SXSW Conclusions - Saturday and the aftermath 5

SXSW Conclusions – Saturday and the aftermath

By Peter Dysart and Mike Hughes

MH: OMG, I almost managed a morning start! Not quite pre-noon, although I did manage to get back down to 6th Street in order to catch Feathers play a lunch-time slot. I was curious about these. Their PR image is of a very glossy 4-girl band, almost too glamorous to be real, and I’d been dismissive. On the other hand, I’d spotted that Andy Von Pip had an extensive interview (which you can read here). Andy’s always worth taking a cue from, and was clearly impressed. I totally missed that Feathers are Austin locals, even the fact that they had loads of mates there dancing away in front of the stage still didn’t make me twig.
I’m so glad I put my cynicism to one side, and it feels even more appropriate that I saw them in a down and dirty club, where they owned the stage. They impressed me LOTS and are clearly the genuine article. Expect more from them shortly

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My hit list band for the morning were up next. Being a dullard, I had managed to be in the wrong place and time for MS MR when they played Manchester, but I’ve been smitten with their recorded output. Today, despite  Lizzy Plapinger apologising for vocals ravaged by 4 days in Austin, they were absolutely on fire. They both looked stoked; Lizzy in particular couldn’t hide her grin even behind her hand. The first proper stars of chill-wave? Judge yourself, dig out ‘Candy Bar Creep Show’ and even more so ‘Fantasy’. They were completely up there as one of my top acts of the whole festival. Why? It’s in the conviction they both have, and the way the music catches, it’s beyond mere ear-worms. That and the meaningful spaces. They’ll be back in the UK in the next few months.

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PD: As Mike stayed on for the next band, I shuffled off for the Aussie BBQ at Maggie Mae’s, one of the better overall day parties at SX. Hurrying to the rooftop stage, Alpine is preparing for their last SX gig. With the release of ‘A is for Alpine’ this May, a Stateside tour is in the works. This is my third time catching this act. What can I say? I like bands producing a higher quality of pop music, and Alpine delivers this with great élan. But where their other SX sets were most enjoyable, this one had an odd vibe that began with a large prat lighting up a joint as soon as the band took the stage. Unfortunately, we were downwind from this twat as was the band. Lou (one of the two singers in the band) made several references to the blue smoke not being legal in Texas but on he toked.


I don’t think the smoke affected the band, but there were a few mis-cues with song order. Phoebe and Lou are so incredibly genuine people and they love to connect with their fans, and talking between songs comes naturally. Unfortunately the venue seemed to be on a schedule lock down and after only four songs, the band was given the last song signal. They should have had a full 40 minutes but I was sure it was just 30. After the gig, Pam and I caught up with Ryan and Phoebe to wish them safe travels and to assure them that we’d bring out the troops for their first full US tour.

MH: I hung on at the venue for Doldrums. I’d heard their reputation but not their music so I asked the guy next to me, someone I could tell was pretty dedicated, to give me the lowdown. What he said was note-worthy. “Man, they’re fantastic. It’s kind of experimental. They’re so far ahead of their time… think 6 tabs of acid and the year 2029“. In the future I’ve decided to just ask random strangers for quotes. Fun, and well worth risking that ‘experimental’ tag.

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Autre Ne Veut were playing on the outside stage, thankfully well shaded as there was some ripple about the venue running out of water. They were electro with slabby synths, live drums and his’n’hers vox. Arthur Ashin’s falsetto was impassioned as he pleaded from the stage. My notes are in the form of a question. “Is it EDM or rap?” Who cares, it works.


