SXSW Review: Best Coast, Red Bull Soundstage, March 12

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Best Coast

I’m not sure if this was an official show case, but Best Coast played an early night show on Tuesday night for Red Bull as part of their select sound show case. They were significantly less drunk than the last time I saw them, which was at the Spin party at last year’s SXSW.

Playing a set of songs from the two albums, I had a perfectly enjoyable time. The band doesn’t do a whole lot on stage besides drink, and play their songs while mostly remaining stationary (Bobb Bruno is more animated of the two). Set closers Boyfriend and When I’m With You remain excellent songs that perfectly exemplify Best Coast’s music – easily digestible lyrics played over a quick hitting, upbeat lo-fi type of rock . Beth Cosentino’s sweet voice and musings are as pleasant as ever, and as I have gotten more time with sophomore release The Only Place, the tracks off there I found to be just as enjoyable as the first one now (which wasn’t always the case). I actually think that the song The Only Place should be the anthem for California. The lyrics capture everything good about California:

We’ve got the ocean, got the babes
Got the sun, we’ve got the waves

And none of the bad (horrible traffic, brutal unemployment rates). A great sell job by my standards anyway.

I wonder if Best Coast will be one of the bands that as time passes, becomes one of those bands that’ll be like ..oh yeah Best Coast, I like them..they are good. Then you will go and see them and feel good ..but not great. I guess I am wondering if they have plateaued as a band, which is awful to think for a band with only two albums. Not sure why I think this. It just seems like their sound hasn’t changed much in the years and as a result, my feelings about them hasn’t changed. Does that make sense? Who knows.

Having said all that, Best Coast’s third album is set to drop sometime this year.

SXSW Spin Party Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, CHVRCHES, Solange

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Despite their lack of physical publication, Spin always manages to throw one of the best parties at SXSW. There is free food, free booze and the lineup is constantly on the ball and this year was no exception. I only attended the first portion of the bill and here’s a quick take.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO)
One of the bands with the oddest names that I know, the New Zealand three piece act played a short set heavy on noise to open up the day. Purveyors of what I can only assume is their own interpretation psychedelic music, UMO‘s set had a sort of droney groove about it that you lose yourself into and then somehow end up just nodding your head and smiling stupidly for about half an hour.

Lead singer Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES gets our award for cutest lead singer for any band at SXSW. Displaying a surprising amount of energy for a mid-afternoon SXSW set, her banter between songs was refreshing and honest (“We are half way through our set list, hang in there!”,”Maybe we’ll delay our change over long enough to see Solange‚Ķ”) and her stellar voice coupled with the sleepy electro-pop landscape/backing vocals provided by Ian Cook and Martin Doherty made the show that much the better. I only assume that as time goes along, the band will do a little more then just stand there and perform. All of their tracks, including recent single Recover sounded excellent and I am excited to see where their debut album takes them.


One of the main events at SXSW, I was surprise to see Solange slotted third on the bill at the Spin party. Reminds me of the time they put Ricky Steamboat vs Macho Man in the middle of Wrestlemania III instead of the end. Weird reference. Anyways, 2013 wassn’t Solange’s first SXSW appearance. She also played Perez Hilton’s party in 2009 in her already forgotten previous career as an aspiring contemporary r&b star. Since then, she has recruited Dev Hynes, grew a fro, wore some vintage era clothes and anointed herself the new queen of indie music. It seemed to have worked. The crowd was near capacity for her set at Stubbs and she did not disappoint.

Showing a whole lotta leg, Solange took the stage and danced up a storm from the opening song “Some things never seem to fuckin work” to the set closer, the epic mega hit “Losing You”. Along the way, Solange sang tracks off True, showed incredible charisma (“How bout you dance for me, Austin” – with a million dollar smile) and also did a cover of the Dirty Projector’s Stillness is the Move. The girl is just magnetic on stage, and everyone was delighted at the co-ordinated dance moves between Knowles, Hynes and the other guy.

A short and sweet set that basically confirms what we all already knew – Solange is going to have a mighty good year.

