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The Imaginary SXSW 2007 Report: Day 2

Show Date: March 15, 2007

With Dark Meat, The Zebras, the Manhattan Love Suicides, Okkervil River, BOAT, Tullycraft, The Faintest Ideas, The Pipettes, Palomar, Cut Off Your Hands, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, The Cassettes, Kate Havnevik, Rocky Votolato, Mika, Northern State, The Fratellis, Straylight Run, Fair to Midland, and Amy Winehouse

Thursday, March 15th, started with big-time excitement: today was the day of our first-ever Three Imaginary Girls SXSW showcase!! On the morning of the big day, we made our way to Lovejoys early to help set up and put our ducks in the row. It was so astonishingly tranquil and refreshing to walk the streets of Austin before the crowds hit… and getting an early start allowed us to get our South By Squatting on. South By Squat before 11a? That doesn’t sound so rock n’ roll… but actually it proved one of the smartest things we did the whole weekend (on par with our Yaris liaison). 

The Team Clermont/Under the Radar showcase was right around the corner from our party at the Flamingo Cantina and they had free Sauconys. And I know it's lame to take schwag and run, but dude — I'm only human! I love me the Sauconys! Smart footwear is key. And if it has a snazzy color palette, I'm defenseless.

And their line-up was so good; any other day and I would have camped myself there for a lineup like this: The Pipettes, Architecture in Helsinki, Loney Dear, Headlights, Gruff Rhys, and Dark Meat. That was one swoon-worthy bill.

Instead, we dashed in and got some sneaks. Tragically, there were none left in Liz's size, all the more tragic because the whole thing was her idea. But after we grabbed our shoes and were ready to run back over for the start of our showcase, we found that they'd blocked the exit! Apparently, we weren't getting out until we'd had ourselves a taste of Dark Meat.

Imagine this: We found ourselves locked down with this craaaazy-evil wacked cacophony of a marching band, with like, a bazillion people in it, like the Polyphonic Spree meets USE meets an intensely musical hippy commune sorta thing. Literally, there were between 15 and 18 people on stage (with every count we got a different number, folks were coming out of the woodwork!). It was a crazy sort of Breakfast Club sitch where the band geeks, the cheerleaders, the stoner rocker dude, the jocks, and the freaks all got together onstage and rocked out. I'm glad we caught the start of the set, but was mildly alarmed at being locked into a venue. Excuse me sir, but what if there's a fire? I think violating fire codes and endangering the lives of children would be unwise at this juncture in your career.

And the Dark Meat piece de resistance?

When the sax player leaned into the microphone and requested more monitor. There were 15 – 18 people and their instruments on a stage the size of the Crocodile ladies bathroom, with audience members swarming behind the stage to grab a box of free sneakers and he is having trouble hearing himself in the monitor?

We actually caught Dark Meat again on Day 3, so you'll be hearing a more in-depth rundown shortly. Since we were now late to our own party, our imaginary pal Lucas Jensen from Team Clermont helped us out escape through the back door (thanks, Lucas! Yer a Georgia peach!) over to Lovejoys for the first-ever TIG SXSW party: an Indie-pop Hootenanny!!!

 

The Zebras at SXSW 2007. Photo by igDana.The Zebras kicked off our showcase! I'd heard a couple of their songs I found crawling the internet and knew that I was going to love their Australian accent, Lucksmiths-esque wispy guitar, and sunny disposition in person. I was all set to get my Lucksmiths fix via them… and then low and behold, a real live Lucksmith showed up to the party! Mark from the Lucksmiths was there! Seems that he's touring with Architecture From Helsinki and the Zebras are on his record label (Lost & Lonesome). It was quite a prezzy.

It was about this time, and correct me if I'm wrong, that I approached imaginary Liz as she was lifting a juice glass of Jager. It seems that our new KOOP friend supplied her with a big double shot (it was a heavy pour) of Jager. I suppose that cemented that it was going to be a ripper of a show.

True. SXSW and hootenannys are like that. It was a little past noon and I had already South By Squatted for imaginary sneakers, been locked in a room with a 15 – 18 piece band, hugged Mark Lucksmith, and done a double Jager shot (did I mention it was a heavy pour?). And, the Zebras hadn't even started their set yet!

