SXSW

SXSW 2019 Recap: Bests, Worsts, Etc.

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

The Comet is Coming

This was our 11th year at SXSW. It definitely seemed smaller than previous years, but that could also be because it didn’t coincide with Spring Break. Neverless, it was still fun and for me, it was a pleasure to see the rise of Asian bands to the forefront. Anyways, let’s do a recap.

Best Act

Gary:The Comet Is Coming. No question. Saw them at St. David’s first and then again outside of Latitude 30. Different feeling of euphoria each time. Also, Yola. I think I was on the verge of tearing up at one point – but can’t remember which song.

Ricky:
1. Otoboke Beaver. As I already wrote, they left an impression on me that i’ll remember for a while.
2. Chai
3. The Comet is Coming

Derek: Chai/The Beths/The Comet Is Coming

Paul: The Beths were my most anticipated act going in to SXSW and were easily one of the best acts I saw all week. I already loved their 2018 album Future Me Hates Me, but seeing those songs performed live sealed the deal. I saw them live three times during SXSW (twice on the same day) and probably would have been OK with seeing them play even more shows if I could have. Tracks like “Future Me Hates Me” and “You Wouldn’t Like Me” are feel good jams about feeling bad.

Worst/Most Disappointing Act

Ricky: Nothing really, since most of the bands I saw were new. I was disappointed Graham Coxon didn’t sing “Coffee and TV”, but that’s a minor complaint.

Gary: Everyone was pulling their weight this year and I honestly didn’t have a bad set, not even at the Australian who stripped down to his boxers … Maybe Big Phony. Because he would be disappointed if I wasn’t disappointed when he was trying to be disappointing. Films … now that’s a completely different story.

Paul: The great thing about SXSW is that if you don’t like something, you can just move on, so if you’re lucky you can avoid any major disappointments. That said, Italian shoegazers Be Forest didn’t do too much for me, but that’s probably more on me for being too sleepy and it being too late at night for their moody shoegaze sound to really hit home for me. The album still sounds good though.

Most Pleasant Surprise

Ricky: All the Asian rock bands kicking ass. Go Asia

Derek: Wyclef Jean’s performance at Parish

Paul: CHAI was amazing! Such a fun show. Also, seeing local Austin collective World Music Unleashed was a memorable experience. Five musicians coming together on tabla, sitar, violin, clarinet, and a standard rock drum kit to create a unique noise. Plus I found this mysterious message on a napkin at the bar at Russian House during their show:
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(According to Gary, it translates to something like, “people who don’t drink = fucking losers” … I guess they’ve got a bit of a point.)

Gary: Small Glories. Reminds me how wholesome Saturday mornings used to be when Vinyl Cafe would beam through just as I was bleary-eyed. Good thing my Alberta roots are still there to resonate with them. But I had also to restrain myself from answering that I am from Edmonton.

Favourite Moment

Derek: Seeing Chai.

Paul: Seeing Mike D and Ad-Rock of The Beastie Boys give a talk that was basically just an hour of them being hilarious was great. And on a personal note, singing karaoke at the Japan party was pretty rad.

Gary: When the vag-cannon was ready to fire. It’s really difficult to translate how hilarious this really was, so the alternative would be when The Nude Party sang “Chevrolet Van” and it was so stupefyingly good that I thought it must have been a cover…

Ricky: I really enjoyed this track by the Comet is Coming

Also, going to Uchi and Franklin for the first time ever was quite great. Hopefully not the last time

What Was Different or Notable About SXSW This Year?

Ricky: SXSW felt sparse and tiny this year. I wonder if that’s just because it wasn’t during Spring Break. The bands definitely felt even smaller than last year, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different.

Derek: Noticeably smaller crowds, less access at Cedar St. Courtyard. :)

Gary: Austin was … lighter this year, on the psyche. Perhaps it was the chilly weather, or the thinner crowd, or perhaps a combination of the shows I decided to visit. It has not left the mark like last year. Coincidentally, it’s the first year in over a decade where I don’t have new tracks added to my phone from SXSW.

