Monday, March 23, 2015

Favourites from Wednesday to Sunday at SXSW

I wrote about my Monday and Tuesday experiences at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas and have posted photos of acts I've seen throughout the week, but here's a rundown of my SXSW highlights from Wednesday to Sunday.


The Wet Secrets
The Wet Secrets
I believe this Edmonton band's Free Candy album deserved more Polaris Music Prize consideration, and it always puts on an entertaining show.

Carl Barat and The Jackals
The former Libertines member played a couple of songs from that band as well as more recent solo material. This performance was much better than when I saw Barat in Austin a number of years ago.

Frank Turner
It's no secret that I'm a major fan and this solo acoustic performance was good enough to get me to see him do it again (though with a somewhat different set list) on Thursday night even though I'd just seen him play with his band The Sleeping Souls in Toronto earlier in the month.

If you like King Tuff, Weezer, power pop and '80s new wave, you should enjoy this hook-happy quintet.


Mac McCaughan
Mac McCaughan
The Superchunk, Portastatic and Merge Records founder reached into the catalogue for several favourites as well as songs from his forthcoming Non-Believers solo debut. He was alone on stage with an electric guitar, but he didn't need any other backing for his songs to shine.

The Apache Relay
This makes the cut if just for "Katie Queen of Tennessee," a great, classic-sounding pop song.

The Cribs
I still think of this British group as being very young, but it said the last time it played SXSW was 2007, which shows how much time flies sometimes. The group offers a great mix of power pop, punk and indie rock.

Big Harp
This guitar, bass and drums trio plays sharp power pop that can also rock pretty hard and sometimes sounds like it has keyboards infusing through it, even though there are none to be found.

Hippo Campus
This young Minnesota band incorporates African high life elements into its indie pop and had the crowd dancing to its infectiously upbeat sounds. This is an act that could go places and ranks among my best discoveries of SXSW.

The most buzzed about Canadian band at SXSW played to packed houses everywhere it went while playing almost 10 shows over the week. Its dreamy, jangly pop won over another crowd at Cheer Up Charlies' outdoor patio and the only disappointing part of the 20-minute set was its brevity.

Surfer Blood
Snappy, indie pop songs with chiming guitars are this band's forte, and the numbers it played from its forthcoming album stand up to anything from the catalogue. This is music that makes you happy, which made this band a great way to close my Thursday as it put a bounce in my step despite my aching feet on my walk back to my apartment.


July Talk
The male-female vocal dynamic and mix of grit and sheen makes this Toronto band interesting to listen to and even better to see, as there's great stage chemistry between Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. I'd say that this could have been the second biggest Canadian buzz band of SXSW.

Best Coast
Best Coast
This California group has a distinctly Californian sound, if that makes sense, and its forthcoming album is titled California Nights. The new songs were just as enjoyable as those played from previous albums, and there's a lot to like in this group's gauzy, dreamy indie pop.

The Waco Brothers
It's a SXSW tradition to have margaritas with members of The Waco Brothers at Guero's on Friday afternoon and then head across the street to the outdoor space behind the Yard Dog Gallery to watch them close off the Bloodshot Records day party. It was another wild and woolly time, as drummer Joe Camarillo fell off his drum stool, two women in the front row with me fell down and Jon Langford name-checked me from the stage regarding a falling incident of mine a few years back. Familiar originals and time-honoured classic covers were played so well that I had to go back and see the band at the Carousel Lounge on Sunday night, where Langford invited me on stage to sing "Folsom Prison Blues" with him.

Joe "King" Carrasco
I loved Carrasco and his band The Crowns in the early '80s and seeing him perform some of the songs from those days was one of my SXSW highlights a few years ago. This set didn't include any of that material and didn't have the organ from those records, but featured a more traditional Tex-Mex, blues and rock-and-roll approach. He's still the "King" and a consummate showman.

I found out that I share a birthday with one of the members of this young, all-female garage rock quartet, who I also saw tearing up the dancefloor while fellow Spaniards The Parrots played a garage-surf set on Saturday night. Hinds includes elements of jangle pop, garage rock, indie rock and '60s pop and, while the music still needs a bit of polish, it's on the right track. Ending a set with a cover of Thee Headcoats' "Davy Crockett" was a nice touch.