The Zebras were the perfect kickoff to what turned out to be an amazing showcase. With their delightfully and fresh pop stylings and the clouds on the mural behind them, we could pretend we had booked an outdoor showcase and bask in the rays of their effervescent harmonies (note: last year Magic Marker did book an outdoor showcase and it got rained out. This year we booked indoors and it was 84 degrees and brilliantly sunny. Ahh, weather).

Those Zebras certainly didn't disappoint. It was no surprise that after we launched the imaginary podcast we had several folks email ask about them and were looking to buy the record! I guess everyone who has seen them on their very short U.S. tour has felt the same way. They had sold out of their CD by the time they made it to Austin so they gave away burned copies to folks who bought t-shirts. They don't have U.S. distribution yet… but I'm sure labelhead Mark Lucksmith is working on that.

Okkervil River at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.Because it was a beautiful sunny day and we imaginary girls are pale Seattle things, we went outside between sets to catch some rays and realized that — lo and behold! — right across the street at the Found Magazine party at Bourbon Rocks, Austin band and longtime imaginary favorite Okkervil River was about to play!! And there were free drink tickets!! Powerless to resist, I raced over, grabbed drink tickets, and ran in leaving igLiz to man (girl) the fort at our showcase.

But before the show started, the editor of Found Magazine did a talk about the magazine. Basically, they find letters and notes in random locations and publish them, to much hilarity. He proceeded to read us a few samples and it was damn funny… but the funniest part was the last, when he read a couple of found receipts, leaving us to wonder what kind of evening the purchasers must have had:

RECEIPT #1:
Chicken Ramen Noodles
Chicken Ramen Noodles
Chicken Ramen Noodles
Chicken Ramen Noodles
Chicken Ramen Noodles
Chicken Ramen Noodles
Chicken Ramen Noodles
12 lubed condoms

RECEIPT #2:
Gun ammo
Gun ammo
Ski mask
Nerds

You know he was funny if I didn't mind him standing in times way between me and my imaginary boy friend Will Sheff and the other awesome fellas of O-River.

Okkervil River at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis. I've liked Okkervil River since igLiz dragged me to see them at the Crocodile back in 2002, where they dazzled the 20 or so of us who were smart enough to attend the show. igLiz is always way smarter than I am about this sort of thing. By the time I caught them at SXSW 2006, I knew I was hooked, lined, and smitten on Will Sheff's offbeat story-telling songs, brought to musical life by this jangly, crescendo-filled band. But it was on their latest live EP, Overdrawn and Down, they put me over the superfan edge: they covered the Big Star classic "O Dana."

I've spent my life surrounded by loads of Amy's and Michelle's and Jennifer's, but have known almost no one else named Dana. So when I hear someone say they name, I'm pretty certain it's being said to ME. And when it's being moaned by one of my favorite singers and followed by "c'mon!"…. well, let's just say I'm inclined to follow! The cover has filled me with a special aching bond with the band and I'm at least 92.87 percent certain that, at some subliminal level, they covered it for me.

Well, it has been said that "you'd rather shoot a woman than a man. And you're always wondering whether this is your last life."

 

And Will, I was listening. And I know you can't help it!

Tragically for me (though perhaps fortunately for the band), they didn't play "O Dana"; lordy knows what I might have done, all dosed up on the drink-ticketed rum and cokes (thanks, Found!). They did play "The President's Dead," perhaps the greatest non-anti-Bush song that sounds like a political jam but is in fact more of a stream of consciousness tale of how a non-personal news story can throw a wrench into ones otherwise contented existence. They also announced that they've finished recording their next record (!!) and played us a few new jams, which were amazing. I'm already reserving a spot in my top 10 for 2007 for them.

Manhattan Love SuicidesMeanwhile back at Lovejoys, the Manhattan Love Suicides dark-rocked my butt off. This was the MLS first visit to the U.S. and I'd make a bet that it was also the first time anyone in the room saw them. After the carefree Zebras, the MLS took the vibe circa C86… specifically at an early Jesus & Mary Chain show. In true JAMC fashion, they were confident and unaffected by the audience reaction. Their fuzzy set floated from one song to the next as the band minimally interrupted the set with banter.

