Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SXSW 2014 Recap, 3/13 - 3/15

By Sarah Rosenfeld

Bring Your Ray Gun 3/13 @ Package
Well kiddos, SXSW is officially over and the summer festival season is now a go!  Sure it may not quite feel like summer here in Chicago, but supposedly it will get here eventually.  Windy City Rock was down in Austin for the last part of the SXSW Music week and wow, what a few days that was!  Bands from all over the world descended onto Austin and played in every single venue in the city and then some spaces that weren't even technically venues.

Thursday started off the Southby experience with a Chicago Showcase at Package, which is a men's underwear store and crammed into a tiny space in the back were a stacked line-up of some funky Chicago bands.  They gave all the bands free undies so obviously they all performed in their skivvies.  Highlight was disco punk band Bring Your Ray Gun which brought some seriously high energy funky tunes.  The two dancers broke it down in front of the band with frenetic, choreographed dance routines that didn't stop for the entire set.  It was probably good that the whole band was in their underwear because things were getting sweaty!  Definitely go check these guys out here in Chicago and come ready to dance your face off.  Later in the day over at the Tiniest Bar in Texas, we caught Chicago funk/hip-hop fusion guys whysowhite for some more funky funk dance tunes.  This is another band you have got to see perform live.  The stage vibrates with the energy of six dudes who are clearly having a great time and lead singer Charlie looks like he's having a blast spitting rhymes and working the crowd.  There hasn't been a single whysowhite show that wasn't filled with people getting down and funky and this show was no different.
whysowhite 3/13 @ Tinest Bar in Texas
HAERTS 3/13 @ Dickie's Roadhouse
Thursday night brought things a little more low key over at the Dickie's Roadhouse party at Bangers.  ASTR, the dance/soul duo from New York got the crowd moving although lead singer Zoe's wardrobe malfunctions kept stopping whatever momentum she was getting from the crowd.  Finally asking for a string to keep her top from falling off, she was able to finish the set.  Much to the disappointment of some of the guys in the crowd there was no actual strap failure.  Big highlight from this showcase was HAERTS, a dreamy electro-pop band also from NYC.  Singer Nini Fabi, originally from Germany, sounds beautifully melancholy as she sings and occasionally jimmy jangles a tambourine and plays the keyboard along with her bandmates on guitar, drums and bass.  One of the best tunes of the night was one of their new songs called 'Call My Name' which she introduced as a song about "when you're walking away from someone and you wish they'd call your name but they don't." Oof. Damn.

Warpaint playing to a packed SPIN
at Stubb's on Friday 3/14
Friday started off at the SPIN day party at Stubb's, one of the many delicious BBQ joints in Austin.  Warpaint was supposed to be playing when we got there, but due to sound issues and various technical difficulties they could only play a couple of songs before they had to stop to keep the schedule going.  This was really too bad because Warpaint, the all women psychedelic dream pop group out of Los Angeles, was one of the draws of the SPIN showcase and at least they crooned their crowd pleaser 'Love Is To Die' to the swaying audience.  Over on the other stage, straight out of South Central LA rapper ScHoolBoy Q was a bit of a jarring change from Warpaint's more melodic set and the rapper ended up calling out for all the real fans to come up to the front and things got a little more rowdy.  Back on the main stage right after that were Cleveland indie noise rockers Cloud Nothings who brought a decidedly heavier vibe, although we didn't stay to hear the whole set.  They performed at the SPIN house at SXSW 2013 and they were noticeably tighter on stage this time than the previous year.  When at Southby, it's impossible to see everyone so sometimes you have to make tough choices or at least get a change of venue to switch up the experience.  And the next experience was one that should be had by everyone at least once and that's a Diarrhea Planet show.  Every show they've done in Chicago, no matter the venue has ended up with a mosh pit and their thirty minute set at Rusty's once again did not disappoint.  Halfway through they offered free tshirts to anyone who stage dove and there were a bunch of takers for this challenge.  Diarrhea Planet shows are fun, extremely rowdy, sweaty affairs and their DGAF attitude and unlimited high energy is so fun to experience.  And you'll get very sweaty, was that mentioned already?

