South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Vampillia, March 16, Elysium

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

I hope it’s not seen as lazy writing on my part to lump metal/noise/art rockers Vampillia in with the other Japanese act i saw earlier that day (that would be Peelander-Z), but besides their shared national heritage, the bands do seem to have a lot more in common. They also share a penchant for adding a great deal of weirdness and theatricality into their music. Though one could argue that both acts’ weirdness is a result of their being Japanese. A lot of strange bands have come out of Japan over the years.

However, while Peelander-Z’s weirdness comes across in more of a fun, Saturday morning cartoon ,sugary breakfast cereal, pro wrestling kind of way, Vampillia has more of a dark, David Lynch goes to a death metal carnival vibe. Which is to say odd and a little bit menacing, but still with an irreverent sense of fun about what they’re doing as well. After all, when one of your guitarists is nearly nude and covered in symbols and your singer wears a top hat and long coat while carrying around a big plank of wood and a saw (which he would occasionally “play” by sawing on the wood very quickly), you know these guys can’t be taking themselves entirely seriously.

Their music, however, they take seriously enough. The show opened with the drummer alone onstage, showing off a bit with a drum solo over some prerecorded backing tracks before being joined by the rest of the band, who then proceeded to set the mood with some moody atmospherics – some solo piano at first, followed by a solo guitar buildup that was reminiscent of something by Explosions In The Sky or This Will Destroy You. Appropriate for Texas I suppose. It was only after a few minutes that their main vocalist emerged from backstage and proceeded to sprinkle his own brand of craziness all over everything. They were definitely an eccentric bunch, incorporating elements of all sorts of music into their music (including some operatic style vocals), all while keeping it still pretty heavy and rocking throughout. This was definitely one of the more memorable shows of my SXSW experience.

SXSW Review: Clock Opera, March 16, Parish

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

Among the unknown bands I saw last year, England’s Clock Opera was the band that impressed me the most. Their soaring melodic take on electronic music captured my imagination and I’ve been keeping track of this four piece band since.

Fast foreword to this year and Clock Opera has finally completed their debut album and it’s scheduled to arrive in April. With that in mind, Clock Opera blitzed SXSW this year with a series of performances. I caught their showcase at the Parish on Friday night.

The forty minute set proved what I suspected – Clock Opera is good and ready to roll. Their synth driven sound is augmented nicely by singer Guy Connelly’s voice, which in its most tender moments, reminds me of Guy Harveys voice. The band’s flair for the dramatics in all their tracks in my mind, separates them from similar sounding bands. I’ve already mentioned my love for Once and For All , but also tracks like Lesson Number 7 and Belongings are driving examples of the epic type of music Clock Opera is capable of and they sounded great live, much to the delight of the packed crowd at the Parish.

I fully expect this band to take off when their debut album drops in April, check them out if you have the chance.

SXSW Review: The Heavy, March 17, Stage on Sixth

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | 2 Comments

The Heavy became notorious a few years ago when they astounded the audience at the David Letterman show with an incredible rendition of their hit single “How You Like Me Now”. According to the PR emails I recieved, it was one of the few times in which Letterman asked a band to play again after their initial performance. It was primarily this reason why I was able to drag myself to the Stage on Sixth for their 1 am performance on Saturday at SXSW.

I was sober, my legs and back hurt and extremely tired from a week of SXSWing.

It was irrelevant.

The Heavy were amazing.

Lionel Ritchie and Jesus & Mary Chain aside, they easily put on my favorite show of SXSW.

Lead singer Kelvin Swaby’s charisma and showmanship is off the charts. Clearly coming from a soul revival/gospel background, Kelvin Swaby sings, preaches, engages the audiences and even sings directly into people’s faces. That’s right, throughout the show, he would pick out random people in the crowd, look them dead in the eye, put his face about five inches away from theirs and sings. Talk about a personal experience. There’s something to be said about a frontman who can engage the audience in a rousing call and response session for a completely new song that no one has heard before. That happened last night.

The Heavy’s blend of soul meets hard rock is one that I haven’t seen much, but the band makes it work. It’s riveting, energetic and definitely one that can garner a lot of attention, which is why I’m quite perplexed a band with such an amazing live show is still mostly obscure. This performance at SXSW might end that, be sure to check them out soon.