AUSTIN, Texas — South by Southwest is over.
Unfortunately, I won't be filling my days with rock shows. Fortunately, I get to rest my feet and I have enough music to purchase that it will blow out my budget.
My week began with garage rock band Japanther and ended with singer-songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs, and in between those, I saw at least 30 artists (probably more ... I couldn't count them all) and ate tons of great food.
SXSW has been good to me, so I thought I'd pay it forward and tell you about all the amazing (and a few not-so-amazing) things I saw in my five days at the festival.
Sound City Players
Dave Grohl has risen through the music industry to become one of its biggest and best players. He used to be the drummer for Nirvana and then came back with Foo Fighters. After his set with the Sound City Players — where he never once left the stage and played with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield and John Fogerty — he wins a spot on the “amazing people in rock 'n' roll” list right up there (and maybe even higher) than his old buddy Kurt Cobain. Yes, I'm serious.
I didn't know this Swedish pop duo before I stepped into Lustre Pearl the other day, and now I think I love them. Landing somewhere between DJs and pop stars, Icona Pop brought a crowd of about 1,000 out of its exhausted haze and onto the dance floor. I recommend the duo's song “I Love It.”
This Portland punk band will make a lot of these lists. I liked the group, which recently signed to Saddle Creek Records, so much that I saw them twice. The first show I caught featured much of the band's upcoming album, “Desperate Ground” (out in April). The second time, the band sampled heavily from its older material, including “Returning to the Fold” and “Born Dead.”
The food in Austin is always good, but I was impressed upon finding Naan Sense, a food truck with Indian fare. I ate a chicken curry there, which held up against the tacos, pizza and BBQ that I also consumed. (For the full dish on all the food I had, plus photos, check out a post on World-Herald food writer Sarah Baker Hansen's food blog, Omavore, later this week.)
Meeting them at Waterloo Records here was cool, but seeing the Scottish rock band perform two sets this week was even better. This would have been in “The Great” category if the band hadn't gone on late both times. We saw rushed sets, and the band had to cut out a few songs each time.
We were everywhere. Playing shows, snapping photos and kicking it to good music. Saddle Creek Records dance band Icky Blossoms was recognized by NPR and labelmates The Thermals got lots of press, too. The Doe Eyed design studio showcased at gig poster show Flatstock; Orion Walsh busked on the street; and Satchel Grande brought the funk. And that isn't one-tenth of what Nebraska folks did here. Good job, team. Way to be awesome.
Jenny Owen Youngs
The last act I saw, Jenny Owen Youngs, proved to be one of the best. Youngs performed as part of the Revival Tour showcase, which featured a group of singer-songwriters playing stripped-down sets. Some of Youngs' songs, including “Love for Long,” have a pop feel, but she proved that her tunes weren't just studio production tricks by laying them bare with simply her sultry voice and an acoustic guitar.
The Atlanta garage rock band is known for its out-of-hand concerts, but one last week at Cedar Street Courtyard got crazy when security jumped into the mosh pit and started tackling people. It ended with one band member getting chased off by security guards. I saw the band later in the week for a fun show that went off without a hitch.
The Flaming Lips
Oh, man. I can always find some redeeming quality in any music even if I don't really like it on the whole. When The Flaming Lips performed its upcoming album, “The Terror,” for the first time ever, I found no redeeming qualities. Band leader Wayne Coyne stood holding a baby doll (creepy!) and could also barely croak out the notes. At least the band ended the set with its best songs: “Fight Test,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1” and “Do You Realize?”
Even if you have a car, getting around Austin isn't easy, and parking is nearly impossible. Taxis are few and expensive, too, so your best bet is to ride a shuttle run by R&R Limosine. I've never had a problem in past years, but the system broke down this time. Multiple times, I waited longer than an hour for a ride and missed shows I was excited about. It's maddening when you pay for a promised ride and don't get one.
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