I'm happy to report that the greatest week of the year has finally arrived, the 25th anniversary of SXSW, and the opening night couldn't have been better. With literally over a hundred bands covered by Exploding In Sound performing this year, we whittled down our schedule to bring you as much coverage as possible for the live music capitol of America.
Austin's very own The Boxing Lesson kicked off the festivities on a bill of all local acts at Skinny's Ballroom. The trio played several new songs from their long awaited and highly anticipated sophomore full length Possibilities that were sounding great. Their sound mixes new wave keyboards and moog with grungy 90's guitar work for a sweeping spaced out vibe that had the crowd entranced. Between new tracks like "Breezy" and "East Side Possibilities" the band broke out a cover of New Order's "Age of Consent". SXSW has always been a great time to showcase new music, and I can firmly report we are eager for their upcoming album, which they announced they finished recording earlier this week. While I would have loved to hear a few tracks from Wild Streaks and Windy Days, there's not a whole lot of set time during these showcases and the band certainly didn't disappoint.
Down the street over at Club DeVille, Athens, GA natives Futurebirds took the stage to play they own blend of ferocious alt/country. The sextet featured massive amounts of just about everything, beautifully locked in with four guitarists, bass, drums, three part vocal harmonies, and the occasional banjo. The crowd was revved up, singing along with every word as the band played some of the noisiest alt/country I've ever heard, pounding with stomping crescendos and joyful rowdiness. The country twang rang prevalent throughout the set, gradually layering guitars until for a foot stomping good time. The band offer a great amount of variety, switching lead vocalists several times, including a switch of the lead singer and drummer. It seemed there was little Futurebirds can't do live, something I've come to expect from the Athens scene.
Back over at Skinny's Ballroom, Austin's Black Books took the stage to perform songs from their debut EP An Introduction To... that sounded strikingly similar to their recorded versions. With lead singer/drummer Ross' kit pushed up front and center there wasn't much movement on stage but the band offered shimmering renditions of "Green Screen," "Maria," and our highlight "The Big Idea".
It was time to get noisy however, and Weekend were just the trio for the job. The San Francisco shoegazers blasted through songs from their Slumberland debut Sports with lo-fo rhythms and loud squealing guitars. Their slacker shoegaze is rough and heavy with an urgent sense for texture that never gets dull or convoluted. The band closed their set with the massive "Coma Summer," riding the waves and sonic bursts into an all out assault of distortion.
One of our favorite things about SXSW is the opportunity to see bands from other parts of the world, bands we love that don't typically get a chance to tour the States. Thursday night, Leeds, UK based Pulled Apart By Horses absolutely exploded in Latitude 30 for their first ever American show. While I had been highly anticipating that moment for months now, nothing could have prepared me for the energy and general riotous nature of their performance.
The guys erupted the moment they took the stage to a largely British audience, tearing through their album opener "Back to The Fuck Yeah". The intensity level was apparently more than even the club expected, as the band blew a fuse in the PA after just one song. After a quick fix to get the mics back on, the mayhem continued with scathing renditions of "High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive," "I Punched A Lion In The Throat," "Meat Balloon," "The Crapsons," and "Yeah Buddy". It didn't take long for lead singer Tom Hudsons to leave the stage, diving into the audience mid song and bringing the energy into the crowd with him. Excited to be in Texas they announced they had a slow song before jokingly playing an excerpt from Cotton Eye Joe leading into "I've Got Guestlist to Rory O'Hara's Suicide" when Tom made his way to the bar across the room, poured several drinks on himself and anyone nearby before leaping back into the crowd. The band played "V.E.N.O.M." a brand new song that ripped in usual PABH fashion. The guys set the bar awfully high with this performance, leaving me to doubt anything the rest of the week would be able to top it... but be sure to continue reading for the coming days...
Heavy metal sludgesters Kylesa rounded out the evening at Klub Krucial, pounding out nearly every track from last year's phenomenal Spiral Shadows and Static Tensions including my personal highlight "Don't Look Back". Armed with their double drumming assault, the set was full of incredible rhythmic control that kept the audiences heads banging the entire time. The crowd was pumped as a chaotic mosh pit broke out during the first few songs and remained until the bands final moments on stage. Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope split vocal and guitar duties with Pleasants' finger work and monstrous riffs crushing everyone within earshot. It was a hell of a way to end the first night at SXSW, and this was only the beginning...