Good morning/afternoon/evening, my darlings. I apologise for the lateness of this post, but yesterday was a very full day and if not for the glorious Red Bull truck circling the premises, we would surely be dead by now. What were you up to yesterday? I saw bands! Let's get to it!
i. Kid Sister & Me
Thursday morning, I scraped myself out of bed with one mission in mind: to finally see Kid Sister after three years and about eight or nine failed attempts. For those of you who haven't heard her, Kid Sister is Melisa Young, a Chicago-based rapper who rhymes over electro beats. She's best known for her single "Pro Nails" featuring Kanye West:
Anyway, I've loved Kid Sister for years but every time I've tried to see her (ie, last night) I've been thwarted somehow. I arrived at the outdoor stage early, and was pleased to see that a decent-sized crowd had the same idea. I even spotted British synthesizer chanteuse Little Boots lurking around, commenting loudly to a friend how grateful she was to not be playing 45 times a day like last year. When our hero finally took the stage, she announced "Hello Austin! It is EARLY AS HELL!" Despite it being the crack of dawn (um, a little after 2 PM) and the blazing hot sun beating down upon the stage, Kid Sister gave her performance everything she had. Also, she was wearing possibly the world's most adorable outfit:
The set was energetic enough for us to forget our hangovers, and we were treated to almost every song off Kid Sister's debut album Ultraviolet. The highlight for me was "Big n Bad," which samples Yaz's "Situation." At the end of her set, she and her DJ threw lollipops into the crowd, potentially blinding dozens of hip concertgoers. Because I love you, here is Kid Sister's single "Right Hand Hi."
ii. I Find My People at the Ukulele Festival
My next trip was to Jaime's Spanish Food, where a ukulele festival of sorts was taking place on the patio. The mission of the two-day event was to play every single Beatles song on the uke, with the assistance of various guest vocalists and backing instrumentalists. I am a fan of anything that can be done with the ukulele (ie, I sit at home playing Lady Gaga songs all day and night, much to the chagrin of my housemates), so I stuck around for a few performances. Here is a kid I estimate to be about 11 playing the cello and singing a Beatles song I shamefully do not know the name of:
Anyway the important factor here is that somehow I ended up sitting at a table at the restaurant inside, talking to Nigel Harrison from Blondie while he ate a taco salad. He was very nice, but the conversation was very strange. I was wearing a Stooges t-shirt, and Mr. Harrison told me about the days when he used to play with Iggy ("I call him Jim, of course.") and how Iggy would slice his chest up with razors on stage. I mentioned that I was a huge fan of everything Joan Jett has ever done, and he casually dropped that he'd played bass on a Runways record. These things are all true (I know because I snuck off to the bathroom and Googled them), but I had nothing constructive to add. SXSW, you are so random and amazing. I love you. Let's make out.
iii. A-Claud Moves Members of the Audience Around,
Poses Them As if They Are Furniture
I stopped at Club DeVille for about thirty seconds to catch three songs of Vivian Girls' set. Everybody loves Vivian Girls! Do you like the Vivian Girls? It was very crowded! Here they are:
Next on the agenda was a French Canadian party on the upper level of the Paradise. I was there to see one of my first unexpected SXSW discoveries, a Montreal band called Duchess Says. Sonically, they're what would happen if the Yeah Yeah Yeahs never wrote melodic love songs and focused instead on making dissonant noise (in fact, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs took them out on a European tour after Nick Zinner spotted them at last year's CMJ Music Marathon in New York). Singer A-Claude is notorious for getting the crowd involved in the band's performances, and she'll climb sound equipment, barstools or actual members of the audience to make her point. When the boys in the band finally took the stage, the kids in the crowd gave A-Claude a wide berth to do what she does best.
A-Claude didn't disappoint us for a second. She moved members of the audience around and posed them as though they were furniture. She climbed on top of a table, played with the table cloth, brought a girl up to dance, and then dragged both the girl and the table into the center of the room. At one point, she unlocked a door to the patio and instructed everyone in the room to exit the performance space one by one. We obliged. I have never seen a band make its audience leave the show before, but we all snuck back in through another open door. When she shouted "EVERYONE! We all need to lie down!" we did as we were told.
Nobody ever really watches the boys in the band while A-Claude is bossing the room around, but I enjoyed watching them for a few songs. I was surprised to notice that the guy on the Moog plays most of the basslines, while the bass player seemed to play parts I would have assumed were keyboards. I sort of hope Duchess Says stay small, because I always want to see them in tiny rooms and examine them from every possible angle. Their set was completely entertaining.
iv. Sun, Rock, Drink
After this, I had a short break, so I met up with my friend DJ Lindsay Luv for margaritas. I met Lindsay years ago on a fateful summer night, when she and her friend Sune from the Raveonettes deejayed a Semi Precious Weapons and Lady Gaga show in New York City. Nowadays, she's mostly flying all over North America for DJ gigs, so I don't see her very often. We were both a little fried from the combination of sun and rock, so we (ok, I) decided to submerge ourselves in alcohol.