SXSW Review: Geto Boys, Ultramagnetic MC’s, Red Bull Stage, March 14

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For a guy who basically never listened to rap growing up, I have seen my share of classic hip hop acts:

Digable Planets
Del La Soul
Mos Def aka the dude from Dexter
Big Boi

So when the chance to see legendary Houston hip hop act Geto Boys came up at SXSW, I had to jump at the chance. Since discovering the track “Damn It Feels to be a Gangster” while watching a Vince Carter dunk compilation on youtube, I have been fond of the threesome’s music. Then someone made a muppet version of “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me” and I was hooked.

Taking the stage roughly after nine, the group were introduced one by one, with Willie D coming on first with a very gangster bandana over the mouth look. I wonder how many jobs you can go to wearing a tank top with a bandana over your mouth. I imagine not many. Next up was Scarface, also known as the man who runs Def Jam South, who also did a solo number before introducing the man everyone was waiting for – Bushwick Bill.

The little dude exploded onto the stage to rapturous applause and the group started into their hour plus set which also included skits (most of them unfunny) to set up some songs. I am wondering if these in-between song skits are the ones that led to random skits being placed on rap albums. I am not particularly familiar with the groups music and I might have been the only one at the sold out stage. The crowd was going nuts, they had their hands in the air, and definitely did no care if they were waving it around. Say what you will about hip hop music, but they easily have a funner crowd then any indie rock act. It helps that Bushwick Bill is a firecracker on stage, with costume changes and crazy dances, it made me feel bad about my own lack of energy.

Of course the two highlights for me were the two songs I actually knew. Busted out halfway through the set, the group did a beat-box/acapella version for Damn It Feels Good To be a Gangster, and of course the crowd sang along. Listening to the verses that the Geto Boys had and comparing to rap from the early 00’s, it’s easy to see how everyone seems to gravitate towards classic hip hop today. The songs are stories and have memorable (if not overly violent, gangster) lines, even if the line is

And all I gotta say to you
Wannabe, gonnabe, cocksuckin’, pussy-eatin’ prankstas
’cause when the fry dies down what the fuck you gonna do
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta

Set closer My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me set off the already enthusiastic crowd and everyone was bouncing. A great accomplishment at SXSW, where most of the crowd is either too exhausted or drunk to do anything.

Opening up for Geto Boys was a band I had no knowledge of, Ultramagnetic MC’s. The group did feature Kool Keith, who wore a very shiny version of a roman helmet. The other dude also had funky adidas shoes with wings on it. Their set was good but not knowing their music, I was unable to participate in many of the call and responses and as such, didn’t find myself too amuse.

SXSW Review: Grande Marshall, March 16, Fader Fort

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An unexpected pleasure at SXSW, Philly rapper Grande Marshall left it all out on stage at Fader Fort on Saturday. I haven’t been to many hip hop shows in my lifetime, but if all of them are like his set in Austin, then sign me up. Taking the stage a 2 pm is no easy task but Grande Marshall and friends treated the show like it was at 2 am.

I don’t really know how to actually review a rap show only to say that the “flow” was good and I enjoyed the pace that each rapper in the group provided. The group’s DJ, A-Trak helmed the decks, so you know that the group had great beats to go with the groups rap. Grande Marshall is also on A-Trak’s record label, Fool’s Gold, which has also brought us the likes of Kid Cudi, Chromeo, Kavinksy and Danny Brown. Basically, this guy knows what’s up. What made the Grande Marshall show so fun was that the group’s endless energy. They danced around, hopped around and basically had their entire entourage on stage to feed off of. The crowd in turn, responded appropriately, turning it into a mini party in the dead of the afternoon. I wonder why rock bands don’t have their buddies on stage dancing to all their tunes. It would make things a bit more interesting.

This guy in particular, was awesome.


He didn’t rap at all, but just bounced around the stage and got everyone in the crowd going. He was probably high, but whatever.

An unexpected surprise in the middle of the day, Grande Marshall’s set at Fader Fort definitely won him a few fans.