Latitude 30 at SXSW always uncovers a few gems and this year was no exception.
With a name like Sundara Kharma, I thought maybe the band would be a Kula Shaker tribute band for some reason, but as per usual, I was completely wrong.
Sundara Kharma are a four piece rock band from Reading and from what I heard, they have a knack for writing big anthemic rock songs that may or may not take them to the next levels, depending on how the dominoes fall. The band certainly has the look of a soon to be big band, with lead singer Oscar “Lulu” Pollock dressing up in a flamboyant white suit and donning enough eyeliner to make Nicky Wire jealous.
With their ridiculously catchy chorus, tracks like “She Said” and “Flame” would have fit right in in the mid 90’s and I was surprised to see people at Latitude 30 singing along. I’m like, who are these people, and why are they so up to date on music? Don’t they have day jobs?
I came away super impressed and it wouldn’t surprise me if these guys became big. Check them out if they roll into town.
Girlpool – Girlpool always put on a fun show and one of the most memorable elements of a Girlpool show is their funny and endearing stage banter, which on this occasion included musings on “the wave,” the band’s drummer then initiating the crowd into doing the wave, sunburns, the Lana Del Rey show the night before (“i’m gonna look at the picture I took with her every day for like, a year.”) and even some food recommendations. For those who might have been hungry during their show at Cheer Up Charlie’s, Cleo Tucker recommended grabbing something from Taco Baby. After her bandmate Harmony Tividad wondered where the food truck got it’s name from (“Is it like a little baby taco?”), Cleo added that “taco baby” sounded like it could be a Lana Del Rey lyric. Stage banter aside, hearing the band’s old tunes with a full band for the first time really fleshed them out quite a bit. And of course the new stuff sounds quite good too.
Dream Wife – One of the most exciting discoveries of SXSW almost passed me by, but luckily I was able to catch an early afternoon set by Dream Wife on the last day of the festival and was blown away by the fiery, energetic punk sounds emanating from these three badass ladies and their drummer (who I’m sure is also pretty badass, even though he did look a bit like My So Called Life’s Brian Krakow).
Idles – By the end of SXSW, I’m usually a little tired of your standard guitar rock, which is why I generally try to seek out anything but that. Luckily, Idles are not quite your standard guitar rock – with a violent, confrontational air to their performance, the band ended the festival off for me on a definite high note.
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra – With perhaps the most fun and energetic show of the entire week, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra definitely brought the party and often seemed to be having as much fun as the audience themselves. The band’s been around since the ’80s and in that time, they’ve clearly become masters of working a crowd. “You want more? WE want more!”
Spoon - The local band made a big impact at SXSW, hosting a residency throughout the week to introduce people to their excellent new album Hot Thoughts. It was impossible to miss them and frankly, why would you miss them? Spoon has consistently been good and this year was no different. Their show mixed new and old, and even with the new synth driven sounds, it’s still a Spoon song in it’s essence. One of the things I like to say about Spoon which might be generic and lazy is that there is no other band that sounds like Spoon and even as the group explores it’s sound, I think that will always be true.
Black Lips – Gone are the days when the Black Lips play insane shows where bodily fluids flew about like an Indian Monsoon. The group is older but still a ton of fun and they proved it with a fun, rocking show at the Cedar Courtyard. The short set featured some new songs and some old classics like “Oh Katrina” and “Bone Marrow.” Even in a tight environment like the Courtyard, the group found space to be creative with Jack Hines sliding off the stair rails to start the show off. For the Black Lips fans that braved their way to the front, they were also treated to some free donuts as well, which is nice.
New Pornographers – If the showcase I witnessed is any indication, the new New Pornographers album will see the band tackle new sonic landscapes with a more synth driven sound. Given their past track record, I say, why not? It was nice to see Neko Case back in the fold at Stubbs on Wednesday night as she joined the group to promote new records and relive old classics. Hearing Neko sing “Mass Romantic” is rather nice although I’ve heard non Neko for so long now it’s kinda of jarring.
Ramesh - For me, I’ll always wonder what happened to Voxtrot. Ramesh’s former band started off with an amazing EP but was unable to maintain momentum. Since then I have seen Ramesh’s name bandied about the music circle but he has yet to establish the foothold he once had. Still Ramesh’s showcase on Tuesday showed flourishes of what made me like Voxtrot – well written songs that buoy between happy and sad while navigating an 80’s pop-inspired musical landscape. The set was good and perhaps this configuration of the band will see success once again.
Supermoon - An all female quartet from Vancouver, Supermoon played fun, guitar driven, almost East Coast sounding rock music at the Canada House on a semi warm afternoon. Clearly a new band, the group showed potential while also showcasing a dry humor and actually ran out of songs rather quickly, despite the crowd wanting more. Not a bad start.
Flint Eastwood was a band I literally stumbled upon. I was walking past the Sidewinder bar on my way to get some food when I heard this powerful voice coming out the backyard. I was like, this sounds interesting and walked to the show. The band that was playing was Flint Eastwood and boy did they put on a fun show. As you can tell by the picture, they sort of look like a metal band but after a few songs, I realized they weren’t a metal band but given their synth heavy sound with a penchant for big anthemic choruses, the trio sounded more like Chvrches, which is odd since the band consisted of someone on guitar, a drummer and the singer.
Let me tell you about the singer. Some people were born to perform. Jax Anderson seems like she was born to perform. There was an immense intensity about her that the crowd just gravitated to. When she told us to come closer, it didn’t sound like a plea, it sounded like a demand and we obliged. When she told us to sing a part of the song, we felt like we had to. I’m not saying she’s bossy, I’m just saying when she says or sings something, it meant business.
It all added to a good show and there are definitely some single worthy songs. Apparently, one of them was on some show called Teen Wolf already. With good tracks and such a charismatic stage presence, I would not be surprised if Flint Eastwood makes some noise in the near future.