PD: I still had much to see that afternoon, so off to a local dive bar on 6th to catch Man Without Country one last time. Arriving early I made my accidently absolute discovery of SX in the form of a young Toronto band, Moon King. As a guitarist I often find myself bored by average bands and their banal bar chords. Moon King had no such issue, as their lead guitarist, Maddy Wilde, opened the set with a few seventh and ninth chords and some very nice resonant open voicings. Out came the phone and I was immediately texting any and all to drop what they were doing and rush over to see this band. Lead singer and will-o-the-wisp hybrid, Daniel Benjamin, poured out his soul into a dreamy mix of hooky angular rock tunes loaded with atmospheric guitars and synth. I was thrilled by their song ‘Crucified.’ After the gig, I asked Daniel for an impromptu interview and he informed me they had one last set that evening at Valhalla. That was that — I was dragging Mike to it without question. Not to be out done, Man Without Country delivered another fine performance even if was to a smaller crowd.


PD: Next up for me was Savages at Easy Tiger, one of my favourite new Austin haunts located adjacent to a branch of the Red River that cuts through the city. Last year, the river landing stage, which is surrounded by brick walls of other downtown building was covered by a tent, creating a rather comfortable place to enjoy bands in the shade. This year, there was no such comfort for the crowd or the band, and the sun beat down on surrounding brick walls creating a hotbox. Savages started their set in earnest but soon the heat took its toll. Midway through the set, Fay Milton had that ‘no mas’ look with her eyelids at half-mast and sweat pouring down her face. Between songs, she put her head down on a tom with little relief. Jehnny gave no ground and continued her delivery in furious fashion. After the set, I spoke with John Best, their tour manager, to inquire about the US leg of their upcoming tour. With the release of their debut album, ‘Silence Yourself’, word will be spreading about this incendiary act.


MH: It was time to hit ‘pause’, and I was on my way to Austin’s poshest hotel to sit in the lobby and drink iced water – both free treats – when I came upon a scene of such awfulness that it makes my stomach churn even now. It was a gaggle of religious nuts, with signs and placards suggesting that anyone who was gay, or engaged in the devil’s music, basically was anyone but them, was doomed to death. Intolerant hate-filled, nasty bastards that jarred against everything that liberal Austin stands for. I might have been tired and emotional, but sadly they succeeded in making me very angry and upset indeed. Luckily for my mental equilibrium, some lovely kids had hurriedly made some placards of their own, one of which read “god hates figs, not fags”. They cheered me up no end, so I high fived them all and left them to it. John Lennon was right.


PD: Hearing about this rubbish from Mike made me angry as well. When will equality really mean equality for all? Religious numpties. Pure shite. 

MH: Somehow afternoon turned to evening, and we were queuing for a Frank Turner TV taping. Frank was on tour with his band. Maybe it says something about the attraction of SXSW that this was the second year in a row that he’s arranged his US dates to enable him to hit up the festival. He’s the consummate rabble-rouser, singing song of protest about bits of old London being knocked down for those damned Cross-Rail chappies. He suggests we secure some photographic memories now before its too late. I tend to agree. Progress is progress but we have enough concrete monstrosities. I always come out of his sets fired up, although tonight it was partly about pretty girls who assume that their undoubted charms (and drunkenness) entitle them to walk up and stand in front of me even when I’d been queuing outside for absolutely ages darling. Grrrr.

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MH: We’d hoped to see his advertised support Josh Doyle and say hi, but it being a TV taping, everything was turned upside down; Frank was on first and we had to leg it straight after his set. The reason for our early dart was the band Peter reckoned were THE discovery of the whole week; Moon King.

PD: “Yes, onto Moon King. We must go!” In truth, I could have stayed, especially since Frank Turner’s set had put me in such a jolly mood. I truly love that in all of Frank’s musical depth and lyricism (as he reinvents himself in a more acoustic sense), he’s truly only a heartbeat away from a good pint, a fuzzed guitar chord, and that endearing punk sneer.

