Bill’s SXSW Thurs in Cameraphone Pics (Feathers, SISU, Ume, The Wedding Present, Allah Las, The Drums, Spectrals + more)
by Bill Pearis
Half Moon Run
After getting in late Wednesday, Thursday was my first full day in Austin, and maybe the best, music-wise. Daylight hours were spent at the second of our day parties at Hotel Vegas which we dubbed Hotel Vegan. I was running a little late so I missed Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men, but we were running late on one of the inside stages, so I got there in time to see Montreal’s Half Moon Run (today was the day we teamed up with M For Montreal). Three-part harmonies, intermingling guitar parts, bonus percussion — it’s a little Radiohead by way of ’60s folk rock. Their debut album, Dark Eyes, is out next week.
The Volstead Stage at Hotel Vegan was dubbed the BV Austin stage on Thursday with all local bands. Feathers have barely been together six months but they have clearly spent that time practicing. They have it together and this was one of my favorite sets of the week. Most of their material is of the gothy electro variety, they opened with a Norman Greenbaum-style glammy stomper that I really dug. A lot of instrument switching showcased most of the members of the band.
We Are Serenades
Adam Olenius fronts Shout Out Louds and Markus Krunegård of Laakso comprise Swedish superduo We Are Serenades who are a full band live. While both come from indie backgrounds this is full-on commercial pop and ridiculously catchy. Was happy they played their single “Come Home” even if it is a Christmas song.
When not backing Patrick Watson, his band perform under the name Thus:Owls with Swedish singer Erika Angell fronting. They played the inside stage — the only air-conditioned place in Hotel Vegan on a very humid day — and held the audience rapt with their understated but drama-filled arrangements.
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Cymbals Eat Guitars, in NYC at least, play much much bigger rooms than the tiny inside stage of Hotel Vegas so it was a treat to see them in tight quarters.
The Velvet Teen
Holy early aughts! Anthemic Californians The Velvet Teen, who I didn’t know were still together, packed the inside stage with dedicated fans.
Ringo Deathstarr on the BV Austin stage
One of my favorite Austin bands, Ringo Deathstarr, do the shoegaze thing better just about any current band. Good and loud!
Lot of Swedes today. Radio Department offshoot Korallreven played the main stage and proved a perfect soundtrack to a mid-afternoon chillout session sitting on the grass, drinking a beer.
The Young played our official showcase the night before as well and we like them so much we couldn’t not have them on the BV Austin stage too. Straight-up rock and roll done right.
Once known for using a lot of prerecorded backing and making up for it with a lot of entertaining jumping around, The Drums have become a real band since releasing their second album. I miss the crazy tambourine playing of old, but the Drums sounded great.
Famous vegan-hater Anthony Bourdain put aside his prejudices check out Ume with his No Reservations film crew in tow. “A shitload if rawk in a tiny little room!” he Tweeted. Indeed, Tony, indeed. We originally had Ume playing last on the Volstead BV Austin stage but moved them inside the bigger Hotel Vegas room to better accommodate the film crew. We were also running late in there, so they were shoved before The Jealous Sound who ended up going on over an hour after schedule.
The Wedding Present
We didn’t get Seamonsters in full like they’d do at the Cake Shop showcase on Friday night, but The Wedding Present definitely pulled out some old favorites for their Hotel Vegan main stage performance, including 1986 single “You Should Always Keep in Touch with Your Friends” which opened their rocking set. Frontman David Gedge, who is 52 but looks at least 15 years younger, throws his all into his guitar. The Wedding Present played a lot of shows during SXSW, don’t know how he does it.
After a full day at Hotel Vegan, it was taco time, with a brief stop at Cheer Up Charlies to catch some of Caveman’s set. Then the first show of the night: Scottish pop band Spectrals at Swan Dive who, I must admit, were rather lackluster live. I loved Louis Jones’ early singles and 2010 EP but there was no energy on stage, save for the bassist who danced around the whole time like he was in a different group. Disappointing.
Over at the Beauty Bar it was SISU aka Dum Dum Girls drummer Sandy Vu’s band. They were minus their drummer, who missed his flight or something, but Dum Dum Girls guitarist Jules sat on the drumstool and sang harmonies. Still sounded great in amputated form: glide guitar, ethereal vocals, volume.
Speaking of volume, Australian duo DZ Deathrays were next and the nitro-blues sonic assault blew right through my earplugs. I mean LOUD. How do two people make that much noise?
One of the best things I saw at SXSW. 12-string guitars, Vox bass, bolo ties, nehru collars… Los Angeles’ Allah Las are a pristine recreation of ’60s West Coast pop with great songs like upcoming single “Tell Me What’s on Your Mind.” Not pastiche, the real deal.
Wrapping up my Thursday was London band Fiction who were a bit like Wild Beasts if less over-the-top. A lot of Big Rhythms. Not bad, will have to keep an eye on these guys.