The night continued on for me at Beerland, where I saw another San Fransisco band, Baths. Their more mellow rock sounded a bit to my ears like how the Velvet Underground would’ve turned out if Sterling Morrison was the front man—okay enough, but nothing too inspiring. I found myself much more into Cheap Time, whose blistering punk knocked me out for the second time at the festival. The trio’s songs come at you rapid fire, Ramones-style, and this set secured their spot among my favorite groups of the week.
Moving south on Red River, I stopped into Barbarella to check out Abe Vigoda (the band), which has been advertised as arty punk, but which I’d never actually gotten the chance to witness in person. They came off as a more electric Vampire Weekend. While their hears seemed into it, mine certainly wasn’t, and I moved back to Red 7’s patio to witness a J Mascis solo set, which was much more my speed. Mascis seemed a bit more deliberate than usual—maybe it was the now near-freezing temperature—but he still delivered a solid, but brief set, which included a decent amount of his trademark guitar pyrotechnics and memorable renditions of “Little Fury Things” and “The Wagon.”
From there, I moved inside Red 7 for a much-anticipated set by the Fresh & Onlys (pictured above), whose psychedelic pop did not disappoint. It was a bit weird that I kept semi-unintentionally running into San Fransisco bands Saturday night, but, regardless, these guys were the best, delivering compelling guitar-rock that had me wishing the night wasn’t drawing to a close. When their set ended much too early for me, I was fortunate to stumble into the last few songs of North Carolina stoner metal purveyors Weedeater, who had the crowd in Encore ready to tear the place apart. As I stood in the middle of the bass-heavy, sludgy madness, under a steady rain of beer falling down from flying PBR cans, I remembered once again why SXSW is one of the best four-day spans of the year—while you’re not going to catch every band on your list, you can still see a little bit of everything by the end.
Ironically the first band I saw on the last day was named Wetdog. That’s how I felt, that’s how the day felt. Soggy and 40 degrees, factor in that wind chill for once. Everyone’s going home sick, unless they followed their mother’s advice. Wetdog played the cement block that is Cheer Up Charlie’s. Last year, it was the beacon. This year, at least on this day, it was Altamont.
I’ll officially give this year’s crown to Dam-Funk. His one-man show (I should of went to see the full band) plays the music I wish I could make. Would love to see him have a Prince-like ascent—he’s really that special. Bring back the vocoder. I planted myself at le Fort again. Sleigh Bells were poorly executed. This duo could be better if they’d stick to a set of turntables and a rack of effects, maybe Diplo on the flank. Interesting to see how this live show, a K-Mart YYYs, goes over when someone finally calls bullshit. I stayed to see Bone Thugz-n-Harmony, and though I was half a mile away, it was a spectacle, effortlessly flowing through at least a solid decade of hits. Not to mention some Eazy-E tributes and ‘90s hip-hop vaudeville. This could have easily mystified a crowd at Acapulco Spring Break. Did I mention this guy called Yelawolf? Pure skills.
Tried to make my last, a night of international randoms. First up was Crayon Fields from Melbourne, Australia. By the end I was beginning to think the allure of SXSW this year was mediocre indie rock (Morning Benders, Freelance Whales, Local Natives) as I couldn’t get a grasp on what people were truly digging. Crayon Fields likely fit into that column for most. It’s mopey, rainy-day jangle that owes a major debt to Sarah Records and Orange Juice, but something here stuck with me. There were moments that even went along a repetitive, monotone bender a la the Fall. Plenty of “kants” and “couldn’ts” and bleeding-heart melancholy soaked in proficient guitar pop. Excellent and underrated. Unfortunately, the next stop, with Trondheim, Norway’s Deleted Waveform Gatherings, wasn’t so appealing. It still amazes me that bands travel half the globe to play one 20-minute showcase to five to ten people on top of what’s normally a Sixth Street frat bar? Was it worth it to play your extremely dated tribute to Guided By Voices? Full disclosure, this band used to be a great Nord psych band called the Dipsomaniacs, whom I loved, but this was horrific.
I’ve said it before, but SXSW is all about your venue. You could’ve packed every chill-waver worth his weight in Korgs into the same club, but if it’s run like Klub Krucial, you’re sure to leave with a sour taste. That’s why I was finding myself revisiting the subterranean hedonism of Barcelona throughout Saturday. Granted, they had DJs only and not much room to mingle, still Brooklyn threesome Sub Swara and Plastician made it feel like the end of the earth. I never got chance to hit up the Diplo-curated party on the south side and it didn’t matter all that much. These two crews were jamming on whirrs and buzzes, beats and samples assembled for the next generation—above and beyond even what I would’ve sweated out at Major Lazer. That good.
My day, and entire SXSW experience, ended in a swift blur with a performance by Beijing, China’s White—brutal, extremely unheard, experimental klang—-and the tail end of No Age, who have reportedly evolved into a three piece of stunning proportions. Found my way to one late night party with said Los Angeles taste-makers. Nothing much to see. Avey Tare of Animal Collective was spinning Steely Dan, and there was more free beer to choke on and Big Freedia, perhaps the most unusual set of theatrics I saw all week. Though I didn’t stray to the fringe to see the new Siltbreeze yokels (seen them both a handful of times) or venture afar for my Mad Decent fix or take the death-trip to Mexico with Todd P, I feel it was all worth it. The blood, sweat, and impending dialysis. Look for a full rehash on Wednesday.
Wanted to end with something transcendent. Chose White from China. Half Boredoms, half Sword Heaven. All foreign to this world and for the better.
Probably the best of the minimalist laptop and guitar pop I’ve seen all week. Tanlines build and build upon some striking tropical rhythms, never forgetting the importance of a rich melody. Should join forces with Memory Tapes.