South By Southwest

SXSW Review: BNQT, March 15, Easy Tiger

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BNQT are basically Eric Pulido’s dream team. The band is made up of members of Pulido’s band Midlake alongside Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle and Travis’ Fran Healy, as well as Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos and Band Of Horses Ben Bridwell (the latter two weren’t able to join the band for this occasion). With such a roster of talent, you could call them a supergroup (like a 2000s indie version of The Travelling Wilburys or Crosby, Stills and Nash) but more simply than that, it came across as a group of friends who are mutual fans of each other’s work coming together to make music for the sheer joy of it.

During their set at Easy Tiger as part of the Bella Union 20th anniversary showcase, Pulido told some stories about his new bandmates and how their music had an impact on him. He described his unsuccessful attempts to woo girls by playing acoustic versions of Travis’ “Why Does It Always Rain On Me” back in his younger days, and talked about seeing Grandaddy play SXSW many years before and slipping a Midlake album to them, though he didn’t know if the band actually listened to it. Lytle confirmed that they did in fact listen and that Midlake became one of his favourite bands. There was definitely a mutual love and respect going on between the bandmates.

With the three singers alternating between numbers (Healy appreciated the fact that with a band like this, the spotlight was only on him for some of the time), the band played songs from their upcoming debut album Vol. 1 as well as a selection of songs from each band’s career – Midlake’s “Roscoe,” Grandaddy’s “AM 180″, and the aforementioned Travis tune. it was great to hear those songs live in a slightly different configuration, with the addition of that trademark Midlake flute on “Why Does It Always Rain On Me” being a particular treat. This show was a highlight of SXSW and one of the most satisfying performances of the entire week. While the individual band members are obviously all busy with their other projects, here’s hoping they find some time to play a few more shows together in the future.

SXSW Review: Noname, March 15, Cheer Up Charlie’s

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One of the up and coming acts at SXSW that received a lot of hype coming into Austin, Noname played a packed show at Cheer Up Charlie’s at midnight on Wednesday night to much enthusiasm. Also known as Fatimah Warner, Noname came to the forefront with her association with Chance the Rapper (including a SNL appearance) and listening to her set, you can see that they have similar tastes in the way their songs are constructed. Perhaps it’s a Chicago thing, but Noname also likes to rap over laid back jazzy vibes with the piano playing a big part in the tracks. It’s chilled out mellow rap which is seems to suit Noname’s personality which seems to be laid back, and chill.

Noname brought a full band with her for the showcase, which is definitely not the norm with hip hop acts. They added a nice organic touch to the music. Her set on Wednesday had sound problems but that did not deter the crowd from showing it’s appreciation despite Noname’s disclaimers (she mentioned how her monitor was messed up and she was feeling all vulnerable on stage, but just went with it). It’s actually kind of crazy how in the past few years, more and more hip hop artists are comfortable with saying they are anxious or awkward on stage. Is it a Drake thing? I don’t know.

Anyways, here’s a tune by her

SXSW Review: Let’s Eat Grandma, March 17, Mohawk

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A duo from Norwich, Let’s Eat Grandma are still too young to drink publicly, yet in a span of a few shows, they have become a buzz band at SXSW.

Set up primarily with a laptop, two keyboards and a guitar, Let’s Eat Grandma’s music showed remarkable depth, blending in atmospheric synth with sparse percussion and the occasional flair, such as a saxophone or a glockenspiel. On top of that, I’m pretty convinced that they were having the most fun on stage out of all the bands I saw. Along with their music, the duo added dance elements to their set in sync with their music that plain straight looked fun (choreographed handclaps are big in their set).

The only downside was that the group had problems with their equipment and had to cut their set short, leaving me and the audience wanting more. All in all, it’s a bit of weirdo pop, but that’s what makes it so good

SXSW Review: Garland Jeffreys, March 15, The Blackheart

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It’s Wednesday morning, pretty much right in the middle of South By Southwest and for some reason, I’ve decided that it would be a good idea to catch a show that starts at 9:30am. Yes, a show in the morning at SXSW, where it’s not uncommon to hear people saying “good morning” to a crowd at 1:00pm. And I must say, the streets of Austin at that time of the morning seem pretty strange … in that they probably seem a little more like what Austin’s like when it’s not SXSW. I saw people going to work, somebody jogging, and most shockingly, cars were driving down the main drag of Sixth Street. Then I saw a guy dressed all in black wearing what looked like a cloak and I could reassure myself that it was indeed still SouthBy.

By the time I got to the Blackheart, people were already milling about, enjoying some breakfast tacos and waiting for Garland Jeffreys to take to the stage. Jeffreys, best known for his 1977 single “Wild In The Streets,” was one of the veteran performers playing the festival this year, and like a lot of folks who’ve been playing for that long, he’s got a lot of stories. So it was great that his front porch performance was as much about him telling stories and reminiscing as it was about the music.

Between songs, Jeffreys told stories about growing up in Brooklyn, going to PS72, basketball, his father and grandfather (aka Daddy Ray and Shorty Boulder), and of course, his best friend, the late Lou Reed. (“Lovely guy. I know his reputation’s not so good, but fuck reputation.”) He followed that up with a great version of The Velvet underground’s “Waiting For The Man” and later played a cover of The Beatles’ “Help” wherein he convinced the crowd to all sing along with the high part. Of course, he also played his own stuff, showcasing a few numbers from his latest 14 Steps to Harlem. And when he was done, he simply ended it of by saying, “And that’s it, that’s the show.” And then I went back to my hotel for a bit, because I got up way too early. Totally worth it though.