While we searched for an appropriate venue for said drinks (ie, a bar that didn't have a random band we didn't care about playing inside), we saw an anti-death penalty parade (helloooo Texas!), a guy playing guitar and hula hooping at the same time, and also Death himself. I guess he probably killed this guy:
v. Falling in Love with The Scanners
My next stop was Elysium, where a British band called Scanners were playing. I caught wind of them when I saw a blog refer to them as Siouxsie-esque, and although I don't quite agree with the sentiment, there was definitely a dark and moody element to their set. Singer Sarah Daly played tiny bells, a sweet Fender bass and a huge red hollow-bodied guitar while wailing lyrics like "I need the love I crave/Your hands they burn like mine/I'll take you to my grave." Not gonna lie - I was in love.
Here is the video to their song "Salvation," which sadly is not a Cranberries cover.
vi. JD Samson & MEN
Next up was JD Samson's band MEN at the Beauty Bar backyard. While not necessarily a brand new act, I knew that MEN were likely to start a sick dance party - no easy feat for a festival notoriously populated by the industry's worst indier-than-thou music snobs. I went in expecting to see a packed house full of alternative lifestyle haircuts and ladies holding hands, but instead I was greeted by a seriously diverse crowd - all sexual identities, races and haircuts present and accounted for. All the same, you could tell who was gay based on who in the audience knew all the words.
MEN got the room dancing, and they were definitely recipients of the Kid Sister Runner Up Award for Cutest Outfits:
Incidentally, JD, kudos on the cute guitar boy in short shorts. Congratulations are also in order for your house hat, which was amazing:
As much fun as they were, I couldn't stay, as I mistakenly believed that Tanlines were about to go on just up the street.
SXSW Survival Tip #3: It's probably helpful to know what the people in the band you're about to see actually look like.
vii. But At Least The Girl Was Cute
When I saw a bunch of boys setting up keyboards on the stage at Club DeVille, I assumed this was the band Jess G wrote about a few days ago, and pushed my way up to the front. Glad I did, cause the girl playing drums was actually super hot:
Wait, I reasoned. Wouldn't Autostraddle of all people have told me if there was a hot chick drummer in this band? I wondered if maybe Jess G just hadn't known. However, when the band finished soundchecking and introduced themselves, they told the audience that they were from New Orleans and called Generationals. I had arrived at the right time, on the wrong day. FML. The Generationals weren't exactly my thing, but the girl was really cute, so I stayed for four songs and a whiskey. I'm not proud.
viii. Party Time
My plans dashed, I met up with some friends and wandered off to a gay bar by the river called Chain Drive. We showed up just in time to miss Hunx and his Punx, which was disappointing, but this happened, so it wasn't a total loss...
We wandered around for a bit, hoping to stumble upon something amazing. We stumbled upon Golden Triangle from Brooklyn. We could tell they were from Brooklyn based on their bangs.
Snark aside, Golden Triangle were an excellent example of the lo-fi Brooklyn sound that seems to be popular with the kids these days, and I liked that they had two chicks playing tambourines at the same time.
Our final mission was one of utmost importance: an illegal party on a pedestrian bridge. Apparently, the center of the bridge isn't actually police jurisdiction; it's under the authority of whoever's in charge of the Colorado River. This meant that nobody really had to get a permit for the secret 3AM show that went down, but nobody was exactly volunteering information on who was in charge. The bands didn't even really want to announce their names, but apparently one of them was the Oh Sees from San Francisco. Rumour was that the other band might have been Ty Sevag.
Two bands were setup right next to each other, and they traded off sets - three songs each. Both were reverb-soaked rock'n'roll bands who got the crowd moshing and crowd-surfing, an impressive feat for 3 AM. Only problem was, this was literally a bunch of amps and drums set up in the middle of a bridge - no stage, no barriers, no crowd control. When one kid smashed into the Oh Sees' guitar player, he was bumped backwards into his stack of amps, and they came crashing down on to the concrete. Nothing was harmed except possibly my shoulder. The bands played together for about an hour, the cops never came, and everybody felt like they'd witnessed something special. This is what SXSW is all about - random acts of rock'n'roll.
Today is a very important day because today we are going to see HOLE. More on this very very soon.