I was especially sad that imaginary Dana missed the bass player as he was a near replica of every guy she had a crush on in college. Between that and the echoey, enveloping songs, I found myself near hypnotized by the end of their set.

BOAT at the Three Imaginary Girls SXSW 2007 showcase. Photo by Kaley Davis.High on Okkervil happiness, I hopped back to Lovejoys for the double-whammy Seattle portion of our TIG showcase set with Tullycraft and BOAT. What a crazy cool thing, to walk in and see all those out-of-town folks digging on the BOAT! Newbie, out-of-tower BOAT fans were shaking signature BOAT handmade percussion instruments, bobbing their heads back and forth, and smiling away. Even the bartender at Lovejoys told me that he wanted their CD. Those BOATers can charm even the Southerns!

It was like I was on an indie-pop cruise! There were all these people I had never met before joyfully singing along with BOAT songs. It was awesome, comforting, and reminded me of the binding force of good music.

BOAT was sporting a couple new (familiar face) additions to their line-up. For the two Austin BOAT shows, Zach (original BOAT member who moved to Chicago a couple years ago) flew in to man the guitar and miscellaneous instruments. Jeff Fell from Tullycraft was handling the drum duties. The newbies certainly kept up with full-time BOATers Dave (lead stuff) and Mark (bass/vocals).

They wow'd the crowd with a majority of songs from their debut Magic Marker Records release, Songs That You Might Not Like, some new songs from their next album (recording's done… just need to release it one of these days), a Guided By Voices cover, and even an interlude of a Tullycraft song.

Tullycraft at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.While the room was festively full during BOAT's set, it got positively packed for Tullycraft. Look at me, moved to alliteration by the mere memory of the event (there I go again!).

Not only was the band in finest form (I'm doomed here), but suddenly the space was full of all kinds of friends! Folks from Seattle, people we know online from other parts of the country, and even some friendly new strangers totally made it to our showcase, and mostly all during this set. We thank you all for showing up and rocking with us.

Tullycraft put on an incredibly cute and engaging show, despite some technical difficulties that I didn't even notice.

Jenny Mears of Tullycraft at SXSW. Photo by Kaley Davis.Besides playing some of their standards ("Stowaway," "Wild Bikini"), Tullycraft debuted a some songs from their next album (release date still unknown). All the while, there was a gaggle of underagers watching from the open front door. When frontman Sean Tollefson noticed that they were straining to see around the crowd blocking the view from the door, he asked the crowd to make a visual line-of-sight so they could enjoy the set as well. And they did, these >21ers were energetically dancing with ecstatic enthusiasm, putting us <21ers to shame. They were so CUTE! It was too bad the show had to be 21+, but I think they had a fabulous time. I had a wonderful time just living vicariously through them.

With the adorable dancers outside and the inside packed out with Seattle love, it truly brought the party up to hoot-hootenanny status.

Next up we had the Faintest Ideas. Like the Manhattan Love Suicides, this was the first time most of us (if not all of us) saw them perform, as they were also European (from Sweden). Their frantic Wedding Present-eque power guitars and fervent heartstring vocals sounded great live.

Halfway through their set we were the worst hostesses once again, racing back to the Under the Radar party to queue to see the Pipettes. I totally thought we were going to be dissed again, but we made it in for the last four or so songs and wow — even from the back of the packed room, they were something spectacular to see and hear. The three ladies had on coordinated navy and white sweet yet sexxxy ensembles and had this total Supremes-meets-Bananarama pop sensibility that was completely disarming. Damn if the British ladies have we American girls soooooo outclassed.

In my dreams, this is what TIG is like every time we go out to show: matching classy polka dot sexy-yet-cute coordinating outfits, perfect pitch pop voices, sex appeal, and confidence. I knew I would need to see a full set before the festival was over. And buy the record. And get all three action figures.

{imaginary note: I hate spoilers just as much as the next girl but… we saw a full set on Day 4. But you probably figured that already, right? Stay tuned for more Pipettes specifics and photos, imaginary friends…}

PalomarThen back to Lovejoys for the final band in our imaginary lineup, Palomar, a band with one dude (drummer) and three more ladies who are also hot (like the Pipettes) but so much more low-keyed. No matching outfits, no makeup even. They literally pulled up in their van from NY minutes before show time (how rock and roll is that)?

