Anna’s Diary from SXSW 2009: Part 3
I firmly believe that the people behind Home Slice Pizza managed to crawl inside my head and bring my innermost desires to life. Rock and roll, pizza, AND beer? All in one place at one time?? Somebody pinch me. Seriously.
And thus is how I started my Saturday at SxSW 2009, which was also (unfortunately) my last day. The aforementioned Home Slice Pizza peeps were celebrating the last day in their Music by the Slice series, a three-day set of day parties featuring great bands, pizza, and beer on their sunny outdoor patio. I went primarily to catch Deer Tick, but the band called in sick. Booooooooo. I mean, that’s too bad – get well soon, dudes.
I chatted with some folks and enjoyed a set by the Uglysuit, a band from Oklahoma with lots of hair and heavy guitar chops. The band shredded heftily through their set, playing large-and-in-charge indie rock with an orchestral, post-rock vibe. No complaints here, that’s for sure.
I soldiered on. If the SxSW side parties are what truly make the festival (refer), then my Saturday at this year’s festival was this idea x5. A quite sizable outdoor festival took place at Waterloo Park, known as Mess With Texas 2009. This festival could easily stand alone, boasting two big stages, a solid lineup and lots of sun – in conjunction with SxSW, however, it was yet another excellent option for getting your rock and roll on. And unlike many other day parties, Mess with Texas was very easy to access: all ages, no lines, wide open space. Plus you could lay out on the grass and really get your burn on, if you weren’t sun-kissed enough already. I caught the end of Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, full of crackling energy and infectious pop:
After Thao came the allmighty Vivian Girls, the Brooklyn buzz band with many a lo-fi, garage-rock tune in tow. I can’t say with total confidence that the trio’s music came forth with much strength at Mess with Texas; maybe things were different at one of their other 8 gajillion SxSW performances.
After resting for a bit to drink some water and eat my leftover breakfast taco from earlier that day, I made sure to get a good spot for the Thermals. I love the Thermals. I will outwardly proclaim my love for Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster and the band and their ridiculous energy and pure, driving rock and roll. Seeing them live is an experience not to be missed, as the unadulterated spectacle will lift you up and bounce you off the walls.
Then, I heard some of Crystal Antlers‘ set. I don’t get the hype. It was time to do some wandering.
Another persistent element of SxSW is what comes from a simple stroll down 6th St. A hefty section of the historic downtown Austin district is shut down during the festival, allowing for a mass gathering that spills from the sidewalks and through the street itself. The people-watching alone can provide hours of entertainment, not to mention the truly unofficial, impromptu street performances. In particular, my friend and I caught the busking of a musician named Steve Taylor, who drove his portable piano out from Oakland and did his soulful, jazzy thing right out on the street.
While I sampled several events here and there on Saturday eve, the true majority and highlight was the Merge/Barsuk showcase at the Parish. Starting with Telekinesis (really enjoyable, jangly indie rock with the drummer on lead vocals) and ending with Ra Ra Riot (lush, energetic pop, full of strings and bittersweet melodies), the evening was packed with talent from top to bottom. Say Hi made an excellent display of their angular, affable indie rock; Lou Barlow (Sebadoh) and Imaad Wasif strummed together on a low-key, yet lovely and intricate set of tunes; and The Rosebuds fervently played their dancey synth to a very receptive audience.
My absolute favorites from the evening, however, were Austin’s the Wooden Birds, the project of the American Analog Set‘s Andrew Kenny. The band consisted of Kenny, Ola Podrida songwriter David Wingo, vocalist/guitarist Leslie Sisson, and Lymbic System drummer Michael Bell, and they played a set of immensely enjoyable proportions. Mellow and ornamental, percussive and layered, well-structured and full of sweet vocals – the Wooden Birds’ music was one of the best discoveries I was lucky enough to make at SxSW 2009. Keep an eye out for magnolia, which comes out on Barsuk in May.
I concluded my first SxSW experience with a 4:00 a.m. trip to the Austin airport and a head full of new memories. I often wondered if a SxSW would ever be in the cards, as the festival’s sheer density and complicated structure can appear unattainable. What I can say with confidence, however, is that it’s much easier to tackle than you’d think, and it’s well worth the effort. See you next year! I’ll be there with bells on.
- Article by Anna Gazdowicz.