South By Southwest

SXSW Review: Flower, March 17, The Green Jay

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

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In all of our years attending SXSW, music venue turnover has been a fairly common occurrence – in fact, just this week, two bars on Rainey St. closed down for good, soon to be replaced by condos.

It’s certainly not unusual to see places shutting down, reopening under a new name, or even keeping the same name and moving to a new location. And this year was no different, with one notable new venue being the recently opened Green Jay, which has taken over the space formerly known as Beerland.

Now, Beerland was never the nicest or classiest of venues – I mean, it was called Beerland – but the place had a certain divey charm. So when I saw that a new spot had opened in its place, I figured it was worth checking out. And it was – the new owners have given the place a bit of an upgrade and the bar had a great lineup of bands all week, making it an easy decision to keep coming back. In fact, I think I ended up there almost every day of the festival and saw several memorable shows, from Irish alt-poppers Beauty Sleep to London post-punk/pub rock band Hotel Lux to New York indie rockers Flower.

Flower got their start as a band back in 1986 and lasted until 1990, with members Ed and Richard Baluyut later going on to form Versus. They got the band back together a few years ago and were at SouthBy this year promoting their latest, 2020’s None Is (But Once Was) – their first new album in 30 years.

It’s a solid collection and it sounded great live, though that still didn’t deter some guy from telling his friend that they were planning on going somewhere else. He said this between songs, and loudly enough that the band noticed, so naturally they had to comment. And even though they called him out, asking him not to bail on them as they only had two songs left (though I think they actually had three), the dude left anyways. His loss, I suppose.

SxSW Review: Claire Rousay, Moor Mother, Circuit des Yeux , March 17, Central Presbyterian Church

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

This must be one of the most unique showcases that I have ever attended at SxSW. It is little surprise that it took place in one of the Churches – where else should people sit silently through what at first might appear to be snippets of grating and unpleasant garble in the hopes of a holistic nirvana at the end?

Claire Rousay

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San Antonio-based Claire Rousay uses humdrum found sounds such as voicemail, conversations and urban background as samples to weave together soundscapes that are ordinarily more suited to an installation in one of the MoMAs than to a SxSW performance. As I’m sure she was aware, in a church fitted with concert speakers, the live experience is more haptic than auditory. Fuzzy white noise invades like water flowing through your toes, and the voice recordings pierce with an urgency like a woodpecker knocking its head against the trunk. Of course, that’s just my euphemistic that her musique concrete mostly centers on insecurity and self-harm. Unless we’re not supposed to discern the meaning from words alone.

Moor Mother

20220317 Moor Mother

Even for a novice, it’s clear that Moor Mother‘s Black Encyclopedia of the Air was not meant to be played in a place of light. It took several tries for Philly’s rap poet to raise the attention of the stage-hands, who finally realized that the stained-glass panels on both sides of the chancel needed to be blotted out. And so we sat in near pitch darkness in the nave while Camae Ayewa told us terrible tales.

The recorded version has more life given it by the backing of synth music and beats, but she played this set as a string of lamentations and eulogies. Using the space as a gathering space for storytelling, she was only accompanied by a lone trumpet that served like a backup vocal. Out of order, separate tracks like “Made A Circle”, “Tarot”, “Shekere” and further afield were fused into a continuous timeline that despairs and inspires simultaneously. It is an ingenious take that synthesized the material and the locale into a new experience.

Circuit des Yeux

20220317 Circuit de Yeux

Chicago-based Haley Fohr, aka Circuit des Yeux, was committed to deliver an impression as far removed from that on her bandcamp profile as possible. Given the music videos, I had expected a dramatic if eccentric fashion but not the morbidly gothic garb and makeup. However, it does suit her powerfully baritone voice as she presides over the many mournful numbers like “Dogma” and “Sculpting the Exodus.”

The first half of the set was focused on the recent album -IO. And quite dramatically (again), she opened up a theremin-like voice and the songwriting veered 180 degrees into lighter passages that included… Manatees, if I recall correctly.

Either this was the most uniquely enjoyable showcase ever, or I’d gotten into some potent edibles from that Curb driver.

SxSW Review: Sunflower Bean, Houndmouth , March 17, Radio Day Stage

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

As part of a showcase put on by 88.5FM from So-Cal, we report from the dreaded Ballroom A, where the Day Stage has been (IMHO mistakenly) placed at the back of Austin Convention Center, three blocks from where, as the years catch up with us, we would have liked it to be to minimize our Strava trails.

Sunflower Bean

20220317 Sunflower Bean
NYC 3-piece Sunflower Bean thrives on indie rock influences. But the lineage seemed all over the place as they broadened their scope of influences on their last album Twentytwo In Blue. As it repeats on their new album Headful of Sugar, which will be released May 2022, perhaps this broad range is decidedly a style and not a statistical sampling error. For example, the single “Who Put You Up To This?” seems like it came straight from the end credit of an ’80s movie, while “Baby Don’t Cry” could have issued from the garage of those grunge kids down the street in the ’00s. Regardless, their live performance, which I think included a few songs from the previous album, was solid and engaging.

Houndmouth

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Indiana’s Houndmouth first played SxSW in 2012 and never looked back. They are also decidedly un-vague in their musical leanings of indie blues. They played two thirds of their recent album Good For You and in person, they sounded warmer and fuller than their recordings.

Singer-guitarist Matt Myers’ effortless songwriting is simply a joy to listen to. “Miracle Mile” had me strung-along and I almost veered into “Leaving on A Jetplane”. It makes you want to drop everything at hand, grab a lawn chair, crack open a beer, and drift hazily into the firefly-filled night… at least until you wake up covered in bonfire soot and mosquito bites.

SXSW Review: Hamish Hawk, March 17, Swan Dive Patio

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

20220319 Hamish Hawk
It’s somewhat fitting that one month after I ordered The Divine Comedy’s Greatest Hits record on vinyl, I would encounter Hamish Hawk at SXSW.

Strictly speaking, the Scottish singer’s deep voice and observational lyrics heavily reminded me of Neil Hannon’s group and considering I just bought a compilation record covering all of that group’s hits over the past 30 years, that’s not a band thing. In today’s world, where most of the relatively new bands from the UK all sound like they just discovered Idles, it’s fresh to see someone like Hamish Hawk stand out from the crowd with his rich, witty lyrics and storytelling against a more pop-based backdrop.

Hamish’s live shows are also entertaining, as he for whatever reason loves to accentuates his lyrics with very interesting facial reactions as well as entertaining banter between tracks.

Worth checking out.