SXSW 2012: Wednesday photos and recap featuring Alabama Shakes, Thee Oh Sees, Todd Snider, Band of Skulls, moreBy Reverb Staff | March 15th, 2012 | No Comments »
Austin, Texas — It’s possible at the South by Southwest music festival to see a legendary Mexican songstress and a tricked-out Austin tranny on the same night just a few blocks away from each other.
And so we did just that.
The international festival got a soft start on Tuesday, but it found its footing on Wednesday with a packed schedule that included buzz bands — from Fun. to Youth Lagoon and Dry the River — and Colorado acts all over (hip-hoppers Sole and Wheelchair Sports Camp both played official showcases).
But we found ourselves standing 20 feet from Lila Downs, the renowned singer from Oaxaca, as she took a packed crowd at the Speakeasy through an impassioned set accented by a surprisingly large horn section. Her larger-than-life charisma threatened to bring down the small room; Downs’ voice filled the entire space regardless of the ever-present festival chatter.
A few blocks away, Virginia act Ki:Theory helped warm up the room at Haven — home to Wednesday’s kcrw.com showcase — with an angular (and danceable) set that made believers out of the masses. Like a hushed and more nuanced Cut Copy, the act instantly clicked with something deep inside me. It was one of those rare moments in experiencing new music where you take a mental note: Definitely revisit this music.
We stayed at the kcrw.com show for a couple other acts. Band of Skulls were a lovely antidote to the more electronic chill of Ki:Theory. Its moody (but still pretty) indie rock is smart and enjoyable, especially when they start to peel off the layers. Buzz act Kimbra — repping New Zealand and hot for her role in Gotye’s hit single, “Somebody That I Used to Know” — showed off her top-notch vox after that. Her set was hardly memorable; the music was all over the place. But her vocals, even live, are a thing of beauty.
We closed the night with Christeene — “One of the nastiest trannies you’ll ever see,” my pal Joan warned delightfully. We saw Christeene at last year’s festival, and we couldn’t help but come back for more. Her set this year was just as fun and intentionally grotesque as last year — the lewd and hilarious choreography with her two barely dressed male back-ups might be the best entertainment at SXSW — and yes, her hits rolled on, including “Tears From My …” — well, just look up the song. It’s messed up — but an amazing ear worm. –Ricardo Baca
What’s keeping Austin weird…
Bicycle parades, curvy mustaches and kitchy-costumed buskers are par for the course in Austin. In this perpetually humid capital city, the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” litters brick walls and bathroom stalls, transcending both the gentrified West side and the DIY-at-heart East. And during the adult spring break that is South by Southwest — it’s normalcy that feels obscure.
Wednesday night saw many high profile showcases — most notably an NPR bill at Stubb’s featuring Fiona Apple, Sharon Van Etten and the Alabama Shakes. The 500-person line outside snaked north on Red River and around the block shortly before Apple’s 8 p.m. set, sending many wandering elsewhere. We landed at Red 7 for the “Last Call With Carson Daly” showcase. The former prince of MTV and forefather of “the ramp” watched Denver band Tennis from the crowd, black baseball hat slung tight over his forehead. He claims that he booked every band on his showcase, including Thee Oh Sees — whom many (including us) — had come to see, specifically.
An hour later, Thee Oh Sees lead singer John Dwyer beckoned Daly to the stage to play drums on the band’s last song (Thee Oh Sees tour with two drummers, only one of which was playing the final number). Midway through the song, Daly stumbled past Dwyer, Lone Star tallboy in hand, and sat down at the kit. He turned his cap backwards and picked up the beat, shakily, then held it straight through the end. It was only slightly cooler than the time he dressed up as Juvenile that one time on “TRL.” –John Hendrickson
Going to Austin this year? RSVP to the Reverb Party @ SXSW!
Ryan Johnson is a Denver videographer, social media strategist and guitar player for hire. Contact him here.