14 March 2013

SXSW 2013: Day Two [Wednesday]

Kitten in action

Going good!  Here's how I'm feeling SXSW this year: None of the nearly twenty bands I saw today had I ever seen before; about half I hadn't even heard of until the last day or so, or in several cases until they started playing.  And those couple turned to be probably the best things of the day.

Kitten at Cheer Up Charlies, 1:10
Awesome awesome awesome wake-up surprise.  Poppy thrashy glammy punk band from L.A., whose front-lady (Chloe Chaidez) is very obviously the source of their moniker.  It suits her in just about every sense – she's tiny, frisky, young and restless, also damn near feral, a non-stop ball of energy in shiny skin-tight jeggings and bronze glitter eyelashes (plus a complicated multi-layer lacy top scenario.)  Vamping, gyrating, flailing her hair, sinking to her knees, shaking her ass at the photog, jumping off the Marshal stack.  The rest of the band did their darnedest to match her energy too, not that it was any contest.  I could try to remember more about what they sounded like, but clearly that wasn't the point.

 Cayucas at Cheer Up Charlies, 1:30
This is who I'd actually come to see.  Fresh-faced, Vampire Weekend-looking (and -sounding) sunny guitar-pop guys.  Some nice polyrhythms in their vaguely tropical-ish self-titled set-opener [self-titled songs: always a good idea], and the other couple they played were nice and bouncy enough, but nothing really stood out like the NPR-endorsed earworm that got me there, the super-catchy "High School Lover."  Which they didn't play because they ran out of time after three songs (they keep 'em short 'n' sweet at Cheer Up.)  Then again I have the mp3 so I guess that's okay.

Body Parts at Cheer Up Charlies, 1:50
Another happy discovery...this LA five-piece had everything you'd want from a standard-issue dancy indie-pop outfit, but even more on top of it: nifty three-part harmonies, an extra-tight, extra-funky rhythm section, amusingly deadpan yet friendly banter, thoughtful song structures and maybe most unusually (at least for something to notice upon first blush) smart and intriguing lyrics.  Made me think of both of Montreal and Talking Heads at various points.  Could get interesting.

Braids at The Jr. (Brooklyn Vegan Party), 2:15
Pretty much all of their songs seemed to be heavily influenced by "Ideoteque."  (Not that that's a bad thing.)  Except, more soothing, not quite so post-apocalyptic.  

Caitlin Rose at The Jr. (Brooklyn Vegan Party), 3:00
Nashville up-and-comer with an appealing, no-frills rock-country sound, a sweet, down-to-earth stage presence, "mom jeans," and a solid and entertaining crack seven-piece band of, presumably, Nashville pros.  (And also a personalized leather guitar strap, though her pedal steel player had an even spiffier leather name-plate on his axe.)  It took a few numbers before her voice started to open up, but there were some glimmers of Neko in there once she did.  Real, real nice.

Jacco Gardner at The Parrish, 3:30
This Dutch youngster has come out of nowhere (well, okay, Holland) with a record of the uncanniest circa-1968 loopy psychedelic verisimilitude since at least The Dukes of Stratosphear back in the '80s.  So it was sort of a disappointment to see that his live setup involved some suspiciously post-1968-looking electronic keyboards, a bunch of digital thingyboxes and a highly futuristic MacBook laptop.  Of course, what can you do when you've only got three guys in denim shirts backing you up and probably none of them play sitar and your mellotron and harpsichord and mondo 16-channel mixing desk probably wouldn't fit onto the plane.  Still, sounded great and also the drummer had a triangle so that's cool.

Ducktails at Fader Fort, 4:30
The guy behind me was trying to assert that these guys are more interesting than Real Estate (for whom primary Ducktail Matthew Mondanile plays bass, and whose simple, clean-lined guitar pop this side project is increasingly coming to resemble), but this didn't do much to convince me; even less than their record, maybe.  Matthew putting on a floppy white sunhat was cute, but you know what was really ridiculous?  The bassist wearing a black turtleneck sweater.  Pfft!

Ratking at Fader Fort, 5:15
Fine, not immediately impressive NYC hip-hop; another recent WTF 4AD signing.  One guy had cool spiky hair, almost like a crown.  And I could see how the other MC could be the "rat" part.  Will withhold judgment.

