Ducktails @ The Mohawk Indoors
I did not intend to see any bands after the Flaming Lips. I did not want to see any bands after see The Flaming Lips. Any band I saw after them would just dull in comparison to the massive, mind blowing spectical I just saw. However, the one magical thing about SXSW is its ability to make even the smallest bands to appear just as great in contrast to the biggest one. So I soldiered on to The Mohawk with that mindset and caught part of Ducktails set. There was no problem with them sonically, Matt Mondanile’s solo project with Big Troubles as his backing band were tight and bouncy as hell. The problem was that Mondanile’s songs, which use to sound like a reduced form of Real Estate, acquired a ‘80s, cheeseball production that saps all the potency from the songs. It everything felt very on the nose about the set, and I just couldn’t enjoy it.
Merchandise @ The Mohawk
I got to see Merchandise on Thursday, but that three song set was nothing compared to the ear bursting, emotional swelling, noise drenched sprawl of a show that I saw Friday night. The band, now a fully fledged one with their new drummer, brought insane amounts of passion and intensity to their songs. From frontman Carson Cox's truly pained emotions to go along with the lyrics he was crooning out to Dave Vassalotti twisting around his guitar so much he collapsed to the ground from exhaustion by the end of the set. It was sounded like Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth covering the Cure for an entire set, with an added level of catharsis from the band that was beyond palatable. So much so that people were dancing/writhing up front, and and people momentarily started moshing two-thirds into their set. Whether trigger by the music or drunkenness, it was still more emotion then I had seen at most places during SXSW.
Chelsea Light Moving @ The Mohawk
Thurston Moore has been making music for over thirty years. His new band mates were younger, but more than looked like they had years of experience in the same field. So how do people like that screw up and take forever to soundcheck? Moore played it off with humor, giving away free drinks if you could name Spice Girls and joking about firing the band. But Chelsea Light Moving did finally play, and any intact ears from Merchandise were instantly obliterated. I don't know for how long, or how fair it is, but for now at least Chelsea Light Moving will have to endure Sonic Youth comparisons. Which is OK because Sonic Youth are still awesome. Moore and co. ripped through what sounded like straight ahead off-kilter noisy rocker, picking up right where Sonic Youth left off from The Eternal. There was no flash, no gimmick, no posturing. Just some noise makers making new noise and having a blast while doing it. It was that simple, and it was simply awesome.
DIIV @ The Mohawk Indoors
Yes, DIIV said "Fuck SXSW". And while his points may sort of been valid (a thought piece for another day), he did continue to play a bunch of shows at SXSW. And I am forever grateful for that because DIIV were aboslutly incredible live. The absolutely stunning set I saw them pull off before they released Oshin while opening for Frankie Rose was easily topped here in five minutes of the band playing. Their songs sound so much more powerful live, capturing emotions that are only barely scratched on record. Frontman Cole Smith was a mixture of exhaustion, adrenaline, and weird happiness that seemed to amplify the music further, especially the new songs that the band played sounded more dynamic and emotional next to the band's older material. Much like the Beach Fossils set I saw the year before, a pit erupted early into the set and stayed there for the whole set. However, there was no irony attached to it, just a bunch of people going crazy for a band that was playing some incredibly energetic and excellent indie rock.