What all the excited, giddy, half-drunken tweets from SXSW don’t tell you is how much time you’re likely to spend walking from venue to venue and/or waiting in line for shows you may or may not get into. I’m not complaining. I’m just telling you why I feel like a total slacker for how few bands I’ve seen the last two days. Goddammit! My scheduling powers are no match for the distance between the Cedar Street Courtyard and the Scoot Inn!
Tomorrow, young Jedi. Tomorrow I will see more than five bands. I might even see TV on the Radio, who reportedly played an incredible set last night. Tomorrow I’ll get to one of Wild Flag’s eleventy-million SXSW shows. No, for serious. There’s no missing Wild Flag.
3 pm Bad Veins at Austin Convention Center
I love you, Bad Veins. I love that you two skinny dudes — drummer Sebastien Shultz and singer/guitarist Benjamin Davis, both in creamy pale green button-downs — threw yourselves entirely into your afternoon set in a hallway in the convention center. It didn’t matter that the show felt like one of those awkward college-cafeteria setups, where stressed-out people happen to pass through on their way somewhere else. Bad Veins were loud and passionate and just completely there. (Stop me if I refer to anyone as “present,” OK?) They make the noise of more than two people because they have a third member: a reel-to-reel named Irene. This sounds like a schtick, but it doesn’t play that way. “Sometimes / to get by / I believe in the lie,” Davis moaned into a retro telephone receiver at the end of the set. Relevant? It sure felt like it.
We now interrupt your regularly scheduled show-going to attend screenings of two music-related documentaries: Upside Down: The Creation Records Story and The Other F Word. Upside Down was enjoyable and full of thick accents and half-told stories; it’s great if you’re nostalgic for the era of bands like Ride and Primal Scream, but lacks a certain amount of context. Why was the sound that came to define/be defined by Creation so pervasive? What did the scene mean for British pop in the longer run? I wanted more from Upside Down, and yet more from The Other F Word, which starts out examining what it means for punk rock guys to become fathers but begins to slip into generic “Kids will change your life” commentary (when it’s not too focused on Jim Lindberg’s gradual realization that he wants to quit the band he’s fronted for years). There are great moments in The Other F Word, but it stays too close to the surface.
11:15 pm She Keeps Bees at Emo’s Jr.
“They’re making me wait!” She Keeps Bees singer/guitarist Jessica Larrabee yelled to no one in particular as she walked through the sparse crowd at Emo’s Jr. Larrabee seems prone to this sort of outburst; at some point in the set, she jokingly asked drummer Andy LaPlant when he was going to get a mic. There’s no hurry: Larrabee’s wry, confident, sassy personality (I lost count of how many jokes she made at the expense of The Kills) is a welcome change from bland stage patter. And she’s got a hell of a voice. She Keeps Bees play bluesy, unpolished guitar-and-drums rock, and they’re hardly the only band to do so — but that voice! Classic, clear, yearning, sultry, flawless, hypnotic — it’s practically unfair. I want Jessica Larrabee to guest-front all my favorite bands.
Midnight Cloud Nothings at 512 Upstairs
Cloud Nothings were described to me as “nerdy jangly pop punk with Harry Potter lookalike lead singer.” This is somewhat untrue. The band’s singer looks more like McLovin than Harry Potter. The rest of the description stands, though.
Midnight For a Minor Reflection at 512 Downstairs
A nasty cloud of cigarette smoke drove me off the 512 patio; something interesting happening on the bar’s other stage kept me in the place. Icelandic instrumental band Sigur Ros apparently said that Icelandic instrumental band For a Minor Reflection have the potential to “out Mogwai,” which I think means FaMR might just beat those Scottish instrumental rockers at their own game. What made For a Minor Reflection so fantastic on this particular night, though, was partly that while their songs are sprawling, heartstring-tugging, dynamic and, yes, loud (even the sound guy said as much) and long, the vibe was joyful and energetic, not Serious Rock Business. If these guys had just stood there, looking intense and humorless, something vital would have been missing.
1 am Yob at Barbarella
Tacos. There is a taco truck at Barbarella. Get a chorizo taco. Trust me. Then drink a cheap beer as big as your head and watch a band like Yob. I used the word “epic” far too many times yesterday, but Yob own epicness. And not just because they noted, near the show’s end, that they had 10 minutes left, so they would play one more. All the words I might use to describe Yob (it was my first time seeing them) have been tossed at the band a thousand times already: Heavy, intense, ferocious, doomy. And did I mention fucking heavy? Eugene should be proud to claim these guys as a hometown band. A sizable crowd of black-clad folks (mostly men) stood rapt and attentive to their every song — and it was the last show of a long night. Vanessa Salvia has more to say about Yob and their new album here.