I was so excited when Magic Marker Curt arranged for Palomar to be on the bill. These three girls and a guy from Brooklyn wrote one of my favorite songs of 2004 ("Albacore") and I don't think they've been to Seattle since its release. They rolled in and provided a luster-filled set of playful new songs from their freshly released album, All Things Forest.

It turned out to be one humdinger of a hootenanny. It was a lot of coordinating, and it wouldn't have happened if not for Curt & Mark at Magic Marker Records (who supplied all the bands, equipment, wise advice, planning, and know-how), KOOP 91.7 FM (for the surprise food spread and locale), Seattle Show Posters (who designed and screenprinted a killer poster), and Music Nation (who furnished free beer!). Thanks you guys — you all ROCK!!Amy Winehouse at SXSW, shot by superfan igDana

After our showcase, I staggered back up 6th, exhausted but so so so happy and minding my own business when ZOMG THERE WAS AMY WINEHOUSE STANDING ON THE STREET!!!!!!!! I stopped, stunned, and must have been obviously staring cause she looked over and WINKED AT ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AMY WINEHOUSE WINKED AT ME!!!!!

We even took a photos together!!!!!!!!

I don't get star-struck much but the good luck of meeting the very person I was most excited to see at SXSW (and indeed, the performer I've been most excited to see in years) on the first full day of the festival felt like a benediction. The indie-rock Universe hearts me.

I resolved to South by Stalk her for all the shows I could. Hey look at that: I just coined a new South by Vocabulary word!

The Cassettes. Photo by Kaley Davis.And after calling Kaley and shrieking ZOMG!!!! at least 35 times, we set out for the evening. First stop was to see Get Cape Wear Cape Fly at Stubbs. *Yawn.* If you give yourself a wacked out name like that, shouldn't you sound a bit quirky and eclectic? GCWCF were nothing special, but at least the fried okra at Stubbs was delish. Bailing after a couple of songs, we joined some Seattle pals at a show they recommended, Washington D.C.'s The Cassettes, and had the sort of experience we were hoping to find at Get Cape Wear Cape Fly: something odd and unexpected and utterly delightful. With a name like the Cassettes, I was expecting a lo-fi cutsie indie-pop band. But the band reminded me of a post-punk gorked-out They Might Be Giants (I'm sure I was biased in that direction by the accordian), dark and strange, and they had the best thermamin player I've ever witnessed live; he played it like a percussion instrument and the strange-yet-beautiful sounds effortlessly extended from his fingers. I completely don't understand that instrument, but I sure did dig the hell outta watching him play, and fervently wished we'd been there to see the full set.

As for me, after the afternoon inside the lovely Lovejoys, my posse and I decided to explore a bit. Again, we passed by the packed places oozing with hipster cred, and headed towards the Co-op Bar. We walked in and found a band named Cut Off Your Hands who hail from Auckland, New Zealand.

It was like a General Foods International Coffee (TM) moment to just 'happen' upon a band of kiwis and basically have the whole place to ourselves. Sure there were some other people there making a happy discovery with us, but the small venue and intimate crowd was a great change of atmosphere. The band had the same influence-schooling as the Futureheads with a touch of fellow NZers Split Enz. And the interesting tie in to the Pacific NW is that seems they originally named themselves Shaky Hands, but were "threatened with legal action" by the Portland, Oregon band Shaky Hands (who we recently reviewed, and who's self-titled album I adore!). It's a small SXSW world!

Kate Havnevik. Photo by Kaley Davis. Resolute that we would see Amy Winehouse that night at the Universal Republic at a small nightclub called Eternal, we arrived bright and early at 9:30pm and learned that she had been moved from the midnight slot to 1am. Curses! Undaunted, we entered and caught Kate Havnevik. She's from Norway and sounded like a perfect amalgamation of Bjork and Norah Jones — a bit too perfect and tidy for my tastes — all Mountain Fresh, very wide mouthed and wide-eyed and full of earnestness. If igLiz were there, I think she'd be having unhappy seizures.

