Saturday, March 24, 2012
Things start to get even crazier on the Friday of SXSW, and this year would be no different. The Austin Facial Hair Club was gracious enough to let us and our friends at Shifting Sounds host an all day party during their week long Grackle Rock festivities, and it was certain to be a rager. After months of work getting everything ready to go, the day had finally arrived. The venue complete with indoor and outdoor stages would be home to a massive thirty bands throughout the day, and I was tasked with running the action on the inside stage. With short sets and quick breakdown/set-up times, I must mention that I missed just about everything going on outside. If we're lucky though, Shifting Sounds' Brandon Tucker may give us his recap as well, so stay tuned. While I was too stressed to take any notes during the day, here's what I remember...
Boston's Dirty Dishes opened the inside stage with a commanding set of new and old material, including several brand new unreleased songs. Their latest work has evolved into near slowcore territory, dropping the math rock elements of their songs, and moving forward with massively sparse and seemingly calm arrangements that slowly morph and grow into sheer booming sonic destruction. Their shoegaze elements have blossomed since the band's line-up change and we can only hope things continue to get ever louder for the Dishes. The band didn't stick entirely to new material however, as they ripped through the mighty "Stolen Apples," with everyone in the bar erupting in applause.
There's always that one band you see at SXSW that you had no previous knowledge of that just blows you away. Last year that band for me was Austin's own Bridge Farmers. Their sludgy psych rock seamlessly blends with elements of post-hardcore and grunge, and after listening to their album continuously for a year, I was thrilled to have them on this bill. The band slammed into the massively crushing "Ummo," a tripped out surge of power that winds, roars, and simply slays live. The quartet followed with two brand new songs that left me billowing with anticipation for their next release. If you've never heard their record, go check it out, and if you're lucky enough to have the opportunity to see them live (ya know... when it's not SXSW), be sure to do that too!
The inside stage continued with a knockout combination from two of Brooklyn's finest young bands, Me You Us Them and Eula. There was a great energy to Me You Us Them's set, as the band appeared to be fired up from touring their way to Austin. Trying to cram an entire sets worth of material in twenty minutes isn't an easy task, but the quartet seemed more than up for the challenge. The guys played a quick and dirty set that left most of the vocals to Ryan Reesey's gritty howl. Combining a diverse spectrum of early 90s influences that include space rock, shoegaze, dream pop, and post-punk highlights including the ruthless "Research" and the enormous tribal space odyssey "Loving Like Lawyers".
The fiery EULA were next, a spastic power trio that yelps and twitches with angular post-punk riffs. Draped in Christmas lights, singer/guitarist Alyse Lamb and bassist Jeff Maleri were joined by Yoni David, a fantastic drummer filling in for this tour. The band has become known for their constant live performances, and the tightness that comes with it in evident on songs like "Dirty Hands," "Wake Up," and "Maurice Narcisse". The highlight however came when the band played "Texas Stampede," a song that finally found it's home in the Lone Star State.
Upstate New York's Summer People are without a doubt one of the best live bands in the country. Their music is damn near impossible to describe, coming across like punk rock meets lounge side crooner on a twisted bender from hell. The rowdy quintet packed the venue with eager fans looking to get weird with the band, moving onto the edges of the floor stage, surrounding the band in close proximity. The guys were buzzing with energy as Alex Craver began howling away, his signature voice an undeniably unique presence in their sound. The band's sound and disposition unravel while the music remains brilliant. Highlights included "Fish Fry #1" (thanks guys), "Nothing But Dead," "Where's the Poison," and "Hallelujah I'm a Bum," led by bassist/vocalist Brandon Musa. Intertwining guitars, shifting rhythmic chaos from drums and bongos, and a wild stage presence all collided during one of the best sets of the week. Summer People are that band you need to know.
Austin post-hardcore favorites Zlam Dunk followed with a hard charging set filled with intricate rhythms, dazzling finger tapped riffs, and atmospheric synths that blend together in abrasively danceable fashion. Their anthemic shouted vocals lend a good time party aesthetic to their mathy crunch, as my attention became transfixed on Brett Thorne's guitars while the quintet ripped through songs from the recently released Balcones including dizzying instrumental "Crimewave". The guys closed with fan favorite "Vice," an appropriate finale to an epic grooving set.
