If I had to boil it all down and describe Screaming Females with a single word, “ferocious” would probably be the best descriptor. The New jersey band plays with such energy and intensity that it’s hard not to get swept up in it all and want to start a band right then and there. Even the construction workers on a nearby rooftop had to stop what they were doing and check them out for a bit. Singer Marissa Paternoster is an impressive frontwoman who absolutely gives it her all. Oh, and she also totally shreds on the guitar. Ferocious.
Following Screaming Females was LA rapper Earl Sweatshirt, who matched the intensity of Screaming Females in his own way. After being informed that he had eight minutes left in his set, Earl addressed the crowd gathered to see him at Stubb’s: “I’m gonna need y’all to guarantee that the next eight minutes are gonna be turnt as fuck!” The crowd, of course, did their best to comply.
Those lyrics start off Superchunk’s “Me & You and Jackie Mittoo” and I’ve got to admit that at one point later that night on my third day of SXSW I was feeling exactly that way as I wandered the streets in search of something worth checking out, something that would bolster my spirits. I was briefly encouraged as I walked past Fader Fort, the sounds of Miley Cyrus singing “We Can’t Stop” echoing though the Austin night. Thanks for the encouragement Miley, but as it turns out I did end up calling it an early night after checking out a couple more bands. Maybe I just peaked too early with a solid couple of mid-afternoon performances from Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and Deerhoof.
McCaughan played a solo set that really highlighted his strength as a songwriter and storyteller. Hearing him play selections from his upcoming solo album Non Believers alongside classic Superchunk and Portastatic songs. While the classics sounded great, the new stuff definitely did not pale in comparison with “Boombox Batteries” in particular standing out with it’s nostalgic lyrics. Another New one, “Only Do,” not only featured an apparent Yoda reference in the title but also featured some nice accompaniment from Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield on vocals.
Deerhoof played with their usual intensity and eccentricity. Having seen them before, I knew what to expect, but they’re endlessly entertaining (I could have easily gone back to see them play the same venue later that night … and maybe should have) and it was fun to see others in the crowd experience it for the first time. I overheard a guy in front of me stating that he loved everything about the band and of course Satomi Matsuzaki’s dance routines were a real crowd pleaser. It’s safe to say Deerhoof made a few new fans that afternoon.
One of my little enjoyments at SXSW every year is KPop night. Each year, the delegates from South Korea send out their brightest and newest exports to Austin. It’s a delight because these bands are ridiculously popular in their home country and then they come here and play this dive bar. It also happens to be one of the most popular nights in Austin, as the lineup to see these pop acts wrapped around the block with people lining up as early as noon on Thursday (for a band that played at 12:30 am)
Crayon Pop is a five member girl group that formed in 2012. Their fame was not immediate, but they’ve had a few big hits since forming and also opened for Lady Gaga before. One of their tracks is Bar Bar Bar, which I will admit, I have in my head after listening to it
To say the crowd was stoked to see them was an understatement. Taking the stage at exactly midnight, the girls came on to a thunderous applause and proceeded to do one of their tracks. The group’s style can be best described as high energy edm style music with catchy choruses. The group seems to have nicely incorporated a lot of audience participation in their music which makes for a fun time.
As expected, the group’s choreographed dancing was on point, they were fun and interesting and did some standard pop stuff. Like during one song, each member had their time up front and was cheered by the fans, presuming that member was their favorite. They also wore those headset microphones for dancing (along with holding microphones) although I’m not sure how much of their vocals made it through. They were helped by backing tracks but that’s probably expected.
The group debut their new track “FM” to us and I liked how one of the girls said that we are “very special people” because we got to see the debut of the track. Tell it like it us.
The obvious highlight of the night was when the girls put on the Helmet for their hit song Bar Bar Bar. I have no idea why they have helmets on…is it a subliminal PSA? Judging by the crowd’s excitement, they could have worn Hitler masks and the crowd would have still loved it. Pop music – making people happy since forever.
Waterloo Records is a bit of an Austin institution. Over the years, the store has always hosted an impressive and varied lineup for their SXSW day parties and this year was no exception. Thursday afternoon’s lineup focused on the roots/country end of things with Asleep At The Wheel taking the 1pm slot. The Texas swing legends recently paid tribute to the man who pioneered the genre, Bob Wills, on their latest album Still The King. That album features many guest appearances from the likes of Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, The Avett Brothers, and Old Crow Medicine Show collaborating with the band on classic Texas Playboy songs. Of course as fate would have it, none of those performers were in town for SXSW, but Robert Earl Keen was, and he joined the band on “Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas.” Ray Benson led his bandmates through a few more selections off the latest album along with a few other numbers like their version of “Route 66″ and they all showed off some impressive instrumental skills.
Waterloo Records are notable for being one of the spots hosting all ages shows and while the audience for a Texas swing band that’s been around since the ’70s obviously skews towards the upper level of the age bracket, there really was a wide range of ages represented, ranging from families to a few teens and twentysomethings to the folks who probably remember seeing Asleep At The Wheel back in the day. This might suggest that Asleep At The Wheel have become something of an institution themselves. They may have started out as hippie-ish upstarts when they first got started, but at this point, they’ve become the standard bearers, keeping the music alive with a bit of flair and old school showmanship.