It’s hard to be objective, here, but the Reverb day party was super fun. Port Au Prince played its big pop in the sun while the party-goers drank free mimosas and Great Divide beers. Woodsman was tremendous as per usual, a furiousness that caused guitarist Trevor Peterson to pop a string during the first song. The quartet rebounded and psyched out the buzzed crowd with its slew of gizmos.
A Tom Collins made the party a party with a jumpy New Orleans horn vibe. Collins, the lead singer, frequently hopped onto his piano and smoked a few cigarettes, perhaps the partial cause of his well-worn voice.
Over at Stubb’s a few hours later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. proved that they are destined to blow up — no doubt about it. The Detroit group’s tunes are tailormade for a wide audience: big, catchy and fun. Later, at the same party (hosted by Rachel Ray), Wanda Jackson effortlessly defended her legendary status. Singing “You Know I’m No Good,” the 73-year-old schooled the artist — and stellar singer in her own right — being covered, Amy Winehouse.
At the Brooklyn Vegan party, Braids sounded just as electro-crisp as on record, a feat for sure. The hot and boozy scene there couldn’t have been more different than at Central Presbyterian Church down the road. Sharon Van Etten was tremendous, filling the huge space with her distinctive croon. A quickly-paced “Save Yourself” felt redemptive cascading up towards the gigantic crucifix behind her.
Another female lead — Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp — put on quite a different display at Red 7. The wheelchair-bound MC from Denver was sometimes hard to hear, but it didn’t matter: the show was a fresh sight to behold.
The same could be said for God-Dess and She, a pair of lesbian rappers laying down the merits of cunnilingus at Kiss & Fly. The most ridiculous, hilarious and ribald set followed, Christeene and his/her hype men bending, sweating and baring it all (quite literally). Go see them perform; don’t take your mom.
Yoko Ono finished things off, backed by none other than her son, Sean Lennon, and Nels Cline of Wilco. Her music is experimental, complicated and terribly underrated, probably all things lost on the packed crowd last night. Still, it was a fabulous way to cap off the festival and remember — on SXSW’s 25th anniversary — the roots of rock ‘n’ roll.
Colin St. John is a Denver writer and a new contributor to Reverb.