South By Southwest

SXSW Reviews: Barrie, Model/Actriz, Blondshell

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Barrie, March 14, Cheer Up Charlies

Bringing choreographed movements to their synthy, lo-fi, dreamy, soft pop melodies, Barrie (aka Barrie Lindsay and friends) charmed the afternoon crowd at Cheer up Charlies. Their songs were catchy and the harmonizing reminded me of Au Revoir Simone. Very pleasant.

Barrie’s new EP 5K is out on March 31st.

Model/Actriz, March 14, Cheer Up Charlies

Pounding bass, disco beats and distant lyrics – the electrifying Model/Actriz show brought everyone back to a Brooklyn warehouse in 2004 with a sound that would be fitting of any DFA party that must have gone on since then. I miss this type of music and judging by the crowd, they did too.

I’m looking forward to diving into Model/Actriz’s new music, including the recently released Dogsbody, which got an 8.2 on Pitchfork.

Blondshell, March 16, Radio Day Stage

With songs like “Veronica Mars” and musical influences from bands like Hole and Alanis Morrissette, Blondshell sounds straight out of the mid-’90s. Lead singer Sabrina Teitelbaum delivers her songs and stage banter (“here’s a song about salad”) with a confident charisma that delighted the small crowd in the cavernous Ballroom A. Definitely a band on the rise.

Blondshell’s self-titled debut comes out April 7th.

SXSW Film Review: Wild Life [Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, 2023]

Posted on by Gary in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment


Doug Tompkins, his wife Kris, and their close circles of nature-loving extreme athletes (climbers, surfers, skiers, kayakers… you name it, they’ve got it) rode the wave of entrepreneurship and popularized their ’70s free-spirit lifestyle into products that are still going strong today. This exulted C-level cast may bring people to this documentary to romanticize about dinner-con-night-walk along the Seine and all the other million things that seemed so easy to go right when the stakes are low. Yet, in reality, were the stakes all that low?

From Doug and Kris Tompkins’ point of view, they certainly were not. An extractive philosophy from both industry and governments held captive many other, more harmonious ways to give value to natural resource wealth. In developing and developed countries alike, the adjectives merely distinguished whether resources have been sufficiently depleted. Our society was happily re-opening the industrial wounds on the natural world, which had never fully healed since the 18th century. While the Tompkins cannot hope to sway the forces that be in the United States, they may yet do so for less entrenched nations and save them from dire straits.

Their plan was to simply buy land, to preserve and conserve through direct ownership. Unfortunately, their push for land acquisition in Chile and Argentina ran into bad timing of a significant proportion. Barely two decades after the tumult of the Pinochet dictatorship and that of the military junta, respectively, suspicions abound as to the true intent of these foreigners. After long hardships, Chileans and Argentines also had few reasons to give up their immediate prosperity for long-term ecosystem stability.

And so, as the stage opened and home videos of Doug Tompkin’s funeral rolled, this seemed destined to remain just another impossible American Dream. Instead of being just a touching memorial, however, the main thrust of Wild Life is to document the journey of Kris Tompkins as she completes the dream for her late husband. She would consolidate their land into practices and policies, and eventually establish functioning national parks there. Being mostly a documentary about nature conservancy, there are obligatory wide and stunning landscapes from both the ’90s and more recent times. It is also filled with interviews from the Tompkins’ close friends and allies in both government and civilian roles, but obviously only the positive influences. On the other hand, to fulfill the vicarious thirst to see people push themselves in needlessly harsh circumstances, it is also stuffed with tales enshrining how “hardcore” these early pioneers were.

A cynical take on the motivation here could be that of a brand-building exercise for North Face and Patagonia et al. But I’d like to think that is far from the truth. I believe the film was more about legacy building – by way of introducing one such, albeit giant, legacy, send a call-to-arms for all of us to build the same, multi-millionaires or not. Logical long-term thinking from any number of angles will inevitably favor “not destroying ourselves for the sake of some arbitrary definition of progress” as the all-time best practice. Sadly, while one can convince people to mime their love for nature via puffy jackets and carabiners, it is not easy to entice the uninitiated to live that nature-loving lifestyle. Yes, even with lots of money.

SXSW Reviews: Yogetsu Akasaka, U.S. Girls, Party Dozen

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

Yogetsu Akasaka

Keep Austin Weird. It’s the unofficial motto of Austin and one that can also double as a decent slogan for much of what goes on during SXSW as well. “Weird” might be a bit of a reductive term, but whether you choose to call them unusual, unique, or just something that stood out as memorable in a way that separated them from the rest of the noise, each of these shows were ones that stood out in their own way.

Yogetsu Akasaka, March 14, Victorian Room at The Driskill

A beatboxing Buddhist monk from Japan who apparently never quite plays the same thing twice, Yogetsu Akasaka certainly qualifies as a unique performer. And to see some people sitting down on the floor and fully meditating during his show is probably not an occurrence you’re likely to see on an average day within the confines of the Driskill Hotel.

U.S. Girls (hologram), March 15, Swan Dive

I’ll admit that I was mostly there for the promise of a BBQ lunch and an early afternoon set from Saskatoon’s The Garrys, but after a brief talk onstage from a couple of Canadian music industry folk on the intersection between tech and music, the crowd at Swan Dive was treated to a surprise performance by U.S. Girls … but in hologram form! Sure, why not?

It was definitely a little weird, but also kind of cool, to see holographic Meg Remy give a brief one song performance live from Toronto. Will this hologram stuff catch on as the next big thing in concertgoing? I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that Meg Remy has now joined the ranks of other legendary holographic musicians like Tupac Shakur, Ronnie James Dio, Roy Orbison and Jem and the Holograms. Truly outrageous!

Party Dozen, March 17, Side Bar

When you walk into a room and the band onstage is just a duo of sax and drums, but they’re rocking out like nobody’s business? Yeah, you stay put in that spot and take it all in.

I’m not sure exactly what a party dozen is (a box of donuts brought to a party, perhaps?) but I am sure that Party Dozen put on one hell of a show. And they’ve got the Nick Cave seal of approval too, with the Sydney duo having collaborated with Cave on “Macca The Mutt” off their latest album The Real Work.

SXSW Review: Oracle Sisters, March 18, International Day Stage

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


The final Saturday of SXSW has generally always been a bit more subdued. There’s still things happening of course, but by the end of the week, things tend to slow down a bit. As the conference element of the festival starts winding down and with many of the artists having already played their big showcases, the last day ends up having a more laid back atmosphere. Except for all the folks who only show up on the final weekend just to party on Sixth Street … but that’s a story for another time.

Otherwise, it is a pretty chill affair and this year seemed even more so than usual. With that in mind, I decided to lean into that laid back vibe by starting my day off with a performance by Oracle Sisters at the International Day Stage.

Hailing from Paris, but made up entirely of expats from various locales (Ireland, Finland and the U.S.), Oracle Sisters offered up exactly the kind of laid back, mellow vibes I was looking for. Not too mellow though – they still know how to rock out a bit when the song calls for it.

The band also knows when a song calls for a guest fiddler. The most memorable part of their show came when they brought up Ian Stewart, a local musician who the band had apparently just recently met at Austin honky tonk The Broken Spoke. Stewart joined them for the last few songs of their set and he fit right in as if he’d been playing with them forever.

Serving up ’70s-style folk/pop/rock full of great harmonies and beautiful melodies, Oracle Sisters absolutely charmed the crowd on this laid back Saturday afternoon.