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Sunday
Mar272011

2011 SXSW, The Afterglow of Its Mind-Boggling Diversity


DAY ONE : THE BUZZ ABOUT "SOUTH BY"

(USA) For one week each year Austin, Texas becomes the global capital of the music industry. In its 25 year existence, the annual South by Southwest Music Festival (“SxSW” or simply “South by” to the initiated) has emerged as the industry’s most important “trade show”.

Over the course of five nights nearly 2,000 bands perform in 80 venues scattered throughout Austin’s downtown. For these bands, SxSW is a vital tool to gain exposure and promote themselves to potential agents, labels, and managers. For labels and management companies, the festival is an equally important opportunity to scout the world’s musical talent for “the next big thing.” And it truly is the world’s music talent that is on display, the performers at SxSW represent every genre imaginable (as well as some that aren’t) and come not just from established musical powerhouses like the US, UK, Japan, and Mexico -– but from China, Greenland and, literally, Timbuktu.

My coverage of SxSW 2010 for Awaiting the Flood concentrated on the genres with which this site is most closely associated: country, alt-country, roots blues and so on. This year, with the blessings of Awaiting the Flood’s editorial staff, I wanted to put the spotlight on the mindboggling stylistic and geographic diversity of the musicians at the festival. Yes, you will find plenty of roots, county and alt-country in this year’s coverage, especially on the first day — but you will also find Latin Punk, alternative marching bands and K & W (Klezmer and Western) music … as well as the final public appearance by one of the most seminal figures in Delta blues.

As always, SxSW 2011 was a irresistible buffet of the good, the bad and the just plain weird. I hope you enjoy your guided tour.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM ELSEWHERE AT SXSW

* Performing at Stubb’s amphitheatre, Duran Duran proved that, three decades later, they can still pack them in and knock them out.

* Austin’s icons of western swing, Hot Club of Cowtown, showcased material from their latest album — a tribute to the great Bob Wills.

* South Korean indie/psychedelic rockers Galaxy Express wowed audiences at the Easy Tiger.

* Ubeda, Spain duo Guadalupe Plata proved you don’t have to be from the US to play great blues rock.

* Faroe Islands-based folk singer Gudrid Hansdottir brought her Dolly Parton-esque (think “Jolene” not “Nine to Five”) to the Hilton Garden Inn.

* The Ryan Michaels Band showcased their Springsteen-esque reimagining of indie rock at The Marq.

* Hard rockers Queens of the Stone Age rocked venue La Zona Rosa.

* Blues guitar icon (and Jimi Hendrix mentor) Guitar Shorty took his high energy live show to Club Speakeasy.



Sunday
Mar272011

Sophia's Rock Beat: SXSW 2011 Edition!


(BOSTON MA USA) Sophia's Rock Beat is where I blog video of local Boston bands that I saw the week before. (previous Rock Beats). This week is a bit of a departure because I'm going to include video of all the bands we saw at SXSW - which is mostly non-local.

There will be a follow-up post on my thoughts on the panels that we attended and my thoughts on how SXSW could improve - from a badge-holder's perspective.

Michael and I spent last week in sunny Austin, TX for SXSW. I'm going to go in order for the 38 bands we checked out.

Wednesday, our first stop was the Boston Phoenix party where we saw a few moments of Cincinnati band, The Seedy Seeds. Then we shuffled off to the Convention Center to catch two songs of Daniel Johnston -video 1, video 2. He performed after a panel of close friends/family spoke about his career - I found his songs to be moving and sad.

We went to a panel on the Asian music market and we found out about a showcase of Korean bands that night and so that was our first stop of the evening we caught a really awesome band from Seoul called Galaxy Express - they were by far one of my favorite discoveries at SXSW - leather jackets and Misfits t-shirts- they rocked so hard the power literally went out (I saw the sound guy flip the breaker back!) Video one below, video 2.



After this electrifying set we caught a few moments of Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr. at the KEXP party - we were too far away and it was too packed to tape anything. We headed out to catch Liam Finn (who I wasn't into - seemed like a lot of posturing to me - video) and caught some of British band, Dry the River - who we really liked - video 1, video 2. After this we headed down the street to catch Duran Duran - but first had to suffer through Raphael Saadiq - which was really the most unenjoyable thing I saw all week - it felt like a 60th wedding anniversary party - I like motown/soul/50s numbers but I really didn't get the point of Saadiq's interpretations. Duran Duran were as you might expect - fun but nothing surprising. They played about 5 of their new songs and some of the hits - I was pleased they opened with my favorite, "A View to A Kill." - we got two videos from far away - 1, 2.