MH: Moon King are a Canadian band, sharing a bass player with Austra as it happened. Front-people are Daniel Benjamin & Maddy Wilde. Maddy is a serious lady but Daniel has the punk spirit strong within him. Not unlike Pond‘s Nick Allbrook, he grimaces, contorts, looks like he so needs a wash, climbs things, squeals like a pixie (how would I know?) and wrecks the stage. Two old farts in the audience (that’d be me and Peter) scurried to a safer spot by the bar. Security were not amused as they huffily put the bass stacks back up. After a while Daniel asks if they’ve got time to play one more? Everyone in the tiny venue can hear the sound engineer’s voice over the stage monitors “you’ve had twenty minutes, you’ve got twenty minutes left ….“. The look of panic was priceless as Daniel muttered an admittance that they’d already played all their stuff. After another 6 minutes, he decides their work here is done and stalks off. Peter was bemused. “They were not the same band I saw” “What, two bands with the same name?” “No, it was the same people, same name, but a completely different band“. You gotta like that.

PD: I was befuddled with their change in tune, to say the least, but not altogether unamused by Daniel’s obvious free spirit. During the set, I nodded to Mike as members of Austra and the next band were collecting around us to catch the wild child. Afterwards, I dashed off to catch TOY at the BME only to realise the set time had shifted up an half hour and I only caught a few last songs. Luckily the posh comforts of the Driskill had me happily resting, feet up and eyes shut.

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Moon King


MH: It was 11pm and next up, luckily in the same grotty / lovely little rock club were Tasseomancy. For those that don’t know, these are Sari and Romy Lightman, the twin sisters who are otherwise part of Austra. The rest of Austra were here too, to watch and support, apart from bass player Dorian who’d just been on with Moon King – he just stayed on the stage. Tasseomancy are not a huge band and it was an intimate gig. The audience veered towards the dedicated, and by now I was getting rumbled; a drunk young guy told me he’d seen me at a previous Austra set, and asked slurringly did I really love the band? Erm, yes, can’t be denied. Tasseomancy have one full-length album which, tellingly, went out in the form of a candle and a down-load code. They used to be a fairly straight up folk act but have slipped over the last couple of years into somewhere deep, dreamlike and freaky. The most fascinating thing about an enthralling band is the connection that Sari and Romy have – they seem to communicate volumes in glances between them. They declared it the weirdest show they’d ever played – “Weird but safe” – and I’d concur. It was a very special set and worth most of the air-fare on its own.

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I picked up Peter, who was easing his bones back at the posh hotel lobby, and we headed for an appointment on a roof-top with Deaf Club. They’re a band I’ve seem twice recently and had been utterly on form both times – they’ve come so far and it’s great to see them getting the recognition. What happened next was a lesson in SXSW pitfalls. We said a quick hello to Polly and the guys as they loaded in. Tom apologised that they couldn’t stop to chat as they had been given only ten minutes to set up. They were assertive enough as they did so, took their time, but when they got started up (bang on time) the sound out front was way out of kilter. It was a huge pity, especially as on-stage they sounded bloody fantastic. I know because I’d sneaked on to take some photos. As Peter observed, the sound guy was more interested in smoking cigarettes and taking photos. Hey, that’s my job, at least the taking photos bit.

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Deaf Club

MH: Is it wrong to go to SouthBy, with all these hundreds and thousands of bands, and ignore most of them in order to go see your most favourite bands in the whole world multiple times? I’m talking about Austra of course, although the same had applied to The Joy Formidable earlier in the week. You know what, I was there because I love what I love, rather than being on some nerdy scholarly mission to see 85 bands you’ve never heard of. I accordingly dragged Peter to the Elysium at about 1.15 in the morning, expecting that it would either be all over or there’d be massive queues. By now, on the last official night of the festival, most things were slowing to a stuttering judder.

PD: That was Mike’s version of the story, but I had a slightly different take on the last set. It was I who insisted that we catch one more show and I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I nearly had to carry Mike on my back to see Austra, yet again. Such an epic struggle. 

MH: Our luck was way in. Due to some fortuitous and temporary loss of Maya’s cymbals, Austra hadn’t started yet. We snuck up the outside of the crowd and ended up on the front corner of the stage. It was dirty, dusty, hot and sweaty. We were all tired, most of us had drunk ourselves sober. In other words, this was setting up to be one of the finest moments of the whole week.

