sxsw 2009, day 3 (flatstock, mumford & sons, oh no oh my, rural alberta advantage, fanfarlo, low anthem, chiwoniso, laura marling, deer tick)
After ridiculous consumption of bands on day 2, I took it a bit easier yesterday.
I started the day at Flatstock 20. It’s a traveling expo that features hand screen posters and shirts. It travels to various festivals–I last saw it at Bumbershoot a few years back. I walked around with wide-eyes and I wanted to open my wallet at just about every booth. The quality of work by the artists displayed this year is pretty amazing. If you like limited edition show posters at all, I’d swing by the convention center sometime through Sunday and check it out.
Music-wise I started the day at the Flamingo Cantina (and the Under the Radar party) for Mumford & Sons. I’d listened to their songs on myspace before and seen their black cab session but I honestly wasn’t too impressed. This show certainly changed my impression of them. They played a great and upbeat set filled with four-part harmonied, lively folk songs along the lines of Johnny Flynn. The guitar player had a bass drum and a tambourine on foot pedals that kept the band driving along. He was accompanied by electric banjo, keyboards and keyboards. This set was a nice pleasant surprise and a good way to start the day.
Next up, I headed to the Creekside Lounge. Ferraby Lionheart (mypsace) was playing to about a dozen people when I got there. I stopped and listened to him for a while. He plays with a band usually, he said, but he was playing solo with a guitar and harmonic this day. He’s got decent chops and songs but I found them to be undistinguished.
Oh No Oh My (myspace)–Now Without Exclamation Points–were up next. They’re sort of a known quantity for me–they’re fun and put on good shows and I always enjoy them. It’s not life-changing but that’s alright by me. This show was no different. They played a number of tunes off of their latest release, the DMITRIJ DMITRIJ EP as well as some of my older favorites, like “I Have No Sister”. Also, I always think it’s really cute when band member’s parents are in the audience. (“Dad, get me some water! Gawd!”)
After the Rural Alberta Advantage (myspace) killed it at Central Presbyterian on Thursday, I had to drag my friend who had missed that show to see them. It was hot and the sun beat down on the back lot of Homeslice Pizza when we got there. Their set was shorter but overall pretty similar to the previous day, with the exception of “In the Summertime” which they added to this set. It was not quite the revelation that their church show was–how could it be–but they still put on a great set.
Both before and after the RAA at Homeslice, San Francisco’s Still Flyin’ (myspace) played. I felt that, with a lot of people on the stage and a high energy and upbeat vibe, they were headed in the right direction, but I didn’t like their songs.
After hanging out with friends for a while, I got back to the music with Fanfarlo (myspace) at–you guessed it–Central Presbyterian. Having not gone to that venue at all last year, I found myself there a lot for good bands and great acoustics. Starting with “I am a Pilot” and ending with “Harold T. Wilkins”, the set was short but great. Last year already Fanfarlo had worked up some nice instrumentation to their songs, but it’s gotten even better, with the standard rock instruments being tastefully augmented by trumpet, violin, clarinet and melodica.
There were two bands next at Central Presby. Both were the Low Anthem (myspace). One was loud and rocked out. They appeared for about two songs. The other was very subdued, gorgeous and highly soporific. It was also ethereal at times, with bowed glockenspiel adding to an interesting sonority. Despite running on little sleep already, I liked this latter version of the Low Anthem quite a bit. I had only heard things about them before–I hadn’t really heard any of their stuff–but I’ll definitely have to check more now.
I skipped down Congress to Copa for Zimbabwean Chiwoniso (myspace). With a much more diverse crowd than the average SxSW show and Zimbabwean flags waving in the audience, it seemed like a good audience for this singer and mbira player. Quick aside: her mbira was a standard wooden one but it was mounted in a round metal can of sorts and had a pick-up. I hadn’t seen one like this before. She put on a pretty short set–four or five songs, but with two sing-alongs where she’d teach the audience a part and then sing and play on top of it, it was a lively and participatory show. She’s a masterful mbira player and writes nice songs.
I stopped back at the Central Presbyterian to see a bit of Laura Marling (myspace). I saw her back in September when she toured with Johnny Flynn and liked that set, but this one didn’t do it for me as much. Playing as a two piece–with Marcus from Mumford & Sons playing backup guitar, mandolin, percussion and whatnot–it just sort of flowed from one song to the next without much to distinguish itself.
I headed over to the Habana Bar Backyard after that. Tim Easton (myspace) was on when I got there and played for quite a bit. He and his band sort play in that Drive By Truckers-like southern rock/ country rock vein. I really disliked this set. I found it to be bland and I thought it didn’t bring anything to the table.
After that, though, I got to see Deer Tick (myspace). Having seen them only briefly (last year at SxSW, I was happy to see them again. Last year’s set was acoustic whereas this one was electric–except when the upright bass made an appearance–and they’d also moved from being a 3 piece to a 4 piece, adding a second guitarist. John McCauley has really studied the old time rockabilly/ country sound, as is obvious from his songs and his choice of equipment, including his Fender Mustang guitar. They put on a lively and upbeat show. I was sort of expecting–and wanting–more of the acoustic sound I heard last year–but it was still a pretty good set.
Only one day left! Holy cow!.
Check out more of my day 3 photos online.
 This quote is fictional.
 By the third song of Rural Alberta Advantage, this friend turned to me and said, ‘I hope they’re selling CDs.’