sxsw06mar1

SXSW 2006 Rundown

Show Date: March 15, 2006

South by Southwest, where have you been all my life? If I believed in an afterlife, this is what my idea of heaven would be: endless days and nights with no greater concerns than caffeine, alcohol, and indie rock. Except there would be fewer lines, and more cabs.

I can't believe a world where so many (really attractive and nice) people care about new and interesting music exists. What an amazing experience. I'm booking my hotel room and pass as soon as they announce the 2007 dates. Who's with me??

Please note that the photos were taken by us; we can't rule out intoxication, but we also can't rule out that we're just that unskilled with a camera. Oh! Except for the gorgeous Long Winters photo, provided by the amazing Gregory Perez.

Without further ado, read our SXSW 2006:

 

Top 10 of the Pops! (in alpha order):

Art Brut
Art Brut at SXSW 2006I can't stress this enough. If Art Brut comes to your town, go! Whether you are familiar with them because of their placement on KEXP's playlist or you've yet to be introduced, you will love them within one song of their live performance. The cockney-heavy vocals a la The Streets and the hooky guitar jabs spotlight the clever lyrics that are ideal for constant quoting among your group of friends. Move over, quips like "You're so money you don't even know it" — we've now got things like, "This IS my singing voice" and "I've seen her naked… twice!" Thanks Art Brut. "Popular culture, no longer applies to me."

 

Band of Horses
Band of Horses featured slide guitars, emotive vocals, and nothing less than I expected from two former members of one of my favorite Seattle bands of all time, Carissa's Wierd. While CW expressed life's sadness to the level of morose, Band of Horses were more in the "tear in my beer" cathartic vein of indie-melancholy, and I'm sure will (or have) drawn comparisons to other twangier indie-rock luminaries like My Morning Jacket and Wilco. The fact that they were playing in a field outside Poke-e-Joe's BBQ only added to the Texas of it all.

Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg at SXSW 2006I think I experienced the luckiest day of my life in Austin. How else could I have found myself at a picnic (with free booze and tacos), surrounded by an audience of about 50 people watching Billy Bragg as he played his entire first album in order? Crazy! As you'd expect, the man was armed with timeless songs and sharp banter that could inspire action from even the most humdrum of souls. In between songs he offered words of solace to our blue-state comforted selves. He encouraged us as he talked about how he felt pride when he saw how the outrage and compassionate minority is gaining strength in our nation. He jumpstarted my belief that music can bind people, give weight to ideas and, music industry be damned, fuel change. Take that Toby Keith.

Figurines
Figurines at SXSW 2006Brit bands are a dime a dozen. Bring on the Danes! I had the pleasure of seeing Danish indie-rock sensations Figurines at the Crocodile in Seattle just days before SXSW. Here's my theory on Figurines: you need to hear them three times. The first couple of listens, you think, "Wow, nice songs!" By the third listen, you realize that not only will Skeletons undoubtedly rank in your top 10 of the year, but that you also plan to name your as-yet unconceived children "Christian" — as half the band members are called Christian — even though you are a devout agnostic. Spend some quality time with the record, and you're hooked — or as the fellas sing, "It takes time to get it together for a long time." Figurines have it all: spot on guitar work, inspiring lyrics, rugged hooks, distinctive and appealing vocals… plus swagger, pout, sweet dispositions, and hipster good looks. Think Northwest edge meets Euro-charisma. Now imagine standing right up front, watching these likely superstars rock you on a true Texas dive bar floor. It's surely a 'tell-the-grandkids-about-it' sort of SXSW memory…

Galactic Heroes
Galatic Heroes at SXSWI've loved the Galactic Heroes since the first time I heard the sweet jangle of "Coffee And Pastries" from their album Every Sidewalk. Their repertoire embodies all that is sweet and nice and queen bee. Their songs hopscotch through tales of love, friendship, baby blue Volvos, and gleeful happenstances without turning trite or phony. But, given that the two leading members live in different cities, seeing them perform these tales of joy together in lovey Seattle has felt like a pipe dream.