Twin Peaks
This young Chicago band is apparently a favourite of the sons of Jeff Tweedy and Jon Langford, and I'm on board with them. The quartet is full of energy and punk spirit but can also write very solid songs.

Palma Violets
This British quartet pleased a large and enthusiastic crowd with a raucously entertaining and spirited set of psychedelic-tinged rock-and-roll. It played a handful of songs from the forthcoming Danger In The Club album that are worth looking forward to.


Low Cut Connie
Singer/pianist Adam Weiner was one of the most engaging frontmen I saw all week and at one point he grabbed my pen and drew a happy face on my notepad. The Philadelphia band's vintage rock-and-roll sound was a great way to start the day, and including a cover of The Gories' "I Think I've Had It" was even better.

Elliott Brood
I've seen this band numerous times in Toronto and once before in Austin and it always delivers a roots-rocking good time.

Black Linen
Black Linen
This Atlanta group plays melodic, hook-laden, '60s-influenced power pop very well and has a cleaner sound than most of its contemporaries.

Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express
Prophet and his band provided one of my live music highlights of 2014 and even though this set was shorter, it was again right on target. Among the favourites played were "Countrified Inner-City Technological Man," "Wish Me Luck," "Ford Econoline," "Temple Beautiful," "Willie Mays Is Up At Bat" and a cover of The Flamin' Groovies' "Shake Some Action."

This quintet couldn't stay on the 720 Club's small stage, or even in the club, during a very interactive party rock set that was a ton of fun for the 50 people in attendance.

The Blind Owls
This well-dressed band look very young but play like it's 1966 with mod, freakbeat, garage rock and pure pop elements. A cover of Them's "Gloria" fit right in with the original material.

Danny B. Harvey and Anne Marie Lewis
Harvey plays guitar in HeadCat with Lemmy and Slim Jim Phantom and has played with numerous other people including, on this night, his bride-to-be Anne Marie Lewis (the niece of Jerry Lee). Harvey is the best guitarist I saw all week, while Lewis can definitely sing, and their mix of rockabilly, '50s rock-and-roll, country and blues was a marriage made in heaven with covers of "Hit The Road Jack," "House of the Rising Sun," "Suzie Q," "You Win Again," "Who Do You Love?" and more.

The 69 Cats
Harvey stayed on stage along with his drummer and were joined by Jyrki69, the singer of Finnish goth’n’roll band The 69 Eyes, and former Cramps bassist Chopper Franklin. Let's call the sound gothabilly, as the band put a unique spin on such familiar songs as "People Are Strange," "She's Not You," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Smokestack Lightning" and "Bela Lugosi's Dead." This was pure entertainment.

The Uglybeats
I've seen this group at three previous SXSW festivals, so I ended this one with a level of familiarity as the Austin quintet provided a healthy dose of good times with its retro-garage original songs and a cover of The Ramones' "I'm Against It."


Jon Langford and The Far Forlorn

Jon Langford and The Far Forlorn
SXSW essentially ends on Saturday, but there are usually a few shows spread out over Sunday for folks like me who need another fix. It was provided along with some tasty fowl at Lucy's Fried Chicken, where Langford and seven other musicians performed some of his solo material as well as a couple of cuts from his band The Mekons.


Number of performances seen from Monday to Sunday: 84
Number of selfies taken: zero
Amount of money spent on food from Tuesday to Saturday: zero

Free Food
Thanks to Nettwerk and Canadian Blast for filling me up on Wednesday. The SOCAN/ASCAP boat cruise and the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 provided me with nutritional fuel on Thursday afternoon and the M for Montreal poutine party got me through the evening. Friday's food was provided by the British Music Embassy and the Australian BBQ, where I also got a free rain poncho to help make me a little drier on a very rainy day. The British Embassy came through again big time on the food front on Saturday. There were also free drinks at all of these parties, and others as well. Thank you to you all for keeping me well-nourished and lubricated.

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