Paul: We’ve asked ourselves this question a few times in recent years and there’s been a general feeling that SXSW has been scaling down. It’s been noticeably smaller over the past few years, but this year was the first year that it felt smaller in a weird way. Not a bad way, necessarily, but like Ricky said, just … different. By the end of the week though, a quick walk along Dirty Sixth showed that in a lot of ways, things hadn’t changed too much.

Here is a playlist of bands we saw!

SXSW Reviews: Celeste, Dylan LeBlanc, Low Cut Connie, More Or Les, Body Type, March 16

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

Celeste

For the purposes of breaking things down into neat (or not so neat) little categories, I’ll be dividing my coverage of the last full day of SXSW into two sections – Mojo Nixon and not Mojo Nixon. This is not to say that Mojo was necessarily better than anything else I saw on this day, but it did stand out as its own weird, crazy little thing separate from everything else. But other than the fact that they’re not Mojo, there’s nothing really linking the acts in these reviews together besides the fact that they all happened on the final Saturday. I guess that’s enough. Here goes:

Celeste
After scarfing down a few top notch breakfast tacos from Pueblo Viejo, I made my way to the convention center to take in a set from London-based soul singer Celeste, who started the day off nicely with some chill, jazzy R&B vibes on the Radio Day Stage. I’ve got to say though, going by just Celeste makes her slightly more difficult to Google, but I guess the one name thing worked for fellow Brits Estelle and Adele (and Sting), so then again, why not?

Dylan LeBlanc

Dylan LeBlanc
Making our way back out to South Congress later in the afternoon, we lucked out and arrived at Hotel San Jose when there was a bit of a lull in the lineup and only had to wait a few minutes before things started to move, getting inside in time to catch a few tunes from Nashville based singer-songwriter Dylan LeBlanc. LeBlanc and his band The Pollies impressed with a sound that brought to mind the likes of Jason Isbell and Neil Young at times.


Low Cut Connie
I’ll readily admit that we were mostly there for the fried chicken, but the fact that Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie were playing a set to close things out for the night at Lucy’s Fried Chicken was just the icing on the cake … or the hot sauce on the chicken if I’m not mixing my metaphors. And much like the fried chicken, Low Cut Connie served up a greasy, satisfying experience to the packed house at Lucy’s outdoor stage, running through a set of down and dirty rock and roll. “You wanna see me get on top of this piano?” asked singer Adam Weiner at one point in their set and my only thought was, “Dude, I’m so far back I can’t even see the piano. But thanks for getting on top of something, I guess.”

More Or Les
After taking in an excellent set from Say Sue Me at Beerland (read Ricky’s review of their show from earlier in the week), I will admit that the week was starting to take it’s toll on me and I retreated back to Chez Panic Manual for a bit of a disco nap. I thought I might have been done right then and there, but I managed to rally and headed out to Flamingo Cantina to take in some nerdcore, catching a bit of MC Frontalot and Schaffer The Darklord before seeing the sole Torontonian act I would catch all week – More Or Les. Les performed a set of songs from his latest, Nerd Love, along with a few choice selections from throughout his career, including set highlight “Brunch Again” – as Les pointed out, you can be a nerd about anything, including his favourite meal of the day. Performing with a projector for the first time ever (“a delicate and dangerous situation,” according to Les), he went full multimedia, which meant he had to contend with the projector getting jostled about for a bit, but after taping the damn thing down, the show went off mostly without a hitch. It went by too quickly for sure, but without too much of a hitch anyways.

Body Type
The final act of the night for me also put on one of the most energetic sets of the entire week. These four Australian ladies almost seemed to be having more fun than the audience for their 1:00am slot at Swan Dive, although the dude who felt the need to try and fist bump the members of the band during their set probably felt like he was having more fun. Body Type have only got an EP to their name so far, with another on the way in May of this year. Here’s hoping for even more to come soon.

SXSW Review: Yola, March 13, Radio Day Stage

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

Yola

Yola (Carter) has a gift with her voice. It is not only the volume and clarity with which she holds your attention. No, your 8th grade English teacher can do that. It’s the deep connection she has with the audience, and the layered delivery that allows her to pack much emotion into melodies that I would in all likelihood completely disregard had they been sent across the radio.