PD: With the very late start, the bar announced last call for drinks but insisted that the band would play their full set. In fact, the club was so eminently cool about the late start that they took drink orders from the band on stage and then filled the order prior to the show. 

MH: The anti-glamour of the venue, the loved-up audience, were just so right for the dance-heavy side of Austra’s psyche. By now, I was starting to get comfortable with the new songs, but when they played ‘Lose It’, and even more so ‘The Beat And The Pulse’, the whole reason for the trip came together. I wasn’t alone – Savages drummer Fay Milton appeared on stage, dancing behind Katie, while Jehnny Beth hung in the stage door, dancing her characteristic motorik moves.

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MH: Like any monster party, there’s a come-down Sunday. I spent half the morning lost in the Texas countryside before I found my friends for brunch in boho SoCo, the shabby-chic bit of Austin on the wrong side of the river. Pam and Peter were about to set off for the long two day drive back to Chicago.

PD: Guero’s Taco Bar on Sunday for lunch is a bit of regular for our repeat crew. It was odd that I saw Dennis exactly three times that week, once more than last year. But it is the perfect place to not be in a rush. We shared our experiences over food and drinks, and talked at length about the good, the bad, and the ugly in rock’n’roll. After lunch, we walked along SoCo, ambling into antique shops, which for Americans means ‘things from the 1900s.’ Pam ran across some ‘antique’ Scrabble letters.

I suppose not altogether unexpected, we ran into Alpine’s Phoebe and Christian again out on the street and chatted for a few minutes. This band really likes the SoCo scene and this was Mike’s second year in a row bumping into them. Finally it came time to hit the road so we said our goodbyes (no, you hang up), dashed to our car to catch Mike and Dennis unawares on the corner. Windows down, I started shooting, camera out the window getting off random pictures and hurling last insults. Yes, we will see you again next year. Maybe sooner. Did the week really go that fast? Should we book our rooms now? Yes and yes.

MH: We said fond farewells, then the buggers insisted on driving right past us, so politeness turned into good-natured abuse hurling. I hung out with Dennis – another writer, who was like me staying on an extra day. We discussed going to Alejandro Escovedo’s anti-SXSW showcase later that day. Peter Buck was playing, whoopy-doo. I would have liked to have seen Willie Nile, and there were 16 bands on the bill, but the knackeration was on us both and I slumped. Good chap that Dennis is, I woke from a snooze later on to find a text from him suggesting a low-key gig and a beer at Stubbs, another venue that was doing its own Sunday thing. We chatted, I met young professionals doing their version of Spring Break. The town is full of either vacationing Washington policy advisors, lawyers on the lig, or total space cadets. I met one of the latter for good measure, who in between giving me a card for her friend’s band, told me that all anyone needed to eat was salt, honey, algae and mushrooms. Why of course my dear. Did I want to see her tattoos? Did I want a hug? Eek!

I saw two bands there. The first of these were Tumbleweed Wanderers who everyone seemed to think were fantastic. For me, it felt like a forced smile, let’s leave it there. However, they were followed on by Brown Shoe, over from California. Now here was a band to believe in. I’ve read their press, and most of it is about their melodic ways, their country tinge. All that might be true, but what really matters is Ryan Baggaley and the huge, massive heart with which he delivers this stream of Americana. He expressed the usual platitudes about how happy they were to be here etc, etc, but then, then, he really put his emotional all into it. He finished by croaking a tear choked and strangled “Dammit, we’re good” just as a kid might tell his folks that he’s not a bad boy whatever they may they think. He rushed off stage and outside. I wandered out there a few moments later and found him calming down. I thanked him, said my goodnights to my friends and drove back to my hotel. After that, I didn’t want to spoil it by hearing anything mediocre. Over and out.

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Brown Shoe


 What’s up there?



Mike, Peter, Dennis, Pam

Also published at the oddly eclectic

The other parts are here

Many more photos here

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.