SXSW 2019 Recap Day 2
Words and Photos by John McNicholas
The morning of the second day of the festival always arrives a little sooner than expected and for good reason, the time change, the time zone change and 2 fantastic SXSW keynote talks this morning by T-Bone Burnett and David Byrne that you want to make sure you don’t miss.
T-Bone Burnett is widely known as a songwriter, producer and songwriter, and now you can add to that a “fiery speaker,” railing against the privacy and hybridization that the Internet has thrust upon us and its destructively dehumanizing tendencies.
“The Internet has failed.”
“By now, it is clear that what was begun as a mission to connect and unite mankind has mutated into a pernicious distortion machine that has disconnected mankind and put us at each other’s throats, and in doing so has destroyed and is destroying institutions and knowledge that have taken centuries to develop.”
After a quick break, David Byrne took the same stage to discuss his, Reasons To Be Cheerful Project. Bryne discussed his creative process, the state of music and methods for staying positive in these devise times. A fascinating talk.
After 2 engaging and heavy keynote talks it was time to take a break, grab some food and see some fantastic music at the “Sounds from Spain” day party across the street. There was a great lineup of bands, and some truly amazing paella and sangria. Guitarist, Pipo Romero was our favorite of the bunch performing a modern take on traditional Spanish-style guitar on a “fanned-fret” acoustic guitar accompanied by percussion, violin and bass.
If you’re looking to catch a ton of great bands in close proximity to each other, outside and under the sun you could do worse than heading over to Hotel Vegas on the east side of downtown at any time during SXSW. They had 4 stages running at all times and about 60 bands a day starting early and playing into the early hours of the morning. We headed over a little early to make sure we got a good spot for The Chills and got to see AK’Chamel play a great solo set and The Blank Tapes rock out a fantastic set of garage pop as part of the Freakender Buckaroo Ball.
One of the most talked about indie-bands of the festival were The Chills from New Zealand. Originally formed in 1980, the band has been back for a handful of years and sound as strong as ever, playing songs from their entire catalog including their latest record, Snow Bound.
Next up we headed back into downtown to catch another of the most hyped bands in town, Charly Bliss at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Decked out in a silver and bronze metal flake dress the band turned in a strong set of indie-pop, heavy on the pop that had people standing on railings in the back to see the band with a ton of folks up front dancing along. Singer/guitarist, Eva Hendricks’ voice and guitar playing were pure energy and the audience was along for the ride.
After the Charly Bliss set we contemplated taking a break before the night shows started. We had a plan for this evening and a little break and some BBQ would seem like a great idea, except we realized the Oh Sees were playing in 10 minutes back at Hotel Vegas and that was one of the bands we were dying to see, so we grabbed a rental bike and hauled back over to East Austin.
The Oh Sees are a force of nature live. Loud as a bomb with 2 drummers throwing down unstoppable beats with howling guitars and keyboards spitting out ruthless riffs and John Dwyer at the center of maelstrom with his clear SG guitar tucked under is arm. It was one of the loudest and most relentless sets we saw all week.
With the day parties done for the day it was time for a quick break and time to plan the evening.
Early in the week it’s pretty easy to jump from venue to venue to see the bands that you want to see but that gets harder to do the closer you get to the weekend. Tonight however would entail very little club hopping as there was a killer lineup of very diverse bands at Palm Door on Sabine featuring everything from Latin shoegaze to folk, post-punk-hip-hop, and 60s influenced indie rock.
First up at Palm Door was Y La Bamba, a 5-piece latin-shoegaze band from Portland, Oregon. While the initial description of the band gives you a general idea of the sound there are elements of surf, pop, electronica and jazz mixed into every song and while the lyrical content seemed to be exclusively in Spanish, primarily delivered in unison between main songwriter Luz Elena Mendoza and one of the many other vocalists in the band, that didn’t seem to keep anyone in the language gap from grooving hard to the band’s set.
Next up was Oh Pep! from Australia. Primarily a vehicle for singer songwriters Pepita Emmerichs and Olivia Hally’s brand of emotional folk, pop, their set was beautiful, thoughtful, funny and at times poignant. Oh Pep! was a great break from all of sets we’ve seen up to this point.
The music of Sneaks is hard to describe on first listen but the influences are close enough to the surface that you can’t help but reach down and grab some, post-punk, Gang of Four, MIA and similar artists that sit just outside the main constructs of those general genres while just twisted enough to make the music feel original and fresh. Live, Sneaks, essentially the solo project for Eva Moolchan is a one-person show featuring a Mac laptop playing backing tracks with Moolchan on vocals and at times, bass guitar. With most of the songs clocking in under 3 minutes there were abrupt stops and starts and we loved it. One of the coolest sets we saw all week.
After Sneaks set there was a set change on stage as well as in the crowd as The Nude Party from London took the stage to rock us like the old days with equal parts Rolling Stones and 60s garage rock, heavy on the attitude and swagger with a ton of hooky tunes, lots of stage presence and mood. Yeah, their sound was very derivative of or 60s Brit-pop but it was a freaking party in here so who cares.
As the night was winding down we headed down to Rainey Street, it’s a district just south of the main drag with a ton of old converted bungalow houses with bands playing in what was their old backyards where we managed to see 1 more band, The Dirty Nil at The Bungalow playing killer rock and roll with a ton of tasty guitar licks.