Mar 222009

Leaving Austin without sampling their legendary food-stuffs would have been a crime, so Saturday morning I ventured out to Hut’s Hamburgers to have a lunch that didn’t consist of cardboard pizza and cheap tacos. Seriously, one of the best burgers in the country. Though some of those taco trucks were incredible as well.

On yet another perfect day, I started blindly by seeing a set by the much beloved Mae Shi. Not beloved by me, but the throng that showed up early to catch them and their take on frenetic synth pop. A bout of technical difficulties proved it’s quite a feat to be a West Coast punk band and employ your Macbook at the same time—the bright, colorful loops and junk drawer beats finally coalesced, though, and I found I was won over by the Mae Shi’s quirky blend in broad daylight.

Was I planning on seeing Kanye? Well, it was in the cards and I headed down to the Fader Fort early to avoid the inevitable long line. The Fader compound, though, was immense, likely holding a couple thousand, so if you wanted to see Mr. West, you likely got in. I instead was more interested in the Mad Decent cadre that dominated most of the afternoon. Maluca being the biggest surprise. Over the course of the week, the M.I.A. replicate was common, but each separate female emcee/ingenue, held their own. Maluca leans towards the Latin/Caribbean side of booty beat. Flanked by competent dancers, throwing out whistles and manning the cowbell, she made freestyle a genre waiting to be co-opted into modernly spun hot tracks. Not sure when her record drops, but I expect big things.

Unfortunately Popo, Mad Decent’s first “rock” signing, cannot catch the same slack given to a band like the Black Lips. Songs about smoking crack matched with stale garage riffs will not pay the bills. A 7-inch is on the way, but please no record.

Fortunately, the real Major Lazer followed them. Switch and Diplo took to the tables, basically giving the audience their first listen to what’s expected to be the jam of the summer. From what I could gather the Major Lazer full-length is a wild take on dancehall, filled with A-list guest spots and fortified with the duo’s gargantuan beats. Set-up like a authentic Jamaican sound-system, along with their own dancing mummy, again, Diplo did not disappoint. His star continues to shine even brighter.

I decided against Kanye as up the hill, as Ron could attest, Ms. Bea’s had the line-up of the weekend with all the must-sees of the Fest going back-to-back-to-back in front of an increasingly swelling crowd.  The tiny Mexican bar was a perfect microcosm of the week’s debauchery—here the alleys were filled with dope smoke, hits of whiskey, and plenty of collector scum networking. It was nice to see Kurt Vile, Thee Oh Sees, Eat Skull, Blank Dogs, and best of all another, and likely the most impassioned, set from Psychedelic Horseshit, under the ecological and technical constraints of Bea’s backyard. Either on the “stage” or on the “floor,” this group of bands validated why something like SXSW exists—to gather them all together under one giant umbrella so that everyone gets a chance to share in the revolution. Sadly sets by Wavves and No Age seemed aesthetically out of place.

Somewhere along the night I was dragged to see white rapper hopeful, Asher Roth, only to head back east after witnessing such dismal hip-hop. Ugh.

My SXSW ended in prophetic fashion standing on the pedestrian bridge over Town Lake, watching the U.S. Girls and Tyvek echo a raucous madness into the night, to a crowd, though tired and weary, still hungry for more.

Mar 222009

With the impending Sunday morning flight home looming large, Saturday night wasn’t an all-out affair (had to forgo the after-hours Psychedelic Horseshit/Tyvek show under the pedestrian bridge), but it still provided some memorable scenes.

My night ended with another stellar garage pop set by Box Elders as part of the Goner showcase. Leading up to that, I spent another good block of time at Ms. Bea’s. Kurt Vile played a solid batch of psychedelic ‘70s throwback, stoner rock songs. I preferred the more raw stuff Vile opened with, but the quieter songs grew on me as the set went on. Cause Co-Motion followed with a decent showing of Brooklyn punk, which sounded good enough but didn’t necessarily translate in this setting for whatever reason.

My favorite from the Bea’s run was, perhaps predictably, Psychedelic Horseshit’s edgy romp through the some of the better parts of the band’s repertoire of new songs, culminating with a brief guest appearance from Los Llamarada’s vocalists. The following sets from Blank Dogs and Eat Skull were just fine, but lacked the radioactive spark of Horsehit.  I also got to see Thee Oh Sees, but once again I felt the patio setting wasn’t the best for them, and I’d still like to catch them in a proper venue.

The Saturday highlight came via Zola Jesus, who performed as part of the Sacred Bones showcase. In the live setting, her transcendent voice particularly shines, especially in the context of her rangy lo-fi electro-ballads, and the on-stage support provided by Dead Luke added an extra dimension to the sound. She only played four songs (including a haunting cover of “Somebody to Love”), but they were four of the best songs I heard all week.

Mar 212009

Los Llamarada was great, a little more “song oriented’ than they were during their recent stop in Columbus, but still brilliant.

I caught the three-piece Tyvek afterwards. It lacked the massive sound of former line-ups, but it’s still the quality Tyvek you know and love.

Mar 212009

Stopped by Typewriter Museum and stumbled upon a semi-surprise Six Finger Satellite show. I’ve never been a big fan, but the band sounds good. Gotta jet, though. Los Llamarada is playing Ms. Bea’s.

Mar 212009

After a late lunch at Iron Works BBQ, I’m watching Oakland, California’s the Pets at Beerland right now. They play a great brand of high energy, almost sophisticated punk. It’s straightforward, but effective.

This should be a fun day.