Canada's favorite prog pop masterminds Wintersleep were next, easing the day's aggression level down considerably for a set primarily of tracks from their upcoming record. Lead vocalist Paul Murphy's melodies were vibrant and soulful over the trickling upbeat indie rock guitars. While there are so many Wintersleep songs I would have loved to hear, the short set didn't allow for much from their extensive catalog. The guys played a pulsating version of "Mausoleum," filled with reverb soaked guitars that build and build as the song progresses.
Ume were next on the inside stage, a band that honestly needs no introduction, especially in their hometown. As I mentioned in my Tuesday recap, the trio are one of the most explosive bands imaginable, and explode they did. The audience reached capacity for their set as everyone crammed in to catch a glimpse of the indie/grunge sensations, catching a firsthand glimpse of singer/guitarist Lauren Larson shred like her life depended on it. There are few musicians out there that play with the excitement and style of Larson, as she physically whips around the stage echoing her thunderous guitar playing. Let us not forget Ume's might rhythm section either... bassist Eric Larson and drummer Rachel Fuhrer add a dense plodding groove to the captivating assault. Larson wasted no time, introducing their set by quietly saying, "Hi. Ume," before ripping into "The Conductor" and never letting up.
Austin's Bloody Knives took the stage next, a heavy shoegaze/industrial band with punk rock aggression and abandonment. The band have a fantastic new album called Blood coming out in May, though the trio choose to skip that record all together and play songs from their next full length due out later this year. While May's release finds the band tackling more dream oriented aspect of their sound, the songs they played live were brutal noise rock freakouts heavy enriched in massive rhythmic punches to the gut. Drawing influence from Ministry and Nine Inch Nails rather than My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chain (though there was still some of that), Bloody Knives ripped the audience some new earholes.
After a brief intermission, Mr. Dream took the stage, bursting with discordant guitar tones and the type of hypnotic rhythms you can't help but move to. After playing a slew of shows over the week (including Consequence of Sound's party), this was their final performance and the guys let loose with a set of songs from the recently released Fatherland EP. Their tongue-in-cheek lyricism and throbbing basslines reel you in and it's hard to imagine there's anything else going on in the room.
The mighty Future of the Left took the stage outside while Grass Is Green prepared to blow minds indoors for an anxious crowd that seemed to double in anticipation of their show. The boys rocked out a set of unapologetic post-punk glory that had the crowd in a frenzy from the first song. Granted I may be a little biased (though there's good reason for that) but there are few bands that can do what these Boston gents can, sounding so impeccably loose while playing unbelievably tight. To the uninitiated, it would appear as though all hell is breaking loose at any given moment, and that's just the way Grass Is Green like it, blasting through carefully constructed chaos with a majestic recklessness. Go see Grass Is Green live, you won't regret it.
Bilbao, Spain's Capsula, a band that has been invited back to SXSW for four years in a row and counting, are another must see live band that play every show like true rock stars. No, they're not assholes (far from it actually) but the trio treat each concert they play as though they were rocking to a giant arena, regardless of the venue or audience... Capsula come out to play a rock n' roll show, and they ALWAYS deliver. Sounding like a psychedelic union of David Bowie, Sonic Youth, and The Stooges, singer/guitarist Martin Guevara and singer/bassist Coni Duchess switch off on lead vocals, both with terrific voices to cut through their stony psych rock riffs. While Guevara has a wide eyed wonderment to him, pumping up the crowd and using anything in his path to swirl up some added guitar feedback, Duchess plays it cool, shaking her head with punk attitude and vocals Kim Gordon could be proud of. The crowd was completely entranced, rocking out with giant grins on their faces as the trio bashed away in blissful excess. When their set ended, an immediate chant for one more song began and thankfully for everyone, the band obliged.
It truly was a great day, that also featured sets from The Life and Times, DZ Deathrays, Magnet School, Black Books, Dead Twins, Mittenfields, Gentlemen Rogues, The Devil Rides, Trebuchet, The Auxiliary Voice, Unstoppable Death Machines, Ritz Riot, Galaxy Express, Supersonic Piss, Superchief, Family, and Skycrawler. Huge thanks to Brandon, Bryan, The Grackle, all the bands, managers, booking agents, and of course the fans who came out and made it such an amazing time.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 1:05 PM