St. Patrick’s Day and SXSW collided this year, and the result was mayhem. People everywhere, and if they weren’t looking to see a band they were looking for a drink. In some cases it was both. There was plenty of fun to be had, but you had to keep a close eye on drunken revelers at shows – they were liable to do anything. I’m not going to get into it, except to say I barely avoided getting vomited on. But Saturday also meant the final day of SXSW Music, and the offerings were actually a little more meager than in days previous. Still, there was plenty to do and see if you were motivated enough, so here’s my recap of the fourth and final day of my SXSW adventure.
After 3 days of standing on my feet and walking everywhere, my body was ready to quit on me last night. I took that into account and slept later than usual to try and bring my energy back up for one more day of live music on the streets of Austin. It was mid-afternoon by the time I ventured out of my hotel room, and I headed straight for the outskirts and the Mess With Texas party. There were a few artists performing there I’d been wanting to see but hadn’t got around to. The first of them was 2:54, a British band made up of two sisters that have an affinity for shoegaze and 90s rock. They’re probably best experienced in total darkness, but there was still something gothic about their outdoor tent performance. They didn’t play for very long, but were remarkably good anyways. 2:54’s EP Scarlet is out now, and is deserving of your attention if you haven’t heard it yet.
Tanlines followed 2:54, though they were playing the big indoor stage instead of the small outside tent one. Despite not having released any albums yet (their debut Mixed Emotions comes out Tuesday), Tanlines earned the spot of pre-headliner. They’ve put out a few singles and a pair of EPs, not to mention a bunch of remixes, so based on all that and some good ‘ol hype, the band is doing pretty well. Their set went pretty well too, flush with mostly new material that got the crowd dancing. The set also proved the band has moved beyond simple, straight dance music and into something more complex and interesting. The duo are still a little awkward when it comes to stage banter, as percussionist Jesse Cohen’s go-to line was always “We’re Tanlines.” Seriously, he said it after almost every song. Maybe he thought we’d forgotten, or maybe he just wanted to make sure fans that were waiting on A$AP Rocky were fully aware of who they were and what kind of music they were making.
Speaking of A$AP Rocky, I was mainly at Mess With Texas to see him. As he’s another member of my Class of 2012, I was pretty much obligated to check up and find out what his live show is like. Well, first of all, he showed up an hour late. That wasn’t very cool. But when he did finally make it, along with his crew the A$AP Mob, he put on a show worth waiting an hour to see. The crowd was riled up and ready to go, and he gave them exactly what they wanted – cuts off his mixtape LIVELOVEA$AP. They sang/rapped along, hands in the air with the sort of enthusiasm reserved for huge hip hop stars like Jay-Z and Kanye West. “I don’t give a fuck what y’all do here; moshing, crowd surfing, throwing shit, or even fucking each other – just so long as you have a good time,” Rocky told the crowd. So cartons of water were being thrown around like crazy, smoke filled the air, and the A$AP Mob dove off the stage and into the crowd more than once. Rocky also told the crowd that he tried to come to SXSW last year to perform, but couldn’t afford the plane ticket. Clearly his situation has changed, what with a reported $3 million record deal. If you think he’s big now, just wait 6 months.
I wandered over to the polar opposite side of town and ACL: Live at the Moody with a small bit of extra time on my hands before Sleigh Bells were set to perform their only SXSW show. They were supposed to have another act on the bill to open for them, however it seems that slot was never filled. That meant my early arrival was more or less a waste of time. I stood inside the theater for an extra hour just waiting and anticipating. I’ve only seen Sleigh Bells in an outdoor festival setting, so when they took the stage with an intense light show, it was quite a different experience. Of course they started with “True Shred Guitar”, as the track was built almost solely for the purpose of opening a show. From there they bounced freely between their debut album Treats and their new one Reign of Terror. Obviously the older material got the better response, but I also think a couple of the newer songs just generally wouldn’t do well live. Actually, it’s just the slower ballads like “End of the Line” that kind of takes the show down a notch. You do need a breather now and then though. Of the new songs, “Demons” was by far the most potent, proving its status as the best thing on Reign of Terror. All the while Alexis Krauss danced around the stage, sometimes approached the barricade, and even crowd surfed once during “Rill Rill”. Derek Miller and the other guitarist are the spark in that live show, and Krauss is the flame. What an explosively good set.
Upon leaving that show, I came to the realization that one of my other Class of 2012 artists was getting ready to perform a few blocks away: Kreayshawn. So to Austin Music Hall it was, only to find out they were way behind on their showcase bill. It was a party being put on by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, and as he said himself, sound issues forced them to delay some of the performances. So in order to get to Kreayshawn I had to sit through sets from Ed Sheeran, Cher Lloyd, and Dragonette. I’m not really going to comment on any of those sets, except to say all 3 are interesting and dynamic artists at different points of success right now. None of their music hits my sweet spot, but they’re all talented in their own ways. Due to the packed bill and delays, artists were being held to 20 minute sets. Kreayshawn’s was about that long, and she had time to do 4 of her tracks. The requisite “Bumpin Bumpin” and “Gucci Gucci” both made an appearance, and she also did a couple new ones as well. The first was about sniffing glue, which afterwards she told the crowd she doesn’t condone drug use. The second was about “the most important meal of the day” aka breakfast. It included the lyrical gem, “Grapes, what’s up? Breakfast!” And she’s supposed to be a rising voice in hip hop? Even I’m starting to doubt my decision to place her among my Class of 2012. Still, I will not pass official judgment until her debut album is out later this year.
If Kreayshawn’s set had happened on time, I would have been able to go see !!! perform. Alas, I missed their set, though I walked past their stage and heard a little of it on my way to try and see Givers for my last set of the night. Turns out a lot of other people wanted to see Givers too, and I wound up shut out there as well due to capacity. With that, I made the executive call to go and see a band I’ve seen a couple times before back in Chicago because that’s where they’re from too. That band was JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. They’ve been playing shows all over Austin this past week, 11 in total, and I wanted to see how they were faring after such a grueling schedule. Not only did they survive, they still sounded great too and with energy to spare. They’re probably more tired than I am, and I’m about ready to collapse. It felt fitting to end with a band from back home, as that’s where I’ll be headed soon anyways. Near the end of their set, the guys did a funked up cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, and the whole experience just felt like it came full circle. I’ve loved my time in Austin so much these last few days, the complete exhaustion aside, but I’m even more excited to go back to Chicago. SXSW has been so much fun, I may just try to do it again next year.