Thank goodness for a massive 1000+ band festival for bringing us together. Live, they broke new GH ground… mainly due to a sudden, unfortunate event that forced their drummer to miss the show. That, on top of the fact that the guys hadn't been able to practice together in quite a while, made for a certain air of… uncertainty. So what did they do? They rocked the house! They gave homemade shakers (made from plastic Easter eggs filled with rice) to the 25 audience members in the front so that we could provide a backing beat to the songs. Then, halfway through the set, Mike (who had just started learning the drums) took to the set and simultaneously sang and drummed. As you would expect, the songs were scaled down but the end result was a lo-fi Lucksmiths-esque set that left the audience grinning from ear to ear.

The Gossip
Playing at 1am on a stage in a parking lot, I was able to fully appreciate the force that *is* Gossip front-diva Beth Ditto. Against the evening chill after a hot Texas day, she channeled that old soul of hers to exorcise the traditions and skeletons of the South. This, with intense, archaic, bare bones rock foundation laid by her two fellow Gossip-ers (Brace Paine and Hannah Blilie), made for a set of hymns for hipsters. As Beth chimed lines like "I don't want the world, I just want what I deserve." I was reminded of all that is great about independent music. Whereas the masses accept songs from The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs as the end all of soul inspired, angular anthems, The Gossip are the real thing. Glory glory hallelujah!

The Long Winters
The Long Winters at SXSWLong Winters' frontman John Roderick has the rare ability to win over the drunkest/surliest of audiences with the power of just one sideways pleasantry. In between eloquently espousing about the his excitement of sharing the bill with Smoosh and the underlying music industry presence at the festival, Roderick made the crowd sway to the LW songs old and new. Poles on each end of the spectrum were hit as we enjoyed old favorites ("Stupid," "Unsalted Butter"), newbies ("the commander thinks aloud" from the recent Ultimatum EP), and we got a sneak listen to songs from their upcoming release (to be released in July?). I was so relieved to not only hear the new songs, but find out that they are glorious! Countdown to the new Long Winters album begins… NOW!

The Magic Numbers
As my friend Barbara said to me during the show, the world can't be too bad a place when a band as amazing as The Magic Numbers headlines a major label showcase (Capitol Records) at SXSW. As talented as they are unlikely, this band of two sets of siblings charmed the audience with their extraordinary song writing, their incredible vocal harmonies, and more importantly, with their dazzling sense of joy expressed through music. They've been compared to the psychedelic Flaming Lips as well as the folksy 60's of the Mamas and the Papas; both comparisons are apt. More joyous than an afternoon spent with good friends and free Jack Daniels!

Margot and the Nuclear So-And-Sos/The Rakes
Margo and the Nuclear So-and-Sos at SXSW 2006OK, I cheated to sneak an extra band into the Top 10 list. But you have to hear about them both, and both have new US releases on V2-affliated labels, so I thought it only fair to munge them. Margo and the Nuclear So-and-Sos — I agree, that name is tedious at best — were a complete surprise, a dense wall of delicious sounds emanating from no less than eight people onstage: two percussionists, trumpet, cello, two vocalists, and all the rock standards. Their debut release drops end of March, and the hype machine has aleady whirled into motion, so expect to know their name soon (even if you can't quite remember all of it). As for The Rakes, I saw them headline two showcases, at the UK show case at Flamingo and the V2 showcase at the Blind Pig. Equal parts updated Blur-pop and JCrew's autumn pullover collection, these savvy Brit rockers got the floor moving with their exuberant performances, and frontman Alan Donohoe has the best angular, nerdy dance moves since Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club

Okkervil River
Okkervil River at SXSW 2006Will Sheff just might be the most atypically sexy performer alive. As frontman for Okkervil River, he brought to each song so much passion and angst and emotion, rolling over expansive melodies and closed-eye mic grinds, it nearly felt like each member of the crowd had been intimate with him by the end of the {screaming, sweaty, yet all-too-short} set. Musically, the band spins a unique blend of folk earnestness and indie-rock pathos with poignant lyrics, and Sheff's inimitable gravelly voice, which can murmur or howl with equal ferocity. This just might be what igLiz sees when she watches Conor Oberst. I barely made it into this show at the end of the final night (thank you, Heather Hydra!), but it easier was one of the most memorable and electrifying shows of the weekend.

