The nice thing about being an event planner at SXSW is that I don’t have to travel very far to see bands I like: they can come play for me! (well, they actually come to play for Paste and its audience… but I can pretend).
For the past few days I have been holed up at the newly-opened Volume Night Club on E 6th Street (next to Emos) where Paste and Stereogum are hosting the DELL Lounge. I must say, I have been very shocked by the consistent quality of the performances, because everything is rushed at SXSW… quick set turnovers, shared gear, no sound checks… we owe a lot of that to Gene Griffin, our patient and unflappable stage manager.
But let’s talk bands: My Brightest Diamond, Nada Surf, Destroyer, Colour Revolt, Delta Spirit, Peter Moren, Lightspeed Champion, The Weakerthans, Kaki King, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Liam Finn, The Whigs. And six more today. Whew. So here are some superlatives!!
Most surprised by the popularity of… The Weakerthans. I knew this Canadian band was well-liked and respected, but when I was in the balcony watching the crowd, I saw handfuls of people singing along to new songs, and even more throwing up fist-pumps during older songs. Those crazy Canadians.
Most fashionable without breaking a sweat… Peter Moren. A nice suit, stunning blue shirt, and Keds. Looking sharp, Peter. Second place would go to Lightspeed Champion. Even though Dev has a lot of hair under his thick wintery hat, he looked cool and composed on stage. I also loved his vintage-looking sports shirt and stovepipe pants. Very snazzy, gentlemen.
Badass of the day… Kaki King. Kaki and her band rolled in about 20 minutes before the set, and still rocked the stage, especially when Kaki invited Sara DeCastro from The Bubonics’ to lead a hard-hitting, punk-infused song at the end of the set. She also wins this superlative because of her honesty. When asked to endorse SXSW as a great atmosphere, great festival, etc, on camera for a TV interview, she didn’t agree and told them so. She also said people should stop treating her as a crusader in the fight to prevent STDs because she was in a Gardasil commercial: as she explained from stage, she just got paid. Way to tell it like it is, Kaki.
Most likey to be mistaken for James McAvoy… Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. I’m not sure which bandmember I am referring to here, because the band rotated through instruments and stage positions throughout the concert (demonstrating musical prowless). But when I saw this bandmember in the crowd (and you know who you are, even though I don’t) I thought James McAvoy was in attendance.
Most unexpectedly awesome… Liam Finn. From listening to Finn’s debut album, I didn’t realize that heplays all the instruments during his set. Not that I should be surprised: Finn is the son of Crowded House’s Neil Finn… good genes. He was playing the drum kit with such intensity that Gene our stage manager had to hold the bass drum still so it didn’t kick back off the stage.
Sweatiest… The Whigs. It’s been a busy SXSW for Paste “4 to Watch” artist, The Whigs, with shows at Stubbs and alongside My Morning Jacket. At the end of a scorchingly hot day (92 degrees in Austin), The Whigs closed out the party with some highly energized rock’n’roll. Even though the show was inside, the bodyheat radiating from the packed house was overwhelming… coupled with the heat from the stage lights, I can understand why one would look like he had just taken a shower. Well-earned sweat, boys.
Here are some photos from the past few days, with more to come soon.