South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Keane, March 15, Cedar Courtyard

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

It’s a bit outrageous to see Keane in such a small venue under the bright sunlight in Austin, but there they were, at Filter magazines Cedar Courtyard party, catering to hundreds of people instead of their usual stadium sized crowd overseas. Keane may not be big in an indie kids heart but make no mistake, these guys can and have filled much larger spaces. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go see such a large band play such a small venue.

Keane has come a long way since they initially made their way into the spotlight, when they were partially regarded as Coldplay’s younger brother with the chubby kid with an angelic voice. Since then, they have trimmed up and developed a more rock orientated sound while still keeping the elements that made them big in the first place.

With a new album (named Strangeland) in tow, the band broke their sxsw virginity at the courtyard, delivering a solid set of new and old . It’s interesting to see the progession of Tom Chaplin, the lead singer. Infinitely more confident and with a bevvy of rock star experience, Tom moves around the stage with a purpose and delivers his tender vocals with just the right amount of sass. With the piano prominently sitting on the stage, the group previewed some tracks off the new album (including a certain track that I’m sure was Springsteen inspired) but it was the older tracks like Is It Any Wonder that had the crowd singing along.

The track “Somewhere Only We Know” ended off the set. What a closer. It’s one of those songs that is quite wordy in nature but for some reason you know all the lyrics. It’s a fantastic track, induced a Cedar Courtyard singalong and you can’t really beat that kind of experience.

Keane plays Stubbs tonight at 11pm or midnight.

SXSW Review: Tennis, March 14, Paste Party

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For all the flack that Denver duo Tennis has been getting for their live show, I found myself quite enjoying them during their set at the Paste/Sennheiser day party on Wednesday afternoon. Tennis, if you recall, is husband and wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley whose simply constructed twee-esque music evokes memories of 70’s summer time and innocence. They have released two albums in a bit over two years, both of which have been quite successful. Their live show has been written about as a bit lackadaisical, which appears to be a black mark on an otherwise remarkable start for the band.

With the diminutive Alaina Moore manning the keyboard, Tennis played a set that consisted primarily of new material from the record Young and Old. I think they are a band that has chosen to play a live show that doesn’t stray far from the recorded material and given the bands live setup, it doesn’t really have much room for deviation. I don’t expect Tennis to go into an extended guitar solo halfway through the track Petition and I don’t think the casual fan should either. I guess you can say that Tennis shows are always at an even level, which is good but never really reaches that life reaffirming/defining next level. That type of show comes with time and if this group keeps on releasing projects with the quality of the first two releases, they’ll have plenty of time to work that out.

SXSW Review: Dry the River, March 15, Stubb’s

Posted on by Gary in Everything, Reviews, South By Southwest | 3 Comments

Dry The River

Austin, TX – It can be a hard thing to stand out these days, as everyone is bombarded in crossflows of  influences from every corner reachable by the internet at a background level. This is exacerbated at SXSW, of course. For better or worse, I trust my instincts more so than acquired taste when it comes to Southby. Bands often have 15 seconds to showcase their talents. I remember coworkers commenting on hearing my headphones from across the room when New Ceremony popped up among the 100 NPR samplers. It hit all the right buttons – catchy hooks, explosive chorus, and a voice/harmony that solidifies the weed-filled slipstreams into grassy fields of Austria as you skip down 6th street.

Dry The River

Well, OK, I could be overselling. Dry the River is a 5-piece from Stratford with tattoo sleeves on at least 6 arms. This indie but counter-culture exterior belies their music though. What we heard was a soft expressions that perhaps grew out of personal experiences. The set was shorter than I’d liked, only 7 songs if memory and arithmetic serves, but not low on substance. The stage play has the heaviness of the Antlers, thin on raw physical presence, high on melancholy, and  much hair. Both the main vocal and bass were laden with locks so thick that I had problems finding their eyes if they motioned their heads to mimick calligraphy brushes while jamming. A lesson against stereotyping, I guess. One song that I would have loved to hear live, Weights and Measures, was omitted. I highly suggest a listen: it’s one powerful punch that perfectly illustrates their sound. The sampler New Ceremony was played with much enthusiasm, though. There were few filler songs on display and they ended the set with Lion’s Den, I believe. This is a song that reminds me of the theme from a Taiwanese movie form my childhood, and ends with a minute-long instrumental segment that built up to an orchestra-style finish like any self-respecting rock song… and the crowd went slightly wild with solid acknowledgement for the single home run. If given the chance (apparently Rolling Stones had already labeled them something of a must-see) to play a larger venue (OK, Stubb’s is almost as big as they get in SXSW), I do believe Dry the River can deliver something even more spectacular. I’m looking forward to that.

Dry the River, Stubb's, March 15 2012

SXSW Review: Ben Kweller, March 14, Paste Party

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

As i watch Ben Kweller absolutely charm the crowd at the Stage on Sixth, I totally came upon the realization that Ben Kweller is basically America’s version of Joel Plaskett.

Both have music based in folk/alt country roots, seem to be genuinely honest and down right nice in person and both have fans that absolutely adore them. Most importantly, both acts put on great live shows that put a smile on your face.

Playing the last slot at Paste’s day party, Kweller took the stage to a packed stage in a jean-vest and greeted the fans like an old friend “we’re going to play some new songs, and some old songs” Kweller then launched into Mean To Me, one of the tracks from his new album Go Fly A Kite. Even though that song might be new, it has all the classic Kweller moments – sing along chorus, heartfelt lyrics and just an overall sunny disposition. Switching between guitar and piano, the rest of the show would be a mixture of new and old, the latter of which was met with singalongs.

A rousing edition of Penny on a Train Track (featuring Kweller playing into the street) sent the crowd into the night ready for good times and good food. While Kweller’s brand of alt-country-folk rock might not be sexy among the blogging world, there’s something to be said about being consistently good. With five LP releases now, Ben Kweller is exactly that.