The start of SXSW Music proper, yesterday saw unofficial day parties take over Austin. With a stellar line-up, we opted for Spotify House, just east of the I-35.
With the venue at one-in-one-out, we had to made do with listening to the first half of Dum Dum Girls’ set from over the fence but we made it inside for the last few tracks.
Running through hits from January’s brilliant LP, Too True, sadly Dum Dum Girls ultimately fell a little flat, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. A personal favourite from that album, Rimbaud Eyes lacked definition though some of their fuzz-heavy tracks were better live.
Skipping out on the band in between for an amazing Juicy Lucy from one of the Spotify House food trucks, next up were rap group Overdoz. Comfortably the worst act we’ve ever seen at the festival, Overdoz’s amateurish composition, coupled with their over-enthusiasm on stage, didn’t work at all.
Hearing rumours of a surprise performance all afternoon, the next act more than made up for it. On stage with Dam-Funk,
Snoop Dogg Snoopzilla (above) stole the afternoon headlines. Playing a mix of classics to get the crowd going before moving into his newer stuff made with Dam-Funk, Snoop simply exudes cool and it was a mesmeric 40-minute show.
Pusha T finished things off with his rambunctious brand of East Coast hip-hop, again mixing new material with some Clipse classics. Is wasn’t quite as lively a show as Snoop, but it was still a great way to end the afternoon.
After the best BBQ chicken sandwiches of our lives, we headed across town for what’s always a very busy first proper night.
Holing up at Haven for a couple of bands, Glass Animals were first up. A four-piece from Oxford, the band sound like a UK version of Local Native’s more upbeat side. Signed to Paul Epworth’s label Wolf Tone, Glass Animals are worth keeping an eye on.
Next were Kins, a largely instrumental three-piece also from the UK. Though their music didn’t always work, its exploratory nature and similarities to Boards of Canada won the crowd over in the end. Melodic and sometimes downtempo, Kins have the variety for longevity too.
Running back across town and south of Sixth, we had heard good things about Night Terrors of 1927 before their show at Bar 96 but we were ultimately disappointed seeing them live. Too corny and poppy to impose themselves on the audience, I was left wishing the band went for it a little more.
Staying in the area, next we headed to Lustre Pearl for the impressive RAC, the stage name of André Allen Anjos. Known as an electro remixer, I was intrigued as to how Anjos would put on a live show but the five-piece live band were hugely impressive. Playing RAC’s lauded remixes live on top of artists’ recorded vocals, they also mixed in some original tracks including Sixteen from Anjos’ upcoming album, Strangers Part II.
Heading back to Haven for the main event of the evening, Sam Smith was a welcome warm up first. All set to breakthrough after a number of high profile collaborations, Smith mixed some of his own songs with down-tempo adaptations of those better known tracks. While the soul singer-songerwriter was impressive, Smith, however, didn’t quite have the punch we had expected.
Our real hope for the night, and for SXSW 2014, was up next. After catching Future Islands in London a few weeks previously, the band have blown up in the last week after a performance on Letterman that has gone viral. Playing mesmerising synthpop, the four-piece ran through much of their upcoming album, Singles, plus older favourites including Balance and Tin Man. With lead singer Samuel Herring’s charisma verging on an am-dram performance on-stage, the band are amazing to watch and they have the music to match. If anyone else comes close to matching their brilliance, it’ll have been a pretty spectacular SXSW.
Following Future Islands was always going to be a tough task and though Bear Hands‘ energetic rock set off at 100mph, they were unfortunately a disappointment. Our day, however, was a roaring success. Roll on day 2.