I had a difficult time this year figuring out what to write about in my annual SXSW wrap-up column. (And no, wiseguys, it's not because I killed approximately two million brain cells with tequila while in Austin.) I could write about the hordes of hipster fashion victims -- seriously ladies, jumpers were maybe cool when you were in kindergarten, and enough with the Peter Pan boots — or how things (thankfully) just didn't feel as crowded this year, or how Lily Allen/Amy Winehouse/Black Lips/Peter Bjorn and John/Pipettes/Stooges/Perry Farrell(!?) were hot tickets.
But I think my writer's block stems from the fact that I didn't come home from Austin with any revelations about my life or see any transcendent shows that made me find Jesus. I just saw a lot of great music — to the tune of at least one song by 31 different bands.
In the age of blogger information overload, my lack of profundity somehow isn't good enough. But I really didn't have any desire to hop on the buzz-band hype-train — or have a plan of who to see for that matter, save for catching as many St. Louis bands as I could and dorking out to some old favorites (Imperial Teen, the Faint, Buffalo Tom, Robyn Hitchcock). And you know what? I had a great, stress-free time.
I'm still pretty much exhausted from the last four days, but here's a brief run-down of some of the best/my favorite non-local gigs I saw.
Imperial Teen, Wednesday. I was far too tired to really appreciate the return of these spunky indie-poppers, but the new songs they played were grand. Plus, they played "Ivanka," and that always makes me happy.
Loney, Dear, Thursday. The most pleasant find of the fest; these Swedes were fantastic live, totally like Belle and Sebastian, only bolstered less by clever twee flourishes and more by strong, hooky songs. Would be great tourmates with Sondre Lerche.
The Pipettes, Thursday. My fashion idols (at least this spring). The trio's girl-group harmonies and jaunty, sassy pop songs sounded great; and their natty backup band added pleasant kitsch appeal.
Mew at the Spin magazine party. I decided at the last minute to try and sneak my way into this party, and miraculously found a friend with a pass to let me in, so I caught most of the band's set. It was simply beautiful hearing the Denmark band's soaring shoegaze and ethereal vocals on a sunny afternoon. Even from far away, the roaring wall of noise was indescribably peaceful.
Robyn Hitchcock w/Peter Buck, Sean Nelson, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin, Yep Roc day party. I don't need to tell most people my adoration for all of these musicians -- and I'm proud to say that Hitchcock's short performance was everything I hoped it would be. He played songs from his newest record and some Egyptians classics; simply perfect. See the video Stereogum posted, below:
Elvis Perkins, No Depression day party. I'm in love with Perkins' record, Ash Wednesday, and this brief set he did didn't disappoint. With his shaggy hair and sunglasses, he sorta looked like Lou Reed -- but his songs were pure Leonard Cohen-meets-somebody else.
The Ponys/Voxtrot, Thursday night. This was a happy accident, catching these two sets. The former's set was totally bitching straight-ahead rock reminiscent of the Pixies and stoner-rock or something -- I even caught my favorite new song of theirs, "1209 Seminary" -- while the latter is danceable indie-rock a la the Smiths and Belle and Sebastian. The Ponys are at the Billiken Club on Saturday, April 21 -- I highly recommend checking them out!
Buffalo Tom, Friday night. I used to go see Buffalo Tom as much as I could when I lived in Boston, since the band only really plays out there now (day jobs and kids tend to do that). But with a new record on the way in July, the beloved group played a fantastic, well-received set to tons of old-school fans. I was stoked to hear "Velvet Roof" and "Sodajerk," but the new songs also sounded like vintage heart-twisting rock.
Todosantos, Friday. A crazy-insane b-boy-electro trio from Venezuela that featured plenty of awesome, lo-fi movies and played a fantastically paced set. "OMG we got it" makes me shimmy at my desk.
The Faint/Junior Senior, Friday/Saturday. I'm lumping these two together just because both electronic-geared shows were entirely too crowded, had lots of drunken douchebags and were booty-shaking fests. The new songs each band played were dance-tastic. And the former played "Dropkick the Punks," which always makes me want to get down.
Time to sleep now for about a million years. Cheers!