SXSW Review: Minke, March 14, Nuevo Leon Lot

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Bud Light Dive Bar Sessions At SXSW 2019, Austin, TX
Photo Credit: Rick Kern

The dive bar is a longstanding American tradition – the somewhat seedy, kind of dingy joints can be found in most cities, acting as the meeting place where locals go for cheap drinks and cheaper atmosphere.

With this in mind, Bud Light, one of the major sponsors of SXSW, set up something known as the Bud Light Dive Bar Sessions, a pop up re-creation of the sort of vibe you might find in a common dive bar. Rather than use one of Austin’s many actual dive bars though, they set up in a parking lot, complete with dive bar style decor and a cigarette machine (that gave out free prizes, not cigarettes – sorry smokers) for a couple of days of performances from the likes of Saint PHNX, Walker Lukens, Sam Fender, Dreezy, Abhi the Nomad, Ivy Sole, Thutmose, and UK alt-rock/R&B singer Minke.

Before we get into Minke’s performance, let’s take a look at how accurately the Dive Bar Sessions space replicated a dive bar. First off, we’ll focus on the positive – the decor and the signage they had were a reasonable facsimile of the real thing and the price of the beer (free) actually surpassed the cheap drink specials one often finds in these types of places, although a shot of the cheapest whiskey you can find to accompany that beer certainly would have added to the effect. On the other hand, here’s what they got wrong – the bright and shiny outdoor setting on a sunny afternoon just can’t match the darkly lit atmosphere of a true dive bar, although to its credit, the parking lot this was set up in was likely cleaner than the average dive.

Setting all that aside, let’s focus on what everyone was here for (besides the free beer) – the music.

Minke originally got her start back when she was just 18 playing something a little more bluesy before settling on her current direction. It’s essentially pop music, but with a chill, moody vibe and a bit of an edge that’s likely a holdover from her blues/rock days. That mellow vibe came across in her live show as she and her band ran through numbers off of the recently released The Tearoom EP like “Bite The Bullet” and “Maybe 25.” It’s not necessarily the type of thing you’d hear at your local dive bar (I feel like a worn down jukebox playing Lynyrd Sykynrd might fit that profile a bit better) but it made for a pleasant discovery on a Thursday afternoon.

SXSW Review: Otoboke Beaver, March 13, Valhalla

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What can you even say? This was an insane show that will be in my memory bank for years.

Otoboke Beaver is a Kyoto-based all girl quartet that plays aggressive punk rock music. I had expected a crazy show as I headed into Valhalla on Wednesday night but their show just blew my expectations out of the water. Dressed in bright colored dresses and taking the stage with polite smiles, I thought, okay, maybe this will be a good, polite rock show. I was totally wrong.

From the get go, the group displayed a manic energy that sent a surge through the crowd. The aggressive stop-start nature of their music, which blended punk rock/hardcore sounds with some rapid firing Japanese lyrics, whipped the crowd into a mosh pit frenzy. The band were willing ringleaders with the batshit crazy guitarist crowd surfing whilst playing guitar multiple times. Near the end, as the lead singer and the guitarist were climbing the speakers, I think the bar decided enough was enough and shut off the lights and the vocals. That didn’t stop either the band or the crowd from rocking out. What a great show.

SXSW Review: Vandoliers, March 13, The Continental Club

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In all our years of doing SXSW, the Panic Manual crew has rarely made it out for shows on South Congress. No good reason for that really – we know it’s a cool area and have made the effort from time to time, but it is so much further away from that main drag on Sixth Street where a lot of the venues are. Yes, laziness wins out sometimes. Sad but true.

But this year I made the effort to head out to the Continental Club for Bloodshot Records’ annual showcase at the venue. A good choice, as this year’s lineup featured a solid collection of acts that included the Waco Brothers, Laura Jane Grace, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, and Dallas alt-country group (and recent Bloodshot signees) Vandoliers, playing songs off of their just released third album Forever.

At the outset of their show, Vandoliers frontman Joshua Fleming was all ‘aw shucks’ about being the new guys on the label, telling the crowd how last year they were guests on the Bloodshot day show and how he had to sneak into the Continental Club show later that night back then. But now they’re on the label and they’re fully legit. Fleming further proved his and the band’s cred by pointing out how he’s been doing this for 16 years before he got a record deal and then went on to play a song about being broke. Not that he really needed to say anything to prove that Vandoliers fit right in on the Bloodshot roster – the band’s rowdy, punk-infused songs did that all on their own.

SXSW Review: Gurr, Disq, March 12, Cheer Up Charlie’s

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“Thanks for coming out so early to see us and have a breakfast beer” said Gurr’s Laura Lee during their early afternoon set at Cheer Up Charlie’s for the first day of Stereogum’s Range Life day parties (complete with free packs of Stereogum-branded gum – clever!). It was a very SXSW way to greet a crowd for sure – it’s one of those ‘it’s funny because it’s true’ sort of things. According to Lee, that beer and a banana was all she’d had so far that day, although a poll of her bandmates revealed that they’d all had something at least slightly more substantial for breakfast – respectively, a bagel with avocado, a muffin, and another bagel, this one with cheese and turkey. A band playing SXSW has gotta stay well fed, after all.

Gurr put on a fun show full of scrappy, poppy, garage-y indie rock tunes like “Moby Dick” and “#1985,” but they also took some time during their set to comment on how things had changed in the short time since the Berlin-based band were last in town for SXSW. “We were in Austin two years ago and it’s very different now,” said Andreya Casablanca, explaining that back then “it was sunny all the time and there were no scooters.” It’s true, the weather up to that point had kind of sucked and those damn scooters were pretty unavoidable this year. The band even went on to have a bit of a mini-debate with the crowd about scooter pros and cons (apparently they’re banned in Germany). Regardless of your position on scooters, Gurr are worth a listen.

Preceding Gurr’s set and starting things off for the day on the adjacent indoor stage was Disq, a young band out of Madison, Wisconsin who I knew nothing about but who managed to impress.

With his shaggy hair and glasses, singer Isaac de-Broux-Slone looks a bit like a baby Thurston Moore and while there’s a bit of a Sonic Youth influence to be heard in their music, vocally he bears a slight resemblance to a younger, less bummed out David Bazan. The band just recently released it’s latest single “Communication” as a single via Saddle Creek. Check out the video for “Communication” below: