SXSW Reviews: Colin Stetson; Caitlin Rose, Amy LaVere [Parish; Swan Dive, March 18, 2011]

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

Baltimore – Why do I lump reviews together? Well, it’s certainly not due to a lack of thoughts on each topic/section. Heck, if you let me, I could probably ramble on and relate chocolate chip cookies directly to a contrabass saxophone. Somehow. Just like why I decided to write about all 3 in one review – because they relate together for me.


I had never heard of Colin Stetson and Amy LaVere before the concerts. But I have heard of NPR (in fact I am probably a rabid NPR fanboy by now, waiting for the zombie signal over FM radio). Seeing NPR’s day party on the SXSW calendar was equivalent to hearing the call to arms if I was a Spartan. Just as I was pulled toward the Parish on this cloudy day, so too, were 70 others, forming a snaking line outside of the Parish. You know you are in a NPR line if 1) people are gambling, with real money, 2) everyone looks like Josh (Anger), 3) it seems that no one cares about the prospect of actually getting into the show. The last note could have something to do with the advertisement for swags-bags. But it was the most lazy line that I have ever been in – if we were nitrogen and the NPR line was a vacuum, we would be sucked in at no particular order, with no particular grudge. Contrast this to the Friendly Fires line later in the night, where one person tricked all of the wristband holders (yes… me included) into joining the general line on the other side… Laid back.


Colin Stetson, I learned, is more often associated with other acts than his solo efforts. 2-3 minutes into Colin’s set (a short one that you can watch in its entirety from NPR), one name ran across my mind – Xavier Rudd. In Stetson’s hands, the bass/contrabass sax sounds oddly like a didgeridoo. Apparently, both artists use circular breathing (see wiki). While Rudd has several didges at his disposal, Stetson had one saxophone. Due to a complete lack of musical talents I will refrain from commenting on techniques, suffice it to say that it’s not only impressive, but also hauntingly beautiful to listen. Be patient, though. His music takes a little time to develop, and has a lo-fi tinge. Because of the breathing technique, though, this tends to involve a revolving set of notes that escalates, which sound similar to Philip Glass on the closing parts of Koyaanisqatsi. You know… where the cars keep going ’round, faster and faster, like the notes. The people of NPR might be, but this music is definitely not laid back.


Last year I went to see Audra Mae on the strength of one song (and it was totally justified). And not just any song – a depressing ballade about a girl in the deep south committing suicide. This year Caitlin Rose played the role of that songstress who draws me in with one horribly depressing song. When she introduced it, a man standing in front of me asked: “What? A song about someone who was pushed into a wall?” “No,”, I said, “WELL”. That is more like it – no one gets hurt being pushed into a wall! Folk music is apparently full of the dark sides of life, because if all we ever pondered is high-minded ideas such as “are we human or are we dancer”, then no one will be left doing the dancing and the “human’in”.

And human her performance was. Perhaps less calculated like many at SXSW but very genuine. I have never been to Swan Dive before. When I arrived there was a guy trying to weasel his way in. Meanwhile, I had missed 1-2 songs. Inside, Swan Dive contrasted orange, incandescent chandeliers with a blue-hue floor lighting. Combined together on the bare white walls, it became a very intimate yet somewhat desolate setting. Perfect, I guess, for singing about pushing people into wells. A piano less and two best-friends more than on the new album, Own Side Now, Caitlin certainly displayed a great range both in volume and scale. Some of the numbers feel more country than folk, but to be honest I would never know (nor care). I do wish that the subject of her songs would change a little. I like the Sinful Wishing Well (alluded to before), Own Side, and the last song (didn’t catch the name), a sing-along. The man (above) suggested that I stay for Amy LaVere.


I did stay. But not for the entire set (had to run to another show to line up). I did hear Washing Machine – which totally confused me… here were two instrumentalists on stage, one bass, one violin, and I heard guitar rift coming from the birthday boy (60 yrs old?) above everything else. Amy also repeatedly toasted the audience, which I thought was a little weird. Maybe a few more would give me a better grounding in her music. So I won’t be rude and give PMs this round.

That was a impromptu break for the finish. Like Colin Stetson’s saxophone.

Colin Stetson: (only because I regret that it was so short!)

Caitlin Rose:

SXSW Review: Summer Camp, Red Eye Fly, March 16

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

Austin – Consisting of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey, Summer Camp is one of the most literal bands I’ve ever seen. The London duo recently got a lot of Internet buzz with a string of singles. The songs heavily rely on synthesizers and Elizabeth’s voice to create carefree innocent summer sounds, in turn bringing up pleasant nostalgic memories that you may have had from your childhood.

Unfortunately for Summer Camp, it wasn’t summer, and it wasn’t camp. South By Southwest people are a finicky bunch, a group that will show disinterest quickly if things don’t go right. Taking the stage a bit after nine, Summer Camp started playing their set to a slideshow backdrop. The slideshow consisted of a bunch of 70s pictures of people having summer fun, to further hammer down the bands mission statement. Elizabeth has an exceptional voice and it easily fills a room but it became clear that the band still has to work on their stage arrangements, as both band members elected to go with the classic stand still and sing/play instrument move. Maybe that was the plan. I think this might have all worked – Summer Camp has good songs and Elizabeth has a great voice, however, problems with their equipment started popping up during the set, causing some stop/starts that immediately had the crowd wondering if it was in their best interest to bail and move to the next showcase. Crowd chatter soon louden and I don’t think the band ever got back on track, creating a rather disjointed show.

It’s a shame that electronic problems plagued Summer Camp’s showcase on Wednesday night, but there was definitely enough shown to warrant a revisiting this band should they tour stateside. Make sure you check out their single “I Want You”, it’s quite good.

I Want You by Summer Camp

SXSW Review: Joan Of Arc, March 19, The Parish

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

Austin – You know, Austin has an unofficial slogan – “Keep Austin Weird.”  If by extension, South By Southwest is all about the weird, then Tim Kinsella of Joan Of Arc could be it’s poster boy.  Joan Of Arc’s set was just the beginning of an evening of weird acts to close out my SXSW experience, inluding some stand up comedians (including Tig Notaro, Hampton Yount, and Ben Kronberg – all weird) and the legendary Yoko Ono.  The band put on a solid set of post rock-ish tunes punctuated with Kinsella’s odd comments and compelling yet off kilter demeanor as a frontman.  He made note of the “supermoon” that was on display that night, adding “All our songs are implicitly about the moon, but tonight I’d like to make it explicit.”

Kinsella commented on how they had a song that was kind of based on Queen’s “We Will Rock You.  “You can’t really call it a cover … well you can if you want.”  He then went on a tangent about potential or something.  Kinsella also touched a few audience members on the head while singing as if he was healing them or something.  Maybe he was. 

“We’re just trying to make it in the music business.” said Kinsella, explaining why they were playing SXSW.  Making it in the music business probably means something different for a band that’s been going since 1995, put out an album of instrumental guitar duets, and has a song called “A Telltale Penis.”   Yeah, they’ll probably never really “make it big” at this point, but the show was certainly effective as a promotional tool (I didn’t know they had a new album coming out before I saw they were playing SXSW) and hopefully gained them a few new fans.  On album, Joan Of Arc can be a bit hit and miss, but live, they’re an impressive force.


SXSW Short Reviews: Class Actress, Boxer Rebellion, Tahiti 80, Clock Opera

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

Austin – Here are some shorter reviews of bands I saw.

Boxer Rebellion

Boxer Rebellion played the anchor slot of British Embassy Tuesday night showcase and the well coiffed Nathan Nicholson and his band delivered a stellar, straight forward performance of select tracks off their new album The Cold Still. Unfortunately for them, they played after Pulled Apart By Horses, a band whose antics left the crowd in a daze. In comparison, the Boxer Rebellions brand of straight up melodic rock might have seemed kind of tame. They did play a song about kidnapping though, so that counts for something.

The Boxer Rebellion – These Walls Are Thin by TBR

Class Actress

Class Actress is Elizabeth Harper, a Brooklyn singer whose heartfelt dramatic electronic beats are well suited for parties at 3 am. Sadly, her timeslot was at 3pm and it was a bit awkward to walk from a bright and sunny day into a dark night club with some deep, dark beats. Despite the small crowd, Elizabeth did a nice job delivering the Class Actress experience. Dressed in an oversized dress shirt and flanked by two dudes on electronic gadgets, Elizabeth sang her tracks over some nice throbbing beats. Maybe it was her dress shirt, but at times I thought it was some drunk recently heart broken/repressed chick on stage singing karaoke. Maybe that was the point. Her debut record Journal of Ardency is out now.

Class Actress: Journal of Ardency by TheMusicFile

Clock Opera, Bat Bar,SXSW

Playing before the debut of Ellie Goulding, I had originally pegged Clock Opera as an appetizer before the main course. At some point during their set, it hit me – these guys were really good. Featuring a bassist, a drummer and lead singer Guy Connelly who was on synths, Clock Opera played some catchy electronic tracks. Guy’s semi heartbreak/dramatic vocals work really well with the type of electronic music they are creating. I dont know much else about these guys, but they are definitely a band I’ll keep my eye on in the future.

Belongings by moshi moshi music

Tahiti 80

Confined to a dark night club, Tahiti 80‘s sunny French pop music seemed terribly misplaced for a SXSW show. Still the veterans carried on, previewing tracks off their third album The Past, The Present, & The Possible. The bands summery laid back pop music seemed like a complete derivative of their personalities, as each member of the band seemed to have been having a blast. Even a guitar problem, which forces one of the members to restring his guitar, did not seem to faze these guys. It would have killed a younger band, for sure. The short set ended with hit single Heartbeat, much to the crowd (and my) delight.