South By Southwest

SXSW Review: College and Anoraak, March 14

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

It might be a bit unfair to lump them together, but both French electronic acts Anoraak and College were playing showcases on Wednesday and I was there for both.

These bands caught my eye in the mid 00s when a host of French acts exploded into the blogosphere. They were probably all friends and called themselves the Valerie Collective. While this explosion never really caught on stateside, their music remained constantly good. The genre recently received a nice surge due to the popularity of the Drive soundtrack and maybe that (along with College’s new release Northern Council) factored into the bands decision to visit Austin

It was a strange decision to slot Anoraak in a mid afternoon slot but the 3 piece act made the most of it with a surging set that featured the band frequently interchanging between synthesizer and guitar/bass. The drummer provided tracks like Nightdrive with a nice additional kick and the crowd was moving their feet by the end of the set. Judging by the amount of times I overhead the term “who are these guys?” in the crowd, it’s safe to say that these retro synth poppers gathered a few fans that afternoon.

Anoraak plays Malverde on Saturday at 12:15 AM

At the other end of the spectrum was College aka David Grellier. No doubt used to playing night clubs, College’s solo laptop act seemed a bit of a stretch for Mohawk’s massive outdoor patio setting. The crowd was packed for College’s set, which consisted of laptops and some dj-ish devices on the table with projections in the background. Aside from the glow coming off the projected screen, it was pitch black. The synth driven set sounded good and as one track melded into the other, one couldn’t help but feel that with a more intimate setting and some complementary lights, College’s synth-laden 80s summer sounds would have been a bit more effective.

SXSW Review: Django Django, March 14, Mohawk

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

Django Django

Oh, the noise that they make.

Django Django‘s self titled debut album has been one of my favorite albums this year when I heard that the quartet was coming to SXSW, I made it an absolute priority to see them.

They did not disappoint.

Employing seemingly every percussive instrument ever made, Django Django’s showcase at the Mohawk on Wednesday was an impressive exercise in rhythm and originality. It’s hard to frame how Django Django sound specifically, but it’s very good. The vocals get lost amongst all drums, the swirly guitars and the effects, but you get a sense that is how it’s intended to be. You can hear a thousand bands at SXSW, but I bet none will sound like Django Django, and that’s a great thing.

Django Django will take you on a trip, just go along for the ride.

SXSW Review: Thee Oh Sees, The Wedding Present, March 14, Red Eyed Fly

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

Austin – In a lot of ways, rock and roll is really a lifestyle choice – if you want to rock, you really have to dedicate yourself to it.  John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees and David Gedge of The Wedding Present both strike me as guys who’ve dedicated much of their adult lives to rocking –  Gedge has been fronting The Wedding Present since 1985 and Thee Oh Sees have been going since 1997, though Dwyer’s been in a ton of other bands before that, including The Hospitals, who famously got into a pretty violent scuffle with Silver Dollar Room booker Dan Burke a few years back.  I’d say that qualifies as a pretty rock and roll move.

If Dwyer was around back in the ’50s, I imagine he’d fit right in with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis or Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – he’s got that kind of over the top stage persona, which probably isn’t even a persona at all, but just him getting right into it.  He and the rest of the band also understand that rock music is essentially about the beat, the rhythm – a fact made quite clear by the band’s stage setup – not one, but two drummers, each placed prominently at centre stage.  The setup made the smallish stage at Red Eyed Fly look even more cramped, but that just seemed to add to the energy and the atmosphere somehow. 

While The Wedding Present didn’t operate with quite the level of wild abandon that Thee Oh Sees put into their set, they certainly aren’t lacking in energy.  The crowd was certainly into it, with many excited to see the band’s first American show in four years.  While they’re currently touring a production of their 1991 classic Seamonsters, their brief set this afternoon was not devoted to that particular album.  Gedge led his crew through a number of tunes from throughout their career, leaving the crowd fully satisfied.  Then again, when you’ve got great bands and free beer on hand, it’s pretty hard to go too wrong.

SXSW Review: Sun Araw, March 13, Mohawk

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

A three piece band with members hailing from several parts of the United States, Sun Araw was what you can claim to be my first showcase at SXSW, as they played the Pitchfork opening party at the Mohawk on Tuesday night. The driving force behind the band is Cameron Stallones, who is also a member of the band Magic Lantern. Despite my relative newness to the band, they have been steadily releasing music since the mid 2000s, including last year’s release the Ancient Romans.

Sun Araw’s psychedelic layered trippy space rock jam music take awhile to build so given the festival’s short time slot, I felt that the act’s showcase on Tuesday didn’t quite mesh. With two synthesizers in tow, the band would layer looped drum beats over effects, gradually adding in distorted vocals (and some guitars at certain point) and building up the sounds until it eventually turned into a full out song. Which for the most part, sounded decent, however the slow/similar buildups for each song made it seem all too familiar after awhile and it became easy to get distracted, especially with all the buzz going on every where at SXSW.

Sun Araw’s next showcase is March 17th, at 11 pm at the Mohawk