Monday, March 23, 2009

SXSW 09: The Recap

SXSW is officially over and my feet are quite happy to be given a rest. The rest of me is just annoyed that I actually had to go back to work today. I'd call this year a success for sure. I avoided almost all of the terrible bands and saw some impressive performances from faces both new and old. I'll list some of my favorite shows and then I'll give some overall thoughts. These are in no particular order (although Caspian was the best).

1) Marnie Stern at Club Deville
She shreds. End of story. Her band is killer too.

2) King Khan and The Shrines at Bird's Barbershop on East 6th
James Brown is dead, King Khan is the new godfather of soul, or as he calls it "Psychedelic, Erotic, Gospel Music.

3) HEALTH at Ace's Lounge
So loud, so awesome. I was blown away by these guys' energy. Love all the random Floor Tom pounding too.

4) The Wrens at Mohawk
A really short set, but they packed it full. Best crowd/band banter of the show too.

The Wrens: We played SXSW for the first time in 1995
Random dude in the crowd: I was 4 then!
The Wrens: Jesus

5) Here We Go Magic at Mohawk
Another short set, but this got me super excited for their June show at the Parish opening for Grizzly Bear.

6)The Paper Chase at Club Deville
I hadn't seen John Congleton and Co. live in many many years and had absolutely zero expectations from this set, but they blew the tent off of Deville. Congleton is like a man possessed on stage. They haven't lost a step, see them any chance you get.

7) Irepress at Red Seven
Every year there is a band that I have never heard of before who leaves me with my jaw on the ground. This year it was Irepress. This 5 piece from Boston features one of the best rhythm sections I have ever seen and one of the best guitar duos I have ever seen, all in the same band. The keyboardist was kick ass too. Tons of energy and holy shit do they cover a lot of ground in their songs. If you like Post-Rock/Math-Rock/Post-Hardcore/Music check these guys out now.

8) Caspian at Red Seven
Caspian may be my favorite band in the universe to see live. There are several factors that lead me to this conclusion. Obviously, their insane musical talent is part of it, another part is how flawlessly they always play together, and yet another is that they absolutely destroy every time I see them, without fail. Finally, and this is something that I am sure will change in the future, Caspian is not hugely popular, so every time I see them I, and everyone else in the crowd, is sucked in and becomes part of the experience. It's pretty insane to get your mind blown by 5 guys who are standing 5 feet from you. It's insane to look around and see every single person in the audience being blown away too. And then after the show, there's the band, having a beer and hanging out. This part never lasts, but I cherish it every time I see Caspian, and any band that hasn't blown up yet, because some day the teeming masses will realize how amazing they are and they're going to be playing to packed rooms and the intimacy will be gone. Until then, this is the best ticket in town by a loooooooong margin.

The biggest disappointment of the whole fest was definitely Explosions In The Sky at Auditorium Shores on Saturday. This disappointment has nothing to do with the band, as they played earnestly and excellently, but the PA kept cutting out, it seemed like the overhead mics on the drum kit weren't on, and it just seemed like a general clusterfuck sound-wise. It should have been amazing, and I'm pissed at whoever fucked up the sound for ruining it for me.

The Pure Volume House sucks. The lines are long, the drinks (while free) are super weak and require yet another abhorrently long line and I just really disliked the place in general aside from the Austinist party which was fun.

The best show I saw all week was The Goodbye SXSW party at Red Seven on Sunday that Radar Recordings and Giant Steps put on. They put on the best show last year too. The line up was just flat out insane and I think i speak for everyone in attendance when I say that I hope they keep doing it. This town is sorely lacking in shows like this one. Kudos to all the bands as well as to Radar and Giant Steps for putting together the lineup of the fest, if not the year.

That about wraps it up. I saw 47 bands all told, and spent an insane amount of time on my feet. I wouldn't have it any other way and I can't wait for next year!

Thanks to my super talented sister Liz for taking all of the awesome photos you've seen on here all week. Check out her awesome blog here.


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