FIDLAR at Scoot Inn, 5:30
One of the brilliant things about SXSW is how you can go and, for instance, be in hardcore punk mosh pit for ten minutes or so, and then leave and do something else.  Shouldn't life be more like that?  FIDLAR are great – fun-loving Nashville scuzz punks who rant about drinking cheap beer, being stoked and broke, how it sucks to be 22, etc.  The songs hit hard and fast, but there's a surprising amount of blues in there too.

Sky Ferreira at Fader Fort, 6:00
Wasn't sure what to expect here.  Sky is sort of like a punkier, surlier Lana Del Rey – in presentation and, at least in this live incarnation (quite a ways from her earlier dance-pop material), in sound too – she's got the pout, the fashion sense and the (bleached) blonde locks, but she doesn't quite have the swagger or the voice.  Her signature tune, and by far the best song in her set, is "Everything Was Embarrasing," and it sort of seemed like that's how she actually feels.

Brooke Waggoner at Bar 96, 8:00
My fourth Nashville act of the conference.  (No relation to Porter, I guess.)  She plays slightly dark, moody piano-based rock, a little bit Fiona.  Pretty cool.  She also has an elaborate wooden case to make her keyboard look vaguely more like an upright piano, elaborately stenciled with the name of her new album ("Originator.")

Little Daylight at Club DeVille, 9:00
Super-new indie-electro-dance-pop band from New York – this was apparently their second-ever show.  Full disclosure: I went to high school with the lead singer (who is also in the also-great band Xylos.)  But that doesn't make them any less awesome!  Their claim to fame (and presumably the reason they drew an unreasonably healthy crowd for a second-ever-show) is a song, "Overdose," which was recently the top spot on Hype Machine's most-blogged-about chart, or something like that – and it's easy to hear why, cuz the thing is about 300% hook.  (I actually think the verse melody is the best part).  The rest of their set was nearly as strong, and made excellent use of the obligatory front-of-stage bonus tom-tom, although Nikki, I must admit, doesn't quite have her world-conquering-pop-star stage attitude down just yet.  Still, no reason these guys couldn't be the next, say, Chairlift.

Andy Stott
Andy Stott at Elysium, Allah-Las at North Door, Cazzette at 1100 Warehouse, Emma Louise at Lustre Pearl, 9:45-10:30
Did a bunch of bouncing around this hour.  I enjoy Andy Stott on record, but his bleary, nodding thump wasn't really fitting the bill in a live setting.  Allah-Lahs looked more promising, with their sunburned L.A. retro vibe and super-hip vintage instruments, but their lightly surfy semi-acoustic retro-rock (something a super-chilled-out King Khan, with all the menace and schtick removed?  Does that even make sense?) was mostly just pleasant.  

Tiga at Bungalow, 11:00
Figured I'd catch the tail end of Azari and III's set again, part of the Richie Hawtin-created "CNTRL: Beyond EDM" showcase, though it turned out to be a DJ set.  Same deal with Montreal electro-goof/crooner Tiga, who kicked off his set with Depeche Mode and kept it electro from there.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is way more electronica at Southby this year than ever before, but it's unclear to me how well DJ sets, which tend to work best when they get to evolve over a longer stretch of time, fit the general SXSW mode of short'n'sweet, quick-impression-making sets.  I danced for a bit, and it was great to see Tiga up close for a minute, but it didn't feel like the best use of time.

Autre Ne Veut at Empire Continental, 11:00
Still a little bit on the fence about this guy, but he's definitely a satisfyingly intense performer, throwing himself physically into his singing every bit as much as you might imagine.  "This is my first PBR&B show!" quipped the dude behind me, but there was no need or space for ironic distance in the music, which was convincing enough to work as R&B full-stop.  I liked the minimalist live set-up too: one back-up singer, one drummer, leave everything else to the backing track.  Unfortunately the set was cut maddeningly brief, so I only caught two songs (and he apparently didn't even do monster jam "Play by Play.")

BOY at Central Presbyterian Church, 11:30
Decided to call it an early night, finishing up with a chill set – church shows, mercifully offering the chance to sit down, are always appreciated – from this harmonizing German folk-pop group, another unknown gleaned from NPR's "Austin 100" mp3 playlist.  It was less poppy than the preview mp3 suggested, but nice enough.

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