SXSW 2019 Day 3
Words and Photos by John McNicholas
Day 3 of the SXSW festival was packed with great talks at the conference and a ton of great bands so we were up early to catch the Shirley Manson (Garbage), Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches) and Pitchfork editor-in-chief Puja Patel keynote where they discussed everything form the #metoo movement, tokenism in music, mentorship and their experiences in the male-dominated music industry.
“I want to be someone who passes the mic to these women, I want to be the one who stands up and fights with them…I want to make things better for the women who are coming up behind me. Things were difficult for me. I consider my generation – we’ve made things easier for Lauren’s generation, and Lauren in turn will make it easier for those who come behind.” – Shirley Manson
Next we headed over to Flatstock, an enormous collection of poster artists showcasing an incredible variety of screen printed posters, shirts, pins, buttons, patches and more. There was an amazing an eclectic assortment of styles and genres represented including work by Tara McPherson, Mike Fuchs Design and Print, Biscuit Press and about 50 other artists.
As luck would have it, Lonnie Holley was performing on the Flatstock stage in the convention center directly next to the show so we got to see a fantastic and emotional set by Atlanta’s, Holley. Playing a single keyboard while only backed by a single guitarist, Holley’s set had the crowd mesmerized with emotion and mood playing songs of his latest record, MITH.
Another band that was high on our list of “must-see” was Japanese Breakfast from Philadelphia. Primarily a vehicle for singer-songwriter, Michelle Zauner, her latest record, 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet is still in rotation and we’re really looking forward to their set in Atlanta at the Shaky Knees Music Festival in May. The band played a great selection of tunes from their last record and Zauner is a great live performer with a killer voice. Their set was fantastic and fun, full of lots of interactions with the audience. I don’t think you could’ve fit one more person in the venue by the end of their set. “Our 2 sets today are at 1pm and 1am, also here (The Mohawk), so if you want to see the drunk version off this…” Zauner told the audience. Their set left the crowd buzzing and already making plans to try and catch them again and another one of their performances later that day or later in the week.
After a great set from Japanese Breakfast it was time for a palate cleanser so we headed inside The Mohawk to check out Control Top, also from Philadelphia. Getting ready to go out on a tour with Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers, Control Top played a blistering set of post-punk fronted by the ferocious and bass of Ali Carter.
Next up on the big stage at Mohawk was a band we weren’t familiar with at all, Hubert Lenoir from Canada. What happens at SXSW if some unknown band hits the stage? You hang out for a bit, if they’re not your thing you keep moving. Lenoir’s set started out with a small crowd up front but by the time the band hit their 3rd song the room was into it and more and more people came up front. They were an all out party and despite all the lyrics being in French, there was crowd surfing, hanging from the rafters, dancing and band members making out with each other on stage. A fantastic mix of David Bowie and Of Montreal. One of the most fun and surprising sets all week.
With the day shows winding down it was time for a break, we tried to catch The Beths over on Rainey Street at Container Bar but it was so packed we could barely see them or hear them. We’ll catch them tomorrow.
When the weather’s nice one of the best places to catch a bigger show at SXSW is at Stubb’s BBQ. They’ve got a big open field behind the restaurant with a great sightlines, bbq and drinks. Tonight, Ticketmaster was hosting the party so some great bands were set to hit the stage. First up was Durand Jones & The Indications, a group healy influenced by the early 70s artists, Jackie Wilson, and Curtis Mayfield.
Next up was Cherry Glazerr playing a ton of songs from their new record, Stuffed and Ready and songs from their previous record, Apocalipstick. It was an all-out jam fest full of swagger, guitar shredding and tunes. The Stubb’s stage was a perfect place to catch them on their rise.
Following the all-out assault that was Cherry Glazerr, Car Seat Headrest turned us in the opposite direction with a fantastic set of heady indie-rock. Tonight, the band performed as a 4-piece, a stripped down version of the group that’s been touring lately and they sounded lean, mean and great. In addition to playing the crowd-favorite, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” they also played a fantastic version for Neil Young’s, “Powderfinger.”
After Car Seat Headrest finished their set we decided to stroll down Red River and 6th Street to play “band roulette” since we’d seen most of the bands we wanted to catch today. Heading out the front gate of Stubb’s we heard a familiar song in the air and we stopped. At any given moment during SXSW you can hear 10 bands playing at the same time so it’s no surprise when you hear something familiar. Looking around we decided to head to Mohawk only to discover that Nashville band, Bully had just hit the stage!
Bully, fronted by singer/guitarist Alicia Bognanno has put out a few of our favorite records over the last 5 years and they always bring a fantastic live show. The first time we checked today’s schedule we don’t remember seeing Bully in the lineup but last-minute changes are part of the fun. Walking into Mohawk the first thing we noticed was that Bognanno had an entirely different band with her on stage than previous shows we’ve seen. They sounded great thought and ripped it up through songs like “Trying,” “Running,” and “Feels the Same.” A killer set.
Not knowing who was next is always fun so we were pleasantly surprised when Strand of Oaks set up quick and hit the stage for a fantastic set of uplifting and rocking tunes off of their new record Eraserland and their previous record, Hard Love.
A fantastic end to the night. Getting back to the hotel it was early Friday morning. The weekend has started and we’re going to need some rest.