Working from her debut album, tracks like the eponymous “Walk Through Fire” and “It Ain’t Easier”, for example, are both classic country numbers in my book. If this were to go down as the only country set I visited at SXSW after a decade, then so be it. (But if anyone asks I would still staunchly, in a principled manner, deny ever having been). Coming from a background of gun-for-hire for other bands, Yola’s natural strengths in soul and country really do shine through. Here, hitting notes and harmonies, while important, are secondary to the electric feeling that builds up in the air. It’s like she and Dan Auerbach guard a box (or a cowboy hat) with magic dust and sprinkle it sparingly.

There are some gems in the songwriting as well. There is nothing more “real” than the lyrics which with I nearly laughed my fellow passengers’ heads off on the L:

Nobody moves the way you do
walking ’round the grocery store
Only you know what you’re looking for

What kind of sick and twisted person would double-entendre with your expectations in a longingly expressive love song? The British kind, of course. Other highlights for me were “Shady Grove”, “Still Gone”, and “Faraway Look”.

Check out the video for “Faraway Look” below:

SXSW Food Reviews: Uchi, Franklin, and more

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

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Here we go:

Franklin

First of all, did you know you can pre-order from Franklin? This will save you time. You will need to order a few weeks before SXSW and you will need to order a minimum of 5 pounds of meat so plan accordingly.

Franklin is the holy grail for BBQ. It’s considered the best and the lineups reflect this. Luckily we pre-ordered and we got the following:

2 pounds of brisket
2 pounds of ribs
1 pound of sausage (yields 6)

As expected, the food was phenomenal. It also came with onions, bread and pickles as you expect.

The brisket had a nice ratio of fat and meat that melts in your mouth and the bark was super tasty with a peppery mix of spice. Brisket is king at BBQ and Franklin is definitely among the best I’ve had.

The ribs were also awesome with a similar spice rub and the expected fall off the bone goodness. The sausage was tasty but a distant third on the taste meter.

Considering the absurd lineup for Franklin, the real question is … is it that much better then other places like La Barbecue to warrant the wait? I’m not sure. Top BBQ is top BBQ and I’m not sure the small percentage improvement is worth the wait.

However, if you do go to only one place, it’s definitely Franklin.

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Uchi

Uchi has been on my Austin Eat list for many years. However, being on South Lamar, its not exactly that close to everything else at SXSW. This year I decided to make the journey and boy, am I glad I did.

We chose an unofficial omakase, where the chef recommended some dishes for us based off our feelings.

What’s nice about Uchi was that it seems to blend Japanese food with some slight twists. For a lot of the cold dishes, raw fish was paired with a heavy use of citrus, which was a newer experience. Another dish paired the fish with candied quinoa.

Aside from the fusion dishes, the fish quality was amazing for a landlocked city. The uni, toro and other sushi pieces we had tasted next level.

The karaage came out with a strong smell, as a result of fish paste usage but tasted delicious

All in all, a delicious time. With drinks it came out to about 100 USD per person, so budget accordingly

Shorter reviews:

Pueblo Vieja – Best breakfast tacos within walking distance of ACC, hands down. The Taco Bueno is especially tasty with its mix of chorizo, cheese and potatoes. Ask for the corn tortillas, as they provide a nice texture when heated up and crisp.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya – I think I have to go to this place every year now. Its combination of Texas BBQ meets Japanese food is so unique and so tasty, it’s impossible to ignore. The smoked fish collar is a stunner and the BBQ brisket tsukemon is out of the world. One of my favourite place to eat anywhere.

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Suerte – Refined Mexican inspired food that served us an amazing cauliflower taco. This is definitely fancy in terms of Tacos, and even serves you a crazy Uni dish inside an actual dead sea urchin. You can even take that sea urchin shell home if your name is Gary.

Matt’s El Rancho – A highly rated Tex Mex place in South Lamar. I find Tex-Mex food to be only okay at best, but this place was definitely okay. It had a lively atmosphere and was very cheap. You can easily stuff yourself with queso, enchiladas and stuffed peppers here at a reasonable cost. Quality is also only okay.

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