SxSW 2009, day 1 (theresa andersson, marching band, deastro, phenomal handclap band, j tillman, horse feathers, thao, morning benders, keenan bell, blk jks, camera obscura)
I arrived at the IODA party at Emo’s Annex right as Theresa Andersson (myspace) was being announced. This was immediately followed by a set of technical issues. Theresa’s resulting set was only a few songs long, but she made the most of it, putting on a lively set that got people dancing. I once again found her looping impressive and ridiculous. I can understand if her music’s not for everyone but this performance put a smile on my face.
Marching Band (myspace) was on next. This Swedish band put on a fun set of indie pop, though it wasn’t particularly distinguished. I was a bit distracted during their set so I may want to give them another try.
Detroit’s Deastro was next. They put on a set of dancey rock. The singer put in a good amount of energy. In the end, though, their music wasn’t for me.
I caught a few songs by the latest buzz band the Phenomenal Handclap Band next. They had eight people on stage–two keyboards (one keyboardist doubling on vocals), two singers, bass, two guitar, and drums. They were funky and had lots of people into them–and lots of people at the venue just to see them, it seemed. They wear their 70s funky rock influences on their sleeve and I think I would like them more if I liked their influences more.
I rushed over to the Mohawk to see J Tillman (myspace) and I shouldn’t have. Not that Tillman didn’t play well, but the first part of his set on the inside stage overlapped with thrashy and loud Young Widows outside and the sound bleed ruined the fragile intimacy of Tillman. He tried to make the most of it, turning up his guitar and joking “Who am I playing with here?” Once the set outside finished and I could hear Tillman’s set a little better, it was gorgeous. Still, the environment kept it from approaching the amazing set of his I saw at last year’s SxSW.
I left the Mohawk and was headed to 6th Street to see Joe Pug play when I heard a familiar sound at Club Deville. It was Horse Feathers. I took a detour immediately. It turned out to be the Bitch Magazine party. This version of the Horse Feathers was playing as a four piece. It was the three same people I saw in October–Justin on guitar plus a violinist and a cellist–but they added a fourth here on banjo, violin and percussion. I really liked this line-up. It was gorgeous and beautiful, just as the last time I saw them, but the arrangements were also a bit more fleshed out and the percussion on the last track added a little oomph.
After the Horse Feathers set, I ran into some friends there and decided to stay for a little bit of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down (myspace). She’s an SF local these days, but I haven’t seen them before. What I saw of her set was upbeat, a bit dancey and included jazz, rock and other influences. She put in a good amount of energy–she even joked about being out of shape and needing more stamina between songs–but the music didn’t do it for me.
While I was at a Texas Music Office function at Saengerrunde, I caught a song by Hayes Carll. It was solid Americana. I wish I’d been able to stay for more.
In the evening I headed to Hearya’s party at the Paradise. The first band up when I got there was the Morning Benders (myspace). They played a solid set, but the sound was pretty atrocious. For me, standing midway back in the venue, the sound was marred by both a bad mix–it was very bass heavy, had little guitars or keyboards–and by the stone walls which reflected the sound badly. I’m an unabashed fan of the Benders and I feel like this wouldn’t have been a good introduction to the band.
Keenan Bell was up next. He performs a brand of hip-hop that seems to be for the–*cough* white–indie kids. Backed by a band that mixed samples and live instrumentation, it was like an indie band with an MC. It really got the crowd moving. The mix was worked a lot better for this band, thankfully. I’ll have to take another listen to his recorded stuff, but I think it may be something I enjoy live but don’t listen to the records of.
South Africans Blk Jks (myspace) were up after a long break due to problems with amps and guitars. During the break venue had DJs between sets and not the indie rock DJs types–the loud club DJ types. Some people enjoyed this but it got old for me.
Anyway, the band went on and did a set of songs that mixed rock, funk and African influences. I found the songs where they displayed more of the African influences, like “Lakeside”, were my favorites. Their set was fun, but the music didn’t do a lot for me overall. I think I’d really like to like Blk Jks more than I do.
After that I dashed over to Central Presbyterian for Camera Obscura (myspace). In a pristine church, the hipster masses crowded the pews and sat in the aisles. Camera Obscura put on a good set and the acoustics of the venue were gorgeous, though the mix did lose things like the harmony vocals entirely. They were certainly one of the more polished bands I saw in the day. They debuted some new tunes and the effect of that and waning after a long day in the sun made for a fairly high attrition rate during their set. All in all, though, they put on a good set in a gorgeous venue.
So that’s day one of SxSW. Stay tuned tomorrow for more coverage.