Wanting to describe Jim James’ set as weird seems inappropriate, especially after who performed after him, but his solo performance wasn’t anything close to what I was expecting. I hadn’t heard a bit of the My Morning Jacket frontman’s new solo album, so when the beats and electronic hum started pouring out of the speakers, it caught me off guard. Then James himself strolled on stage, and started singing electronic choir songs to the crowd. Everything about the set just felt surreal, from the Sunday church atmosphere the James and his bandmates were trying to create to the Flying V guitar was that placed in the center of the stage for James to unleash a crazy solo on at opportune moments. The unfortunate part being that as tight as the band was on stage (very), and however interesting the performance (captivating to say the least), nothing stuck. It was such a hodpodge of different elements, like a ‘70s rock band layered over a jam band with trip-hop beats going off that it just sounded like a giant mess. As interesting as Jim James was trying to be, it was also self-indulgence at its worst.
The Flaming Lips
I got to Auditorium Shores at 3 to make sure I got the best spot possible to see The Flaming Lips. Gates didn't open until 3:45, dust filled the air & ground, and the sun had decided on that day alone to flip from the start of spring to feeling like mid summer. And it was so, so worth it. I don't care what anyone says, The Flaming Lips put on possibly the best show of SXSW.
The set consisted mostly of the band playing the entirety of their new album The Terror. The tone was set early, as weird circular mirrors were placed all around the stage, along with white tubing layered all around. All of which was nothing compared to Wayne Coyne himself, who had mounds of florescent tubes placed everywhere on his body, while cradling a plastic but eerie looking baby. Then the music began, and it was incredible. The Terror is everything I wanted Embryonic to be; it's a dark but eventually triumphant epic that captures so many bleaker and more powerful emotions that the Lips rarely touch on in this way. The live show matched this exactly; they stripped away many of the customs, there were no confetti cannons, and there were no random dancers on stage. Instead, dark lighting and distorted, epileptic inducing images were projected during the songs, which sounded incredibly noisy, twisted, at times like Gang of Four playing psych music on the most intense acid imaginable. Yet, by the third song "Try To Explain", when the halo like light circle lowered around Coyne, and the lights and song itself just exploded, the potency of the music was undeniable. The Terror will blow minds, I guarantee it. Then, as the best encore imaginable, the band played a solid chunk of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. It was a sort of perfect pallet cleanser, and the pop like emotions of "Fight Test" and the title track finally induced the sing-alongs the crowd had been containing during the entire set. When the closed with "Do You Realize??", bring Jim James onstage to sing it together, it was just pure euphoria. There was nothing quite like it during the entire festival.