Honorable Mentions (in alpha order):

  • The Black Angels {Jim Morrison meets Perry Farrell, if you can believe that.}
  • Camera Obscura {Lovely and precious as I ever imagined.}
  • Conner {Great new signee to local label Sonic Boom Recordings}
  • The Cops {Why is it so fun to see hometown bands play in Texas? I dunno, but it is!}
  • Morningwood {Audicious and crazy and maybe all the free Jack Daniels didn't hurt either},
  • The Pale Pacific {If I didn't already know of the splendor that is the Pale Pacific, this would have been *that* sxsw showcase… wandering into an under-attended showcase midday, not knowing what to expect… and being blown away. Knowing the Pale Pacific in no way dimished my joy at their too-short-but-oh-so-sweet set.}
  • The Pretenders {yes, OMG *The* Pretenders!!}
  • Schoolyard Heroes {If I'd caught more than just the last song, I'm sure they'd have made the top 10}
  • Smoosh {I can't believe how much more assured and talented they have become. And Asy announced that their next release in June would be on Barsuk Records (!!). The label declined comment, but smiled broadly when asked.}
  • Something for Rockets {Especially when USE's Noah jumped onstage like a sprite and joyously bounced alongside them}
  • Stars of Track and Field {Dreamy and swirly despite technical issues}
  • Sukpatch {They've mastered the synth driven, guitar pedaled, lo-fi psychedelic vocals line up in the vein of bands that they predate (specifically Grandaddy and The Postal Service). The intimate show was like a mid-evening siesta. The swirling keyboards with soothing guitar waves and whispery vocals rejuvenated the saucy crowd.}
  • Tullycraft {The Tullycraft-ers certainly made Seattle proud as they debuted four new songs to knock the knee high socks off pony-tailed girls across the globe. With their signature guitar hooky, harmonizing vocals and nimble lyrics, the set spanned the spectrum from cute to crack-up. They made the audience feel like they were having the Spring Break that popfest dreams are made of as the band members joked about their rockstar moves and rewarded the best dancing audience members with t-shirts. Surely, their set was the sprinkles on the cupcake of my SXSW experience. Thanks to Dan Machold for the amazing photos.}
  • Two Gallants {Oh how I love the Two Gallants' way of mixing Bright Eyes and the White Stripes into an authentic / original / religious experience.}

Totally Overrated (in alpha order):

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster {blew their wad on the first song}, Battle {dull, uninspiring}, Sound Team {so forgettable I couldn't even remember their name}, Two Gallants {I know I'm gonna catch shit for that one, but perhaps my expectations were too high?}.

 

Other than the bands I had to miss because of double booking, I don't have any regrets. With 1,000+ bands to choose from and limited time, if I suspected something wasn't going to knock me off my feet, I headed next door. There was always something stellar 10 feet away, even if it was just a bathroom with no line.

Thank Yous:

SXSW 2006 would not have been the same without love, support, and cocktails from the following amazing people: BreEllen and April {you RULE, ladies!!!}, Marc at 1 Percent Promotions, Gabe, Cameron, Justin, and Greg {thank you, Cingular
!}, Lindsey at V2 {those wristbands ruled!}, Chris the cab driver, the free JANE photo booth, mimosas as the Driskill, DJ Phil and DJ Mike, Heather Hydra, Noah and the USE crew, Derby, Barbara, Scott P. {your list was life-saving, and your company, even better!}, Jason {happy birthday!} and Nabil, the Slender Means van ride, Tes, Jackie, Sarah Q., Paul Tao and the Aversion fellas {and the terrible Las Maritas service}, and the taco stand behind Emos {Seattle totally needs one of those!!}. Woot! Woot!!!

 

Thanks to everyone for the unbelievably good time. I'm still detoxing from the fun! Too much fun gives you a swollen tongue and a head cold, right?

 

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