16 March 2013

SXSW 2013: Day Four [Friday]

After a non-stop, action-packed Thursday (and a late late night recounting it for y'all), I took things a bit slower on Friday; conference day four.  My baby got into town that morning, and we downshifted to help her settle in and acclimate for her first-ever SXSW experience; plus it was an especially hot day, set times seemed to be delayed everywhere, I was drained from the start anyway, and for some reason the lines for the (generally free) day parties were particularly bad.
It was a good time for a breather, which in this case meant catching merely three bands during the day: old favorite Diamond Rings [The Main, 1:30], a.k.a. Toronto punk-rocker-turned-electro-pop-cheeseball John Regan, who wears a gnarly spiked leather jacket and a rainbow guitar strap and is a happy happy bouncy man on stage; moody L.A. slow-jam brothers Inc. [Club DeVille, 2:30] (my second PBR&B show?), just the right speed for a hot, sluggish afternoon, whose decidedly strange visual presentation was faithfully replicated from their album cover and PR photos (makes you wonder just how carefully cultivated the holes are in that ripped t-shirt) and jittery NY-via-TX indie-punk goofs Parquet Courts [Red 7, 4:30].  They were definitely more intense (and just tense) in person, playing with a tightly controlled manic insistence reminiscent of the Feelies or early Devo; stretching their songs out a bit but also making impressively executed sudden stops and zero-second transitions, though sadly their endearingly quirky vocals were somewhat buried.

Parquet Courts
The evening was lower-key and desultory as well – I caught bits of quite a few things here and there, but only a couple of full performances.  There were some nice moments though.  Maybe the best came at the start – after dinner at Elizabeth Street, my confirmed favorite Austin restaurant (a beautifully styled French-Vietnamese bistro with the most unimaginably perfect grilled octopus), we caught the tail end of local indie chamber orchestra Mother Falcon (I think I counted nineteen members) performing OK Computer outside Home Slice Pizza (where we had also seen the earnestly bearded and impassioned local folky-chamber-rock group Seryn earlier.)  Mother Falcon's arrangements of Radiohead (the back half of "No Surprises" and a "Lucky"-into-"The Tourist" medley, at least) were utterly gorgeous and inventive, and so were their jazz-inflected original numbers (they played three as an encore), albeit a good deal livelier.  Plus the whole concept is just awesome (and the name may or may not be very sneakily dirty.)

I caught two songs by Ashley Monroe [Vice Bar, 9pm], a legit country-pop star (member of the Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert) with the stage presence and hyper-twang pipes to go along with it – one was a Gram Parsons cover ("Hickory Wind") which was lovely though it definitely made me want to hear more of her own material.  Went to Lamberts, on a recommendation to see Fetsum, but they were running late so I caught a good portion of a set by Brooklyn disco DJ Duane Harriott [Lamberts, 9pm].  He was spinning Midnight Magic's modern classic "Beam Me Up" when I walked in and later worked his way to Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" and Duck Sauce's "aNYtime" (along with plenty of more obscure selections) with a deft but impeccable touch, a good reminder of how great old-school, no-frills vinyl jockeying can be when done really right.  As for Fetsum [Lamberts, 10pm], they were alright – a Berlin-based group with a powerful if understated vocalist, who played gentle, quiet-storm-style R&B but with an interesting added element of Eastern European (maybe specifically Greek) flourishes, although it seemed like they were shifting gears into reggae when we left.

Then: my third PBR&B show?  No, Rhye [Buffalo Billiards, 11pm] definitely have a different kind of vibe, though I did feel like seeing them completed my 2013 indie-soul trifecta alongside Inc. and Autre Ne Veut.  They were clearly much-anticipated by the crowd, and for good reason – they did an excellent job of recreating their debut album's beautifully lush soul, with a couple of string players in tow – although it's a little deflating to see how utterly ordinary Mike Milosh looks after the subtle depth and mystery of his recorded presence.  (It's possible they are one of those acts who feel paradoxically more intimate and personal on record than they are in person – he also said he was sick though, so that was probably part of the issue.)  I've gotta say I find it kind of ironic (and silly) how everybody insists that he sounds like a woman – and, more specifically, Sade.  Didn't they use to insist that she sounded like a man?

Popped in for a bit of O.G. power-poppers Shoes at Magie Mays, and then a bit of Midnight Magic [Old School, 11:25] (managing to dance to "Beam Me Up," for the second time in the night) and tried but failed to find Hannah Georgas (I'd also missed Angel Haze earlier among a throng of Third Eye Blind fans.)  Then, by complete happenstance, I managed to catch two high-priority acts I had previously failed to see: biking on my somewhere else, I heard an unmistakable voice drifting down the street and re-routed my course to catch a late-running set by queer NYC rapper Le1f [Scoot Inn, 11:25?].  True to his videos, he's an incredible dancer and an unforgettable presence: an extremely tall, dark-skinned black man sporting a blonde weave on his otherwise-shaven head that must've been nearly five feet long, and which he whipped around in a vigorous array of whirling shapes.  His rapping is equally kinetic and distinctive, switching up on a dime from half-whispered menace to goofy, lazy-eyed mirth to hyperspeed virtuosity, and his frequently futuristic, electro-heavy beats, which can feel off-puttingly abstract on his mixtapes, seemed to hit much hard in person.  I hoped to see current Billboard #1 hit-maker Baauer, who was up next (although he was just DJing, and I heard he didn't even play his month-defining meme-smash, "Harlem Shake"), but I got sidetracked after catching the tail end of a Delicate Steve set nearby by running across an extremely late-running performance by The Bug [Hotel Vegas, 11:25??], the infrequently-active dubstep/digital reggae project of shadowy London electro-man Kevin Martin.  Their set featured some awesome toasting from two (presumably Jamaican-British?) vocalists whose names I didn't catch, although one of them did frequently, helpfully, call out "The BUG!" and gesture to Martin behind him.  Hope this means there's some new stuff coming from them.

Could've tried for Solange at that point, but instead I called it a (relatively) early night, wandering back to the car to the strains of the third Disclosure set I'd heard in two days.

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