We saw a lot of good bands at SXSW and one really terrible band
I’m leery of a festival that gives out cigarettes for free on the streets. Yet I seem to have no qualms about drinking the free beer, wearing the dumb T-shirt or indulging in the mountain of mayonnaise that comes with the free food.
Welcome to SXSW, where you can indulge in every stupid vice that can somehow be traced between indie rock and killing yourself.
Yet for all the complaining, the long-lining and the blisters upon blisters, there is a lot of cool music that goes down there every year. It’s a lot of fun if you take care of yourself – hell, it’s still fun when you don’t. That’s what the bike-cabs are for right? To scoop you up and take you home when you just don’t feel like walking anymore, bless your little heart. Because booze.
Here are some of the best bands we saw at SXSW this year.
Andy Shauf – Sledge Hammer
With the voice of an angel and the hair of a god, Andy Shauf continues to dazzle everyone. Still a slow burning listen, it’s always a little disconcerting to watch Mr. Shauf and band play in a bar where people don’t seem to mind talking over the most heart rending words put to lips ever. But that doesn’t seem to faze Mr. Shauf, who delivered some of the most non-bullshit emotions we’ve ever heard.
Deerhoof – Cheer Up Charlies
Deerhoof are one of the greatest bands to grace the stage, but all those albums they put out tend to drag. It’s like you could take the best couple of songs from each album and compress them into a super album. That said, their live show is complete and utter mayhem – the self-aware exuberance can only be described by seeing it all in person. Also, the guitar playing was clad all in pink while playing a pink guitar while ripping out some of the most off-colour solos ever. Plus you could dance to it. Can’t wait to see this band in Saskatoon at MoSo!
Mac McCaughan – Beerland
Even without the magic of Superchunk, Mac McCaughan still knows how to throw down a song that fills you up with all sorts of weird adult feelings about hating music but loving music. Confusing? Nah, it’s just really well-put together rock riffs along with a good dose of buzzy energy.
The OBGMs – Sledge Hammer
This one caught us by surprise. Remember that cheesy commercial where the beer company put the band on a giant stage without them knowing they were gonna play for massive cheering audience? That was The OBGMs, and, no judgement here, but you really didn’t get much of a sense of who they were or what they were capable of from that one-minute ad. Which is too bad, because the live show is all sorts of amazing. Lots of theatric posturing mixed with dirty dance riffs and soul-y shout-outs. At one point I asked the guy next to me if he wanted to pick up the keyboard player and carry him above our heads – he did, so we did.
Hamilton Leithauser – Mohawk
The best part about watching Hamilton Leithauser, who used to front a little group called The Walkmen that you may have heard of before, is that he looks like he’s singing for a hardcore band. He has all the moves and the grimace like he’s about to get in a fight. But he’s actually just the most bad ass New York crooner to ever scream into a mic. And that’s a pretty bold statement to make.
Cloud Nothings – Swan Dive
Cloud Nothings lit the room on fire and then put it out with the sweat off their nerdish brows. The crowd was so into it that we thought we would just show you people having the most fun ever instead of a band of dudes rocking out so hard that they ruined their shorts.
The Ting Tings – Austin Convention Center
I kind of hate The Ting Tings actually. Those songs remind me of those candy ring necklaces – sweet, but chalky and unpleasant. So why watch them live? They actually do a lot of really interesting things musically – lots of loops and percussion along with a DJ who live mixes back-up vocals. Plus, full disclosure, we planned on staying for like one song and ended up dancing along right up until they played the “That’s Not My Name” song. And then we ran and had to sit and think about what we did for a bit.
I called this number but no one answered.
This guy is apparently always at SXSW. I can’t imagine wearing that mask for hours in the Texas heat is overly pleasant, but kudos wolfy – you make suffocation look pretty badass.