La Luz 3/14 @ Panache Booking party
Friday night was the Panache Booking showcase at Hotel Vegas which definitely brought the heavy.  Saint Rich was playing when we got there and these guys had a great guitar heavy vibe that had a lot of hipster heads bobbing to the fuzzy 70s sounding guitar hooks.  Later that evening, the ladies of La Luz out of Seattle played one of the best sets of the day with a darker doo-wop sound and surf guitar riffs that wouldn't sound out of place on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.  They all moved and swayed together as they played which almost mirrored how the crowd was moving to their beachy California sounding tunes.  Right after La Luz finished up, on the other side of the stage it was time for Northampton, MA noise punks Speedy Ortiz, a band getting a lot of buzz right now.  It's always nice to see a buzzband and come away feeling like they actually deserve that buzz.  They are coming to the Empty Bottle on April 19th and if you like loud, noisy distortion laden guitar and heavy bass lines with edgy lyrics sung in a manner reminiscent of Sleater-Kinney, then you should definitely get your ticket now.  Speedy Ortiz is really fun to watch live as lead singer Sadie and guitarist Matt rock out hard on stage as they play.

Weeknight 3/15 @ Sailor Jerry
Saturday afternoon was mostly spent at the Swan Dive bar on Red River St. off of 6th listening to an eclectic variety of bands.  Standout from this venue was Waylayers, a chillwavey atmospheric pop band from the UK that played to a light crowd due to the fact that it was the last day of SXSW and a lot of festival goes were taking it easy to prepare for one last night in Austin.  In fact, encountering Waylayers at this precise point in the day was perfect for chilling out, hanging out and regrouping.

The final night of Southby was spent at the Sailor Jerry House at Gypsy Lounge.  Chicago post-punk garage rockers Radar Eyes were on stage already jamming out with their fuzzed-out dark psychedelic vibes as we were walking in.  Lead singer/guitarist Anthony's voice is perfect for this kind of music and he strongly carries the energy of this band.  Radar Eyes play frequently in Chicago so catch them around town for sure.  Hardcore band Spires played as well and once the shock of how young they look wore off they were a hard rocking, very technical band that was fun to watch rock the eff out.  The Saturday night Sailor Jerry showcase was very well curated and brought not only the best show overall but also the best new band discovery of SX2014.  Best new discovery honor goes to Weeknight, a synth-pop shoegazey band from Brooklyn comprised of couple Andy and Holly.  The kind of music they play, which has somewhat of a Cure vibe so it could have been very boring to watch, but they both move around a lot as if their music is playing them and not the other way around.  Holly definitely has a Karen O thing going and her stage presence was captivating.  Later in the evening were SISU, a Dum Dum Girls side project that sounds like Dum Dum Girls and Youth Code, a electro-industrial band from LA that was loud and dark and heavy.  The girls' wild energy was almost too much for the small stage.  Perfect opening for a personal favorite of the entire week, the neo-folk dark alt sounds of King Dude.

King Dude 3/15 @ Sailor Jerry House
Going on at almost 1am, King Dude spent time carefully sound checking before lighting a cigarette, taking a drag and putting it in his guitar capo cigarette holder.  Dressed in black like the rest of his band, King Dude's voice is deep and dark and tells stories of Lucifer and Light, pain and love.  King Dude played the guitar slow and echoey on 'Jesus in the Courtyard' while his deep vocals growled to the crowd "Don't you want to know why?" For one of the songs, the drummer had a heavy chain in one hand and a mallet in the other, creating a slow, droning beat as he rhythmically dropped them onto his drums repeatedly.  The creativity of this band in creating a very specific atmosphere is entrancing and it was really magical to experience in such a small venue.

And so that wrapped up another year of SXSW.  Although there were a lot of bands we would have loved to check out, it's impossible to be everywhere at once and plans change and sometimes you just really need to find a food truck.  With hundreds of bands and shows to see each day there are options to go to the larger corporate sponsored events that require badges and special wristbands and line waiting, or you can RSVP to a few showcases and check out bands both known and unknown at smaller venues all over Austin.  If you miss the band you want to see one day, chances are you can catch them at one of a few other showcases the next day or you'll end up stumbling upon your new favorite band.  Congrats to all the bands who made it through the grueling SXSW schedule of multiple shows per day and safe travels to everyone as you make your ways home.  See you next time Southby!  Thanks for all the fantastic music, perfect weather, delicious tacos and BBQ, good friends (old and new) and great vibes.

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