Thursday we started off at The Weekly Dig/Converse party and caught a few moments of Mystery Roar and Bodega Girls. Later we saw Awesome Tapes From Africa (a Brooklyn DJ that plays what his name says) who went on right before David Wax Museum. Somehow we'd never managed to see DWM in Boston - they were awesome (I'm in love with that donkey jawbone) Video. Then we hopped over to a courtyard to catch a few moments of Smoosh and The Bangles - it took about an hour for the Bangles' stage hands to sound check everything - which included several tambourine soundchecks - which is ridiculous. They came to the stage with bodyguards - and even though they took forever to set up the sound was terrible - we left after a few songs. We ended the night with Owen Pallett - I'm not big on the whole making music with looping - but Owen is one of the best I've seen at it. I'm not crazy about his songs but he's an immensely talented violinist. Video 1, Video 2.

Friday we started the rock off with Aloud at the Berklee party (video). Then we caught some of City & Color - who I really did not like - but maybe they just weren't appropriate for Stubb's (a 2000 person outdoor venue) - especially during their solo-acoustic numbers. The went on just before Airborne Toxic Event - who had some of the most embarrassingly bad stage banter I've heard in awhile -video. Then we skedaddled to catch The Submarines (video) and Okkervil River (video)- both of whom I really enjoyed - though I was hoping for more _Stand Ins_ material from Okkervil - though they did close with "Lost Coastlines."

Saturday, we started with rock for breakfast, catching Versus (video), an acoustic set from our friends in Sleepy Vikings -video (sadly did not get their cover of "Skulls" on video) and Joan of Arc (video). Then we were off to the Ryan's Smashing Life/Organic Artist Agency party where we caught Dave Godowsky/John Shade, Golden Bloom (video 1, 2, 3), Kingsley Flood (video 1, 2), and Kasey Anderson (video). Saturday night we went to the Chimera Music showcase - which is Sean Lennon's label. Photo/Video was very strictly patrolled at this show so we didn't get any video at this showcase. His band with his girlfriend, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger opened - they were really cute indie folk. Then his girlfriend sang a few songs as Kemp & Eden (a project with a high school friend of hers, presumably before she went off to be a model in LA) - they were okay. They were followed by one of the worst bands I saw all week, If By Yes - really terrible vocal jazz - but the singer was really awful (though someone said she was sick later). Either way, once she started singing in 4/4 over a 3/4 beat I had to leave during their set and get a veggie burger at the food truck next door. I came back in time to catch Consortium Museum - a psych noise project with Lennon and Greg Saunier from Deerhoof. Following them was Fig, a project from Yuka Honda (Cibo Matto) and Nels Cline (of Wilco) - I didn't find them to be terribly memorable. Next was my favorite band all week, Mi-Gu! Mi-Gu is a Japanese duo fronted by a girl-drummer (already, I'm swooning) who is just insanely good while also being kind of experimental in her drumming - her and the guitar player would rock out and then pause for her to recite something. My favorite song was, "there's a spider in my room, WHAT SHOULD I DO?!?! We can't kill it, it eats small bugs." Then Tuneyards came up to do a Yoko Ono cover of "We're All Water." Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band headlined the evening and they were really awesome - comprised of musicians from all of the previous bands (including Sean), 78 year old Ono totally rocked. It was amazing to see. We taped audio of their set which for now is posted here. Definitely a highlight of my SXSW.

Sunday, we caught up with a bunch of Boston bands that we'd missed at their other showcases all week. We stopped by the Wadzilla party and caught Stereo Telescope and Static of the Gods (video 1, 2). And then we popped by Momo's and caught a song of Visions (which was enough to make us want to catch them again!) and a set by Caspian - really awesome instrumental ROCK (video 1, 2).

Thursday
Mar242011

SXSW 2011 Report 1: The Words


In which the harried writer clears the fog from his brain and tries to... remember. Meanwhile, feel free to jog YOUR memory via our collection of photo galleries, which you can access starting right here.

(CARRBORO, NORTH CAROLINA USA) The gridlock arrived early in Austin this year.

As impossible-to-pin-down as the annual South By Southwest music festival and conference has become - reaching its 25th anniversary, it certainly doesn't resemble its early Americana-titling self; staunch rockers scratch their heads over the steadily-rising presence of dance music and hip-hop (Kanye West at 4am? Really? The dude's a big deal, but c'mon... he's about as Texas as my pet cockatoo.); and all those "event happenings" like the Rachael Ray and Perez Hilton parties, though featuring bands, are really just amped-up trash ‘n' tabloid gatherings for folks desperate to say they got in - it's perversely satisfying that the one thing you can still count on is the annual Austin clusterfuck. And not only downtown, too, where the SXSW human tentacles spread outward in all directions from 6th Street, but also the outlying areas from where more than a few weary bodies can be seen limping back to the hotel in the wee, wee hours of the morning because there just ain't enough cabs to go around anymore.

