SXSW

SXSW Review: Temper Trap, March 15, Stubb’s

Posted on by Paul in Everything, South By Southwest | 3 Comments

The Temper Trap

South By Southwest is generally regarded as a place to check out what’s new and exciting in the world of music. And not to toot our own horn or anything, but the Panic Manual did just that two years ago and caught  Temper Trap at the Cedar Street Courtyard. So why were we back to check them out again? Well, for one thing, I didn’t see them two years ago, so in a way they were new to me. I mean, I know that one song, but otherwise, I’ve never really paid them much mind, so this was the perfect opportunity to delve a bit deeper. And frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed. Which is not to say that these guys were terrible or anything.  They’re a talented bunch of guys and singer Dougy Mandagi definitely has a powerful voice (although at times, he veered slightly towards reminding me of this guy), but for whatever reason, they just didn’t resonate for me.  There were definitely those in the crowd who were digging it though, and it was nice to hear “Sweet Disposition” but for me, these guys didn’t quite live up to all the hype.

One thing about their show I would like to comment on is drums.  No, not The Drums, although they would be playing Stubb’s the night after this.  No, what I’m referring to is Mandagi’s use of drums and other auxiliary percussive instruments on stage.  As I watched Mandagi do his thing with the drums (I don’t think he pulled out the whole water on the drumhead trick this evening), I was reminded of two other shows I had seen over the previous  couple of days – Royal Teeth and Django Django.  Both bands made extensive use of extra drums and percussion throughout their sets, as does Temper Trap.  I found that with Django Django, it worked perfectly with what they do, yet with Royal Teeth, a young band who otherwise impressed with their energy and charisma, I found that the whole “everybody drum now” aesthetic took me out of the performance for a minute and had me wondering if it’s now become a cliched trope of indie rock.  Oh,Arcade Fire, what hath you wrought?  Or was it the Blue Man Group who started this trend?  For that matter, does it even count as a trend or is it just what bands do now?   I suppose Temper Trap gets a pass on this because they’ve been doing it long enough, but I feel like this whole thing is becoming a bit played out.  We need something new – maybe a band where everybody stops mid-song and does a kazoo break.  Yeah, maybe that would be cool. Temper Trap, you should totally try this at your next show.  You’re welcome.

SXSW Review: Say Hi, March 15, Red Eyed Fly

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As Say Hi`s Eric Elbogen took the stage at Red Eyed Fly, he introduced himself with, “I’m called Say Hi.”  And I have to say, it sounded kind of odd.  I realize that solo acts with band names are nothing new and that Say Hi has essentially always been Elbogen on record with the live band taking various formations, but I’ve got to say, if you’re actually performing solo, why not just say, “Hi, I’m Eric.”  I don’t really want to harp on this issue … but I will.  And besides, he started it by changing his band name once already, going from the (to me anyways) far more interesting Say Hi To Your Mom to simply Say Hi.  I really do think it was a better band name.  In fact, adding some variation of “To Your Mom” could likely improve the names of many of the other performers here at SXSW this year.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a few examples:

Clap Your Hands Say Hi To Your Mom

And So I Watch Your Mom From Afar

Of Monsters And Your Mom

This will Destroy Your Mom

Uncle Bad Touch To Your Mom

DC Pierson Your Mom

 … and the list really could go on and on.  See? It could totally make any name better. But OK, maybe that’s beside the point. What is the point? Well, I suppose it’s that Elbogen is a talented songwriter no matter what he calls himself or what configuration his band takes. I still think Say Hi To Your Mom is the better band name though …

SXSW Review: Kaiser Chiefs, March 15, Cedar Street Courtyard

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Kaiser Chiefs played as part of a British afternoon showcase at Cedar Street, sandwiched between Band Of Skulls and Keane.  Neither as heavy as Band Of Skulls nor as overtly poppy (well, at least not in the same way) as Keane, in a way the Leeds based band acted as the perfect buffer between the other two acts.  They also definitely know how to put on a show.  

Singer Ricky Wilson is an engaging charismatic frontman who knows a thing or two about showmanship, including a ride through the crowd on the shoulders of an audience member who he drafted into service.  He and the band basically had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands.  It probably helped a bit that there seemed to be a lot of big fans in the crowd (not always a given at these sorts of showcase/parties). During their brief six song set, they most likely made fans out of the rest of the crowd too.

SXSW Review: Jesus and Mary Chain, March 15, Belmont

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Let’s not kid ourselves, you are here because you are interested how the reunited Jesus and Mary Chain were at SXSW. This legendary band needs no introduction, but of you do want some, here is a site that’ll help explain why many sxsw goers were willing to sacrifice their entire Thursday night at SXSW to see this group. For me, the Jesus and Mary Chain show was the centerpiece upon which I built my SXSW schedule around.

so let’s answer some questions:

What Did They Play?

My biggest fear with their SXSW set was that it would be one of those short 40 minute sets. However, as the night grew on, it became obvious that this would not be just any sxsw show. Check out this set list:

18 Tracks! That’s over 90 minutes of music. A full show! How amazing is that.

How’d they sound?

Luckily for Jim Reid, the Jesus and Mary Chain vocals aren’t the type that stresses on the vocal chords or require a high amount of range. Most of it is drowned in guitar sound anyway. While the group is definitely a bit older, they still sound rather great save for some rustiness on the guitar (there were some out of tune tracks). Reid still delivers his lines with that cool distant detachment that makes you wonder if he’ll walk off the stage at any moment.

Is there still tension?

Hell yes. A band notorious for blow ups on stage, it was definitely on the back of people’s minds as they watched this reunion tour. The tension between the Reid brothers seem to be still there (Jim telling his brother “You need to tune up” with a menacing tone, for example) although it seems like William Reid has mellowed out a bit in his old age. Maybe it’s just the way he is, but every time you see Jim glare at one of his band members over a missed timing or something he wasn’t expecting, you kind of expected him to throw something at them. At one point, Jim wanted to talk to the audience but the guitar feedback was still making sounds to which Jim screamed at his band mates to “fucking turn that thing off!”.

In short, don’t expect this to be a long reunion.

What was that dude doing taking off all his clothes on stage?
wtf were u thinking?

Quote of the night?
“Normally this is the part of the night when we go off and you clap and we go back on, but we can’t fucking be bothered, so here’s the encore” – Jim Reid (paraphrased)

How amazing was April Skies, Some Candy Talking and Just Like Honey?

Simply put, it’s a music fan’s bucket list. All checked off. Woo.

In conclusion, rarely do you get a chance to see reunited bands that you love play (unless it’s the Pixies) so when you get that chance, jump on it.

This was the centerpiece of my SXSW experience and despite my hesitation about sitting five hours at one place – the songs, the attitude, the constant threat of walkouts and the noisy guitar feedback was all worth it.