South By Southwest this year was the most insane musical experience I have ever had in quite some time. I was beaten, battered, and bruised, never got enough sleep, was completely exhausted at the end of every single day, and probably developed some form of illness from the event. I can also say I saw some the greatest bands ever, meet some incredibly awesome people, and had one of the best experiences of my life. What is featured in the next few days is a small sliver of what I got to see and hear of the best four day music festival in the world, both the best and the worst in the pantheon of music.
Weekend @ Emo's Annex
Technically, Weekend where not the first band I saw at SXSW. That honor goes to Beach Fossils, who I managed to catch at their Pitchfork set on Tuesday after arriving in Austin from Mexico City the same day. However, due to forgetting my camera on Tuesday, Weekend gets the honor of first photographically pictured band of my SXSW '011. And what away to kick off the day. A thirty minute set of pure ear ruining noise-pop, from a band I should have payed a lot more attention to last year. While the setting was not perfectly suited for the band (a large tent with a lot of light), the band still gave a hell of a loud performance.
The Vaccines @ Emo's
The Vaccines are what is known as a "hype band". For those who don't know the difference between a "hype band" and a "buzz band", a "hype band" is built up by their label through lots of advertisements and magazine articles, while a "buzz band" are usually built up by their fans and blogs and gain traction a lot more authentically. So I was a bit iffy on whether I would like The Vaccines set at the Brooklyn Vegan show, despite kind of liking their two mp3s that made waves a short while back. However, the band was surprising good. Coming off as something like the British equivalent of The Soft Pack, the band jumped on stage, started jamming, and didn't stop. Blasting through seven song in twenty minutes, the band was nothing if not tight, and pulled off quite an energetic set.
Mister Heavenly @ Emo's
Let us ignore for five seconds that Michael Cera is playing bass in the band right now, and that is why a large chunk of the audience was there, particularly teenage hipster girls. Pulling back the band is made up also of three hardened veterans of the '00s indie rock scene, put together into one band which comes off as an awesome bi-polar indie rock band. The Nick Diamond songs sounded like more manic Island songs, while the Horus Horus songs sounded like more melodic Man Man tunes. The styles mixed in a way that served as a juxtaposition, but also meshed surprising well. Also being in bands for so long the set was great, filled with multiple guitar flailing and piano hopping that spun out of control in just the right ways. And for all the haters out there, Michael Cera is a pretty good bassist.
Dead Gaze @ Cheer Up Charile's
There was no set on Tuesday I was more excited for than Dead Gaze's. Cole Furlow and co. (which now adds up to a five piece) despite dealing with some initial sound problems, performed one loud and roaring all too short thirty minute set on the tiny Cheer Up Charile's stage. I mean the band's music was re-crafted perfectly live with one lo-fi gem after another from the band's catalog was blasted through the venue's perfectly terrible speakers. Furlow was also in top form, belting out the songs and pounding on his guitar, with a small little smile breaking across his face during when guitar dueling with one of his other band mates.
Gayngs @ Red 7
Gayngs is a super group getting large amounts of acclaim due to being made up a plethora of indie rock band members, none less famous than Bon Iver adding guitar to along with the other three guitarists, piano player, bassist, two vocalists, laptop operator, clarinetist, among more. However, all this spectacle does not make up for the fact that the band is incredibly boring, not only with their music, which is just slightly airy yacht rock, but also in their performance as well. Of course this is partially due to the subdued nature of the music itself, but still with all those excellent musicians on stage it should have added to something a lot more. I left after the third song, and doubt I missed anything.
Secret Machine @ Red 7
Sun Airway @ Red 7
Sun Airway know how to play a show. The lights dimmed, and suddenly a massive light show was being projected on the band, a mixture of movie clips and multi-color lighting that must of really bothered the band, but added the perfect atmosphere to the entire show. The band were great, clear veterans of various other bands, playing ever wonderful electronic influenced dream-pop, that built and swelled to points of falling apart, only to come back together again in some texture of blissed out pop tunes. The band was playing right before Small Black, so connections and similarities could easily be put together, but honestly Sun Airway seem to be everything Small Black try to be, but actually pull it off.