if the rest of the onrush are going to sound like this, we’re more than up for it. I kind of wish they had soundtracked Richard Ayoade’s Submarine too, rather than Alex Turner and his somewhat depressing solo effort.

When flicking through the band listings the day before, I picked out Tennis to go see purely based on their name. Then after looking into them a little online, it seems they’ve been getting some hype, and I quickly grew ever more excited about seeing them. Dashing up Red River to Club de Ville, we snuck into what was a fairly packed venue just as they took to the stage, and the three-piece quickly impressed. Hugely summery, Tennis play soft vocals off against light, airy indie, but it feels much stronger than such a description might suggest. They’re reminiscent of Chairlift or Princetown and really captivating live with a lot of life to their music, and similar to Beach Fossils the day before, put The Drums to shame with a more natural vein of joyous post-surf music.

With so many band playing at SXSW, there are always going to be acts that overlap meaning at some point or other you have to make sacrifices. Walking up to Club de Ville, our plan was to ditch Tennis half way through and head down to Dirty Dog for White Arrows. Pleasingly we stuck it out and instead dropped half of the latter’s set, which we soon realised would be a clever move.

We’ve been meaning to write about White Arrows for a while now, though had never seen them live, and sadly catching them at SXSW has put us off. They play upbeat indie, and though they have a very full sound, a misguided keytar player (glowing visor and all) certainly doesn’t help matters as they come across, if anything, a little irritating, and certainly nothing beyond average. Luckily to end the night we had Casiokids to venture back to Beauty Bar for, and they were much better.

It feels strange still talking about Casiokids as an up and coming band after they first started to make major inroads two years ago in the UK, though that was about as far as they got. In the US, things are only starting to kick off now, and their official showcase was pretty packed. Despite an ill-advised amount of awkward crowd talk between songs, as spacey eclectic Scandinavian electro-indie goes, they’re amongst the best. Good live too, although their time might have passed.

17 bands down after the first full day was a pretty good effort, so when Casiokids rounded things off at Beauty Bar, despite our legs still full of energy, we called it a night knowing fatigue would catch up much sooner rather than later.

FAN THE FIRE is a digital magazine about lifestyle and creative culture. Launching back in 2005 as a digital publication about Sony’s PSP handheld games console, we’ve grown and evolved now covering the arts and lifestyle, architecture, design and travel.

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