SXSW The Breakfast Taco
posted by March 19 at 12:25 PMon
Today's ingredients: Elgin sausage (from the city of Elgin, don'tcha know), potato, cheese, and an overdue summary of a zillion bands.
My reason for the delay is a mix of recovery from a Monday flight/bus hellstorm and a sense of futility about SXSW writeups. You pretty much need an 80-strong staff of writers/videographers to get anywhere near covering this thing to an adequate degree, and even then, it's hard for such writeups to not come off as blurry and overenthusiastic--with so much going on, there's no time to rest, soak up the music, and make a coherent statement. I still think the greatest SXSW writeup of all time came from a satire piece my former boss whipped up for The Morning News last year. (Classic line: "I just punch the ever-loving shit out of them.")
But unlike some Line Out posters, I've always done SXSW (relatively) sober; otherwise, I simply can't keep up with the four-days-straight onslaught. And I still thought this year was pretty damn good. Sadly, the era of sleeper acts has been killed thanks to SXSW preview bloggers hyping even the tiniest concerns to unbelievable heights, but I still stumbled upon gems that seem to have been glossed over by the blogging majority.
Akron/Family -- I saw them a few years back at a crummy bar's basement stage, which the group proceeded to manhandle with a nearly two hour set of chant-filled pandemonium. I figured I'd catch a few minutes just for shits before heading to see the haunting Castanets play at the big church in downtown Austin, but this show went too far down the rabbit hole for me to leave. Halfway through their 1.5-hour set, my absolute biggest shock/surprise find of the fest, Slaraffenland, appeared in the back of Emo's clutching horns, flutes and the like. They soon hopped the stage, and the new 10-man band proceeded to play for 45 minutes straight, songs swirling one into the next while the crowd danced, clapped and chanted along to every single one. This ended with a cry of "WE'RE TAKING IT OUTSIDE!" and the stage cleared, band members clutching instruments and drums while walking onto famed 6th Street, and the crowd followed like giddy, willing, hippie minstrels. The street jam lasted for a good five minutes, as curious passers-by snapped cameraphone photos of the shirtless freaks leaping around and chanting "Circle, Triangle, Square! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!" Kind of a "had to be there" thing. I do not look forward to being seen on YouTube as one of the idiots leaping around and buying into this show's pandemonium.
Slaraffenland -- I already wrote them up Wednesday night, didn't I? They're even better than I remember on their record. The members told me before their Akron/Family set that they'll be coming towards Seattle this May. Cannot wait.
Darker My Love -- Rousing psychedelia with a healthy dose of harder rock influences, though the "harder" part was more apparent in concert than in anything on their MySpace page. I caught quite a bit of psychedelic revivalism at this year's fest, but only this band made me feel the same way I felt when I first saw the Dandies or the Black Angels. I liked the variety that came forth from this band's dual songwriters and look forward to seeing them in concert again (SF ain't that far away, guys, and maybe you can bring another SXSW surprise, Citay, along with ya.)
A Weather -- Totally blown away by this Portland four-piece, if an incredibly quiet/soft act can "blow away" anything. Think if the husband/wife duo of Mates of State divorced, but were forced by a record label to stay together, and as a result, the tunes became slow, deliberate, and bittersweet. The killer boy/girl vocals make the first impression, but what really impresses is how the four-piece strings its arrangements together in a minimalist way yet still sounds full and lush.
Evangelista -- Another set of pandemonium, this one courtesy of ex-Geraldine Fibber Carla Bozulich. This destructive poetry performance was all clamor and hollering, the band layering feedback, broken cymbal clangs and free-form rhythm noise over Carla's hell-bent shrieks. It was heartening to see the woman so revitalized by her latest group, fearlessly skipping and prowling around the stage while preaching the bad word.
Experimental Aircraft -- I'd forgotten about this ancient Austin-based space-rock quartet until shopping at Sonic Boom in Ballard the other day, where store buyer Rick Brooks was blasting the band's long-delayed LP. They'd finally finished the damn thing, he told me, and it was a kitchen-sink record of hazy, over-pedaled rock that became the soundtrack to my flights to and from Austin last week. The showcase was fine, but really, I just brought it up to plug the awesome album.
Since I'm a homer, I'm happy to asterisk the rest of my Texas picks with the fact that I may very well be biased... except in the case of Centro-matic. The decade-plus straight-out rock concern from Denton, TX, managed to sell out its Wednesday night venue, drawing a healthy mix of local pals and European fanatics, and the crowd was well-deserved for the band's shout-along pop-rock that takes the GBV formula in an Americana direction. Other homer highlights included Wilco-leaning Pleasant Grove, post-Sonic Youthers Record Hop, the mariachi/folk songwriting mastery of The Theater Fire, and the absolutely bonkers, Funkadelic-meets-80s-new-wave hip-hop of PPT. Oh, and the chilaquiles at Curra's; those things are spicy and delicious.
Whenever YouTube is friendlier to me, I'll get videos up of great SXSW '08 acts like Phosporescent, Slaraffenland, Bear in Heaven, Ola Podrida, Luke Temple, and more. In the meantime, check out my Flickr pool of SXSW photos with a few other personal faves as well, like J Mascis, Elliott Brood, Dr. Dog, and The Sadies.