So what happened to the “first day of spring”? Forget that – spectacular thunderstorms early Saturday morning gave way to a stiff, cold wind with fangs that put a damper on many events during SXSW’s final day. Some of the smaller side events were cancelled outright while even the larger, official shows were rearranged due to the weather.
A full schedule of performances at Auditorium Shores Saturday night was edited to give each performer about 20 minutes onstage, in order to get headliners She & Him onstage by 9 p.m. They were still late, and just a few cheerful, poppy songs into the set by M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel a lot of cold, soggy people headed toward the exits.
You didn’t come here for a weather report, though. The music was still pretty good. We liked the psychedelia of Minneapolis prog-rockers Jake Dilley and the Color Pharmacy. Lead singer Dilley played guitar, keyboards and a little percussion as he wove listeners in and out of candy-colored soundscapes. Somewhere in the middle of a glorious mind-melding song he dropped in a few bars of “Eleanor Rigby,” to keep us all from flying off into a hole in the sky. But the trio ripped through their rock stomper “Detour” and set us right back on terra firma where the journey began.
We also liked Surfer Blood, one of the festival’s so-called buzz bands. These boys (and lead singer John Paul Pitts looked like he could still be in high school) rocked a windblown crowd with riff-happy tunes like “Floating Vibes” and “Fast Jabroni” and most likely sold a few thousand copies of Astro Coast, their first album. Touring as a five-piece, the group from West Palm Beach seemed a little taken aback by the cold (sorry) but played about 13 shows over the four days of SXSW music. They wound up a particularly tight set with their single “Swim” and I figure that’s good enough to make them big stars in a month or two.
Gotta hand it to Home Slice Pizza along South Congress – not only do they make a killer New York-style slice, they put on a helluva little music festival right in their back yard. We dug Wye Oak on Friday, and caught some of Winter Gloves, appropriately titled (sorry again) for Saturday. We really got into the bands playing a side stage, usually two or three sets while they got the main stage ready. Like La Strada – the Brooklyn-based multi-taskers crowded onto a tiny stage to deliver some nice melodic tunes that went really well with a couple hot slices of pizza. Anyway, Home Slice Pizza: they put on the best shows of SXSW and check ‘em out next time you are in Austin.
And a word here about Japandroids, an intense rockin’ duo from Vancouver. Oblivious to the cold, they rocked a hip happenin’ crowd behind the Urban Outfitters and made a lot of friends in the process. Guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse can really shred, and they tore up “Young Hearts Spark Fire” with unflagging energy. Look for these boys to make it big somewhere down the line, too. Also let’s mention Cymbals Eat Guitars, A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Here We Go Magic, Sweet Apple and Free Energy – good luck boys and girls, you deserve it!
Well. We made it through a SXSW post without mentioning any of the big names. What do you need to know? Jakob Dylan’s new stuff (with Neko Case and Kelly Logan singing backup) sounds nice, Courtney Love’s enhanced face is more interesting than her new music and we didn’t make it out to see Snoop Dogg either.
It was fun people-watching and making fun of the hipsters, hopelessly un-hip as we are. We especially liked the people who dressed like rock stars – jet-black, styled hair (think Ron Wood’s bed head), black jeans with skinny legs and a leather jacket. When everybody who is Nobody tries so hard to look like Somebody, it’s hard to spot the Real Somebodys. This one guy, his white hairline almost to the top of his head, passed me twice on the street before I recognized him as Michael Nesmith. He’s no longer a Monkee, he’s now a visionary and foreman of Videoranch 3D, a nice little project that put live shows on the internet and allowed listeners to experience the music like being in a video game. That would have been a good idea on a cold Saturday.