Just the same, even longtime SXSW vets such as yours truly were heard expressing shock that as early as 2pm on Wednesday afternoon, traffic within a 4-block radius of SXSW Ground Zero (aka the Austin Convention Center) was already at a standstill, and nearby 6th Street itself already looked like a battle zone. Wednesday, it seems, is the new Friday for SXSW - which is why more than a few prescient attendees arrived on Monday, making Monday the new Wednesday, duh, thereby overlapping with the SXSW Film and Interactive festivals and therefore compounding the whole clusterfuck shebang... you can see where this is going. Speaking of Interactive, one SXSW regular quipped to me, "I've never seen so many tech geeks before in my life - and Austin's already a wired town." My prediction: Interactive is where the buzz and the money will be for the near future. Not that Music is spent, of course, not by a long shot...

The BLURT crew parachuted directly into this mess from all points on the map on Wednesday - publisher and CEO (and owner of Second Motion Records) Stephen Judge wisely arrived a day early just so he could have a chance to take a deep breath - and proceeded to, er, do what we always do in Austin. Survive. And have some fun. Elsewhere on our website you can read Senior Editor Randy Harward's top picks, along with some cool video clips. Here are some highlights I glommed onto. Guarantee: selective memory now in operative mode.


On to a few musical highlights...
don't worry. We know that writers' laundry lists of who they saw, where they went, who they ran into, and how trashed they got are dead boring to everyone except the hack who scribbles it. So here's just a few, offered with the intention of countering the stuff way back in the first paragraph. Gridlock or no gridlock - and make no mistake, nighttime in Austin during SXSW really has taken on the look of an epic sequence from Lord of the Rings or something; it's not for people who don't dig crowds, that's for sure - you can ALWAYS find some cool stuff to take in. That's true particularly if you stay away from the giant "event" and celebrity-branded shows and attempt to ferret out the lesser-knowns in the less-crowded venues. (Hint: those are the ones that don't have a line extending down the street and have a lot of anxious-looking hipsters shifting nonstop from foot to foot.) Oh, and by the way: this year's official SXSW buzzword is shoegaze, as it seemed that every hour or so I encountered a band - from America, from overseas, no matter - who must have grown up on a diet of 4AD and Creation records.

Vidulgi OoyoO - Saturday afternoon, Seoulsonic showcase @ Easy Tiger patio: The leather-jacketed Korean band (the name translates as "Pigeon's Milk") was part a collective of Seoul-based indie rock combos. And man, oh man, did their stuff rock: any band who can simultaneously AND effectively channel Spacemen 3, Loop, My Blood Valentine, the MC5 and the Velvet Underground deserves consideration beyond mere "shoegaze" labeling. Their whammy-bar powered jet-engine roar, rife in dynamics and boasting some sweet three-guitar harnessing of feedback, hit me like the proverbial lightning bolt and I found myself being sucked closer and closer to the stage just so I could feel the sonic gale blow through me. Absolutely thrilling, and quite possibly the best surprise I've had in 10 years of attending SXSW.

By Fred Mills / Photos by Scott Dudelson 

Tuesday
Mar222011

High Octane Alt Rock from South Korea : SEOULSONIC Presents Vidulgi Ooyoo, Galaxy Express, Idiotape, Big Phony, Kite Operations


WHY GO?

(NEW YORK USA) Sorry 2NE1, K-pop has no place in SEOULSONIC's debut North American tour. Not when there's a dynamic indie scene burning up stages and dive bars in Seoul but sorely unknown stateside. Take Vidulgi OoyoO, whose feedback-drenched guitar riffs and hypnotizing croon evoke Split-era Lush. Galaxy Express wear their post-punk influences proudly on their leather jackets. Last year, they headlined a stage at the Jisan Valley Rock Festival — Incheon's equivalent to All Tomorrow's Parties. Idiotape import sludgy and sexy dance-punk (with live drumming) straight from Seoul's club circuit. Special guests to the NY leg of SEOULSONIC include LA-based singer-songwriter Big Phony and locals Kite Operations, who segue from delicate chords to atonal freeform squalls within a single track. My advice: throw back some Chamisul and hit the Knit.

YOU WILL...

likely get hit in the face with a guitar.

become a fangirl (or fanboy).

http://www.beaconpass.com/

Preview by Brian Fee

Friday
Mar182011

Electronic Mavens Idiotape Insist on Beating to Their Own Drum