Not that she was bad –- her voice was quite good and had nice accompaniment in a trumpet, bass, and lots of samples. It was all very nice, and very grown-up, too elegant. I think my Mom would like it. In fact, Kate seemed super nice and I bet she and my Mom would get along swimmingly! Me, I was just waiting for Amy. I will say that, unlike most of the other performers for the night, Kate was a good choice for an Amy Winehouse bill. I just prefer my chanteuses a bit more on the dark and gritty side.

Rocky Votolato at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.With Amy's show bumped till 1am and we were pretty much bored stupid by 10pm watching Kate "I can't believe it's not Bjork" Havnevik, we decided to risk South by Skating over to the Barsuk Records showcase at Buffalo Billards to catch Seattle-based singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato.

After all, Rocky's brother Sony Votolato, who plays in TIG local fave Slender Means, stopped by our Imaginary Indie-pop Hootenanny earlier in the day and told me that he and other folks from Slender Means would be Rocky's backing band. So I stopped South by Stressing about the Winehouse show for long enough to catch most of the set, and I'm glad did. Rocky is always a dream to see live, and his earnest vocals and dreamy composition felt particularly spot-on tonight — perhaps because it was so nice to see (and hug) so many familiar faces throughout the set. Why is so much more exciting to see people from Seattle when they're in Austin?

I'm not sure, but you're totally right. For SXSW 2008, we'd better add another terms to the imaginary SXSW vocab for that. South by Socializing?

 

Ahh, that just might work! And speaking of our vocab, my South by Stress had kicked into high gear, so Kaley and I headed back to Eternal and prepared to South by Squat for hours.

Mika at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.We walked in during a set from U.K. pop sensation Mika. I know as a Serious Musical Critic I'm not supposed to like Mika. But then, as a straight female, I'm also not supposed to think that he's hot, with his namby pamby flailing dance moves and suspenders and all-things-effeminate style. Mika is like this crazy amalgamation of Freddy Mercury + Rufus Wainright + George Michael…. extra heavy on the Mercury. Perhaps I'm not supposed to admit this, but screw it. I have one more thing in common with Dan Savage: I *heart* Mika.

I would have expected a more flamboyant show from Mister Grace Kelly, but I suspect he was a bit encumbered by the small-ish stage and the less-than-optimal general acoustics in the room. And maybe those doofy suspenders held him back from some truly spectacular moves. I'd definitely welcome the chance to see Mika again headlining in a more fitting venue, like the Crocodile or the Showbox here in Seattle. He can stay in my house. That's how much I heart Mika.

Northern StateAfter Cut Off Your Hands, the posse and I made our way to Northern State. It was a bit of a hike across town, but as a big fan of theirs since their 2003 release, Dying in Stereo, I was determined to see them, especially since I hadn't seen a Seattle date on their tour schedule. Rumor had it that they were working on their next album with (King) Ad Rock, so the thought of hearing new (Beastie Boys-infused) NS songs was enough inspiration to hoof it. Unfortunately a little bit of getting lost resulted in us missing openers the Trucks, but we arrived in time to watch Northern State set up, and to procure a seat in the swank balcony.

The set was flawless with songs from the old and the new…. with the new songs sounding spectacular! I've always secretly kicked myself that I didn't come up with the idea to form a female Beastie Boys. It is such a good idea. But after hearing these new songs, I'm convinced it's better that Hesta, Spero, and DJ Sprout are doing it (in addition to the fact that my sense of rhythm is sometimes suspect and I don't have the NYC vernacular down).

Michelle Nolan of Straylight Run at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.After Mika, the remaining blur of the next two pre-Amy bands passed in the worst South by Sucking session of the entire festival in the endless wait for Winehouse. We were so crammed in the venue holding our spots on the side of the stage, completely captive audiences. So I'd like to take an imaginary moment say FUCK UNIVERSAL REPUBLIC for that terrible bill we had to endure (minus Mika, of course).

