California X @ 1100 Warehouse
California X-I caught the stoner four piece by accident, arriving early to the Pitchfork showcase and braving the 30 minute delay and 300+ person line to get into the 1100 Warehouse. The band looked like they were the metal kids from a ‘80s high school movie, and sounded liked they were pulled out of the alternative rock scene circa exactly 1990. Their guitar fury was less Dinosaur Jr. (though they are definitely there in the mix) than people have been saying, and closer to a more masculine taken on what peers Milk Music are making. Whatever their idols, the band was all crunchy guitar riff glory and battered cymbal crashes during their all too brief set (a trend set for the day for any band playing outside during Pitchfork’s showcase). It was a good 18 minutes of old school indie rock bliss that got the ears ringing properly for the rest of the day.
Waxahatchee @ 1100 Warehouse
Of course, Waxahachee, who performed next, would be the polar, but perfect, opposite to what was just on stage. Katie Crutchfield demonstrated her power over her stage and audience; despite it being 1:30 P.M. with noises bustling all around, anyone within a 40 foot radius was pulled into her world. Even someone like me, who is unfamiliar with Waxahachee's songs themselves, could feel their emotional center (filled with knotty sadness and longing) become present and understood instantly. Whether it was just Crutchfield strumming on her guitar, or backed up by her bassist and drummer, all five songs felt equally sparse, and no less potent.
Shugo Tokumaru @ Kenny Dorham's Back Yard
During every South by Southwest, because of how it is structured, and music pouring out of every orifice around you, you will stumble onto a band you have never heard of before seeing them right then and there, and fall absolutely in love. That is what it was like when I saw Shugo Tokumaru. Getting to the We Listen to You day party (Hi Zack!) early to catch Nerves Junior, and wound up catching most of Tokumaru's set too. And it was marvelous! Not only was the band tight as hell with Tokumaru being a master guitar player, a drummer who played the most irregular patterns yet never missed a beat, and a multi-instrument who jumped between accordion, glockenspiel, and kazoo within the same song, but good god the songs. Some of thee most creative, original, joyous indie-pop songs I have heard in a long time. And the band was crafting them onstage so precisely, they might as well have been playing the record itself on stage. One of my absolute favorite and best discoveries of SXSW.
Nerves Junior @ Kenny Dorham's Back Yard
Nerves Junior were the band I saw bring the most things on stage during SXSW; just heaps of cords, pedals, instruments, and machines that you couldn't quite discern what they were exactly other than to make some sort of sound. It was all worth it though because Nerves Junior sounded great during their 25 minutes on stage. The tension of their songs was an ever present, and everything being precious and mechanical (in the best way possible) in their reconstruction pf their electronica shaded experimental rock. They band fell into their music, just losing themselves while playing, especially evident by their frontman who was trying to contain his body from flailing around while playing. I would have preferred to seem them in a darkened club rather the sunny knoll I was on, but it's a testament to Nerves Junior that they over came any diminish from "atmosphere", and pulled off such a powerful set.