My Thursday started fairly early (before 11am) with a trip to the convention center where I picked up my official SXSW bag of stuff and immediately went over to the "discard area" and dumped nearly everything out. I kept the pocket show/panel guide, and the new issue of Mint Records‘ fanzine, A Fresh Breath of Mint (featuring Nardwuar vs The Klaxons and Cynthia Plaster Caster), and a band guide. I also kept the canvas bag which features art by Thurston Moore.
With that out of the way, I needed food and headed over to Cosloy-approved Torchy’s Tacos on 6th. (A quick aside: there is almost nowhere good to eat in the Convention Center / 6th St. vacinity.) Torchy’s is probably awesome the rest of the year, but during SXSW they run a streamlined menu that seems designed to get the food out than anything else. Though still amongst the best food during my trip, I’ve eaten many better tacos in NYC. That’s right Texas, you heard me.
From there I headed to the Above the Radar party that Blog Fresh Radio was sponsoring. I made the dumb mistake of assuming the venue would be near everything else and ended up walking a mile or so down South Congress to Trophy’s, a road house style joint where the party was happening. Though sparsely attended (location and lack of free alcohol probably had something to do with it) it was a good time with a nice lineup. The rock acts were inside and the backyard was for the more DJ-oriented stuff, like openers Lady Pterodactyl — two girls (one of whom is still in high school) who were a lot of fun and make serious dance music.
Highlight of the party, for me, had to be The Deathset. Last time I saw them they had no drummer and played with a laptop. They now seem to have two drummers. And they’re just as wild even when there’s not a pile of crowd-surfing kids they’re playing to. Also good: Ume (like the Japanese plum) a local Austin band who are a bit Sonic Youth-ish, and the intense Dead Confederate.
I snuck out of the party for a bit to head downtown where I caught Cardiff, Wales trio Victorian English Gentleman’s Club. at Latitudes which had been transformed for the week into the British Music Embassy. VEGC are one of those bands that I’ve heard of more than I’d actually heard, but they turned out to be one of my favorites of SXSW. Shouty, in a Fall or Gang of Four kind of way, loads of energy, funny, very good looking. I shot video:
Wandering down 6th Street, I happened past Stubbs’ Annex where there was one of Brooklyn Vegan’s day parties. I ran into the man himself on the way in and he kindly informed me the free booze was running out so I best get some now. With bloody mary in hand, I headed up to the front of the stage having no idea who was on next, but saw Abbey Punk Photo and Cameron Disconap there so I knew it must be someone interesting.
Turned out it was Lykke Li, one of the many Scandinavian pop princesses who were in town for the fest. I ended up seeing her play three times, all of which were by accident. Her album is quite good, and I prefer it to other current, similar records by Yelle, Robyn, and the other one’s I can’t remember. She was also one of many acts I saw who employed a megaphone in their show, those hers wasn’t working on this day. Good show, but not great, but she’d get better as the week went on. And "Breaking it Up" is so much better live than on record, total early Madonna fabulousness.
My friend Steve, who lives in Austin and didn’t know I was in town till I texted him, met me at the BV party and we went for a drink at some biker bar and hung out there till we couldn’t hear each other anymore due to the unironic hair metal band playing at the place.
Abusing his kind nature, I got Steve to drive me back to the hotel and then out to eat at Curra’s, a Mexican Place he recommended. We had the requisite chili con queso, and then I had enchiladas. Too much cheese on the latter but very good nonetheless. Steve dropped me off downtown and I started my nighttime batch of shows.
I caught Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip at Wave Rooftop. Most people were there to hear "Thou Shalt Always Kill" with it’s "…Just a Band" shoutalong part but I thought the whole set was great. Scroobius Pip is very smart, very bearded, very funny and he carried some of the parts where the beats could be better. (Mostly not a problem, actually… le Sac v Pip are definitely more than a one joke wonder.) But the showstopper was inded "Thou Shout" and he was handing out stacks of stickers that said "JUST A BAND," encouraging us to paste them on other band’s posters all over town. (Nobody did from what I could tell, but they were probably saving them, as I am, for use at home.
I wonder how people managed before texting. There probably wasn’t ten minutes of show-going time during the trip that I didn’t either send or receive one. "What’s your 8pm?" "Meet me at Wave rftp." "fuck the tough alliance!" etc. An invaluable tool. My friend Chris who works for River to River had texted me about what I was seeing that night… so I hooked up him and his R2R cohorts at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop to see Brooklyn.
Yes, a band called Brooklyn who are actually from Paris (unlike me, Pearis from Brooklyn). My idea to go, and I got made fun of the rest of the night for it. I never claimed they were going to be any good. In fact, I figured they’d suck but it felt compelled to see a band with such a name. They did, in fact, suck but in a highly competent, commercial, poppy Strokesy kind of way. Offensive to Brooklyn, offensive to France, offensive to Rock. Any Brooklynites who want to go throw tomatoes at them — you can do so tonight at Piano’s or Friday at Fontanas. Cute bassist, though. Check out this promo shot of the band if you’re not annoyed enough by this description to be called into vegetable-tossing action. Are they having fun or what?
We left Brooklyn pretty quickly, so to speak, and went to check out a showcase put on by BBC 6Music and hosted by legendary indie loving DJ, Steve Lemacq. The night was mostly British bands, which makes sense, but also MGMT who it turns out aren’t yet the big deal they are in NYC area — we waltz right in as the band was finishing up. Or maybe the rest of the country realizes that, though the album is great, MGMT aren’t a very good live band. The reason for us being there is to see I Was a Cub Scout. Well it’s the reason I’m there. I get the feeling I dragged Chris and his coworker Steve (different from my friend Steve, mentioned earlier) there, or at least they had no better ideas. The band’s single "Pink Squares" is a nice bit of synthpop — all I’d basically heard — so I was a bit surprised that live they were a mainly guitar and drums, with some prerecorded backing… and that they really sounded a lot like Keane. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Necessarily.