After Mika came the latest UR signee from Long Island who were called The Most Boring and Uninspired Band I've Ever Seen. Wait, that wasn't it. They were called Straylight Run. They sound-checked for 30 minutes and played well over their allotted time, which bumped Amy to starting half an hour late (at 1:30). Other bloggers blamed Amy's late start on her being a drunk, but it wasn't for that reason. It was because The Most Boring and Uninspired Band in the World had to soundcheck. What is wrong with these labels — haven't they ever heard of a BACKLINE for opening bands? Sheesh.

I'm not even going to dignify the band with a write-up because I was so annoyed I had to endure their set. And did I mention their long sound-check?

The FratellisAs awesome as Northern State were, we had to leave 30 minutes into their set for the show that I'd been waiting the whole evening for: The Fratellis. Yes folks, it was time for me to South By Squat. At this point in SXSW, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to fit in more than one Fratellis show; they had about 72 on the schedule and, upon study I think that some of their scheduled appearances were even overlapping each other.

Even before we made it to the door it was destined to be a show at the top of the of my SXSW Favorites list. As we were waiting in line, who was behind us but David Fricke, Senior Editor at Rolling Stone! Waiting in the same line as us! Well, not for long… I think the door folks saw some special superhero wristband and eventually grabbed him and took him through the door ahead of us… which is fine, he's David Fricke!

We waited and waited and waited for them to allow people in… the whole time I'm thankful that we decided to start squatting early. Sure enough, there was space for our anxious-for-Fratellis-selves and we are able to find a spacious spot near the front of the state (those SXSW-ers wait in line and still gravitate towards spaces near the bar).

I'll try not to overwhelm you with too much gushing (spoiler alert: I become a *bit* of a South By Superfan), but the Fratellis did not disappoint. Their mix of Jack White vocals over their Clash-inspired authoritative guitars was stunning live. They didn't banter much, but they didn't need too (and given their think Scottish accent, it was probably better that way). The uninterrupted set was just under and hour long, but felt like only minutes had passed. It was pure Fratellis bliss.

Fair to Midland at SXSW 2007. Why were we here? South by Squatting. Photo by Kaley Davis.That sounds awesome, especially because over in Waiting for Amyland, the most Uninspired band was followed by the band with the most spewing body fluids, Fair to Midland. The spitting. The snotting. The faux seizure dance moves. The screaming. Maybe for someone else this band was incredible, but myself I was displeased when at the end of the set we were left wondering if the lead singer actually had collapsed during an epileptic fit (or drug-induced one). But then he got up and was just fine, the big faker, and some roadie dude had the distinct pleasure of wiping up all his body fluids before Amy Winehouse and the Dap Kings could take the stage.

They only nice thing I can say about the show is that at least the band is from Texas, so I feel like I got a bit of local flavor. Rancid, suburban Dallas shopping mall flavor, perhaps, but local nonetheless.

The thing is, there might have been loads of people at SXSW show would have dug the shit out of Fair to Midland, people who are super into getting actual body fluid samples from their favorite rockstars. But this was a room full of peeps anxiously awaiting Amy Winehouse. Needless to say, not a great match. I'm sure many a Fair to Midland fan couldn't get in to see them because of the epic lineup for Amy. While I question their tastes, I empathize with their sitch, cause it blows. All around, what a sucky lineup. A pox on thee, Universal Republic!

Amy Winehouse at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.Then came the glorious Amy Winehouse. And after all those hours of waiting, you know what? She was INCREDIBLE. Her band was incredible. Her backup singers were incredible.

The show was worth every moment of South by Sucking that came before it. It was worth all those hours of not drinking fluids for fear of losing my spot on the stage. It was worth it, despite the inferior song quality we had off on stage left, as the speakers all faced out the front of the stage.

At the time, I thought it was for sure going to be my favorite show at SXSW. But at the time, I didn't know what I know now, recapping the entire SXSW festival

Now I know her show the next night would be even better.

A lot better.

So you're going to have to wait until tomorrow's recap to hear all about the Amy Winehouse experience. To tide you over, here are a few more photos from her Eternal showcase…

Amy Winehouse at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.

Amy Winehouse and the Dap Kings. Photo by Kaley Davis.

 

** Next up in the Imaginary SXSW 2007 Report, Day 3:
Matt & Kim, Dark Meat, the Twilight Sad, Paolo Nutini, and more Fratellis and more Amy Winehouse. We're writing as fast as we can!

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